Go Deep with Downriggers

Fishing with downriggers adds dimension to your trolling spread

downrigger main

downrigger main

Browse the gallery for a look at what downrigger manufacturers have to offer...Courtesy Cannon Downrigger

Trolling allows anglers to cover large areas in hopes of locating fish. Even when using diving plugs, however, typical trolling efforts barely scratch the surface. Imagine how many more strikes you could draw by putting baits in front of fish rather than dragging your offerings far above them. Get a downrigger (or two) and take an in-depth approach to fishing.

Some downriggers feature adjustable booms (arms); others have fixed-length booms. “The boom must be long enough to hold the weight a safe distance from the gunwale so it won’t swing and damage the boat,” says Dave Maryanov, senior product manager for Cannon downriggers. “Most Cannon downriggers come with booms that you can adjust from 24 to 53 inches. When running multiple downriggers, it’s helpful to extend the boom length to create more spacing in the spread.”

Electric Advantages
While manually operated downriggers work well for fishing depths to 100 feet or so, Randy Ford, president of Walker Downriggers, says there's really no question regarding the choice of manual or electric: "I recommend manual models only when 12-volt power isn't available on your boat. Downriggers draw very little power and for a short duration. Any battery consumption is fully recharged by most boats within a few seconds after use."

Electric downriggers offer a safety advantage when fishing alone or with just one companion. “While one angler fights a fish, it’s risky for the other to leave the helm to crank up the downrigger cable, because the boat might turn or drift. This could allow the cable to become entangled in the prop and disable the boat or damage the finish,” Ford says. “A lone angler can set the hook and simply hit the ‘up’ switch on an electric downrigger, and let it take care of itself.”

One-touch, worry-free cable retrieval comes with Cannon, Scotty and Walker models in the form of auto-stop functions that halt the weight’s ascent at a predetermined point — usually at the waterline, which keeps the ball from swinging around.

The “cycle” function on Cannon Digi-Troll downriggers raises and lowers the weight between two selected depths at regular intervals, which can prompt strikes by imitating fleeing baitfish. The CannonLink system integrates Cannon DigiTroll ­downriggers with compatible Humminbird fish finders. That way, for example, anglers targeting grouper along reefs can use the “bottom track” feature to keep lures a specific distance above changing bottom contours. Note that when using this feature, the angler should closely monitor the rod to pay out or reel up line as the downrigger adjusts to different depths.

The spools on electric down­riggers turn via belt- or direct-drive mechanics. Belt-drive advantages include simplicity (fewer moving parts, easier service/maintenance) and less amp draw than a direct-drive system. “Although the difference is not significant and really doesn’t translate into extended battery life,” Maryanov says.

Maryanov recommends direct-drive as a durable, reliable system. “Belts tend to wear out or jump off the track and need to be replaced,” he says. “Cannon riggers employ a direct-drive system with solid-brass gears. The gear teeth are counteraligned to ensure a positive start and stop — no slipping.”

Ford points out that all Walker ­electric models rely on gear drive, which gives anglers the option to "power down" the weight. "Belt drives must be manually lowered by loosening the clutch knob," he says. "Sometimes the lack of precise control lets the weight drop too quickly. Lures can helicopter and tangle on the cable, leaving fouled lines."
**
What's Going On Down there?**
Downrigger weights, also called cannonballs, typically range from 3 to 12 pounds. As you let out more cable to fish deeper, "blowback" forces the weight farther behind the boat and robs you of some depth.

“A rule of thumb says the deeper you fish, the heavier the weight,” Maryanov explains. “Heavier weights minimize blowback and keep your cable as vertical as possible. An 8- to 10-pound weight is sufficient for fishing down to 100 feet; below 100, a 12-pound ball is more effective; and in certain applications, like very deep reefs, a 15- to 20-pound weight is used.”

Wouldn’t Spectra line’s thin ­diameter reduce blowback? “No,” says Maryanov. “There’s less blowback with stainless steel, because the cable’s weight creates a more vertical drop. Spectra also tends to dig in and bind on the spool. I recommend it only for fishing extreme depths, when increased line capacity becomes a factor.”

