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September 07, 2010

Small-Boat Outrigger Options

Explore small-boat outrigger options to improve fishing

For most boats with T-tops, Karpanty recommends "a premium outrigger base with either a 15- or 18-foot telescoping pole. Telescoping poles are well worth the money for those who want the ability to easily remove and store their outrigger poles." An older outrigger style called a wishbone rigger is most commonly seen on cabin-sided boats such as walkarounds, expresses and convertibles. While certainly strong, they effectively block the walkway between the bow and stern when deployed.

Some of those larger vessels may also sport side-mount riggers, consisting of a front and back leg, with the pole extending from the front leg. A recent intro to the fishing market, side riggers mount in their own integral rod holders and cost the least of all styles. These 7½-foot telescoping removable poles keep your lines close to the water's surface yet as far from the hull as a 15-foot overhead rigger, according to company claims. Pole elevation adjusts from -20 degrees upward to 90 degrees for optimum bait placement.

Rigging Assistance
You can find superb diagrams and instructions on how to rig outrigger poles online. Single-line installations - found on most small boats - don't take an engineering degree.

First, choose between an AFTCO roller clip or Black's release clip to hold your fishing lines. Thread the heavy mono (commonly 400-pound-test) through the eyes on the pole, or lash glass rings to the eyes with waxed thread and run the mono through those as guides.

The boat end of the installation should include a pulley attached to a bungee cord or thin braided Dacron line run to a cleat. Some anglers find that locking pulleys work well to keep the rigger line from slipping, but they cost more.

Multiple lines should be set up ­similarly, but with a double pulley at the bottom. I have found that making the two rigger lines different colors really helps me avoid ­confusion in the heat of the moment.

In both cases, when rigging a T-top installation, set it up to avoid bringing the rigger line down to the gunwale, which defeats the all-around fishability benefit of such outrigger designs.

No matter what size boat you have, there's a way to troll a well-separated spread that will fit your budget.

For a list of outrigger manufacturers and their websites, visit