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Precision Trolling & Line Diameter Equivalents

Most of the Precision Trolling Data customers are walleye anglers, but the data provided by the PTD apps is also widely in use for other species like this brown trout taken by Jake Romanack near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
By: Mark Romanack

A number of variables influence how deep a crankbait or other piece of trolling gear will dive. Of these variables, line diameter ranks as one of the most important. Thinner lines create less friction in the water while trolling, allowing lures and trolling gear in turn to reach greater depths. In contrast, using heavier lines increases the amount of friction and therefore  reduces the diving depth of popular lures and trolling gear.
            On average the amount of depth lost or gained when fluctuating from the line diameters tested and documented by the Precision Trolling Data apps amounts to about two feet of depth at the maximum lead length. For example, if a popular crankbait is running 15 feet deep on 10 pound test Berkley XT 150 feet back, that same bait will run about 13 feet deep (two feet shallower) when fished on 12 pound test Berkley XT.
            From a practical standpoint it would be difficult at best for the staff of Precision Trolling Data, LLC to test all the available line diameters and line types in popular use by trollers. The logical approach is to test various lures and devices on line diameters and types that are the most practical, popular and in wide use.
            For example, the majority of the crankbaits featured in the PTD apps and “Stickers” are baits that are primarily used to target walleye and therefore 10 pound test monofilament and or 10/4 Fireline super line are practical and popular line diameters and types to feature.
            However, some of the crankbaits featured in PTD are designed for both warm water species like walleye and cold water species like trout and salmon trolling applications. To provide the most information as practical, these lures are tested on both small and large line diameters.
Some lures like this Mag Lip 3.5 are popular lures for targeting
 both warm and cold water species. In this case the Precision Trolling
 Data apps feature depth data for smaller and larger monofilament
 line diameter suitable for both trolling applications.

            For example, the Yakima Mag Lip 3.5 and 4.5 plugs are tested on both 10 and 20 pound test monofilament lines. Other devices like the larger sizes of diving planers are generally tested on larger diameter super braid lines, but these devices are also routinely tested using wire line.
            It’s also worth noting that different line types often share a similar line diameter, but not necessarily break strength. A shared diameter makes these lines especially useful for anglers who need the extra break strength, but at the same time don’t want to sacrifice any of the diving depth of their favorite lures and trolling hardware.
            For example, Berkley XT monofilament in 10 pound test is used in much of the PTD testing and this line is about .0135 in diameter. It’s interesting to note that most 40 pound test Spectra based super braids are also about .0135 in diameter. This means that anglers can substitute 40 pound test super braid lines for 10 pound test monofilament and enjoy the same precise depth data published in the PTD apps and “Stickers”.
            It’s also important to note that not all monofilament lines are the same diameter for a respective break strength. Berkley XT 10 pound test is about .0135 in diameter and Berkley Big Game 12 pound test is also .0135 in diameter. Either of these lines can be substituted without impacting on the data published in PTD.
            Co-polymer lines are also an intriguing subject for the serious troller. In general, co-polymers are much thinner in diameter than nylon monofilaments for popular break strengths. Berkley’s popular Sensation line is about two line diameters thinner than comparable monofilament lines. Berkley Sensation in 14 pound test is about .0135 in diameter or similar to 10 pound test Berkley XT monofilament.
            For the angler who is interested in studying line diameters and line types the sky is the limit in regards to options that fit nicely with the research conducted by Precision Trolling Data. The web page  provides a convenient list of the line diameters for hundreds of fishing line brands and types. 
            This information in effect gives anglers an almost unlimited license to substitute line types and brands for similar line diameters used in the Precision Trolling Data apps.
            Back in the day Precision Trolling published a line conversion chart to assist anglers in selecting different line diameters for various trolling applications. When this research was conducted more than 20 years ago anglers had relatively few line types to pick from. Today with the market flooded with line types, diameters and brands the ability to produce a useful fishing line conversion chart would be 10 fold more difficult to create and use.
            At Precision Trolling Data, we feel it is more practical to teach anglers to pay close attention to line diameters and substitute line types and diameters for the “base lines” that are used in the PTD testing.
            Trollers these days are using a host of different line types in their fishing including monofilament, co-polymers, fluorocarbon, fused and super braid lines. By paying attention to important details like line diameter, anglers can use a host of different line types that match perfectly with the depth data provided by Precision Trolling Data, LLC.

