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October 26, 2001

Poor Man's Downrigger

A paper clip and rubber band can make for a reliable break-away planer rig.

Nothing beats a downrigger when you need to get a bait down in the water, but this planer rig is a good second choice. When a fish strikes, this rig releases the line like a downrigger - the planer is not left attached to the fishing line. Just keep a pair of gloves handy to pull the planer in, in case it gets fouled and won't unlock.
Set the planer on 30 to 40 feet of stainless steel cable with a large snap swivel at the top end. Connect the snap to a short length of 1/2-inch rope and tie the rope to a stern cleat on your boat.
Stop the boat before lowering the planer, so the cable doesn't kink and you don't burn your hand. With the boat moving slowly, let your bait out the desired distance. Then loop a heavy rubber band over the line and attach a paper clip to the rubber band. Hook the paper clip around the planer cable and continue letting out line. The drag of the water on the bait will pull the paper-clipped line down the cable toward the planer.
When a fish hits the bait, the rubber band will snap, causing the fishing line to separate from the planer cable. There's no need to raise the planer after a strike; just slide another line on a paper clip down the cable.
- Craig Barnard
Boca Raton, Florida