Inline Planer Fishing: The Hot Ticket for Wahoo
It’s tough to pinpoint the exact day and time in line planer bridle fishing became “a thing”. What we do know is that the technique has been used for over a decade with marked success. The first anglers to incorporate bridles to their spreads were charter Captains, but now, you can find a planer bridle set-up on most any serious offshore fishing boat, up and down the East Coast.
The planer bridle developed as charter boat Captains sought a way to put more fish in the box. Use of inline planers allows you to utilize a lot more drag, shortening fights with big fish. The technique also saves a boatload of time, by not requiring a separate planer line to be cleared. When compared to traditional handline planer or “poor mans downrigger” type set-ups, the advantages are clear. For charter boats, it became a no-brainer: more fish, faster, and easier meant happier parties and more trips booked. It’s a win-win for everybody, except the fish.
While bridles were becoming commonplace on dedicated charter vessels, they really didn’t hit the mainstream until about 10 years ago. Initially, the first bridles were constructed of mono or cable. They were either hard to reel through the guides, not durable enough, or tough on expensive rod guides and reels. Enter the hollow core bridle. This new development changed everything. Hollow core planer bridles give anglers excellent durability and easier use. Once fisherman got wind of how simple the set-ups were to use, word spread like wildfire and the popularity of bridle fishing skyrocketed.
The Right Gear to use with Planer Bridles
There is a degree of specialty surrounding the gear required to be successful planer fishing. Durable reels with a great amount of drag help a lot. The most popular reel for dedicated planer fishing is an 80W, some folks use 130s, but the cost is typically prohibitive. These reels are under a tremendous amount of stress. Well-made, name brand graphite reels can be used with smaller planers, but if you intend to go larger, an aluminum reel is a must. In fact, due to the stress in-line planer fishing places on a reel, used gear is oftentimes the weapon of choice.
Small planers require 20-25lbs of drag to hold in place, while larger ones can require up to 50lbs of drag. Put any reel under this amount of load for a whole trip, several times a year, and it’s easy to see why you want quality gear. A well-made bent butt rod is also required equipment. Typically, something stiff and short is best for the job as the rod is under so much stress all day long. Guide selection comes down to personal preference; ring guides or roller guides work well for the application. However, there is no negotiation regarding the need for a swivel tip that’s large enough to let the bridle pass through itself easily. The swivel tip is also important as it allows the line to stay centered and helps to eliminate chafe and subsequent break-offs. Your rod and reel are one place you don’t want to skimp. Imagine losing the fish of a lifetime because your reel locks up. No Bueno.
The same thought process applies to line selection. We recommend using name brand braid and mono top shots to get the most from your set-up. It’s important not to spool your reels all the way as you can multiply your drag with less line on the spool. Again, with bridle fishing, more drag equals more success.
Lures to use with Planer Bridles
The sky is literally the limit when it comes to choosing the right lure to use with your inline planer set-up. One of the most common lure choices is a sea witch in front of a ballyhoo, rigged on piano wire. Use of wire or cable leaders is an absolute necessity as toothy critters like Wahoo will cut through mono or fluoro leaders like a hot knife through butter. Piano wire offers a degree of camouflage that coffee colored wire just doesn’t provide. However, it does require more frequent re-rigging of baits.
It seems darker color combinations such as red and black or purple and black tend to catch more Wahoo. However, don’t discount the old standby blue and white or all white as they’ll produce also. Head weights range from ½ to 6 or even 8 ounces. The heavier heads will track straighter behind the planer.
Nowadays, there are also many great options for artificial Wahoo lures, both lead and resin heads. Bullet shaped heads are the most popular, again, in darker color combinations. Many anglers also like to use artificial lures with jets in the head for an additional attractant. The advantage of using artificial lures is simple, there is no need to worry about washed out baits or time spent rigging ballyhoo. You can also get a bit heavier with the artificial baits, just don’t go too heavy as you can unintentionally trip the planer while trolling. You’ll get a longer life from artificial lures as the skirts can take a bit more abuse than traditional hair style lures. UV additives, either in the resin or the skirt can also help to improve your bait presentation. Select your lures based upon targeting Wahoo but be prepared as many other species will fall for a planer bait. Oftentimes, it’s been the only line to get a bite when fishing is slow. Big Dolphin typically feed deeper in the water column and often fall victim to the planer bait. Anglers have also caught many a Tuna, King, and even Billfish on planers.
Inline planer fishing is still advancing in popularity and for good reason; it’s extremely effective and simplifies fishing for Wahoo. Also, it’s arguably the easiest way to reach sub-surface feeders with consistency. Sure, there is a substantial cost involved in getting started with an inline planer set-up but it pales in comparison to a couple of trips worth of wasted fuel and missed Wahoo bites. Try it for yourself and see how many more fish end up in your boat.
About the Author: Bryan Byrd resides in Atlantic Beach, NC with his family. His interests include saltwater fishing and cycling. Writing is not his strong suit, if you made it through this whole article, good job.