The Diving Planer
By: Mark Romanack
A trolling boat is going to be set up with a lot of gear including downriggers, planer boards and the always popular diving planers.
The diving planer is deeply rooted in Great Lakes trout and salmon fishing. Even before the introduction of salmon in the Great Lakes, diving planers were being used to catch native species such as lake trout. It’s interesting to note that diving planers actually pre-date downriggers. Prior to the Pacific salmon being introduced into the Great Lakes, there were no commercially produced downriggers! We’ve come a long ways baby in five or six short decades.
For a majority of Great Lakes trollers the diving planer supplements the use of downriggers and sinking lines such as lead core, stranded copper wire and weighted stainless steel wire. For others, the diving planer is the primary means for reaching fish found deep below the surface.
For example, in Lake Ontario it’s still very common to see boats fishing a double stack of divers and nothing else! Known as running a “high diver” and a “low diver” this simple approach to trout and salmon fishing is amazingly effective.
Double stacking two diving planers on the same side of the boat involves setting up one diver to fish shallow, while a second diver is set up to fish deeper. This is accomplished a number of ways including running a smaller diver as the high line and a larger diver as the deeper presentation. The diving depth of a diving planer can also be manipulated by the line type and diameter used. High divers are commonly fished using monofilament line, while low divers are typically fished on thinner lines such as super braids or wire line.
A third way to stack divers is by setting the high diver to plane further to the side of the boat, while setting up the low diver to dive at a steeper angle. This is accomplished by adjusting the counter balance weight built into diving planers.
To say that diving planers are a versatile trolling tool is a serious understatement. Versatile and affordable, the diving planer is here to stay.
Some diving planers are designed to accept various different sizes of diving rings that snap onto the diver. Adding a diving ring increases the diameter of the diver and causes it to run deeper. Adding a diving ring also allows a diving planer to plane further to the side of the boat.
The down side to diving rings is they often pop off and must be constantly snapped back into place. This common problem facilitated the invention of diving planers that don’t have dive rings. The idea here is to make the diver the desired diameter in the first place.
THE TRIP MECHANISM
Because diving planers pull exceptionally hard, most feature a trip arm mechanism that facilitates diving when the trip arm is engaged. When a fish is hooked the trip arm pops open and allows the angler to fight the fish without having to fight the resistance of the diver.
Diving planers use a host of unique trip arm mechanisms. Some are wire arms that snap into slot that features a tension adjustment screw. Others use magnetic power on the trip arm mechanism. Still others function by using a sliding snap that slips into the elbow of the trip arm when diving and slides forward when a fish is hooked.
There are even a fair number of divers on the market that have no trip arm mechanism. With these designs, the diver continues to dive even when a fish is hooked. Inventive anglers have come up with all kinds of unique ways to rig these divers so they can be released when a fish is hooked. In short, where there is a will in fishing, someone is going to find a way to make it work.
SMALL, MEDIUM, LARGE AND EXTRA LARGE
Diving planers come in a host of sizes including models that are very small and designed to reach modest depths, all the way up to extra large models designed to reach depths approaching 100 feet!
Just to confuse things a little more, divers come in both sinking and floating designs. Floating divers are popular with anglers who routinely fish shallow water and slow down to fight a hooked fish. A floating diver will hold it’s depth when the boat is slowed down, while a sinking diver dives deeper at slower speeds, running the risk of sinking to bottom and snagging.
This Tadpole Diver has been rigged to include a OR19 release on the tow arm and an OR16 Snap Weight Clip at the back. When a fish is hooked, the line can be tripped from the OR19, leaving the Tadpole dangling on the line like a Snap Weight. The beauty of this set up is the angler can use any lead length desired from the lure to the Tadpole. Slick!!
SNAP WEIGHT DIVERS
In recent years more and more anglers have been experimenting with ways to fish longer leads behind a diving planer. The Slide Diver hit the market some years ago with the idea of allowing the angler to fish any lead length desired from the lure to the diver. The idea of the Slide Diver is good, but unfortunately these divers are tricky to rig and cumbersome to set while fishing.
These days it’s common to see anglers rigging an ordinary diving planer with an Off Shore Tackle OR16 Snap Weight Clip mounted to the tow arm of the diver. In this case, the angler lets the lure out the desired distance, then places the line into the Snap Weight Clip before lowering the diver into the water and slowly playing out additional line.
The key here is to let the diver out slowly by backing off the reel drag until line slowly slips off the reel. If a Snap Weight Diver is deployed too quickly, it can spin and get tangled.
Once set the diver fishes as normal. When a fish is hooked, the tow arm mechanism pops open, tripping the diver and leaving it hanging on the line much like a Snap Weight. This simple and unique way of rigging a diving planer is becoming very popular with Great Lakes trollers who see value in running longer leads between the diver and the lure.
Rigging up a Snap Weight Diver is easy and can be done with a host of divers and all line types including monofilament, braid and wire. The trick is to add a 25-35 foot of fluorocarbon line as a leader using a double uni knot to attach the leader to the braided line or monofilament line. For wire, a small barrel swivel is attached to the terminal end of the wire using crimp sleeves and a fluorocarbon leader is added to the swivel.
DEEP, DEEPER, DEEPER YET
Diving planers run pretty deep, but there are always anglers looking for ways to fish these devices at extreme depths. The easiest means of controlling the running depth on a diving planer is the line type used. The thinner the line used, the less friction involved and the deeper the diver can fish.
Most anglers use super braids on their divers to increase the diving depth. Wire line is another viable option for getting divers to extreme depths. Wire fishes deeper because wire is not only thin in diameter it sinks compared to monofilament, fluorocarbon and super braid lines which are naturally buoyant.
Both solid wire (Monel) and stranded wire (Seven Strand) are commonly used in combination with diving planers. When using wire the rod must be equipped with a roller style or spring style tip.
The new Eagle Claw Starfire X trolling rods feature an “industry first” telescopic diver rod that is designed for the modern angler. This rod has the ideal length and action and thanks to the telescopic design can be collapsed down to fit in any rod locker.
Historically, the rods used with diving planers have been very long, exceptionally heavy and awkward to fish and stow. Back in the day when a lot of Great Lakes boats were equipped with four downriggers, it was necessary to use long downrigger boom arms to spread out the downrigger weights. These days, most boats using downriggers are fishing just two downriggers and the need for long boom arms has evaporated.
Thus the need for extra long diver rods is also a thing of the past. Long diver rods were designed to allow the diver rod to reach out around those long downrigger booms. Unless your boat is equipped with 72 inch downrigger booms, a shorter diver rod makes much more sense.
The new Starfire X series of trolling rods from Eagle Claw features a nine foot diver rod that features a telescoping design. This unique diver rod is the ideal action and length and thanks to the telescopic design, it fits nicely in any rod locker.
SUMMING IT UP
The diving planer has carved out a special niche here in the Great Lakes. Versatile, affordable and available in countless sizes and designs, there is a diving planer for just about every trolling situation.