Expert Dan Hassevoort’s Fishing Tips on Trolling Full Circle

News & Tips: Expert Dan Hassevoort’s Fishing Tips on Trolling Full Circle...
Dan holding walleye.
Dan with walleye

Trolling: There’s more to it than just pulling. 

Most of you are no stranger to trolling for your favorite species of fish.  What some of you may not know is technology advancements have changed the basic setup of trolling. In this article, I am going to focus on walleye and salmon setups and show you how the industry has evolved in bait-delivery systems and has drastically increased the success in the art of trolling. 

I call this setup “Trolling Full Circle” – it’s really all about presenting as many baits to the school of fish as you possibly can along with as many different actions (presentations) as you can on a single pass. 

Bait Delivery Systems

First, let’s talk about the advancement in the bait-delivery systems that makes “Trolling Full Circle” one of the most deadly trolling setups on the water today. Planer boards are no big secret: Today, everyone has heard of them, and many of you use them in your trolling setups. But what some of you may not be aware of is not all boards are created equal. 

Church Tackle
Church Tackle

The side planers I use for maximizing my trolling success and to lead off on “Trolling Full Circle” is the TX22 Special from Church Tackle, and there is a very important reason why. The TX22 is the only board that is balanced, meaning it can sit motionless in the water and does not fall over. This allows me to “stop and drop” on structure. 

This is a tactic used with crawler harnesses and inline weights where you pass over structure and slow your trolling speed down to zero ground speed for a moment, allowing your harnesses to flutter down the water column then engaging your trolling speed, pulling your harnesses back up from the bottom. This can be deadly, and the TX22’s ability to float in the takeoff position at a dead stop makes it all possible. 

Also, you can perform tight "S Turns,” stopping the boards on the inside and doubling the speed of the outside boards. This is also an effective presentation, and the TX22 is built special just for these reasons. 

You can utilize crank baits the same way. Instead of stopping and dropping the crank bait, do more of a “stop and stall” along with the “S Turn.” It can be killer with both harnesses and cranks, especially under cold front conditions.  

Side planers basics

Most of you know the basic principle of side planers is setting your desired lead clip on your side planer and allowing it to plan out to the side and then repeat with another board, ending with two to three boards per side of the boat – all with different leads to search all depths of the water column. 

Depending on the number of anglers in the boat, you may drop a couple of lines of each back corner of the boat with bouncers or crank baits, running them close to the bottom to get away from the boat noise best you can. 

A new bait-delivery system

This is where the technology has stepped up again and where “Trolling Full Circle” is really born. There is a new bait-delivery system out there that has changed the art of trolling as we know it today. It’s called the Stern Planer by Church Tackle. 

Stern Planers
Planer Boards

The Stern Planers run on the same principle as the side planers, where you set your desired lead depending where you want your bait to be in the water column. Unlike the side planer, the Stern Planer tracks directly behind the boat. The Stern Planer picks up the fish that filter back in behind the boat.  

Mechanics of "Trolling Full Circle"

Here are the mechanics of “Trolling Full Circle” and why it is so successful: So many things are working together – even things you are not aware of. The first activation in the trolling process is actually your boat! As your boat passes over a school of fish, the presence and noise of your boat pushes the school to one side or the other or scatters them to both sides, pushing them right into the path of your side planers. 

And with all your side planer leads set at different depths, you are ready if the fish dive down deeper or stay at the same depth – you have bait they can key in on. This is “Ground Zero” for “Trolling Full Circle” –the beginning of the presentation. As the boat scatters the fish off to the side planers, it often triggers the fish into an active pattern, increasing the chance for them to bite. 

Now it’s time to “Close the Circle.” In order to explain this, we need to look back at the beginning of this process: “Ground Zero.”

Before your boat approaches the school of fish, remember they are there for a reason. More than likely, there is also a school of bait fish there, as well, so as your boat scatters the game fish out to the side planers – where you hopefully pick a few off – we have found over the years that those fish will filter back into that area where they were feeding in before the boat scattered them. 

The problem is that the boat and your setup is so far past the area that you can’t capitalize on this process, and at this point, the fish seem to be the most active! This is why the Stern Planer was born! 

The Stern Planer allows you to troll shallow or mid-water column leads far behind the boat, capitalizing on the fish returning to their feeding areas and being able to present baits to the fish at their most active feeding point. The key to pulling the Stern Planers is to make sure you are pulling a long ways back – 200 up to 300 feet behind the boat – then set your rod tips straight up in the air so everything is out of the way of everything else. 

Unlike the side planers, you do not need to watch the Stern Planers. With the cone shape of the Stern Planer, it puts hardly any extra load on the line. So just simply watch the rod tips to indicate strikes. 

Depending on how many anglers in the boat, you can still run a couple of rods off the back corners of the boat, running down on the bottom, because the Stern Planers are 200 to 300 feet away, and their leads are high in the water column. So with your TX22 side planers working together with the Stern Planers, it presents baits to the fish all the way from the start point of your boat scattering them to the return of the fish to their active feeding area, and having baits around them as they get more active! 

And you can do all the other presentations as needed – “Stop and Drop,” “Stop and Stall” and “S Turn” –because the Stern Planer’s cone shape allows it to float perfectly at a dead stop, and the TX22’s balancing system makes this setup the most deadly trolling combination on the water today! 

by Dan Hassevoort