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updated: 7/24/2014 9:40 PM

This walleye technique is just plane effective

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I cannot dispute the fact that the tactic works well for a number of anglers.

In fact, I tip my hat to the fishermen who stop at their banks on their way home to cash or deposit checks as the result of their winning skills when catching walleyes during the heat of tournament battles.

I've known walleye pro Tommy Skarlis for over two decades. I've watched him mature as an angling professional while also making wise decisions about his career and personal life.

Skarlis has made a very big name for himself in the past several years because he has perfected his trolling methods to the point whereby he has racked up lots of dollars. In fact, he is being touted as the No. 1 money winner on the professional walleye circuit.

Many walleye professionals continue to use trolling as one of their tools to locate and catch suspended fish.

The trolling methods involve the use of planer boards, and for those of you not familiar with these trolling tools I will now briefly explain what they are.

The boards are usually constructed out of wood or plastic. They are designed to run out and away from the boat in either right or left directions, depending on the angled cut on the front of each board.

Many of today's walleye trolling tactics are directly related to Great Lakes salmon charter boat operations -- and here's why.

Planer boards can run out and to the side of a boat, and depending on the kind of lure and fishing line used in conjunction with the board, an angler is able to target suspended schools of fish.

It had been believed that by moving a crankbait or spoon out and to the side of the trolling boat, gamefish would not be spooked by the wake and engine noise. I'm not sure that theory still holds water.

Many gamefish move around, following schools of bait. And quite often the baitfish are suspended, as are the schools of walleye, which tend to feed in an upwards direction.

Skarlis has been using planer boards for quite a number of years.

"I let the hooked lines on my fish-finder tell me where the walleye schools happen to be at any given time," Tommy explained one time while being a guest of my outdoors talk show. "And even in summer months when water temperatures are quite high I have found walleyes in relatively shallow water. Because of that I'll then run my boards at a shallow level and then determine what the fish want to eat in the way of a lure, color, and size."

Actually it's not the boards running at shallow or deep levels, but rather the lures or spinner rigs dragged behind the planers. Sometimes Skarlis will use lead-core line on trolling reels. The line is also color-coded to give him an idea how much actual line had been allowed off the reel. The formula is not exact, but the more line let out behind the boat, the deeper the line will sink while taking crankbait with it down to the desired depth.

There are a variety of bait offerings one can use behind the planer boards.

Some anglers like a large nightcrawler or large leech impaled on a spinner rig; others may prefer a brightly-colored crankbait; while some others will switch to a wobbling spoon.

On some models of planer boards you can find a collapsible, red flag strike indicator. When a strike occurs the flag pops up, letting the angler know a fish is on the line.

The spread of the boards is one of the main factors of a successful walleye day. I say that because if you have a boat partner and can use multiple boards and lines to cover a lot of underwater territory on both sides of your boat, you will increase your chances of hitting the mother lode of schooled walleyes -- just like Tommy Skarlis.

• Contact Mike Jackson at, and catch his radio show 6-7 a.m. Sundays on WSBC 1240-AM.

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