How To Use A Downrigger

How To Fish Downrigger

How To Use A Downrigger – Setting A Downrigger To Your Fishing Rod

This article is for those anglers who are looking to buy or have already bought their first downrigger but still have difficulties with how to use it, with what lures, and so on. I understand how many questions and doubts this device can cause after a purchase: what baits can be used with a downrigger? How does it work at all? And in general, how does this thing help me catch more fish?

In this article, I will tell you in detail how to use downriggers, what they are for, how to choose a downrigger for yourself and use it effectively on the water. After reading this article, you can easily grab your boat, rod, and downrigger and go fishing without the slightest doubt!

Correct Fitting Tackle with Downrigger

Before We Start

Before we get started with the device and the installation of downriggers, let’s define what you need to have before heading out on the water.

Boat or some kind of vessel with a motor. Trolling fishing is by definition fishing from the boat, not from the shore. So if you were going to use the downrigger without a boat, I have bad news for you. You will need a motor for the fish to see your moving bait in the water and bait it. You can of course use paddles, but this is useless as you will never reach the same speed as a motorboat.

Trolling reel and fishing rod with tackle. The downrigger can only be paired with a trolling rod and reel. Without these two components, you will simply have nothing to fish for. By itself, the downrigger cannot pull the fish out of the water, it only serves as a “lift” for your bait. So before buying a downrigger, take care of purchasing a trolling rod and reel with baits, line, and everything you need.

Fishfinder. This doesn’t seem like the obvious thing you’ll need for trolling fishing, but it doesn’t make it any less necessary. You will need a fish finder to accurately locate the depth at which the fish is. Without a fish finder, you are unlikely to understand how deep you need to drop the weight and bait, and trying different depths at random is a very long and boring task. You need to know very well the body of water in which you fish with a downrigger and know exactly at what depth the fish you want to live in to fish without a fish finder.

Load clip or line release. To connect the downrigger and line from the rod, many anglers use a line release or clip. This device allows the downrigger to release the line when a fish bites your bait. Of course, there are other ways to tie the weight of the downrigger to the line, but this one is the simplest, cheapest, and most reliable.

Only after you have acquired all the points above can you say with confidence that you are ready to go out into the open water and use your downrigger and rod to the maximum.

How To Set Up And Use The Downrigger – Step By Step Guide

how to properly attach to a fishing rod

Controlling the depth and speed of the lure is key when trolling. If you are not using a downrigger, your lure will move upward, constantly moving away from the level at which the fish is. But if you fish with a downrigger, it keeps the bait at the level at which the fish move and stays in front of the bait all the time you move through the water. Now let’s see how it works.

Attach The Downrigger To The Boat

Before equipping the downrigger with weights and a fishing rod, you need to install it on your boat. Most of the downrigger models are already equipped with a mounting system as standard, oriented to place the device on a flat surface. They can be easily installed and removed.

But if you have a rubber boat or canoe, there may be problems with the anchorage. In this case, you will need additional mountings for your boat.

Mounting the downrigger on a plastic or aluminum boat (rigid body). On this type of vessel, the downrigger can be placed on any flat horizontal or vertical surface without additional holes. Apart from the standard downrigger set, you hardly need anything.

Installing a downrigger on a boat made of rubber or PVC. Here you can buy a mount and install the downrigger on the boat’s transom or bench.

Cannon Downriggers How To Install HD:

Attach The Line To The Downrigger

At the end of any downrigger boom (the longest part of a downrigger), there is a loop, ring, or carabiner that will allow you to attach the downrigger to the weight. In this step, you simply take this ring and attach it to the weight, no difficulties should arise with this.

Then you need a line release. Once you have attached the weight to the downrigger, you need to connect the line and weight with a line release. Now that everything is ready, you can install your rod into the holder.

Lower The Weight

The second step – use the fish finder to determine the depth at which the fish lives and lower the load along with the bait to this level. As the weight is lowered, the counter on the downrigger will indicate how many lines you have already lowered. This will allow you to accurately set the desired depth.

