Walk Trolling

I don't pretend to be the first angler ever to walk along a canal towpath while dragging a lure through the water, nor to be the first to use a side planer to get the lure across to the far bank. Who those people were I guess we'll never know. But I do know that the side planer is worth using.

The primary use is for dragging lures along the far shelf of canals or drains, keeping the lure as tight as possible to things like reed beds, lily pads, moored boats and other potential pike holding features. Because the planer limits the triggers you can impart to the lures - all you can really do is vary the speed. I get the impression that most of the fish that are caught using the board are fairly active and willing to chase lures. However, I guess that, as in trolling from a boat, less active fish might actually follow lures for some distance before taking them.

While just about any lure can be trolled behind a side planer, some are easier to use than others. If you are fishing shallow water then floating lures are easiest to cope with - indeed they are easiest all round on the planer. Lures that work well at slow speed, such as many jointed crankbaits and minnows have proved effective for me. This doesn't rule out large lures, though, so long as they don't put up too much resistance. The more water resistance a lure offers the more line you will have to pay out to get the side planer to the far bank as the lure will be trying to drag the planer back. It is all a balancing act to get the best presentation.

You might think that lures running just a few inches below the surface, only six or seven feet behind the big orange side planer, would put pike off. Certainly where the side planer has never been seen before this is not the case. Maybe it's presence actually alerts the pike and stirs them up to hit the following lure? I have had a number of takes off the surface when slowing a lure down, and when the time is right I know that topwater lures like the Hawg Wobbler will succeed behind the planer.

When the pike are in the central channel planers can be used to keep your lures there too. If there is weed growth along the near shelf the planer can be used to run lures along the outside edge of this, just a few feet from the rod tip. Don't get hung up on the idea that their only use is for fishing the far bank.

One thing to be aware of is hanging up on weed and snags. Repeatedly having to retrieve the planer to free the lure of debris, or having to pull it out of snags, is frustrating. Make sure your lures will run clean for as long as possible by selecting ones that stay high enough in the water. This might mean that you miss a few fish at times, but you will be less frustrated. Floating weed and other rubbish makes planer trolling a real pain, and that is the time to cast.

There is no need to get fancy with your side planer set up. In fact I add nothing to my usual lure set up which already incorporates a rubber bead above the leader. A fifteen inch leader, or longer, is recommended in order to keep the planer away from the fish when you are playing it. I have contemplated adding a leger bead above the trace to clip the planer to in order to save a bit of wear on the line, but simply clipping the planer's snap link around the line has not caused me any trouble so far.

A longish rod of seven feet or so is advantageous - especially if there are reeds on the near bank which the line might have to be held above. I prefer a reasonably stiff rod too, but this is not essential as the rod is best angled towards the planer board as you walk along to improve hooksets. Because the line to the lure has an angle in it (at the planer board) a few fish will fail to be hooked. I am fairly certain that the pike that do get hooked are actually hooking themselves against the resistance of the board.

The initial take is transmitted as a lightish tap, which is followed by the weight of the fish being felt. There is a definite delay between the two. Takes are usually felt rather than seen as you are looking ahead to stop yourself falling in the water! When you do look round you might see a swirl behind the board, or the board starting to submerge or move backwards.

This is not the definitive article on the method, but it might convince you to give it a try!

(This article first appeared on this website - May 2nd 2002)