Joined: Sep 03, 2010
Location: robbins, n.c
|Posted: Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:57 pm Post subject: article: clarkspoons, trolling sinkers and planers
How to Fish Planers for Bluefish, Spanish Mackerel & other game fish
Tips from Clark
• The clearer the water, the longer the leader.
• The larger the sinker or planer, the longer the leader.
• Use a ball bearing swivel attached to the sinker or planer –
never to the lure.
• The old adage “large bait – large fish” often holds true. However,
it is generally more important to match the size of the
bait on which the fish are feeding, particularly when fishing for
• Fish not biting, water clear. Try a smaller spoon and/or a
gold spoon. Vary your trolling speed, but a faster speed is more
likely to be productive.
• Fish not biting, water cloudy or dirty. Try a larger spoon
and a slower trolling speed. Also, the water may be clearer at a
greater depth, so try a larger sinker or planer. If possible, move
offshore to clearer water. A transition line between dirty and
clear water is often loaded with fish.
We would like to extend a special thanks to
Art Levy and Capt. Jerry Dilsaver
for their contributions in creating this brochure.
Thank you for purchasing a Clarkspoon or a Spoon Squid.
Without a doubt, these are the two most popular trolling lures for
bluefish and Spanish mackerel. There are geographic preferences,
but both lures are very successful at catching fish. The Clarkspoon is
most popular in the Southeast and the Florida Panhandle, while the
Spoon Squid is the lure of choice in the Northeast Atlantic States and
west coast of Florida.
Both of these lures were designed to imitate the silverside and
glass minnows that are primary forage of many inshore and near
shore game fish. The Clarkspoon closely resembles a healthy version
of these bait fish with its tight wobble and spin. The Spoon Squid,
with a more exaggerated wobble, appears to be hurt and therefore easy
prey. Some fishermen feel that the Clarkspoon is preferable at higher
Although they will catch other species, the traditional use of
these lures is for bluefish and Spanish mackerel. The most popular
sizes are #00, #0, and #1. The larger sizes, #2, #3, #4, and #5, do
well on school kings, larger bluefish, stripers, and almost any fish that
feeds on smaller fish. In the Clarkspoon, these more popular sizes
are available either chrome-plated or with 24K gold plating. The
larger Clarkspoons, sizes #2 - #4, and all sizes in the Spoon Squid,
are available in chrome finish only.
Both lures may be trolled or cast, although casting will generally
require that appropriate weight be placed a short distance before
the lure. Again, there are geographic preferences as to which lure
is best suited for which use, but we have found them to be virtually
interchangeable. For simplicity, and to conserve space, the applications
discussed will be in using Clarkspoons. In any and all of these
applications, Spoon Squids may be substituted, if so desired.
As stated earlier, Clarkspoons are the lure of choice in trolling
for bluefish and Spanish mackerel. Early in the season, when both
the bait and the fish are somewhat smaller, the #00 and #0 sizes are
often the most productive. As the game fish and bait fish grow, the
#1 and larger sizes gain in popularity. Not only do the lures catch
these fish, but are also deadly on Atlantic bonito, false albacore, and
skipjack tuna. Other occasional catches include flounder, speckled
trout, gray trout, cobia, cero mackerel, and king mackerel, the last
three generally on the larger sizes. Many fishermen successfully mix
some of the larger sizes into a lure spread in order to attract some of
these larger fish.
Clarkspoons have gotten so popular that enterprising fishermen
have developed a variety of ways to use them. Although they may be
trolled unencumbered on the surface, the most popular fishing method
is trolling beneath the surface, behind planers or trolling sinkers.
The standard procedure is to place the planer or trolling sinker at
the end of the line and then extend a leader back to the Clarkspoon.
For most shallow water or near surface applications, trolling weights
between 1 oz. and 4 oz. or size #1 or #2 planers should work well. Use
a mixture of sinkers or planer sizes and various lengths until you can
find the feeding depth and pattern on any given day.
