Mike Frisch: Cover more water
One thing that consistently successful anglers usually do well is assess the area the fish are holding in, and then they use baits that efficiently cover that area.
For example, bass anglers often throw crankbaits as they search areas for scattered largemouth bass relating to the weedline. Smallmouth bass anglers, on the other hand, often experience great success by using a drop-shot presentation fished vertically to target a school of fish tightly relating to some hard bottom structure, maybe a small rock spine, or even single boulder, off the main rock pile.
When it comes to walleye and panfish angling, consistent success is often garnered in the same fashion of effectively assessing fish location and choosing appropriate lures. When fish are scattered, which often occurs in the summer, a great way to catch them is by using planer boards.
A planer board is a simple device that attaches to the line once the lure is out at running depth. Then, as more line is let out and the boat moves along at trolling speed, the board takes the lure out from the boat's side. Boards work great when trolling crankbaits, but are also very effective when pulling spinner rigs.
The past few summers a lake near my home has had good numbers of walleyes relating to the soft-bottom lake basin in the 25-foot depth range. When guiding on the lake, I often have two or three other anglers in the boat. When targeting the basin, we often troll crankbaits to move along quickly as these basin fish are often scattered with a fish or two here, and then a couple more a hundred yards or so further down. In this situation, I often run a rod or two (depending on angler numbers) straight behind the boat. Then, we put another board and lure off to each side, running the boards and lures out a good distance to each side.
This scenario accomplishes a couple things. First, we can cover a very wide path as we move across the flat-bottom basin searching for fish. This wide trolling path allows us to maximize chances for contacting and catching fish. Also, three, four, or even more anglers can troll using several rods fishing boards without having the lures too close to each other and risk tangling.
Off Shore's OR12 planer boards with the Tattle Flag option are my choice for walleyes as these boards are easy to operate, run flawlessly, and the tattle flags "tattle" on a small fish or weeds that the lure catches.
Panfish anglers can also use planer boards with great success for covering more water and catching more fish. Last summer, we experienced great fishing success for crappies suspended along and above the weedline by using a planer board to take a small crankbait out away from the boat to the crappies. Trolling through that area with the boat would have spooked the fish, while the board let us get the bait away from the boat and to the boat-shy crappies.
A couple years ago we also had great success trolling with boards for perch on Big Stone Lake, a Minnesota-South Dakota border water, where two lines per angler are legal. Much like in the walleye situation above, the perch were scattered in the lake's basin and we were able to move along quickly covering a wide path by implementing boards into our fishing.
When panfish are targeted using smaller baits, the new OR 38 Awesome Crappie Mini Planer Boards work well as they are tailor made for light line and small lures.
Regardless the lures you use and the fish you chase, effectively covering water will increase your odds for contacting, and ultimately catching, more fish.
Mike Frisch is a western Minnesota fishing guide and co-host of the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series. Visit www.fishingthemidwest.com or follow Fishing the Midwest on Facebook for more "fishy" stuff.