Start Trolling

While your boat is moving, the downrigger will keep the bait at the selected depth and make it move in the same layer of water as the fish. Some electronic downriggers allow the bait to move up and down. This is necessary to capture an even larger layer of water and attract more fish. Some electric downriggers can also keep the bait at a certain distance from the bottom. This is useful if you fish at depth.

Fight With Fish

Once the fish has spotted your bait and grabbed it, the latch on the line release opens and releases the line. At the same time, your fishing rod straightens, signaling that the fish is on the hook. Now you need to pull it out. Get the rod out of the holder and go for a duel with the fish!

This is how the downrigger allows you to professionally control the depth of the lure’s immersion and achieve excellent results when trolling.

What Is A Downrigger?

Downrigger Cannon Easi-Troll St

It is known that some species of fish (especially the largest ones) live at great depths most of the time. And getting to them, even if you use a wide variety of baits, is quite difficult, and often simply impossible.

Using a downrigger allows you to solve such problems by delivering the bait to the desired layer of water. The most popular when fishing with a downrigger is the depth range from 10 to 30 meters. If desired, a 100-meter depth can also be achieved. To do this, it is enough just to increase the weight of the load.

Downrigger Construction

The device, in essence, resembles a simple winch with a small boom, with a pulley at the end. A downrigger is rigidly attached to the transom or side of the boat. Consists of the following main elements:

Volume reel with rope winding handle and stopper function. On more advanced models, there is a depth indicator in meters or feet.

The thickness of the downrigger cable depends on the degree of its load and the intensity of the current. For convenience, the cable can be labeled to indicate the amount of immersion.

At the working end of the cable, a weight is suspended, as a rule, in a teardrop shape. Its weight directly depends on the depth of fishing. Approximately, for every 10 m of diving, the weight of the downrigger weight is increased by 1 kg.

At 35 – 45 cm from the load, a very important piece of equipment is attached to the cable – a line release (clip), which connects the line and the downrigger.

The rod itself (usually a powerful spinning rod) is inserted into the holder on the top of the downrigger.

Thanks to the many models on the market, every angler can choose the most suitable downrigger for them. The differences are only in their sizes and materials. The most expensive models are equipped with an electric drive and a depth meter. Canadian manufacturers like Scotty Downrigger are rightfully considered the flagships in this industry.

How The Downrigger Works

Properly Organized Downrigger Fishing

Despite some design differences and additional options, the principle of operation is the same for all downriggers.

The cable from the downrigger reel runs along with the boom and hangs out over the water through the pulley. The boat is moving at a low speed.

A load of the required weight is tied to the cable and a line release is attached.

A fishing rod with a reel is inserted into the holder.

The spinning line with bait is lowered into the water for a couple of meters (depending on the fishing conditions).

Then the line is fixed with a line release. The fixation should not be too strong, otherwise, the bite may simply not be noticed. The fish must free the line from the clip on its own.

Hold the reel with your hand and release its brake. It is important to adjust the rod reel brake to the minimum drag.

Once the desired depth is reached, apply the brakes on both the downrigger and fishing rod reels. Set the spinning rod to its working position so that its tip is bent into a small arc.

At the moment of the bite, the line snaps off from the line release, the rod is sharply straightened and an automatic fish hooking takes place. It is important for the angler not to miss this and to pick up the spinning rod to gently bring the fish to the surface and get it on board.

Then you need to lift the weight and reload the line into the line release. A downrigger is ready to go again. Of course, with an electronic downrigger, the weight management process is much more comfortable and quicker.

How To Use A Downrigger – Video

I have prepared a video for you with the help of which you can see and understand how the downrigger works with your own eyes. Downriggers for beginners:

Benefits Of Using A Downrigger

  • The main advantage of the downrigger is that the bait is lowered at the desired depth.
  • The ability to work with absolutely any bait.
  • Contact with fish is unlimited. The process of fishing is a matter of the fisherman’s technique.
  • The ability to choose when buying the most suitable model for a specific boat, purpose, and wallet.
  • The likelihood of catching rare species of deep-sea fish, as well as trophy fish, increases.

