Free-lining is a very natural presentation of live bait, with baits allowed to free swim behind the boat, often with enough line out to allow the bait to decide the chosen depth. Rigs can be as simple as a line with a hook on the end. Boat speed should be adequate to maintain a tight line back to the bait.
Target speeds for free-lining are from .5 to 2.5 mph. Adjustment of depth can also be achieved by the addition to the line of split-shot or small, sliding weights. Size of the bait used will also have some bearing on the depth the bait is presented. Part of the appeal of free-lining is allowing the bait to find its own depth preference. Fishermen will find it surprising how a free-lined bait with no added weight can be slow-trolled in water just a few inches deep or through submerged timber without hanging up.
Planer boards work using the same principal as a free line with the planer board acting as a wedge to angle the bait away from the boat. A planer board is a flat-sided device made of wood, plastic or foam. The board is weighted at the bottom so that it floats in a vertical position.
The board employs a tension-release clip to hold the line and it provides enough tension for the board to pull out to the side. Boards will be marked as to whether they pull to the right or to the left. The line is threaded through a snap swivel between the tension clip and the bait. This swivel retains the board on the line when the board breaks away and keeps the angler from fighting the board’s resistance but still retrieves the board without having to turn back after the fish is boated.
In order to keep the board from sliding down the line and possibly knocking the fish from the hook, it is best to tie a small barrel swivel in the main line approximately 4 to 6 feet from the hook. The swivel will stop the board once it breaks away and gives a good tie point to add a fluorocarbon leader to the end of the main line.