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Side Planing - Plug Slipping from Shore!
Tired of casting plugs and losing them in every snag, tree and rock? You’ve watched boats slip plugs and hammer fish but without a boat you just can’t duplicate this method…right? WRONG! Here’s a method that will allow you to plug all the same water just as effectively as if you were in a boat.

Here's what you need to get started. First, and most important, you’ll need to get a side planer that's capable of running in rivers and capable of being controlled with a rod - no boat. Currently, only one company makes a product that fits the bill.

Luhr-Jensen’s side planer is the best, and only, planer to use. Never mind that it’s PINK, it works! If it makes you feel better you can paint it to whatever color you’d like, but the pink shows up very well under all conditions. I would recommend painting the underside to a sky white/blue color.

The next item you’ll need is a rod capable of running this planer board. Your standard steelhead rod won’t be able to take the load even though the side planer is relatively small. Choose a medium to heavy action rod, rated for at least 10-pound test mono. Also, the length should be as long as you can go. The longer the rod, the more line you can keep off the water, the further away you can fish.

Your reel should be able to hold at least 100 yards of 10-12 pound mono; most do. You can use either baitcasting or spinning setups--it makes no difference. I prefer a baitcasting rod, as it’s easier to free-spool line out. However, if you’re not planning on side-planing all day you may opt to use your spinning rod. That’s one nice thing about this method, it’s easy to change over from a float fishing spinning gear setup to side planing and then back if river conditions dictate.

On your reel you’re going to want to run at least 10-pound main line. The planer board runs up and down the main line, so heavier mono will safeguard against breakage. Also, you’ll need a spool of tippet, a couple barrel swivels, a rubber band (for leaves in the fall) and your favorite plug.

Now that you’ve got all the gear you’ll need, let’s put the planer together. This will be a dry run, as you’ll need to configure it streamside, depending on which way the current is flowing. There are 4 pieces to the Luhr-Jensen side planer: body, arm and 2 wings. The wings are for fast and slow current. The larger is for slow water, the smaller for faster.
To assemble, hold the body with the flat side down, take the arm with the writing, “This side up”.
Click the arm onto either one of the side rails(Depending on which way the current is running) with the writing facing up.
Slide the arm back until it locks into place at the rear of the side rail.
Next, take the appropriate wing and slide it onto the other end of the arm. The large wing is for slower water, the smaller for faster. Experiment!
Clip it into the slot, make sure it's setting between the blocks.

This is what the fully assembled planer should look like.



To set your planer:
Ok, now that the planer is assembled let’s rig it up. First, start by sliding the planer board onto your main line. The line goes through the eyelet on the spring arm from bottom to top.

Next it goes through the grommet from the top to bottom coming out on the underside of the planer.

Run the line down the underside of the planer and out the rear eyelet in the back.

Tie a barrel swivel to the tag end of the line. Make sure the barrel swivel you use is large enough that it doesn’t pass back through the eyelet. This will prevent the planer from sliding down to the plug.

To the other end of the barrel swivel tie your leader, then your favorite plug (For a great tip on plugs, read this article on hook change out.). The leader section shouldn’t be more than about 3’ long; otherwise you’ll have problems when you’re trying to land fish...



To fish your planer:
Make sure the wing is on the correct side of the planer body. As it's held up in front of you it should be on the down current side. Pull out an appropriate length of line out (10-40') between your planer and your plug. This will be determined by a multitude of factors including plug selection, current speed, depth, line diameter, etc.--all of the normal influencing factors that make plug run shallower or deeper.
Slide the spring arm into the notch on the appropriate side. “Which way do I set the spring?” I can hear you thinking that… Easy, Always load the spring arm opposite of the wing.
After the arm is set take your main line that's between spring arm and the grommet and wrap it around the nub at the front of the bill. Pull the slack line tight, watch out that the wraps don't come out. The number of wraps is up to you but we’ve found 2 or 3 wraps work best.
Start above the head of the hole.
Drop the plug into the current and make sure it's running correctly before placing the planer in the current. In heavy current, especially if it's snaggy, you may opt to set the planer out first then toss the plug out to clear the snags. If you do this double check your plug to see if it's working before sending the planer out.
After making sure the plug is working correctly, set the planer in the current and start running it to the desired spot.
Start running your plug at the top of the run/hole.
Most fish are going to hit on this first run through the hole. The agressive ones can come anywhere, the less aggressive fish will typically take when forced back to the tailout, so make sure you fish the plug past that point.

Feeding line in and out will move the planer back and across the run; try walking upstream too.In slower water the planer will run quite a bit more at a downstream angle than directly across from you so plan your positioning accordingly. The hardest part of this technique is learning where to stand to fish a run, but with experimentation, you’ll figure it out quickly. Experiment, Experiment, Experiment!



Hooking, Fighting and Landing a Fish(no pop-ups below)
When a fish takes the plug, you'll know it! Your planer will typically shoot downstream at least a foot and disappear. Most times the fish will hook its self. Click HERE to see a short video clip (courtesy of Brian Zadorecky) of a side planer strike.( 1Meg Windows Media clip)
On the hook up the spring clip on the planer SHOULD release. If it doesn’t you’ll need to file down the notch down a little more and smooth out the sharp corner.
The planer will slide down to the barrel swivel and stop. You’ll notice a little additional resistance from the planer board, that’s one reason for using a stiffer rod. Fight the fish a little more cautiously than you would on other gear, if the fish pulls the planer board under water it adds a lot more resistance and you can easily break off.
Take your time landing the fish and you'll have no problems. Be sure to check your main line after landing a fish, at times the planer board can fray it.


This truly is one of the most effective ways to plug fish a river without a boat. You’ll be amazed how this technique will increase your success!



Aaron Martens
Drop Shot Bass




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