Net Success

A growing number of crappie anglers are discovering that planer boards can open a whole new world of opportunities.

Some are also finding that landing those paper-mouthed crappies on boards presents a few challenges. Instead of just reeling in a hooked fish, you also have to bring along that planer board.

Most of the time, that's no problem on fairly flat water when trolling at speeds typically below 1.5 mph. When the wind kicks up and the waves start rolling, those boards will stabilize your lures by absorbing some of the shock and give the fish a better shot at eating what you are offering, but there's less margin for error while you are trying to get a hooked fish to the net.

A slow and steady retrieve is important when you are trying to land any species of fish while trolling. But given the delicate mouth of a crappie, it's critical.

I like a trolling spread that includes a couple of Off-Shore OR-12 boards on the outside and a pair of the smaller OR-34s closer to the boat. When I see one of my boards start to drop back from its regular trolling position or quiver or wiggle a little erratically, or the Tattle Flag on the OR-12 tells me there's a fish on it, I gently remove the rod from the rod holder and begin a slow retrieve. I try not to let the board swing out of the water or crash from one wave to the next while I'm working on that fish.

I've found it helps if I attach a snap swivel to the back of the board and run my line through it as well as the board's clips and then use a barrel swivel three or four feet ahead of my lure. When I get a crappie on, the line will release from the front clip on the board and allow the board to slide down the line only as far as the swivel. The board stays away from the fish and the lure, but there is no longer the added resistance of the board working against the water while I'm trying to reel in that fish.

There is always some risk that goes with landing fish caught on planer boards, but there is also reward. With a little TLC, it's a net success.

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