Most trolling rods will handle the smaller size #1 and #2 planers.
Be sure to set your reel drag just tight enough to pull the planer
without slippage. Special planer rods, downriggers, or hand lines
are required to handle the strain of the larger planers. Hand lines
are easy to use and often are the salvation of a fishing trip if the fish
are feeding at depths only reachable with the larger planers. Length,
diameter, and density of the hand line affect how deep a planer can
dive. Thin, strong, and flexible are the preferred qualities in a hand
line. Monofilament is a better handline material than braided nylon
or dacron. Stainless steel cable (49 strand) is even better yet.
Although there is a point at which the drag on the handline or
planer cable hampers the planer’s ability to dive, they can be assumed
to dive approximately one foot for each two feet of appropriate size
planer line. Too thick a planer line will not allow the planer to dive
as efficiently, while too thin a line risks tangling and breaking and
is more difficult to handle. Because fish do not always feed at the
same depth, a well-equipped boat will have several handlines of various
lengths. A range of sizes from 20 to 75 ft. should prepare you for
most situations. Obviously, if a downrigger or a planer rod is used
to pull the planer, versatility is increased to the point where the only
limitations are the amount of line and the size of the planer.
The Clarkspoon may also be fished on a separate line on a rod
and reel and affixed to the planer with a planer release assembly, allowing
the angler to fight the fish without the drag and interference
of the planer.
We recommend a leader of 20 to 40 lb. monofilament, when
fishing for Spanish mackerel and school bluefish. A stronger leader,
usually 50 to 80 lb. monofilament, is a better choice when fishing
for king and cero mackerel and other larger fish. There are some
locations, such as the Florida Panhandle, where nylon-coated wire
leaders are the local favorite. Although you may rarely have a lure
bitten off, our research shows that monofilament leaders, with their
low visibility, are much more effective at catching fish, particularly
in clear water. The additional productivity more than compensates
for the occasional lost lure. Fluorocarbon, which is more expensive
than monofilament, is less visible and potentially even more effective.
When using small planers or trolling sinkers, a leader of 20 to 30 ft. is
sufficient. Larger planers or clear water conditions may require
leader lengths of as much as 40 to 50 ft. Plastic leader wheels make
convenient storage for longer leaders.
Clarkspoons wobble and spin very quickly as they move through
the water. Sometimes this motion will “crawl” up the leader and cause
it to twist and tangle. A ball-bearing swivel connected to the planer
or trolling sinker will minimize this problem. Never connect the
lure to the line with a snap swivel or the action will be impaired. An
improved clinch knot is recommended to tie the lure directly to the leader.Pass the line through the eye of the hook, swivel, or lure. Double
back, and make 5 turns around the standing line. Holding
the coils in place, thread the tag end of the line through the
first loop above the eye, then through the big loop.
Hold the tag end of line while pulling up the coils. Make sure
the coils are in a spiral, not lapping over each other. Slide
tight against the eye. Clip the tag end.
Trolling speeds should vary for different species. Spanish mackerel,
Atlantic bonito, false albacore, skipjack tuna, and smaller school
king mackerel are fast, aggressive feeders and move very quickly. Obviously,
a faster trolling speed is desirable for these fish. A speed of 4
to 6 miles per hour or even greater is generally most productive. In
the absence of a speedometer or electronic indicator, a tachometer
reading of somewhere between 1000 and 1500 rpm should get the
job done. Don’t be afraid to experiment and vary your speed until
the right combination is found. In the case of bluefish, a slightly
slower speed is usually most effective.
If you are in an area where you expect fish, repeatedly turning
the boat will often add to your catch. The direction change of the
lures appears to trigger the feeding instincts of the game fish. In a
tight turn, the dropping of the lure closer to the bottom will often
yield an unexpected bonus such as a flounder or other deep feeding
fish. Avoid too tight a turn or you will find yourself with a tangled
mess, as your lines cross over one another.
