Downrigger Fishing 101

Downrigger Fishing 101

By Joel Rice

Am I fishing deep enough? How much line do I need to let out to get my lure to 30 feet? If you have been asking yourself these questions, then a downrigger might be the next best thing on your fishing boat.

Downriggers are a simple tool designed to lower a weight attached to a braided wire to a desired depth where a lure can be attached. The downrigger will either have an electronic display or a counter to show the amount of line released from the spool.This will provide a consistent depth for trolling. A downrigger release is then hooked to the weight or braided wire so that the fishing line can be attached.

Once a fish strikes the lure, the downrigger release lets go of the line and you are able to bring in the fish free of the downrigger weight. The lure can easily be lowered and raised repeatedly for fishing at consistent depths….where the fish are!

Downriggers come in two different styles. Electric downriggers provide faster lowering and retrieving of your weight (which can be essential when on a hot spot).

Manual downriggers are easy to use and reliable like their counterparts (electric). However, for a long fishing day and deep fishing depths, repeated raising and lowering of the weight could be cumbersome. For deep water fishing and need for quick lowering and rising of your downrigger lines, electric downriggers may be the choice for you. There are many downrigger brands available on the market. Quality downriggers can be found by searching for Cannon, Big Jon, or Scotty downriggers.

Additional downrigger accessories can be essential for catching fish. Temperature and speed controls can be a huge advantage while downrigger fishing (but can be costly). A nice additional accessory is a downrigger camera. This can be helpful in watching lure action as well as the fish. The fish may be watching your lures but not striking… a camera could be the difference in catching your next fish.

The other essential components for downrigger fishing are the downrigger weight (cannonballs) and line releases. There are many options available and trial and error will help determine what is right for you and your local fishing habits.

That being said, weights with adjustable fins can be helpful in keeping lines from tangles. When correctly tuned, they can spread you lures maintaining tangle free presentations.

Downrigger weights come in many shapes and colors. It is important to find a weight that tracks well and has the color that works best for your fishing preference. Colors and the weight itself can vary depending on your fishing needs.

Traditional downrigger weights are dark (black) with some sort of flashy tape attached mimicking a fish. Common downrigger weights come in 6, 8, 10, 12, and even 14 pounds. Heavier weights enable trolling more consistently at deeper depths and faster speeds without having the weight track further behind the boat.

Line releases are very important when downrigger fishing. Think of the scenario when everything is set up for fishing. A big fish hits and the release doesn’t let go.

You are now stuck with a fish attached to a release with a 10 pound downrigger weight and 50 foot of downrigger wire. Or worse yet, the line snaps. More than likely, you can kiss that fish good-bye. Downrigger releases are designed to hold the line at the downrigger cable long enough to hook the fish yet release after the initial hit so that the angler can bring in the fish.

There are two main types of releases. Pinch pad releases, like those made by Scotty and Cannon, pinch the line between two pads. Mechanical releases, like those made by Big Jon, have mechanical parts that provide a release mechanism for releasing the line when a fish hits.

Many mechanical releases provide tension screws or mechanical dials to allow for varying tension on lines. This allows anglers to adjust release tension depending on fishing conditions.

No matter what downrigger you choose, mechanical or electric, your fishing experience will be enhanced. Downriggers allow you to take your lures or bait to the depth of the fish over and over again with precision.

Determining your accessories can be challenging and asking the guides or charters for assistance can be the difference between a few fish and many fish. You may want to go out on a charter to see how the experts do it before getting your own set-up. Good luck and go fishing……

Joel Rice is a fishing enthusiast who provides information for beginning anglers. Many hours of fishing Lake Erie have provided the basis for information on downriggers and downrigger accessories []

For information about downriggers and accessories, please visit []

For questions, please E-mail Me!

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