Another advantage to cable: Stainless steel conducts electrical signals, which allow features such as auto stop and positive-ion control to function.

Today’s downriggers do more than take baits to desired depths; they can send valuable info back to anglers above. The Walker Temp Pak (compatible only with Walker downriggers) relays bait-level readings to ensure your offerings stay at the thermocline or in your target species’ preferred temperature zone.

Who needs onboard satellite TV when you can get Walker Strike Vision? This underwater-camera system lets anglers monitor downrigger baits rather than simply watch rod tips.
**
Keep an Ion the Ball**
The theory behind positive-ion control says a boat's motor emits negative ions, which travel through the downrigger cable and repel fish. "PIC emits positive ions to counteract the negative field. In certain situations, such as salmon trolling in the Pacific Northwest, PIC has been shown to trigger strikes," Maryanov says. "In some other conditions it doesn't seem to trigger strikes. It's somewhat of a voodoo science, but when nothing else is working, it can be an effective tool."

Cannon Digi-Troll downriggers feature adjustable PIC that ranges from 0.2 to 1.2 volts, while Magnum models have a fixed PIC (0.6 volts). “All Walker Downriggers are manufactured to generate positive ions in a range known to attract fish,” Ford says. Anglers who use manual downriggers or electric models that don’t offer ion control can achieve this effect by attaching a Scotty Black Box device to their cables.

Downriggers, like other gear, should receive a freshwater rinse after a day of fishing. To ensure smooth functioning, Ford suggests checking the cable for frays and kinks, and then spraying it and the boom’s end pulley with a corrosion inhibitor.

