I have a good fishing bud from North Dakota who wants to learn more about fishing with inline boards. I was supposed to bring some boards to the NAFIC ice fishing championship and we would go over the basics, plus some tips and tricks. Unfortunately, due to some medical issues in my partner’s family, we had to cancel the trip. I didn’t forget about you Shawn, this article is for you, and other anglers who want to take their walleye fishing to the next level.
In full disclosure, I am proud to say I work with the Church Tackle Company and their staff members. The company strives to produce the most versatile line-up of boards and accessories to meet every need a walleye angler could possibly imagine. Looking back, I can say I have been fishing with Church products for the past sixteen years and fortunate enough to be on their staff for the past five. Like their motto says, “They didn’t invent the planer board, they just made it better.” For this tutorial, I will break down the strengths of each board that applies to walleye fishing.
If you want to pick one board that does everything, look no further than the original “Walleye Board“. This was my very first Church Tackle product that I bought back in the year 2000. At first, I ran the boards on Lake Erie without the Double Action Flag System. I actually did some research, and even called Church to talk about my available choices. From there I made the decision to learn how to read what the boards were telling me. Every shudder, rocking and tipping action has something to tell the angler. Once I learned what I needed, I added the flag kits later. Today, I would probably start off with one of the Pro Packs, which include the flag system, which saves a little money. Besides the flag going up or down to say there is a fish on, the flags tell me more than that. I can tell when the walleye are short striking my harness. Also, will know when my baits are getting stripped by what we call junk fish, like Silver Bass and White Perch. When those little bait stealers are active, fishing with a rubber worm like Northland Tackle’s 6″ Impulse Nightcrawler can be just as productive as the real thing.
Back in 2000, the Walleye Board was “the” board in the Church lineup for fishing big water walleye. This was due to the sliding keel weight and the ability to adapt the board to your fishing needs by simply a couple of twists with a screwdriver. This is still your “do everything” choice, from cranks, heavy trolling weights and fishing leadcore. From sliding the keel back to raise the front of the board slightly out of the water with cranks and light weights in combination with crawler harnesses. As you increase the weight, or call it the drag of what you are pulling, you adjust to get the right “ride” by sliding the weight forward as needed. From running two or three colors of leadcore, or even pulling 4 and 6 ounce weights, this board will handle it.
The TX-22 Special planer board just might be the most popular walleye board in the Church lineup right now. Why is it special? The reason is due to its ability to convert quickly to one side of the boat, or the other. The board is designed to be run either port or starboard, but I would suggest getting a set to run on each side. Also, the board almost refuses to sink with a fish on, its amazing how well designed it is. Nothing worse than a board doing a corkscrew under the water’s surface.
Another reason the board is special, is its unique design allows it to float straight up and down without the need of line tension. This makes a difference while either letting line out, or while making larger sweeping turns with your boat. Despite being a little smaller than the Walleye Board, I personally like running this board pretty much all season, as it handles both crankbaits, snap weights or inline weights with equal effectiveness. The TX-22 would be my first suggestion for Shawn to look at, but in a few paragraphs I think he might find a couple of other products more suiting to his fishing environment.
Last up in the big water arsenal would be a personal favorite of mine, the TX-007 Stern Planer. I love the concept of this board because it allows you to target the depth of the fish that you are seeing on the graph in your boat. Another tip that I have to attribute to fellow Church Tackle staff member, Steve Berry, is how to make this into a rattling stern board. Take the plug out in the back, and add 12-15 BB’s. The same kind the kids learn to shoot with, and this makes a loud rattling noise that I find really calls the walleye in.
Way back in the day I would do something different to run lines off the back of the boat. I would let my line out to the desired depth, and then attach the lightest snap weight that Church Tackle used to make. At that point I would put my rod in one of the back rod holders, and hand strip enough line to the point that the weight was just dancing below the surface of the water.
This is still a viable concept in use on my boat for running Jet and Dipsey Divers targeting the bottom 1/3 rd of the water column. The divers take the bait back far enough away from the boat’s noise, and this is key, in deep water, where the boat spooks the fish the least. I use these in 25 foot of water or more for the best results. For both this application, and while running the -007’s, I prefer a softer downrigger rod. This kind of rod will telegraph bites when the stern planer is 100-200 ft behind the boat, or when the snap weight is 25 to 30 ft back. Another indicator when using the snap weight is that when a fish is on, the weight will be lifted out of the water by the pull of the walleye on the other end.
