Planer Boards: Useful Tips for Summer Walleye Fishing

By Bernie Barringer

What’s the secret to big walleye fishing?
Planer Boards!
This nifty tool puts you in the middle of
overlooked walleyes.

tommy skarlis wins big with planer boards 300x448

Tommy Skarlis has won more money catching big fish on planer boards in professional walleye tournaments than anyone else.

From shiners to sheepshead, and alewives to shad, large schools of baitfish inhabit the vast open water of our natural lakes and reservoirs. It should be no surprise that walleyes follow the food into the open water and feast on these pelagic balls of bait.

In summer, large, loosely-grouped schools of big walleyes are suspended in open water, hunting these baitfish. While anglers pick away at small walleyes around the points, rock piles and weed lines, hungrier specimens are almost untouched for the majority of the year, which allows them to get big. In some cases, really big.

How Big? Professional angler Tommy Skarlis knows about big walleye fishing. In fact he owns the record for the largest catch in any professional walleye tournament. Over a three-day tournament at Lake Erie, he brought his limit of five walleyes to the scales each day. Those 15 walleyes weighed a total of 138 pounds. Don’t bother to reach for a calculator, I already figured it out for you… that’s an impressive average of 9.2 pounds each!

How to Catch Them. How he caught those walleyes might be of interest to you. He caught them by trolling with planer boards, a technique that has been popular on Lake Erie for the better part of two decades. Because this technique is so effective, it has exploded in popularity on smaller natural lakes, reservoirs and even rivers during the last decade.

planer boards allow more water coverage 296x448

Planer boards allow you to spread lines out and cover more water. Perfect for contacting suspended fish in the summer.

The Bait and the Structure Are the Same. Many walleye anglers are structure oriented, and that’s with good cause, but in many lakes and reservoirs, these suspended fish get really big because few people are targeting them. “The structure is the bait,” Skarlis told me. “You find the schools of baitfish and you will find walleyes relating to them.”

How to Fish Planer Boards. Skarlis starts out by spreading the planer boards out and combing the depths. By varying the length of line behind the boards he can control how deep the baits dive, and he also uses different baits that run at different depths. He normally starts out running four lines, two on each side of the boat, putting baits at 5, 10, 15 and 20 feet or near the bottom. When he gets a bite, he begins to adjust the other lines until he has a pattern figured out. “Walleyes tend to feed up, so don’t be afraid to start high and work your way down.”

The Advantages of Planer Boards:

  1. One of the significant advantages of walleye fishing with planer boards is the ability to catch fish that are either shallow or well up in the water column. If you are trolling a bait behind your boat and the walleyes are only five feet down, the boat will spook the fish so you aren’t going to catch very many, particularly in clear water. Where do the spooked fish go? Why right off to the side of course, and that’s where your planer board is running your bait.
a sagging board means a fish hooked 448x299

As the boards run off to the side of the boat, you will know you have a fish on when they begin to sag back. I’ve seen big walleyes pull the boards all the way under.

  1. The same is true of fishing in shallow water. Walleyes often come up on shallow flats to feed and chase baitfish. Crankbaits or spinners attached to planer boards spread out your lines, covering more water, and anything that is spooked by the boat motor running directly over them moves right off to the side and runs smack into your bait. Perfect.
  1. Skarlis has another trick up his sleeve when it comes to fishing with planer boards. “Too many people just troll in a straight line. That’s boring. I mix it up a little, making S-curves and driving erratically. As you turn, the baits on the outside of the turn speed up and dive deeper, while the ones on the inside slow down and rise a little. You’d be surprised how often this little variation triggers a bite.”
planers can be used with spinners or crankbaits 299x448

Planers can be used with either spinners or crankbaits. They target big fish that are orienting to schools of open water bait.

When he catches a fish or marks a pod of them on his sonar, he hits a marker on the GPS. Soon a pattern begins to develop. “The fish are there for a reason,” he says, “and they will be there a while, you need to be able to go right back to those same spots.”

In that Lake Erie tournament a lot of anglers were catching fish and bringing in big limits, but Skarlis dialed them in better. “I found that there were fish to be caught at many depths, but it seemed like the biggest fish consistently came from 11-12 feet below the surface,” he said. “But I have often seen big walleyes only five feet below the surface. There is really no way to catch these fish that’s even close to as effective as planer boards. It’s like turning your little push lawnmower into a big double deck rider, you can really spread out and cover a lot of water.”

Is walleye fishing with planer boards for you? If you have a boat, you can find fish with planer boards and they are likely to be bigger fish than you are catching elsewhere because other fishermen aren’t targeting them. A set of four Off Shore OR-12 boards and the rod holders to attach to your boat will run you a little upwards of $200. That’s a small investment to make that will pay off in more and bigger walleyes.

Bernie Barringer Bass Fishing.About Bernie Barringer

Bernie Barringer is a lifelong angler who has competed in professional walleye tournaments. He enjoys fishing for all species and writing about his experiences for many outdoor magazines.