A pair of innovations from the past few years that have taken the
fishing world by storm involve the Clarkspoon as the terminal lure
part of a bird rig or daisy chain. These rigs have accounted for more
than their fair share of fish in a relatively short time. In a bird rig, the
Clarkspoon is tied behind a small bird and trolled across the surface
of the water. A 5” bird combined with a #00 or #0 Clarkspoon is a
favorite way to make this rig. The “flutter” that it makes has proven
irresistible to many fish, apparently simulating the sight and sound
of injured or panicked bait fish. The suggested rigging consists of a
Clarkspoon 7 ft. behind the bird on 30 lb. monofilament.
Another product that has proven effective is the daisy chain. In
this rig, several feathers or squids are rigged on a leader ahead of a
Clarkspoon. The squids are all the same distance apart, while the
Clarkspoon is rigged at twice the distance behind the last squid. The
fact that the Clarkspoon is the “odd” lure, and an extra distance back,
make it appear to be unable to keep up, and thus an easy meal for a
hungry fish. Although, generally fished below the surface, this rig
may be used effectively on top of the water. In order to keep this rig
manageable, a distance of 16” to 18” between the squids is recommended.
It is also wise to use a wire leader between the squids on
a daisy chain rig. A coated 30 lb. stranded wire saves lures and rigs
since strikes on the squids, as well as the Clarkspoon, are frequent;
and the squids or feathers are very vulnerable to sharp teeth.
For even more fish attracting power, you can place a bird at the
end of your line and then attach the daisy chain to it. As with any bird
rig, this combination must be fished on the surface. Not only are
these rigs catching a lot of fish, they are catching a lot of larger fish.
The extra motion and excitement generated by the multiple rigs tends
to attract older and more wary fish.
Whether you are a new angler just beginning to enjoy coastal
fishing, or an experienced veteran, you will find Clarkspoons an excellent
choice for many game fish, especially bluefish and Spanish
mackerel. The rigs are not difficult to make and you can easily assemble
them yourself or purchase them from your local tackle shop. They
also have trolling sinkers, planers, planer kits, high-speed planer kits,
and a complimentary instructional brochure for using planers.
Ball Bearing Troll Sinkers
Clark ball bearing troll sinkers virtually eliminate line
twist when trolling Clarkspoons and other lures. Made
with Billfisher, black oxide ball bearing snap swivels.
Available in 1 oz. to 4 oz.
Planers will take your lure down below the surface to where the
fish are feeding and return to the surface after a fish strikes. The attached
diagrams show the “set” and “released” positions for a planer.
The different size planers allow you to achieve increasingly greater
depths as you go up in size, and there are even high-speed versions if
faster trolling speeds are required.
Planers are designed to run at an approximate angle of 45 degrees.
At this angle, the planer will dive one foot for each two feet of
planer line that is below the surface of the water. It is important to
use tackle, line, and lures that are matched to the size planer that you
Optimum trolling speed is usually between 4 t0 6 miles per
hour. If you do not have a speedometer or electronic measuring
device, a tachometer reading between 1000 and 1500 rpm should
achieve this speed. Vary speeds within this range until you establish
your most effective reading.
Positive Facto rs that Cause a Plane r to Function
1. The size of the planing surface (blade): The larger the
blade, the deeper it will run. An exception would be high-speed planer,
whose unusual configuration allows it to dive deeper at high speeds
than comparable size planers.
2. Lead weight on the planer wire: The amount of lead on the
wire will only slightly influence depth. Remember that the planer
blade achieves the planing function, and the weight is not a significant
factor. However, this weight is very important in setting and resetting
the planer. We will discuss this in more detail later.
3. Type and quality of the line: A major influence on a planer’s
ability to dive is the type and quantity of the line used to pull it.
Adequate strength is required to hold the planer and fight the fish.
Larger planers can put substantial stress on the line and any other
gear used to hold them, and this stress increases with boat speed.
