Few methods of trolling are as effective as pulling planers and spoons, when Spanish mackerel are in town. But this is also an effective tactic for kings, bluefish, and a wide assortment of predators. If you haven’t tried trolling spoons and planers, you’re missing out – here’s the drill.
Start with an assortment of planers; a number-one will run at around 15 feet, a number-two closer to 20 feet, and a number-three can hit 25. Remember that larger planers put more and more stress on a rod, though, and those big number-threes require stout rods and 40-pound-class gear.
Rig up 15 feet of 30 to 40 pound leader, and tie a ball-bearing swivel to each end. Don’t use cheap barrel swivels, because they just can’t combat line-twist as well as ball-bearing swivels. Clip one end to the back of the planer, and then add an additional five to 10 feet of leader to the other end. Finally, tie on a spoon. Drones and Clarkes are the norm, but just about any similar wobbling spoon will do the trick. If Spanish mackerel are the target keep the spoons small (three inches is plenty big) but if you’re after larger game, up-size the spoons.
Set your lines out with the larger planers closer to the boat and the smaller ones farther aft. Be careful not to turn too tightly and cross up the lines, because a planer-and-spoon tangle is a total disaster and usually requires cutting the mess free and re-rigging everything.
As you troll, keep a close eye on those rod tips. Quite often a fish will take a bite at one of the spoons but miss, and in doing so, trigger the planer. Then the line will rise up to the surface. If you don’t notice and re-set the planer (sweeping the rod tip forward then rapidly dropping it aft usually does the trick) you’re not likely to get another strike on that line.
One final note: if you want to reel up the lines and check them after a long stretch goes by without any bites (you should do so at least once an hour to make sure the hooks haven’t picked up weeds or anything else that will deter a strike) pull back the throttles to clutch speed. Trying to reel up a planer when you’re moving at six or eight mph is a serious exercise in… well, exercise!