There are numerous ways to place a bait in the water column, such as wire line, trolling sinkers, downriggers and planers. Each offers advantages for particular species. Over the years, I’ve favored the high-speed planer as an effective and efficient tool for offshore trolling. It’s simple to use, enables a bait to be placed between 20 and 50 feet down, and is light-tackle friendly. It works over a wide range of trolling speeds, from slow-trolling with natural baits to pulling artificials up to 15 mph.
The HS-8 (high-speed) planer from Sea Striker has been around for years. It is designed to perform at speeds approaching 18 mph, compared to standard planers that blow out and often fly across the surface at speeds approaching 10 mph. In addition, many planers are in-line, meaning you fight the cumbersome planer along with the fish. The Sea-Striker HS-8 is an independent system. Once the rubber band holding the fishing line to the planer line parts, the angler fights just his fish; hence its light-tackle friendliness.
The fishing planer is generally rigged with 150 to 200 feet of 300-pound-test monofilament, with a large ball-bearing snap swivel at one end to attach the planer and a section of cord at the other end that attaches to a transom cleat.
Compared with a downrigger — where an accurate depth can be dialed in — one must estimate the depth of the bait with a fishing planer. Deployed, the planer line trolls at an approximate 45-degree angle. Now, here’s the tricky math: For every 2 feet of planer line deployed, the planer goes down 1 foot. So, with 50 feet of line out, expect the planer to ride 25 feet down. However, much beyond that, this formula doesn’t hold true and, in fact, can reverse itself. To position the planer 50 feet down, for example, might require 150 feet of line. For most offshore trolling, a bait racing through the water from 15 to 50 feet down can be mighty effective.
Sea Striker also sells the HS-8 planer kit, which comes with 36 feet of 300-pound-test line and all terminal components. Obviously, the kit is intended to take a bait about 15 feet down.
You can pull everything from swimming plugs to swimming mackerel when fishing with a planer. I like to place a streamlined lure over the bait to cut through the water with minimum resistance, and — based on lure-head color — mimic flying fish, juvenile dolphin, bonito or tuna. We’ve caught billfish, wahoo, tuna and dolphin with the system. And since wahoo strikes go up considerably with a deep bait, I rig with several feet of 80- or 93-pound-test single-strand wire. In addition, to foil short-striking fish, I’ll make close to 40 haywire twists when securing the 7/0 to 9/0 O’Shaughnessy-style hook to the wire leader, which positions the hook in the middle of the bait.