            Fishing harder is always a good way to put more fish in the boat, but in this case fishing “smarter” is equally important. The smart troller employs a host of different line types and diameters that best suit specific trolling chores. By paying attention to critical details like line diameter, the modern Precision Troller can have his cake and eat it too!
Most of the lures and trolling hardware included in the Precision Trolling
 Data apps and “Stickers” feature Dive Curves for two or more line
 diameters and types. By substituting other lines of similar diameter to
 the test lines used by PTD the angler can dramatically expand trolling
 opportunities while enjoying accurate depth data.

Rigging In-Line Boards To Release

When rigged to release the author pins his board to the line using an OR16 Snap Weight clip mounted to the back of the board. This option prevents the board from planing when a fish is hooked and makes it much easier to reel in the board and fish. Also, once the board releases it slides to the back of the boat making it possible to fight a hooked fish without having to clear other planer board lines.
By Mark Romanack

              Avid trollers who use in-line boards have historically fixed their boards to the line and when a fish is hooked they reel in the board and fish together. This rigging method works, but requires clearing inside lines before a fish hooked on an outside line can be landed.
            Clearing and resetting lines is a lot of work and wasted fishing time. Also, when fighting a fish while the board is still on plane gives the fish resistance to leverage against enabling many fish to tear free.
            A few years ago I started rigging my boards with an OR16 Snap Weight clip (red) on the back of the board and the OR19 (orange) line release on the tow arm of the board. Rigged in this manner I can set my baits behind the boat the desired distance and then attach the board to both the OR19 and the OR16 being careful to make sure the line is behind the pin that’s featured in the OR16 Snap Weight clip.
Rigging In-Line boards to release makes it possible to stack multiple
 board lines per side of the boat and never clear a line
 to fight a fish, change out a lure or adjust a trolling lead length.

            When a fish is hooked, I give the rod tip a little snap and trip the line from the OR19 on the tow arm. The board swings around and is no longer on plane, but is still attached to the line via the OR16 Snap Weight clip. Once the line is released from the release on the tow arm the board quickly falls back. Even better the board and fish and can be reeled in without having to clear any inside board lines!
            The trick to this super slick board rigging method is to give the tripped board a few seconds to swing towards the back of the boat before reeling in the board and fish. If the board is tripped and reeled in immediately lines can still get crossed up.
            This rigging method has other advantages besides being able to trip boards and reel in fish without clearing other lines. When the board trips there is a lot less resistance and it’s easier to reel in the fish. Meanwhile the fish can’t gain leverage and tear free because the rod and fishing line are acting as shock absorbers as they were designed to do.
            This board releasing method works great when fighting fish and also works equally well when clearing a line to switch out a lure or change lead lengths.
            One last tip helps this system work flawlessly. When putting the line into the OR19 on the tow arm of the board, I first spin the line between my fingers about five or six times to form a small loop of line. These loops of line are placed between the rubber pads on the OR19. Set up this way, it’s far easier to trip the board when a fish is hooked and also when just clearing lines to switch out lures or change lead lengths.
            This rigging method is designed to function with monofilament and also fluorocarbon line types. For anglers who prefer to troll with braided lines I recommend using the same methodology, but substituting the OR16 clip for a OR18 Snapper Clip at the back of the board. On the tow arm substitute the OR19 release for a Sam’s Release produced by Silver Horde. The Sam’s Release is a jettison style release that is designed to function with super lines.
Rigged properly anglers can troll with multiple boards
 per side and never have to clear a line to fight
 a fish hooked on an outside line.