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Keeping Elk Country Alive!

Kentucky Dept. of Fish & Wildlife Resources, KDFWR Commission to receive RMEF Conservationist of the Year Award 


The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has announced that both the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) and the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission will share the 2014 RMEF Conservationist of the Year Award.

Between 1997-2002, the KDFWR, the Commission and the RMEF all worked together to help release 1, 547 elk into Kentucky, and now the state has more than 10,000 elk within its borders, the largest herd in the East. This year’s award focused on the KDFWR and Commission’s efforts in eastern elk restoration in other states. Both pledged their support to successful elk restoration projects in Missouri and Virginia, and Kentucky’s wild elk population even began crossing over into neighboring West Virginia.

The RMEF will officially recognize the award at December’s Elk Camp national convention in Las Vegas.

To read the full article on the 2014 winners, click here. For more information on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, visit the RMEF website.


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Five Basics of Crow Hunting

By Tom Claycomb III

Use these tips and crows will go brain dead.

get in heavy cover 336x399

Get in some heavy cover, heavier than this if possible. And don’t shoot until they get close.

If crows aren’t the smartest bird around, they’re close. It’s impossible sneak up on one. So how do you shoot one, much less a whole “murder’ of them? (Yes, that’s the name for a flock of crows.) Try calling them – that’s when they seem to go brain dead.

These five basics will give you a pile of crows. (I call a flock of dead ones a “pile.”)

  1. Consider your set-up. You want to be well hidden. My favorite set-up is right in the middle of a cedar thicket. My partner and I will get so deep in a cedar clump that we can see only a 20 or 30 square foot area right above us.

If you don’t have any cedar brush then hide in the middle of any thick brush. Get camo’ed up and wear a facemask. Grab your shotgun and some high brass shells loaded with number 6-shot. You can use low base 8s for a denser pattern, but I like the heavier loads.

  1. Get a good call. I use a Johnny Stewart Gallows electronic call. Lay it with the horn pointing upwards in the direction you expect them to come from. I first select the crow/owl fighting sound.  Turn it on and get ready.
  1. Time to shoot. My brother-in-law is a good crow hunter and always tells me to not take long shots but to let them circle and come back in right over head. So we don’t start shooting until they’re right over us. If the brush you’re in has small open patches you may be able to get a visual on them, but if not they may suddenly appear out of nowhere. You may or may not hear them first, so be ready for some fast shooting.
face mask is essential for crow hunting 358x336

A good face mask is essential for crow hunting.

His theory is that if they don’t see you, you can clean house on them if you don’t miss. That’s not just a theory – it really works in practice. Sometimes they’ll be coming in so fast I can’t even keep my gun loaded, so wear a shell vest and keep lots of shells handy. They’ll literally circle over you, and often zip in skimming the treetops. So, it’s best if you’re in a clump of trees no more than 20 feet high. If you’re hidden in a tall clump of trees then of course they’ll be a lot higher up.

  1. Switch up the call. If hawks live in the area (and they almost surely do) try the crow/hawk fighting selection. Recently in Texas a hawk was flying around our setup so we used the hawk option. When things die down, switch again to the dying crow – that’ll wake ’em up!
  1. Pull out the dekes. Crow, owl and hawk decoys are popular. Sometimes after a morning coyote hunt I’ll still have my Cass Creek Waggler with me and we’ll start crow hunting. After I’ve shot a couple if I’ll turn it on, and it attracts the crow using both sight and sound. I turn on the crow call option on along with my Johnny Stewart call to really raise a ruckus. If you wound one they’ll really swarm in. Live ones are the best decoy you can have.
these crows went brain dead then body dead 336x373

These crows went brain dead to the calls of the Johnny Stewart Gallows and the Cass Creek Waggler—then they went body dead to some sharp shooting.

I dropped by my gunsmithing buddy Ed Sweet’s shop yesterday and was talking to him about how much fun I’d been having crow hunting. He said Bob Martin (a 5-time world champion crow hunter at least – I’ve lost count) called him a few years ago to come down south to crow hunt. They killed somewhere around 900 crows in three days. And while crow hunting in Texas the other day I was shooting the bull with a guy who said he hunted a flyway to a roost and would get 150 in an afternoon.

So, set ups near a good roost, or along flyways or feeding areas are top spots. But I live in Idaho and we don’t have those quantities. Still, to me it’s still lots of fun if we can get 4-8 per stand. A few weeks ago I was coyote hunting with Trace Nuckles in Kansas and one afternoon I bet we had 60 come in while we were calling coyotes. We didn’t have a shotgun or we could have smoked ’em.

If you live near a hot and heavy flyway, get out and have fun. But even if you don’t, it will surprise you how many you will be able to call in at each set-up.

Shooting crows is almost as good for the environment as shooting wolves. They prey big-time on desirable species, and they compete with humans for food. When the walnuts ripen the crows will move in and eat every one unless you pick ’em fast. This year I was conducting a lot of seminars around the country and when I got home I found one solitary walnut – crows ate all the rest.


