• Published:November 20, 2017
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Using planers to present baits beneath the surface is a trusted technique.

But when fishing a traditional planer rig, the mate is forced to hand-line the lengthy leader and hooked fish into the boat, leaving coils of line on the deck and greatly complicating the end game. Through a bit of ingenuity, the development of wind-on bridles helps the crew remove the planer quickly, so the fight can go on using the rod and reel.
The way a planer works is simple. The weighted metal plate attaches to your mainline and digs deep into the strike zone as it is trolled through the water column. When pulled at the appropriate speed and distance behind the boat, planers will run at a 45-degree angle. A long leader, or shock cord, trails behind the planer and connects to the fluorocarbon or wire leader and your chosen bait. While highly dependent on target species, depth and trolling speed, anglers often utilize shock cords upwards of 80 feet in length when fishing with a planer.

Though a planer remains under tension while in fishing mode, the device trips as a fish strikes and instantly eliminates all resistance. It’s important to remember that trolling too fast or choosing a bait that’s too big will also trip the planer. Whether fighting a fish or simply checking your bait, once the planer reaches the rod tip, the angler’s job is over and a designated mate must retrieve the shock cord by hand.

Utilizing longline snaps, brass clips or stainless-steel carabiners, a specialized wind-on bridle enables the removal of a planer and eliminates long lengths of leader left on deck where they can tangle up. Setting up the planer so the angler can reel the shock cords in through the guides, planer bridles make the process much more appealing and user friendly.


Though planer bridles are available through various online retailers, they are easy to create on your own. The benefit is the ability to customize leaders for the exact way you fish. You’ll need to learn a few basic skills like serving and forming a Dacron loop, but it’s all very simple and with a little practice you’ll be able to create seamless connections.

Starting with a single length of Dacron, create a double-wall sleeve with an end loop and two in-line spliced loops. It’s important to match the size of the Dacron with the monofilament shock cord to ensure reliable compression. While you can use a professional splicing kit with specialized rigging needles, you can alternatively fashion a 24-inch threading needle by doubling back a 48-inch length of #5 wire.

When building custom wind-on leaders it’s important to consider the size of the planer that you plan to use. Ultimately, the desired running depth determines which planer you select. The number embossed on the steel planer references weight, not the size of the planing surface.
When creating a planer bridle, all of these factors come into play because the distance between the Dacron loops where the planer is attached is largely determined by the size of the planer. It’s essential that once the planer trips, the tension of the hooked fish pulls on the main line, not directly on the loops. To make certain this is the case, the planer with attached clips must be longer than the distance between the two Dacron loops. If the loops are too close, the mainline won’t stretch far enough to trip the planer. Conversely, if there’s too much slack, the planer will actually reset itself mid-fight or the fish might not trip the planer at all and you’ll be forced to pull in a smoker king with the additional tension of a set planer. Similar to a downrigger rod tripping, you’ll usually see the planer rod bounce before the drag starts singing.

Florida charter boats rely on various sized planers for a number of different applications, with leader selection corresponding to the task at hand. Trolling outfits loaded with 80-pound braid allow anglers in search of kingfish and wahoo an opportunity to present classic strip baits and ballyhoo/lure combinations as far as 50 feet below the surface. These baits are best fished behind heavier #4 and #6 planers on 50- to 80-pound monofilament leaders. Longer and lighter shock cords result in more bites, so don’t be afraid to scale down your tackle for a stealthier presentation. 

Planers can be used to target a host of species, and incorporating a wind-on bridle eliminates the undesirable aspects of traditional planer fishing by further simplifying a proven approach.