Most offshore fishermen consider having at least one planer line in their trolling spread. Fish are usually in the upper part of the water column, but they aren’t always feeding at the surface. A planer is the way to get a bait down into the zone where fish may be feeding.
With space, especially cockpit space, at a premium on smaller boats, using a bridled planer rig instead of a typical planer setup is almost a necessity. It makes a lot of sense to be able to wind the line onto the reel instead of having 50 to 100 feet of leader on the deck to get tangled and trip fishermen.
A conventional planer rig uses a planer on the end of the line from a rod and reel and 50 to 100 feet of leader back to the lure. The planer is reeled to the rod tip and the leader is hand-lined in to get the fish into position to gaff.
Some years back, fishermen began inserting a couple of loops in the fishing line to clip in a planer that could be removed as the line was reeled in. By doing this, the fish could be reeled the final 50 to 100 feet to the boat. A second plus is that the size of the planer could be easily changed to try different depths. This has become a standard among charter fishermen and is being used by fishermen worldwide. It keeps down the clutter in a cockpit and is great for private boats, especially smaller ones.
Short, stout rods are made specifically for trolling large planers, but the growing preference with fishermen is using an 80 or 130 class reel mounted on a similar-weight, bent-butt rod. This setup easily handles the stress of trolling, even at higher speeds often used for tuna and wahoo, and can be moved from the gunwale rod holder to an angler in a fighting chair if needed.
Mark Chambers, a charter captain out of Morehead City, N.C., who often fun-fishes from a smaller center console, prefers the bridled planer rig, especially when fishing the smaller boat. He runs 60 feet of line beyond a No. 16 or No. 24 planer to a snap swivel and a leader behind that. Because wahoo often strike the planer line, he uses No. 9 wire leaders to prevent bite-offs.