A quick-release bridle rig for offshore planer fishing.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with planers. I loved them while serving my time as a charterboat mate. We would run a ballyhoo and Sea Witch on a 6/0 Penn with a stiff rod. Once a strike tripped the planer, the customer would reel the planer to the boat and I would get the fun of hauling in the fish on a 100-foot leader, hand-over-hand.
Conversely, I’ve hated them every time I’ve needed to get them up and stowed in a hurry.
There’s a reason why you’ll rarely set foot on a charterboat that doesn’t pull a planer rod. They have to produce fish every day, and getting a bait down off the surface is key to getting their job done.
Planers can be deployed a few different ways, while trolling at ballyhoo speed. The easiest is to rig a big planer (No. 12-16) on a 100-foot piece of 200-pound-test leader. Simply tie it to a cleat and throw it over. Then hook one end of a double snap swivel onto the leader, and open the other side. Wrap a number 32 rubber band around your trolling line three times, pull it tight and close the swivel. Let it slide down the leader and have another double snap swivel ready to slide down the line.
While it’s easy to fish this rig, it’s impossible to get it up in a hurry, and when it gets loaded with weeds, you’d better have a body builder on board.
Master rigger Archie Gandionco of Strike Zone Fishing rigged me up a bridle for my planer, that makes fishing it easier and more effective.
You’ll need to designate one rod (at least a 30W reel and a stout, 50-pound-class rod) to serve as the planer rod for the season. Pack it with 80- to 150-pound braid and tie a Bimini twist in the end. Add 100 to 150 feet of 150-pound mono with a Bristol or no-name knot.
I use a No. 8 Sea Striker planer, and I attach easy-to-release stainless snaps to both the ring and the back of the board. It’s important to remember when tying the Bimini twist, you’ll want to make it as long as you make the planer rig itself, thus making it easy to attach a doubled, 90-pound waxed thread loop to each end of the Bimini twist by wrapping in a series of 10 half hitches on each side of the loop.
What you end up with is an easy-to-remove planer that can keep your bait as far as 150 feet from the boat. The advantage is twofold. First, the planer goes deeper because the line from the reel to the planer bridle is all braid. Secondly, once you get the planer to the boat, it’s an easy matter of unhooking the planer and fighting the last 150 feet with the line on the reel. FS
Florida Sportsman Magazine April 2019