  • You’ll call in a few crows while calling coyotes, especially right after daylight.
  • A hand call works, but with a Johnny Stewart electronic call, you keep your hands free.
  • A modified choke is probably best.
  • Start shooting when they’re right over the top of you.

To see how easy it is to use a Havalon Piranta on
smaller animals like birds, click here.

tom claycomb outdoor writerAbout Tom Claycomb III

Tom lives in Idaho writes outdoor articles for various newspapers, magazines & websites. If it’s something outdoors, he probably likes it. You can read some more of his writings at:

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Hunting With the Havalon Pro Staff: Don Moore


Don Moore, Havalon Pro Staff.

By Zachary Rogers

“Each Havalon product is amazing in its field of perfection.” 

At Havalon, we love hearing what you have to say. That’s why we’ve taken the time to talk to some of our Havalon Pro Staff members who are out using the best hunting and skinning knives in the industry. Today, we’ll meet Don Moore.

First, could you tell me a little bit about yourself? Your name, occupation, etc.? 

My name is Don Moore and I’m a consulting wildlife manager and deer steward, as well as sales director for Elusion Camo. I am also a proud Pro Staff member for the following companies in the hunting industry: Havalon Knives, HHA Sports Inc., Kishel’s Quality Animal Scents and Lures, Black Eagle Arrows, U-Slide Bow Holder, Roost’em Hunting Products, Gobbler Gauge, Deer Creek Outdoors and Game Slayer Hunting Products.


Havalon knives are the best, sharpest hunting and skinning knives on the market.

What exactly is your business in the hunting and outdoor field? Is this a hobby or a full-time occupation? 

It’s definitely full-time. Both as sales director for Elusion Camo as well as being a wildlife manager, I’m constantly coming into contact with new people and new businesses that share the same passion for the outdoors as I do. It’s also allowed me to go to a lot of outdoor shows, expos, banquets and seminars that keep me updated on all the current and hottest trends within the industry.

How did you hear about Havalon knives?

I first heard about Havalon years ago when a friend ordered the Piranta-Bolt hunting and skinning knife after seeing it advertised in a hunting magazine. We skin and butcher our own deer, so when he received the knife we put it to the test. The results were simply amazing!

When did you first try one of our products, and what were the circumstances surrounding the decision?  

I first tried a Havalon knife around 6 years ago in my buddy’s garage skinning deer. Right there, I knew I would never own anything other than a Havalon. I was tired of using other brands that never kept a sharp edge or were uncomfortable and would slip around in my hand, causing me to cut myself.


Our crazy sharp knives do the hard work so you don’t have to.

Which knife did you use first, and what was your initial reaction to it?

My first was the Piranta-Bolt hunting and skinning knife, and my reaction was one of total satisfaction. I had finally found a product I loved, believed in and could proudly stand behind. Havalon actually makes all the work that comes with skinning deer and other game so much easier. It doesn’t take nearly as long as it used to with other skinning knives I’ve used in the past.

What do our knives do for you that no other knife is able to do?

Havalon knives fit perfectly in your hand and don’t slip, which is the main cause of injuries. Whether you’re using the stainless steel skinning blades or the carbon steel hunting blades, Havalon keeps a good solid edge without having to constantly stop what you’re doing and sharpen the blade all the time. The extra replacement blades are also a big selling point because if you’re in a rush, you can just pop out the old blade and pop in a new one in a matter of seconds, and then sharpen the old one later at a more convenient time.

Currently, what’s your favorite Havalon product and why?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just one because each Havalon product is amazing in its field of perfection. For my own personal use, I would have to go with the Piranta line because it’s perfect for field dressing, skinning, filleting and even light butchering.


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Sportsmen Gather to Help Protect Against Cyber Threats

Online harassment and threats made to hunters raises alert for all 


Hunters and outdoor advocates gathered at the USAA headquarters to discuss ways of preventing online threats made towards hunters.

Due to an increasingly large number of cyber-attacks geared towards hunters and sportsmen alike, a new alliance was formed and convened at the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance headquarters. The group, called the Hunter Advancement Task Force, aims to develop better strategies to help counter the amount of online threats made by animal rights activists towards hunters, sportsmen, conservation organizations and other outdoor personalities.

The attacks have been gaining an alarming amount of momentum through social media sites, with some going so far as to threaten the lives of both hunters and their families. Because of this, a large majority of hunters and outdoor advocates felt it was necessary to take a stance and put a stop to the threats.

“This is a great opportunity to start developing ways to hold those responsible for the recent wave of cyber-attacks against sportsmen accountable,” said Nick Pinizzotto, USAA president and CEO. “The task force is not only working to stop direct attacks on hunters but also discussing how best to educate the public on the vital role sportsmen play in the conservation of all wildlife.”

To read more in-depth about the new USAA task force, click here.


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