            Off Shore Tackle OR12 Side-Planers come factory supplied with the necessary releases and clips that allow anglers to trip their boards and keep the board pinned to the line. Other manufacturers rig their boards so when the line releases from the tow arm clip, the board slides down the line via a molded in groove and a plastic retaining pin mounted at the back of the board.
            This rigging method is flawed in several ways. For one, allowing the board to slide down to the fish forces the angler to rig a bead or other device on the line to stop the board from sliding down and hitting the fish. More knots and rigging means that the chances of line failures increase dramatically.
            Secondly, this rigging method causes the board to be pulled under water by the struggling fish making it difficult to control a struggling fish at the boat.Thirdly, when the board gets pulled under water the fish gains leverage and can easily tear free and escape at the last minute.
            It’s also worth noting that the plastic pin quickly gets gouged up, fails and must be replaced often. On top of all this, if the line breaks the board simply slides off the line and is lost to the waves.
            Rigging in-line boards to release, but remain pinned to the fishing line is the best way to fish multiple boards and avoid the hassles of constantly clearing and resetting lines. This rigging method works great for walleye, trout, salmon and other trolling chores.

Have Rods....Will Travel.....

The author rigs his truck with these PVC rod tubes that allow him to transport dozens of rods safely.

By Mark Romanack

            Any way an avid angler slices it, transporting fishing rods and reels can be challenging. At Fishing 411 that challenge goes double because on any given trip we are tasked with transporting 20 or more rod and reel combinations.
            Because Fishing 411 is a multi-species television series, we have to be prepared to fish a wide variety of species and also presentations. That adds up to traveling with dozens of different rod and reel set ups.
            Thankfully the rod locker in our STX 2050 Starcraft easily handles up to a dozen fishing rods. While we’re on the water rarely do we need more than a dozen set ups for a day of fishing. The problem comes in when on Monday we’re targeting walleye and Tuesday we have our sights on filming another species like northern pike.
The Fishing 411 crew targets a wealth of freshwater species ranging
from panfish to steelhead pictured here. Staying on top of all those
 fishing opportunities requires traveling with lots and lots of rods.

            To solve this constant problem, the Fishing 411 guys have taken a page out of the professional bass fishing handbook. Anyone who has followed the careers of tournament bass pros has no doubt seen how these guys re-purpose construction grade conduit carriers into traveling fishing rod tubes.
            These rather impressive looking rod tubes made from PVC pipe are mounted to roof racks and down the road they go protecting up to a dozen one piece rods each. Kits are available for 4, 6 and 8 inch conduit with six inch tubes being the most popular and practical choice.
            For the guy who thinks these are cool and just wants to purchase a set, A.R.E. Truck Caps produces some very nice ones for about $500.00 each. I opted to make my own using a 6 inch kit that includes the end cap, locking hinged front door and the necessary U bolts for mounting to a roof rack. The kits are about $60.00 each and you’ll also need PVC pipe that costs about $20.00 each at the big box lumber stores.
            I painted mine using spray Plasti-Dip a spray rubberized product that works well for painting the rather boring cream colored PVC pipe into more interesting colors to match or contrast with your tow vehicle. Plasti-Dip works well, but first the PVC needs to be sanded with 80 grip paper to provide a better surface for the paint to adhere to.
            Also this unique paint product sprays best when warmer than room temperature. I took a tip from the website and warmed up my cans by putting them in a bucket of warm tap water for a few minutes. A can will cover one eight foot length of six inch PVC pipe. I recommend three or four coats to get a durable and lasting finish.
            The finished PVC pipe rod holders mount easily to a roof rack using the U bolts supplied with the conduit carrier kits. I opted to first mount an off roading basket to my truck and then mounted the PVC rod holders to the basket. The off roading look is pretty cool, provides a place to mount work lights and if I need extra room to carry more cargo the roof basket is ideal.
            The PVC conduit carriers work perfectly for hard to transport one piece rods up to eight feet in length. To give the rods some extra protection in transit, I cut four pieces of two inch thick foam six inches in diameter. One piece of foam fits near the end cap and the other near the door opening. This helps cushion the rods from sudden stops and starts.
            I also recommend bundling the rods before putting them in the PVC conduit carrier. Alternate the rods so the more delicate tips are bundled with heavier butt sections. These simple steps help to protect the delicate rod tips and makes it much easier to put the rods into and also to remove them from the PVC tubes.
            The matching reels are stored in plastic hard boxes designed for transporting hand-guns. Both Flambeau and Plano make these handy and inexpensive cases for transporting fishing reels.