However, any increase in line diameter above the optimum size creates
additional drag and displacement in the water, and thus hampers the
planer’s ability to attain maximum depth. Also, generally speaking,
the longer the planer line, the deeper the planer will run.
Negative Facto rs that Cause a Plane r to Function
1. Boat speed: As previously mentioned, optimum planer trolling
speed is usually 4 to 6 miles per hour. When you exceed this optimum
speed for a planer, the increased water pressure on the planer
blade and line begins to lift the planer in the water. Thus, as speed
continues to increase, the planer will continue to rise and will eventually
jump out of water.
2. Diameter of the planer line: Large diameter planer lines
decrease the ability of a planer to attain maximum depths for reasons
3. The law of diminishing returns: We have already mentioned
that using more line will increase planer depth. Unfortunately, if 40
ft. of line will allow a planer to dive 20 ft., it does not necessarily
follow that doubling the length of the planer line would double the
planer depth. Due to the combination of water pressure and water
displacement (buoyancy),* the additional 40 ft. of line might only
yield another 12 to 15 ft. of depth.
1. Stainless steel cable (49 strand) is probably the most effective
planer line. Solid wire, such as monel, although extremely efficient
from a diving perspective, is prone to kink and break when used in a
planing application. The new super braid fishing lines appear to be
second only to cable in planer pulling properties. Monofilament line
would be a third choice. Braided nylon and dacron have proven to
be least effective where maximum depth is required. However, where
greater depth is not a major factor, the ease of use and availability of
small nylon cord make it the hand line of choice of many fishermen.
2. All planers can be used with a hand line. One end of the
line is attached to the boat (often with a loop around a cleat), and the
other is either tied or connected with a large snap swivel to the planer
rig. Sea Striker offers a variety of hand line kits that will meet most
3. Sizes #1 and #2 planers are often trolled on rods and reels
spooled with line ranging from 20 to 50 lb. test. This has the advantage
of allowing the angler to quickly adjust the distance and the depth
at which the planer is fished. A #3 planer will require a substantially
heavier trolling rod and 40 or 50 lb. line. Be sure to set your reel
drag just tight enough to pull the planer without slippage.
4. Large-sized planers are best pulled on hand lines, downriggers,
or specialized planer rods with 6/0 or 9/0 reels. We have found
275 lb. stainless steel cable to be the most effective and durable product
for deeper ocean fishing with heavy gear.
Now that we understand how planers work and the factors that
affect their ability to dive, it is time to catch some fish. There are a
few simple guidelines that will make using planers both easier and
1. Guideline and safety precaution #1 is to always wear gloves
when handling a planer or planer line. Loose fitting gloves that can
be easily removed are best.
2. In order to dive, a planer must be in the “set” position
Usually a planer will set itself upon entering the water. Sometimes it
doesn’t or a fish may strike and trip, or release, the planer without getting hooked.
In these instances, it is helpful to be able to reset the planer without
reeling it all the way to the boat. Pull in several feet of line and then
quickly release it. This slack in the planer line will allow the weight on
the planer wire to cause the planer to nose dive and reset itself. If this
doesn’t work after an attempt or two, slow the boat speed and repeat
the procedure. Again, this same procedure can be used if the planer
should hit bottom and trip.
3. Sometimes it is desirable to trip and retrieve a planer without
slowing the boat. The same technique as described above may be
used to trip the planer. Considerable effort may be required to pull
the planer, depending on the size of the planer and the speed of the
4. If the planer is not running straight, but wants to track to the
right or left, it’s an easy problem to fix. The planer has probably gotten
bent and needs to have the blade straightened or the wire aligned.
It is a common occurrence for the planer to be stepped on in the
excitement of landing a fish and a pair of pliers is generally all that it
takes to put the planer back into working order.
5. In addition to the selection of planers according to the depth
that you want to achieve, they must also be matched to the lures and
size of the fish that you are pursuing. A lure that is too large for the
planer will create enough drag to repeatedly trip the planer. The only
solutions are to go to a larger planer or a smaller lure. On the other
hand, small fish will often not trip a large planer and a smaller planer
may be required.