downrigger main

downrigger main

Browse the gallery for a look at what downrigger manufacturers have to offer...Courtesy Cannon Downrigger
1-bjeso1000.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Big Jon/ES01000 Brute
Power: Electric
Boom material: Anodized aluminum
Boom length: 24, 36 or 48 inches (sectional)
Retrieval rate: 200 feet per minute (15-pound ball)
Cable included: 300 feet
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Ball cradle; depth counter; locking, tip-up boom
Included in package: Mounting plate; swivel base; dual rod holders; line release
MSRP: $700
2-bjed02000.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Big Jon/ED02000 Captain's Pak
Power: Electric
Boom material: Anodized aluminum
Boom length: 24, 36 or 48 inches (sectional)
Retrieval rate: 90 feet per minute (12-pound ball)
Cable included: 200 feet
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Ball cradle; depth counter; locking, tip-up boom
Included in package: Mounting plate; swivel base; dual rod holders; line release
MSRP: $532
3-bjedo4000.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Big Jon/ED04000 Pro Tournament
Power: Electric
Boom material: Anodized aluminum
Boom length: 24, 36 or 48 inches (sectional)
Retrieval rate: 140 feet per minute (12-pound ball)
Cable included: 200 feet
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Auto-stop; ball cradle; depth counter; locking, tip-up boom
Included in package: Mounting plate; swivel base; dual rod holders; line release
MSRP: $577
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Manufacturer/Model: Cannon/Easi-Troll HS
Power: Manual
Boom material: Copolymer
Boom length: 24 inches
Retrieval rate: How fast can you crank?
Cable included: 150 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Included in package: Line release; rod holder
MSRP: $170
5-cannon-uni-troll-5.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Cannon/Uni-Troll 5
Power: Manual
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel
Boom length: 24 inches
Retrieval rate: How fast can you crank?
Cable included: 200 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Ball-storage hook; depth counter; 20-pound weight capacity
Included in package: Line release; rod holder
MSRP: $210
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Manufacturer/Model: Cannon/Uni-Troll 10
Power: Manual
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel
Boom length: 24 to 53 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: How fast can you crank?
Cable included: 200 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Ball-storage hook; depth counter;20-pound weight capacity
Included in package: Line release; rod holder; swivel base
MSRP: $300
7-cannon-uni-troll-10ts.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Cannon/Uni-Troll 10 Tournament Series
Power: Manual
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel
Boom length: 24 to 53 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: How fast can you crank?
Cable included: 200 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Ball-storage hook; depth counter; 20-pound weight capacity
Included in package: Line release; rod holder; swivel base
MSRP: $450
8-cannon-digi-troll-5.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Cannon/Digi-Troll 5
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel
Boom length: 24 to 53 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: 250 feet per minute
Cable included: 400 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: Yes
Features: Ball-storage hook; 20-pound weight capacity; digital depth counter; short stop; CannonLink compatible
Included in package: Line release; rod holder; swivel base
MSRP: $900
9-cannon-digi-trol-5-ts.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Cannon/Digi-Troll 5 Tournament Series Power: Electric Boom material: Tubular stainless steel Boom length: 24 to 53 inches (telescoping) Retrieval rate: 250 feet per minute Cable included: 400 feet of 150-pound Drive: Direct Positive Ion Control: Yes Features: Ball-storage hook; 20-pound weight capacity; digital depth counter; short stop; CannonLink compatible Included in package: Line release; rod holder; swivel base MSRP: $1,100
10-cannon-digi-troll_10.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Cannon/Digi-Troll 10
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel
Boom length: 24 to 53 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: 250 feet per minute
Cable included: 400 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: Yes
Features: Ball-storage hook; 20-pound weight capacity; digital depth counter; short stop; CannonLink compatible; illuminated keypad; backlit LCD display
Included in package: Two line releases; dual rod holders; swivel base
MSRP: $1,400
11-cannon-digi-troll_10_ts.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Cannon/Digi-Troll 10 Tournament Series
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel
Boom length: 24 to 53 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: 250 feet per minute
Cable included: 400 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: Yes
Features: Ball-storage hook; 20-pound weight capacity; digital depth counter; short stop; CannonLink compatible; illuminated keypad; backlit LCD display
Included in package: Line release; rod holder; swivel base
MSRP: $1,500
13-cannon-magnum_10_stx.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Cannon/Magnum 10 STX
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel
Boom length: 24 to 53 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: 250 feet per minute
Cable included: 250 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: Yes
Features: Ball-storage hook; 20-pound weight capacity; depth counter; short stop
Included in package: Line release; rod holder; mounting base
MSRP: $550
14-cannon-magnum_10_stx_ts.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Cannon/Magnum 10 STX Tournament Series
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel
Boom length: 24 to 53 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: 250 feet per minute
Cable included: 250 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: Yes
Features: Ball-storage hook; 20-pound weight capacity; depth counter; short stop
Included in package: Line release; rod holder; mounting base
MSRP: $800
15-penn-fathom-master-600.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Penn/Fathom-Master 600NW
Power: Manual
Boom material: Tubular anodized aluminum
Boom length: 24 inches
Retrieval rate: How fast can you crank?
Cable included: 200 feet of 135-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Included in package: Fixed base
MSRP: $250
16-penn-fathom-master-625-nw.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Penn/Fathom-Master 625NW
