Setting Up Downriggers for Offshore Fishing

When the waters get warm, the big fish go deep. The best ways to get your lure down to where the monsters hang out is by using downriggers or planers. While both are effective methods for reaching the fish, in this post, we’ll be discussing downrigger installs and set ups.

Types of Downriggers

First, let’s go over the two types of downriggers on the market today: Manual and electric.

Manual riggers are good for first-timers. They are simple to use, do not require a power source and are available in models that simply slip into existing rod holders.

Electric riggers are usually more expensive and require a 12-volt power source. Power cables typically run through the side of the boat and are attached to your boat’s battery.

Selecting a LocationHow to rig downriggers

Depending on the type of fishing you do, where you place your downrigger may vary.

For offshore use, most anglers place them as far aft as possible while ensuring the boom is free to move from side to side. Make sure the boom is not in the way of any other equipment or an outboard motor.

Second, find a location that allows you to access it from either side.  On smaller boats that may be run with a single angler, many anglers prefer to mount the riggers closer to the helm. This allows them to see the ball in the sonar while still being able to reach the downrigger from the helm.

Mounting

Downriggers can create quite a stress load on your boat. Where possible, use good-sized backing plates and mount them properly with through bolts.  An improperly mounted downrigger can damage the gunwale if the ball ever gets caught on rocks.

Braided Line vs Cable

You can load your downrigger with either braided line or stainless-steel cable.

Braided line is considered to be low maintenance and easier to work with than cable. There is usually less water resistance using braided line and it will not conduct electricity. The downside to braided line is that it is not as strong and resilient as cable. Braided line is more likely to fray or be damaged than cable.

Cable is much stronger and more resilient than braided line, but the trade-off is that it is heavier, creates more drag in the water, and conducts electricity. Also, keep in mind that cable will still need to be replaced every one to two years to ensure it doesn’t corrode.

Downrigger Balls

Weighted downrigger balls are available either with or without attached fins. Many fishermen opt for fins since these balls track better than their finless counterparts.

The balls come in different weights such as 6, 8 and 10 pounds, which in turn allows you to fish at different depths. Talk to local fishermen about what weights they use for the area you wish to fish and purchase a few different sizes.

Release Clips

The downrigger release is attached to the downrigger line when trolling. Releases come in different tensions. Releases can also be stacked, that is to say, multiple fishing rods can be attached to one downrigger allowing you to fish at varying depths at once.

The Take Away

Depending on your lust for the sport and whether you’re entering offshore fishing as a weekend warrior or someone who is more serious, the choice of downriggers is yours.

You may want to go with a simple and easy manual rigger mounts into existing rod holders or something more commercial and professional such as an electronic downrigger that comes complete with all the bells and whistles of a small sports car.

In either case, other local fishermen and the wealth of information found online are your best guides to set you up for downrigger fishing success.