            For about $200.00 and a little handy-man time I was able to fabricate two traveling rod tubes that no doubt will pay for themselves. The conduit carrier option sure makes it easy to travel with fishing rods.

Walleye Hooks

Walleye fishing is a complex subject, but fortunately there are only a few hook designs every walleye angler needs to embrace including Octopus, Treble and Slow Death.
By Mark Romanack

             Fish hooks are all created equal right? At first glance it does seem like one fish hook is as good as the next, but upon closer inspection the reality sets in. Fish hooks designed for walleye fishing are as different as the lures and live baits they get paired with.
            To be brutally honest, “hooks” are the one piece of gear we could not catch a fish without. It’s also true that most anglers give their hooks little more than passing attention, preferring instead to worry about more glamorous topics like lures, line, lure color, electronics and on and on again.
            Paying attention to the fundamentals routinely helps the Fishing 411 crew stay on fish and catch more walleye. Picking the right hook for the job is one of those fundamentals many anglers overlook.
            Just about every crankbait and trolling lure on the market comes factory equipped with treble hooks. To keep the cost of these lures modest, many manufacturers equip their lures with “bargain” treble hooks.
            In the trolling game using “sticky sharp” hooks is the hands down best way to insure the fish that bite end up flopping in the bottom of a landing net. Because most walleye trollers are getting their lures out to the side of the boat with the help of planer boards, when a fish bites there is no opportunity to “set the hook” as in other fishing methods.
            Hooking these fish is largely about using hooks sharp enough to penetrate with minimal pressure. Most hooks, even many of the brand new hooks that grace fishing lures, are far from being “sticky sharp”.
            Lots of anglers compensate by physically putting an edge on their hooks with a flat file. Other anglers prefer to sharpen using a hone with a grove that cradles the hook shaft.
            Hold the hook with the point facing away from you and make three or four passes with a file. A file removes material quickly, so tread lightly when filing hooks.     
            A hone removes material more gradually and generally requires a few more passes to achieve the same results as a flat file. Because a file can quickly remove too much material and ruin a hook, many veteran anglers favor using a hone to sharpen their hooks.
            Sharpening hooks is an acquired skill that takes time, patience and more importantly the willingness to attack this never ending job. To avoid all this filing and honing of hooks, a growing number of anglers switch out the hooks that come on their favorite lures for after market premium quality hooks.
            Virtually every major manufacturer of fishing hooks sells, “premium quality” hooks these days that are factory sharpened using a variety of different technologies to be “sticky sharp” right out of the package. Founded in 1925 and the only company to make fish hooks in America, Eagle Claw is the nation’s most recognized brand when it comes to fishing.
            In the premium hook category Eagle Claw produces the Trokar series of surgically sharpened hooks and also the Lazer Sharp series of  needle point hooks. Considered by many to be the sharpest hooks in the world the TroKar  and Lazer Sharp series offers anglers a wide variety of hook types and sizes to choose from.
Walleye fishing enthusiast Dale Voice caught these beautiful
 fish by using a “sticky sharp” fish hook. Using
 premium hooks and keeping a hook hone handy is
 the best way to convert every bite into a hooked and landed fish.