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular anodized aluminum
Boom length: 48 inches
Retrieval rate: How fast can you crank?
Cable included: 200 feet of 135-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Included in package: Swivel-Matic base
MSRP: $380
17-scotty1085.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Scotty/1085 Strongarm 30
Power: Manual
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel (1.25-inch diameter)
Boom length: 30 inches
Retrieval rate: 2 feet per turn
Cable included: 200 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Extended handle for extra leverage
Included in package: Line release; rod holder; tilt-up base
MSRP: $215
18-scotty1092.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Scotty/1092 Manual Propack
Power: Manual
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel (1.25-inch diameter)
Boom length: 36 to 60 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: 2 feet per turn
Cable included: 200 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Extended handle for extra leverage
Included in package: Two line releases; two rod holders; swivel pedestal mount
MSRP: $320
19-scotty1106.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Scotty/1106 Depthpower
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel (1.25-inch diameter)
Boom length: 36 to 60 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: 222 feet per minute (10-pound ball)
Cable included: 250 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Belt
Positive Ion Control: Yes
Features: Multiposition auto-stop; tilt-up mounting bracket
Included in package: Line release; rod holder; swivel pedestal mount
MSRP: $650
20-scotty1111.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Scotty/1111 Offshore Depthpower
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel (1.25-inch diameter)
Boom length: 36 to 60 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: 222 feet per minute (10-pound ball)
Cable included: 250 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Belt
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Multiposition auto-stop; tilt-up mounting bracket
Included in package: Line release; rod holder; swivel pedestal mount
MSRP: $697
21-scotty1117.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Scotty/1117 Big Water Propack Tournament Series
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel (1.25-inch diameter)
Boom length: 36 to 60 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: 222 feet per minute (10-pound ball)
Cable included: 250 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Belt
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Multiposition auto-stop; tilt-up mounting bracket
Included in package: Two line releases; two rod holders w/ height extenders; swivel pedestal mount
MSRP: $750
22-scotty1118.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Scotty/1118 Compact Propack 24
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel (1-inch diameter)
Boom length: 24 inches
Retrieval rate: 222 feet per minute (10-pound ball)
Cable included: 250 feet of 150-pound
Drive: Belt
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Multiposition auto-stop; tilt-up mounting bracket
Included in package: Ball-storage hook; two line releases; two rod holders; swivel pedestal mount
MSRP: $590
23 scotty2101.gif
Manufacturer/Model: Scotty/2101 High Performance
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel (1.25-inch diameter)
Boom length: 30 inches
Retrieval rate: 312 feet per minute (10-pound ball)
Cable included: 300 feet of 180-pound
Drive: Belt
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Multiposition auto-stop; illuminated digital depth counter
Included in package: Line release; rod holder; swivel pedestal mount
MSRP: $745
24 scotty2106.gif
Manufacturer/Model: Scotty/2106 High Performance
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel (1.25-inch diameter)
Boom length: 36 to 60 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: 312 feet per minute (10-pound ball)
Cable included: 300 feet of 180-pound
Drive: Belt
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Multiposition auto-stop; illuminated digital depth counter
Included in package: Line release; rod holder; swivel pedestal mount
MSRP: $780
25 scotty2116.gif
Manufacturer/Model: Scotty/2116 High Performance
Power: Electric
Boom material: Tubular stainless steel (1.25-inch diameter)
Boom length: 36 to 60 inches (telescoping)
Retrieval rate: 312 feet per minute (10-pound ball)
Cable included: 300 feet of 180-pound
Drive: Belt
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Multiposition auto-stop; illuminated digital depth counter
Included in package: Line release; two rod holders; swivel pedestal mount
MSRP: $850
26 walker kingfisher1.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Walker/Kingfisher 1
Power: Manual
Boom material: Solid anodized aluminum
Boom length: 24 inches
Retrieval rate: 2 feet per turn
Cable included: 200 feet of 195-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Depth counter
Included in package: Deck plate; line release; rod holder
MSRP: $230
27 walker kingfisher combo pak.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Walker/ Kingfisher Combo Pack
Power: Manual
Boom material: Solid anodized aluminum
Boom length: 24 or 48 inches (sectional)
Retrieval rate: 2 feet per turn
Cable included: 200 feet of 195-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: No
Features: Depth counter
Included in package: Line release; dual rod holders; swivel base
MSRP: $340
28 walker sportsman1.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Walker/Sportsman 1
Power: Electric
Boom material: Solid anodized aluminum
Boom length: 24 inches
Retrieval rate: 200 feet per minute
Cable included: 200 feet of 195-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: Yes
Features: Auto-stop; depth counter
Included in package: Deck plate; line release; rod holder
MSRP: $350
29 walker sportsman2.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Walker/ Sportsman 2
Power: Electric
Boom material: Solid anodized aluminum
Boom length: 24 inches
Retrieval rate: 200 feet per minute
Cable included: 200 feet of 195-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: Yes
Features: Auto-stop; depth counter
Included in package: Deck plate; line release; dual rod holders
MSRP: $420
30 walker tourn combo pak.jpg
Manufacturer/Model: Walker/Tournament Combo Pack
Power: Electric
Boom material: Solid anodized aluminum
Boom length: 24 or 48 inches (sectional)
Retrieval rate: 200 feet per minute
Cable included: 200 feet of 195-pound
Drive: Direct
Positive Ion Control: Yes
Features: Auto-stop; depth counter
Included in package: Line release; dual rod holders; swivel base
MSRP: $500