Now my buddy Shawn is from Minnesota, and like I mentioned, he now lives in North Dakota. He is fishing tournaments on many of the famed walleye inland lakes and river systems up there. These next two Church Tackle products may be better suited for most of his fishing situations. I say this because some of the areas are fairly shallow (20 foot or less), and many of the baits they run are quite a bit smaller than what we use on the Great Lakes.
First up, the venerable TX-12 Mini Planer, with the new flag kit specially created for this particular board.
I should have taken a picture of the Walleye Board, the TX-22 with the TX-12 for scale, but this smaller board has become extremely popular for inland systems, as well as multi-species trolling, including crappie down south. Do not let the size fool you though, with the 11 position flag system, if you need to bump up the size of your lures, weights and action of the lure, the Mini Planer new flag will handle it.
And in the wonderful world of being able to edit just about anything, here are all three boards together to get a better sense of scale.
The baby in the Stern Planer line-up is the TX-005. Call it the right tool for the right application. This smaller version doesn’t have the plug in the rear, in retrospect this might be a good thing in shallow water fishing. The loud BB’s might have spooked off potential light biting fish. Again though, I would stress the need for a softer rod like a downrigger rod, or a softer tip like you might find on a longer medium, or medium light trolling rod for inland apps.
Now down to the basics of using a planer board. Some of the videos on YouTube will tell you to wrap the line around the front clip, but I haven’t found it necessary. If you adjust the tension screw correctly, even on the biggest walleye, the line will hold in place. Just in case though, all the Church Tackle boards have a rear pin that will prevent the board from coming off. You never have to worry about picking up your gear, and running back to pick up one of your boards that slipped a snap.
Each of the boards that are equipped with either the Double Action Flag System, or the TX-12’s own kit, enable you to adjust for weight, pull and even the wind driven wave conditions you are fishing in. This means you can fish with either a hard diving lure like the Rapala TDD-11 Deep Taildancer or the smallest diving Shad Rap with ease.
The spread is the key, cover as much water as you can. Some anglers like to run even depths on one side of the boat, while running odds on the other. I like to run one side of the water column, say the top section on one side, while targeting the bottom half on the other. Call it my take on “saturation bombing”, attack them where the walleye are. It seems to take less time to dial in a bite this way, again though, this is just my philosophy.
Initially give the boards some space between each other, I like to start at right around 25 to 30 foot apart. At this point you are in search mode, trying to locate a school of walleye. If one board starts to get hot, possibly change out the lures, then adjust for the running depth, and let it out closer to the board getting all the hits.
Target the school, run your baits from the middle of the marks on the graph to the top of them. This way you can present the bait to the fish on the bottom that might less likely to feed, and those higher up which are usually the most active feeders, have something to strike at too. Quick note, depending on the time of the year, and by reading the surface temps, lets say spring as an example, bigger fish will be up and down the water column. Later as the summer rolls around, those big fish will start to hug bottom for the most part. The only two things that throw this theory out the door are hatches that occur on the big water, one being the mayfly hatch in late May-early June, and the other is the shiner hatch that happens in July. They will feed where the bait is, in regard to an inland bite up by Shawn, a crayfish hatch could possibly have the same effect. Something to keep in mind when planning a pre-fish strategy.
There are times when I don’t know what my fishing tackle would look like without Sharpie permanent markers. From spinner blades, and cranks to planer boards these markers have a definite place in my mad lab of walleye gear. Full disclosure, I did not come up with this idea, but it made sense in some applications, so I stole the idea of “blacking out” the bottom of my boards a few years ago. The concept is that the any bright color might spook fish away from the board going through the water. In truth, it probably only applies to shallow water applications when pulling baits a shorter distance behind the board. But, since you never know when that will happen, you are just better off doing it to all your boards. The ink will last a few years on the bottom of the board, then you just touch up as needed.
Available resources are out there, perhaps the most helpful (besides my blog) can be found on YouTube. Just type in the type of product you are looking for, and you will find lots of videos to choose from, many produced by members of the Church staff. Church Tackle also has a list of instructional and product videos that give you tips on how to run the boards, assemble them if needed, and the flag kits. It always helps me to see them run through the steps on a video before assembly.
Since I am not affiliated with any one retail store I am able to visit a number of websites and look for the best possible prices for those looking to get into running boards for the first time. Hands down, I found that place to be Franks Great Outdoors, located here in Linwood, Michigan. Not everything is up on the website, but no worries, they carry a full lineup of products and they ship. Just give them a call at 989-697-5341 and ask for information on their planer boards, the operator will send you to the right people/department for placing an order, just tell them what you are looking for.
Hope everyone, including Shawn, finds this helpful when choosing the right boards to not only get started, but by putting more walleye in the livewell.