            To say these hooks are sharp is an understatement. Since I started using Trokar treble, octopus and slow death hooks I’ve got in the habit of carrying Band-Aids in my wallet. I’m living proof that it’s not just the fish that bleed when coming in contact with these exceptionally sharp hooks!
            The biggest down side to super premium hooks is the cost. This goes double or triple when talking about crankbaits! To mitigate this problem I replace only the tail hook on most crankbaits. If a crankbait starts getting bit frequently I’ll pony up an extra Trokar or two on hot baits.
            Trokar trebles are produced in two versions including a round bend TK300 and also a wide bend or Kahle style TK310. On most crankbaits sizes 6, 5, 4 and 2 hooks are perfect for the job.
            Many anglers recommend replacing factory treble hooks with larger hooks that feature a wider hook gap. This is a slippery slope as many crankbaits are delicately balanced and changing hook sizes can disrupt the action of these lures. 
            The best advice here is to tread lightly when replacing factory treble hooks on crankbaits. Increasing hooks “one size” is normally acceptable, but going any larger increases the risk of impacting negatively on lure action.
            For as sharp as premium hooks are, they will eventually get dull from use and need to be sharpened. Trokar hooks feature a knife style cutting edge and are best sharpened using a hook hone.
            The No. 2 size Octopus or Beak style of hook is the most common design used for walleye live bait rigs. Octopus hooks featuring a turned up eye are ideal for tying snell knots. This hook type allows anglers to position the hooks precisely and also to create rigs with one, two or three hooks.
            In recent years a bunch of walleye guys have gravitated to using red anodized octopus hooks on their walleye rigs. Using red anodized hooks adds a touch of color to rigs. Unfortunately, the problem with anodizing is it quickly wears off, exposing the natural bronze finish of the hook.
            Eagle Claw solved this problem by producing power coated octopus hooks in the Lazer Sharp series that come in a host of color options. The durable paint finishes hold up much better than anodizing and gives anglers far more hook color options to choose from.
            Trokar also produces a octopus hook, but only in the traditional black finish.
            Hooks are always an issue, but usually the leader on a walleye rig will fail long before the hook is dull and needs sharpening or replacing. The most critical area of the rig to examine is the area between the hooks.
            Walleye often swim up from behind and nip at the bait, causing them to get hooked on the tail hook. The sharp teeth of the walleye in turn rake back and forth on the leader, quickly shredding the line.
            Fish tend to break the leader right at the back of the boat as they are thrashing near the surface, or when one hook catches in the net and the fish rolls in the landing net. When nicks and abrasion appear on the leader, it’s time to replace the harness or re-tie using the existing hardware, a fresh piece of fluorocarbon leader and new hooks.
            One of the least known of the walleye rigging methods is a presentation known as slow death. This ultra slow presentation consists of a half a nightcrawler threaded onto a thin wire No. 2 hook bent in such a way the piece of worm slowly rotates in the water when pulled around 1.0 MPH.
            Normally the slow death presentation is teamed up with a bottom bouncer and the hook is tied onto about a 40 inch piece of 10-12 pound test fluorocarbon leader.
            This ultra slow walleye rigging method is ultra deadly on those days that fish aren’t interested in traditional spinner rigs. Most anglers set their slow death rigs exactly the same way as a bottom bouncer and spinner rig. Ideally the bottom bouncer should tick along making contact with the bottom every few feet. Meanwhile, the piece of nightcrawler slowly spins in the water a few inches off bottom.
            A slow death rig is best fished in a rod holder as a dead stick. Because the rig is moving very slowly and typically the fish are less than fired up when using this set up, it takes a razor sharp hook to stick fish.
            Most hook manufacturers have thrown their hat into the “slow death” hook market. Eagle Claw’s contribution is a hook known as the Re-Volve and it features the surgically sharp Trokar technology.
            Walleye fishermen don’t generally use or carry a wide assortment of fish hooks. The Fishing 411 crew typically carries just three hook types including trebles, octopus and slow death.
            Sharpening hooks religiously and using premium hooks is the fast track to walleye fishing success.