Divers for Summer Walleye
By: Mark Romanack
Big water walleye are very vulnerable to a number of diving planers. Some of these trolling devices are big and others small, but they all help anglers target walleye at a wealth of depths. At the business end, pick your poison. Diving planers work well with spoons, shallow diving crankbaits, in-line spinners and crawler harnesses.
Diving planers and walleye are a couple of subjects you rarely hear talked about in the same discussion. Even among avid anglers it’s widely accepted that the diving planer is a tool for trout and salmon fishing. That’s true, but walleye like them too!
The beauty of the diving planer is as summer heats up and trolling presentations speed up, these unique trolling tools just get better and better at the game of boating walleye.
FULL SIZED DIVERS
Full sized diving planers like the popular Dipsy No. 1, the Dream Weaver 107mm and the standard Slide-Diver may seem to some to be over kill for walleye. Admittedly these divers were designed to achieve the significant depths often associated with trout and salmon fishing. It’s true these full sized diving planers can reach extreme depths, but by simply shorting up the trolling leads these same divers do double duty for fishing in shallow to moderate depths.
It’s also possible to reduce the diving depth of a diving planer by adjusting the weighted back plate. In the zero setting a diving planer will pretty much dive straight down in the water. By adjusting the back plate left or right of center to the No. 1, 2, 3 or larger setting, the diving planer dives, but also planes out to the side of the boat. So setting a diver on the No. 3 setting helps to get the bait out a little from the boat and also works at keeping the diver for reaching excessive depths.
At the business end, most anglers who target walleye with diving planers are going to be using small to medium sized trolling spoons, stickbaits or modified nightcrawler harnesses that feature willow leaf blades. All of these lures are effective and day to day one may produce better than the others.
One of the nice things about using full sized divers is they are down and dirty when it comes to catching fish and getting gear back in the water quickly. Because the trolling leads used are typically very short, when a fish is hooked, it’s at the back of the boat and ready to be netted quickly.
Once that fish is unhooked, the lure is tossed back in the water, the diver trip arm is re-set, and the diver dropped back into the water. Within a few seconds the trolling lead that just produced a fish is duplicated and the gear is once again fishing!
While the diving planer is more commonly thought of as a tool for trout and salmon fishing, big water walleye anglers will also find that the diving planer is deadly effective.
MID-SIZED DIVING PLANERS
Clearly there are walleye trolling situations that don’t require using a full size diving planer. A number of mid-sized diving planers on the market may be just the right size for the job. These smaller diving planers function exactly the same as their larger cousins, but because they are smaller they can be fished with lighter rods/reels/line and of course they don’t dive as deep as the bigger models.
The Dipsy Diver No. 3 and the Dream Weaver 65mm are a couple examples of diving planers that fit into this mid-sized category.
The walleye angler can also select some rather small diving planers I’ll lump together under the category of “mini divers” because most are little more than the diameter of a 50 cent piece. The Big Jon Mini Disk and the Dream Weaver 45mm divers are popular “mini divers” that are very useful for the walleye troller.
Both of these mini divers are directional, but only the Dream Weaver 45mm features a trip arm mechanism. The Big Jon divers are designed to simply flip and come to the surface when a fish is hooked and pressure is applied to the fishing line.
The Dream Weaver 45mm diver features an adjustable trip arm. Tripping the diver is best achieved by using low stretch super lines. Monofilament and fluorocarbon line have enough stretch that it can be tricky getting these small divers to release crisply.
Because mini divers are small, they are best fished in connection with planer boards. The diver gets the bait to depth and the planer board gets the gear out to the side of the boat. Both in-line boards and planer board mast systems are commonly used to fish mini divers for walleye.
Not all divers look or function like the typical “Dipsy”. Some divers like the Luhr Jensen Jet Diver, the Big Fish Tuff Tru-Trip Diver and the Dream Weaver Trip Z Divers float at rest and dive like a crankbait while trolling. Many anglers prefer a floating diver because they can slow down to fight a big fish without fear of their gear sinking to the bottom and getting fouled.
Diving planers come in a lot of sizes and shapes. Each of these is equipped with an attractor produced by Yakima Bait Company known as the Add-A-Buzz which is designed to create noise, flash and vibration in combination with diving planers.
Another popular diver is the Tadpole Diver by Off Shore Tackle. These unique divers are made of zinc so they sink and they also feature an automatic trip arm function that makes them very easy to fish. The Tadpole gets it name naturally because they feature a big head and a skinny tail like a Tadpole.
A snap is placed over the tow arm at the head of the diver. When this snap slides into the elbow on the tow arm the Tadpole dives. When a fish is hooked, the snap slides to the forward position of the tow arm and the Tadpole stops diving. This simple, but flawless operation makes the Tadpole very popular with anglers who don’t want to worry about trip arm mechanisms or tension adjustment settings.
Tadpole divers can be fished with any line type including monofilament, co-polymers, fluorocarbon, super lines and hybrids. Just tie on a snap to the end of the fishing line and add a 5-6 foot leader to the back of the Tadpole. Tadpoles work well with spoons, in-line spinners, crawler harnesses and shallow diving crankbaits.
Like the mini divers, floating and sinking style divers are best fished in combination with planer boards.
SUMMING IT UP
The diving planer may have been invented with trout and salmon trolling in mind, but these unique devices are highly useful for other species like walleye. No matter if you choose a big, medium or small sized diving planer, chances are your walleye catch rate is going to spike upwards!