How To

Off Shore Tackle Talks Trolling Systems

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Nick DeShano, who followed in his father’s footsteps and is now leading Off Shore Tackle and its innovative trolling aids, holds up a giant walleye.

Nick DeShano, who followed in his father’s footsteps and is now leading Off Shore Tackle and its innovative trolling aids, holds up a giant walleye.

The phrase, “like father, like son,” aptly describes Bruce and Nick DeShano, the men behind Off Shore Tackle. For example, Nick has his father’s enthusiasm for drag racing. He can’t take part like his dad, though, because Bruce has more free time now that Nick is taking over day-to-day operations.

Nick also has his father’s love of fishing, and trolling is his favorite tactic. And why not? It works for finding fish fast on big water like Saginaw Bay and Lake Erie, where the pair have spent hours in search of walleyes. Bruce has spent a lifetime helping make trolling easier and more productive for everyone.

Bruce DeShano had no trouble convincing Nick to follow in his footsteps. “I was free to choose what I wanted to do,” said Nick DeShano, 38. “But the industry is a pretty fun business to be in. And the people you get to work with are some of the greatest anglers in the country, real up-and-coming guys. It was easy to convince me to stay in the business.”

As a teenager, Nick was first mate on his dad’s charter boat when trolling for huge, king salmon. That was about the time Bruce began developing the first products that would eventually make Off Shore Tackle a leader in the fishing industry. Its main mission is to provide anglers with everything they need for successful trolling.

Nick remembers watching his mom and dad put together their first products: clip releases. Bruce hoped to sell them to companies already making downriggers. Unlike the downriggers on the market at that time, his clip release allowed fishermen to see the rod load up when they had a hit. When other companies weren’t interested, Bruce decided to start Off Shore Tackle.

Later, Bruce designed trolling boards with the help of some current walleye pros. He also added snap weights to Off Shore’s arsenal. From that time forward, Off Shore was able to help anglers sift through the water column, up and down and side to side, to find fish fast. Off Shore was taking off when professional walleye tournament circuits, including the Professional Walleye Trail, began to grow. Trolling was effective and became popular.

“It was the hot new thing to do,” Bruce said. “Sometimes, timing is perfect.”

As Nick grew older, father and son fished together on the Michigan Walleye Trail, which was a proving ground for some of the best competitive anglers in North America. When they had free time, they would troll Saginaw Bay near their Michigan home for big ‘eyes. In fact, five-to seven-pounders were so common that Nick was surprised when they competed on other lakes that produced limits of just 17-inchers. “I didn’t know that walleyes even grew that small,” Nick laughed.

Still, walleye fishing is Nick’s favorite.

“It’s hard to beat reeling in a big king salmon, but walleyes are fun. If you get one, you usually get a lot. They’re a lot easier on equipment [than salmon], and you don’t have to go as far from shore. Walleyes are a hard fish to beat as far as just going and fishing,” Nick said.

“Trolling offers several advantages over other methods of fishing,” he added. Though it’s fun to catch walleyes by jigging or rigging, the fact is the fish tend to be smaller than walleyes brought in by trolling. Trolling is also a great way to introduce newcomers to the sport. It’s easy to notice when a planer board darts back signaling fish-on, whereas it takes time to develop the “feel” of a fussy walleye softly inhaling a jig.

“You can take people who have never fished before,” said Nick, “and they can see a [Tattle] flag go back. They know a fish is on.”

For tournament anglers fishing new or big water, trolling helps find fish in the limited time they have to prepare. Due to that factor, trolling also appeals to weekend warriors who have to find fish fast or go home with empty livewells.

Nick on new waters

When fishing a lake for the first time, Nick advises starting at the local bait shop. The staff will point you toward the “community spots,” the ones that everyone knows about. Go there first, check out the action, and see how deep the fish seem to be. But don’t stop there. Study the lake map to find similar places with similar structure farther from the ramp, where crowds will thin.

