Walleye Trolling Boards & Trolling Deep for Walleyes

February 23, 2009 by  

By Chris Hustad
This is a second part of a 2-part series on a beginners guide to trolling for walleyes.

Also see the 1st part of the series – Trolling for Walleyes

Author with a nice walleye caught while trolling deep with planer boards

Author with a nice walleye caught while trolling deep with planer boards

I  am a big fan of planer boards for walleyes, but it wasn’t always this way. My first time using planer boards was on Lake Superior and in some serious rough seas. I can recall it being a real mess, I’m not sure the skipper was as experienced as we’d hoped for. At any rate, today they’re making a comeback.

Offshore Planer Boards

My favorite planer boards for walleyes are Offshore planer boards. They are very reliable and they work. That’s really all you can ask for in any of your fishing equipment, and Offshore planer boards aren’t any different. But I don’t use vanilla Offshore boards either, I add a couple accessories that I feel are essential to seeing fish.

Offshore Tension Release Clip

The first thing I added is a tension release clip (OR-18 Snapper Adjustable Tension In Line Planer Board Release). These are very important if you want to use superlines such as Fireline or Power Pro or leadcore (there are some drawbacks, see the article on using leadcore). The clips that come with the boards have a tendency to slip on bigger fish or snags, and that’s a headache I prefer to avoid. But setting the board and taking it off is a snap. Just a “clip and pinch” and the board is on it’s way.

Running trolling boards for walleyes isnt as difficult as it seems

Running trolling boards for walleyes isn't as difficult as it seems

Tattle Flags

The best thing I ever added to my Offshore planer boards are the Tattle Flags. If you find yourself fishing in heavy waves, regular planer boards are darn near impossible to read. They ride up, down, back, and forward and all the while if a small fish or weed hits your bait you’re probably missing it. The first time I used plain Offshore planer boards, I dragged a walleye for about 3 miles before we realized that it had a fish on it. We just couldn’t read the board in the waves. With Tattle Flags, this isn’t the case. When a fish or weed hits your lure on a plain board, it will cause the board to jerk backwards. But unless you’re fishing on a smooth surface, you might not see it. With Tattle Flags, everything that happens to your lure is transferred up to the flag, NOT the board. I tell everyone who fishes with me to treat the flag like a rod tip. You can tell when there’s a small fish or even when dragging a weed; something you just couldn’t do effectively before.

Both the Tension Release Clip and the Tattle Flags are purchased separately. I’ve seen where you can make homemade tattle flags and these should work the same.

Church’s Mini Planer Boards

Another planer board that I’m seeing used more and more are the Church’s Magnum Mini Planer Boards. These are essentially how they’re described, as they are a miniature sized planer board. I know a couple people who run these and I’ve fished over them before, and they do have their place in the boat. The smaller size makes them easier to fish, and out of the box they are a little easier to read. The problem with the size is it may have some problems fishing in rough seas. My experience with these is on the Missouri River to slide up the slow current and for that purpose they work extremely well.

Make sure you always have a good pair of pliers available when trolling with crankbaits

Make sure you always have a good pair of pliers available when trolling with crankbaits

Trolling Deep

Some walleye fishermen may never see a need to troll deep, and if you fit in that category, trolling can be pretty easy to learn and master. But if you have any intention on trolling deep for walleyes, there’s a lot of decisions and learning curves to the game.

How deep is deep? I consider deep being about 25 feet and more. Let’s say you’re slow trolling over 60 feet of water and you’re seeing clouds of baitfish hovering over 50 feet down; how would you get at those suspended fish? That is a question that has a lot of answers, and there really isn’t a wrong one. It just depends on the day. Here are some tools that can help in that equation.

Snap Weights

Snap weights are a quick way to add weight to your line so you can dial in the depth you want to fish. I have the complete set with weights between ½ ounce to 3 ounces. I have that simply for versatility, as there are times when you may need to get deep. They are easy to use, and easy to maintain. The only downside is it will more than likely require a lot of trial and error to properly dial in your bait with the depth. It’s a good idea to keep a log with the baits you like to use and the depths/depths you’re covering.

3-way Rigs

3-way rigs are a creative way to get your boards down deep, and without a lot of money. Check out this article on 3-way rigs to get up to speed. Simple load up on 3-way swivels (or 2 2-way swivels) and all the weights that you need. If you’re going to be using them close to a snagging bottom, try tying a lighter line on the dropper line that connects the weight to a swivel. In the event of a snag, you’ll be able to break the dropper line which will allow you to quickly get your line back in the zone.

Bottom Bouncers

Another method that most anyone can use is bottom bouncers while trolling. I say that because most fisherman I know have at least a few bottom bouncers, so everyone is equipped to use them to troll. Bottom bouncers really aren’t any different than 3-way rigs or snap weights when it comes to fishing them, they’re just a tool used to get the bait deeper. Like snap weights, I have a wide variety of weights with 1/8 ounce being the smallest and I even have a couple 4-ounce bottom bouncers. Like other weights, you’ll need to be prepared for some time on the water to test out what works for you. The key is to get the crank, weight, and the speed that keeps the bait in the zone you desire.


Leadcore is a special type of fishing line that is used to get any crankbait down to the depth you desire. This is probably the easiest method for trolling deep, and has a lot less of a learning curve than using multiple cranks and weights. It’s a great tool for catching fish. To avoid redundancy on using leadcore, see this article on using leadcore for walleyes.

Dipsy Divers

Dipsy Divers were the last tool I added to my trolling arsenal, and I’m still learning these today. They are essentially flat disks that can be customized for your trolling needs. What’s unique about Dipsy Divers are what they can do. Dipsy Divers not only act like a weight to bring your bait down deep, you can set them to run away from the boat like a planer board. This is a quick and easy alternative to planer boards if you want a wide spread and troll deep. There is a wide variety of sizes and models available, so you can troll shallow or deep. While these primarily got their start on the big water of the Great Lakes, they are gaining popularity and I’m starting to see these more inland for walleyes. When properly used, they can be a great walleye catching tool.

As you can see, trolling for walleyes can be either really easy or it can seem complicated; it’s all what you make of it. And I would say trolling for walleyes is a lot like they say about the game of Poker, it’s easy to learn but takes a lifetime to master. Nothing can take the place of experience and time on the water experimenting is how you will become a better troller.

Also see the 1st part of the series – Trolling for Walleyes


2 Comments on "Walleye Trolling Boards & Trolling Deep for Walleyes"

  1. Marlin Klehm on Mon, 23rd Jan 2012 9:59 am 

    Comparing spinner rigs. On some the bottom of the blade covers the hook eyelet yet on others the blade bottom is 1/4 inch above hook eyelet, also some snells are 4-6-8 ft long. What is the best to buy. What about color? When using worms is there a prefered color, the same question for using minnows is there a prefered color? Thankyou please respond.

  2. admin on Mon, 23rd Jan 2012 10:01 am 

    If you’re fishing really clear water, I’d go as long as possible on the snell. For colors, I’d try multiple colors and see which works for you. Some days it may be chartreuse, other days it may be white, etc. You just never know. If there was one magic color we’d all be using it 100% of the time. Good luck.

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