Downrigger Disadvantages

Of the shortcomings mentioned by fishermen, it is noted:

  • A downrigger is a rather bulky and heavy device.
  • High price.
  • The need for self-selection and purchase of weight.

Some Fishing Tips When Using A Downrigger

When Using A Downrigger

Many experienced anglers use a variety of techniques and techniques when fishing with a downrigger. Below I have provided the most basic ones for you.

Thermocline. Modern fishfinders help to detect this conditional boundary between warm and cold waters, called the thermocline. Its thickness rarely exceeds 1 m. For peaceful fish, this layer is very important. Large reserves of nutrients and undissolved oxygen are concentrated here. At its upper or lower boundaries, the fish prefers to feed. Consequently, this zone, with all its contents, attracts predators. Therefore, it is preferable to lower the bait precisely into this layer.

Boat speed. The speed of movement of the boat when trolling is also important. Experienced anglers lower various lures into the surface layer of water and, by changing the speed of the boat, reveal the mode of their brightest game. Then, already in “combat conditions”, observing this speed regime, they are guaranteed to get the best behavior of the bait and at depth.

Line release length. Novice fishermen often find it difficult to choose the distance from the line release to the bait. Here you need to adhere to the following theory: the shallower the depth, the longer the line release. The boat, passing over the very head of the predator, will certainly force him to retreat. But when he, seeing that the danger has passed, decides to return to position, a calmly floating wobbler can provoke him to attack.

Stuck bait. It is impossible to ignore such an unpleasant topic as holds. It is also difficult to part with hooked baits, but the presence of special cut-off devices, as well as the replacement of wobblers’ rings with braided ties, help to easily get out of an awkward position. Another thing is to hook the weight of the downrigger on the go. If the lost wobbler can be replaced with another bait, then it is quite difficult to carry a supply of multi-kilogram weights with you. As a result – a spoiled mood, the loss of a load with a considerable part of the cable, which will have to be cut off with his own hand. You need to be very careful in reservoirs with large differences in depths. It is better to study all its features in advance. And the best solution would be to have an experienced mentor nearby.

Cannon Downrigger

Frequently Asked Questions – Downriggers FAQs

Below you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about downriggers.

What kind of fish can I catch with the downrigger?
You can catch almost any fish with the downrigger, but most often you will come across deep-sea predators. For example, lake trout, steelhead trout, brown trout, kingfish, chinook salmon, coho salmon, walleye, and striped bass.
What is the purpose of a downrigger on a boat?
Downriggers help you lower the lure to a specific area in the water when a conventional rod won’t allow you to do so.
What are downrigger weights made of?
Most weights are made of lead or cast iron.

In Conclusion

Many anglers associate the downrigger with a lot of fish on board. And in good hands, this device can bring you a good catch. The main thing is to know how to use it correctly and effectively. We hope our article taught you this and you are no longer afraid of downriggers and are ready to go out into the water and get any fish even from the bottom. Have a nice trolling!

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Cannon Magnum 5-ST Downrigger

Sergio Smirnoff
Sergio Smirnoff
Professional fisherman with 40+ years of experience.
Fishing and the ocean is a passion of my life. I am passionate about all kinds of sea fishing: fishing from the shore (spinning, float, baitcasting), from a boat, and spearfishing day and night.

I live in Tenerife (Canary Islands) for the last 10+ years and share my daily fishing experiences on my website. Many years of personal experience as a fisherman and the vast experience of my friends allow me to write professionally on any fishing topics (from choosing a flashlight and equipment to deep-sea fishing).

All of my advice is based on practical real-world experience and will be useful to both novice anglers and professionals. Read more about the author.

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About the author: Each article is verified by the fishing expert Sergio Smirnoff. The articles are written by professional and amateur fishermen with 20+ years of fishing experience.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any agency. The articles are for informational purposes only, share your opinions in the comments and join the fishing discussions, let's share our fishing experiences together!

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