6. When a planer that has been running straight suddenly starts
tracking at an angle, it is likely that a small fish is on the line. The
other possibility is that the planer has picked up seaweed or other
debris. In either event, the planer needs to be pulled and checked.
7. Sea Striker planers may be used on appropriate rods, reels,
handlines, and downriggers. Although they are often more effective,
planers do create more turbulence in the water than trolling sinkers.
Because of this, longer than normal leaders will greatly improve planer
productivity. A minimum of 20 ft. should be used on the smaller
planers, and 40 to 50 ft. will work best on larger sizes. If the water is
unusually clear, then even longer leaders will add to your catch.
Thank you for selecting a Clarkspoon product. We hope
that this brief guide will add to your understanding of Clarkspoons
and planers with the result of enjoyable and successful fishing adventures.
* NOTE: All objects immersed in water are subject to a buoyant
force that is proportional to the volume of water displaced; therefore, if
enough planer line was let out, the combination of the buoyant force from
the water displacement with the water pressure on the line and blade would
eventually reach a point where the upward pressure would offset the diving
capability of the planer. Additional line would possibly even cause the planer
to rise. Since it is unlikely that this line would be let out under normal fishing
conditions, this remains more of a theoretical issue than a functional
problem. This buoyant force is one of the primary reasons that the depth
attained does not remain proportional to the amount of line let out.
Item Size Estimated Depth
SSP#1, 5-12 ft. of depth
SSP2#2, 10-20 ft. of depth
SSP3#3 ,12-25 ft. of depth
SSP4#4, 15-30 ft. of depth
SSP4BR#4 BRACED, 15-30 ft. of depth
SSP5#5, 20-40 ft. of depth
SSP5BR#5 BRACED, 20-40 ft. of depth
DLX‑P#6 BRACED, 20-40 ft. of depth
HS8#8 braced hi-speed, 10-40 ft. of depth
Sea Striker® Planers
In addition to line diameter, there are other factors that
determine the maximum depth such as, line type, trolling speed, current,
lure drag, lure weight, water temperature, and length of line.
Therefore each planer may have a wide range of possible depths that
can be achieved. Based on a variety of fishing conditions the following
chart will help you choose the correct planer for your purposes.
A #1 and #2 planer can be used with most trolling rods. #3 would need
to be used with a heavier trolling rod. Any planer larger than a #3
should be used with a handline or specifically designed planer rod.
Setting and Retrieving Planers
To set the planer, attach the snap swivel from the planer line to
the brass ring on the planer and ease it into the water at a 45 degree
angle. Should the planer trip while fishing, it may be reset by pulling
the planer line forward (2 to 3 ft.) and then releasing. This may take
several attempts since you must change the altitude of the planer in
order to get it from the neutral position into the planing position. A
slightly slower boat speed will help. Your planer may be tripped for
retrieval by pulling forward and releasing the planer line (as above).
Planers will run at a 45 degree angle and achieve approximately
one foot of depth for each two feet of planer line when used with appropriate
line. There is a point where a planer reaches its optimum
depth. For example, 50 ft. of planer line will probably result in a
planing depth of 25 ft. Unfortunately, it does not follow that 100 ft.
of line will generate 50 ft. of depth. It is more likely that 125-150
ft. of planer line would be required. Speed will only take a planer
down so far and the process reverses itself. You can see this if you
pull a planer at very high speed. Eventually, it will actually jump out
of the water. Diameter and density of the planer line or cable is an
important factor relative to depth. Monofilament lines run deeper
than braided lines, and stainless steel cable (275 to 400 lb. test) will
obtain even greater depths.
James E. Clark, LLC P.O. Box 459 Morehead City, NC 28557
This info is probably old news to most of you guys however I learned a few things and wanted to share....the article didnt copy perfectly so visit clarkspoon.com if you wanna see the diagrams....