If you’re in the Great Lakes, drop-offs may be extremely subtle. Even a foot or two is enough to hold fish. Electronic mapping, coupled with GPS, is a great tool to find and follow breaks in the middle of nowhere far from shore.

Next, look for baitfish. If shiners are the main food source for that body of water, they’ll be closer to the surface. Shad will be in the middle zone. Suckers and creek chubs will be on the bottom. Walleyes will be nearby.

For weighting systems, Guppy Weights and Tadpoles are two excellent choices. Guppy Weights can be used as snap weights and/or as in-line weights and Tadpoles will take crankbaits or spinners down to extraordinary depths.

Start with snap weights and Guppies. Put on a lure or a crawler rig, let out 50 feet of line on the line-counter reel, and snap on a weight. Then let out 50 more feet, adding an Off Shore planer board, and running it to the side. Off Shore has made its trolling boards even better in 2014 by adding an OR-16 release to the back of the board. The OR-16 release has a pin in it which makes it almost impossible to lose the board. Repeat the process while changing only the size of the weight each time from one to 2.5 ounces in half-ounce increments. Four baits are now running at different depths in the water column. Guppy weights also come in half-ounce, and up to three ounces.

Off Shore’s Tadpole weights work for deep fish which are down 30 feet or more. They can also be used to run lures shallower with less line out. See www.offshoretackle.com for a video that will show you how to rig it. The weights are made of zinc, a metal that allows Off Shore to be more exact about the weight than lead, which tends to vary considerably. In addition, zinc is more environmentally friendly.

If using crankbaits, troll fast at first, say two to 2.5 mph. Make “S” turns to speed up the outside boards and slow the inside ones. Spinners work best at 0.8 mph to 1.7 mph. Slow down a bit when you get a fish to see if the speed change triggers more bites. To stay on the school, mark the location on the GPS and electronic mapping system (if the boat is equipped with either or both). When fishing big water, GPS is a must for safety reasons. If a storm or fog rolls in, you have to be able to find your way back to the ramp.

Pay attention when a fish strikes. Where was the bait in the water column and how fast was it moving? If a certain weight produces a fish or two, change one of the other lines to that particular weight. If you get another fish at that depth, change another line to run at that spot in the water column. With three lines at the same depth, use the fourth line to experiment with depth and different lure shapes, spinner shapes and sizes and colors. Never stop experimenting! Although one color may be catching fish, switching to another color might produce more or larger fish or both. Some uninformed anglers believe that trolling is a lazy way to fish. Not so. Something always needs to be done, whether trying new colors or lures or blades or clearing weeds off lines. Stay busy.

“Don’t fall into the mindset you have to do it ‘this way,’” Nick said. “Try other ways. Everybody thinks this is the way they have to do it. But fish have don’t rules. They’re just looking for something to eat.”

If the action slows, reset the lines at four different depths until fish are located again.

Switch to inline weights if fish stay at the same depth for a long time or when walleyes are shallow. The baits can be set just 10 to 12 feet back from the boards, which allows for tighter turns.

Nick and his dad are aware some anglers are put off to trolling because they think they need lots of expensive gear, including line-counter reels, special trolling rods, and planer boards. But Off Shore’s Mini boards are made to be used with the rods you already own. These mini boards are small, so storage is not an issue. They’ll fit into a coat pocket, if need be, for Canadian fly-in trips. The Mini Boards are perfect for smaller lakes, but if the weather is calm they work on big water too. The trick is to just to keep them moving so they don’t sink – and keep the rod tip close to the lake surface to prevent the boards from popping out of water. Another advantage; according to Nick, mini boards are extremely sensitive to strikes, even more than Tattle flags. He’s used them with as many as five colors of leadcore line.

“They are quite the little tool,” he said.

Honestly, he loves anything that helps troll more effectively. Like father, like son.

Image courtesy Mark Romanack, Fishing 411 TV, and Ted Takasaki

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