Tackle and marine accessories have come a long way in the last decade and the same can be said for the planerboard. The problem is that a striper fisherman and a walleye fisherman will usually have different demands. You certainly wouldn't use the same rod for crappies as you would for pike, yet many anglers run their boards unmodified right from the box. Regardless of what you are fishing for, a few simple planerboard modifications (gallery below) will allow you to get more out of your boards regardless of the species you chase. This is why it is very common for tournament walleye anglers to use different board setups depending on the presentation they are using.
Planer Board Tips:
Add a Night Light
Trolling for walleyes at night with planerboards is very popular across the Midwest. Guides and serious anglers have come up with some creative ways to light a planerboard. The light is required in order to detect strikes, keep tangles to a minimum and realistically keep other boats from driving over them. Flashing Halloween lights that are meant to pinned to your kids costumes are popular, but they can be expensive and short out easily due to not being completely sealed. Cyalume light sticks work, but they are expensive and once activated can't be reused. Attaching Cyalume sticks can be difficult, their weight can actually change the way the board runs. A simple solution is to drill a 5/32'' hole down approximately 3/8'' from the top of the planerboard. This will allow you to insert a bobber light. These relatively inexpensive bobber lights are sealed, can be reused and are so light they don't affect the way the board runs. An added benefit is that you don't need to worry about having any extra gear if you do decide to night fish last minute.
Eliminate Line Getting Caught
Murphy's law in fishing usually means that if your fishing line can get caught in something, it will. The small screw eyes that typically holds the rear clip of a planerboard are very susceptible to getting line caught in the small gap of the closed eye. A simple solution is to cut a 1/16'' to 1/8'' long piece of heat shrink tubing that is slightly larger in diameter than that of the screw eye. Using an adhesive heat shrink tubing will ensure it will stay in place better than traditional heat shrink tubing.
Adjust the Weight
Chances are what is perfect for a salmon fisherman isn't going to be ideal for a walleye angler. Experienced planerboard fisherman often move the weights when switching from crankbaits to spinners as a way of fine tuning. Church walleye board are the only board that features an external weight that is meant to be moved. This can be very helpful when switching from a light pulling stickbait to a hard pulling deep diver.
On a Church TX-22 cutting a ½'' off of each end of the lead ballast weight allows it to run much better in rough water or with hard pulling lures and large fish. Simply remove the screw holding the weight in place and cut the weight at each end with a hacksaw. In areas where strike detection is critical due to small fish, trash fish or lingering weeds try moving the weight all the way back to the rear of the board. This will allow the board to run higher in the nose and make detection of anything out of the normal much easier. This will make the board more susceptible to going under. In areas that have larger fish this may not be the best adjustment, since boards going under can spell disaster. A way of combating this is to lighten the pressure on the front clip. Church Super Clips have a Phillips head for quick tension adjustment. Loosening the tension on the front clip will allow it to 'break free ' on a strike and you will not have to fight a circling board that will have you thinking a shark is attached. If the front clip is set to release, look to use a rear clip with an internal pin to make sure that the board doesn't come completely off due to a wave or hard pulling fish.
Add a Swivel
Anyone that has ever used a planerboard has had it tangled in the line. This typically takes place when the line slips between the clips. Getting this untangled isn't difficult in the garage, but when bouncing around in the boat with the weight of a fish it can spell disaster. An easy fix is to install a swivel between the flag wire and the rear clip. Much like the screw eye, this connection is susceptible to line being caught, so a piece of heat shrink over all but just the last piece of the swivel will eliminate future problems. Use a razor blade to trim the heat shrink so the swivel rotates freely.
Flag Wire Upgrade
A majority of anglers add an aftermarket 'flag kit ' in order to detect light bites, weeds, or junk fish easier. The problem is that the wire included in these kits from the major manufactures easily becomes bent or broken. A bent wire means the flag won't run upright and can make strike detection more difficult. A simple solution is to replace this wire with a closed loop bucktail leader designed for musky with a diameter of approximately .051. You can buy wire and bend your own, but it is likely easier and less expensive to purchase a few musky wire bucktail shafts. The only modification that is required is a pair of pliers to bend the open end around the flag. Make sure to not bend the wire short or the flag will not stand up straight. Use the manufacture supplied wire as a model.
For more information on Captain Ross Robertson and his guide service, visit bigwaterfishing.com