Rig a Downrigger
and Get Down Deeper

Some deep-diving plugs will get down to around 30ft (10m), but it will take a downrigger set-up to get your lure down to greater depths.

This is the crane-like device often seen on the sterns of sports-fishing boats. Its purpose is to deploy an independent line, taken to depth by a heavy lead weight.

Your trolling line is attached to the weight by a quick-release clip, which releases when a fish strike your lure.

The benefit of course is that you can get your trolling lure down to a much greater depth than you could otherwise achieve, without the encumberence of any weight on the line.

Three main components go to make up a down rigger oufit:~

  • The down rigger itself, which usually incorporates at least one rocket-launcher type rod holder;
  • A wire line;
  • A down rigger weight, or alternatively a Planer, to which your trolling line is attached by a quick-release clip.

The Downrigger

This can be the complicated bit - everything else is fairly straightforward. The simplest down riggers are manually operated, like the one shown below...

Cannon UniTroll 5 ST Manual Downrigger

Cannon UniTroll 5 ST Manual Downrigger

The Cannon Uni-Troll 5 ST Downrigger puts you in command of controlled depth fishing with a fast, efficient 2:1 retrieval speed and 1-hand clutch deploy for controlling, precise bait positioning. An innovative design lets you pull your line back in with less cranking effort.


It incorporates a cranking handle, a pulley wheel and a line-counter which ensures that having found the depth at which the fish are feeding, you can get your lure back down to exactly the same level. A fixed length boom and a single rodholder completes the outfit

An ideal piece of kit for small fishing boats whose skippers realise the benefits of fishing a lure down deep.

Sailboat skippers may baulk at all this machinery on the stern, just waiting to mix it with all the running rigging. But there are a couple of ways of getting an independently weighted line down without having your stern look like a construction site - click here to see how it's done.

But if you've got a sports-fishing boat with power to spare, then an electrical version is likely to be attractive.

The one shown here has all the bells and whistles - a digital line counter, dual rocket-launcher rod holders, a telescopic boom and a swivel pedestal mount.

Cannon Digi-Troll 10 Electric Downrigger

Cannon Digi-Troll 10 Electric Downrigger

The Cannon Digi-Troll 10 Electric Downrigger features a full backlit keypad with integrated backlit LCD screen that gives you full control of your downrigger plus built-in electronics that interface with Humminbird 1100, 900, 700, or Matrix series fishing systems.


As you'll have noticed, there's a considerable price difference between the two models - so if you're beginning to think this all looks a bit pricey, here's how to make a homemade down rigger outfit.

The Line

The line to use is single-strand stainless steel wire. Heavy weight and small diameter it will achieve maximum depth with minimum drag.

The Weight

This is a lead ball fitted with a stabilising fin, all covered in a protective plastic coating. Weights are ranged between 4lb and 12lb.

The down rigger line is attached to the eye on top of the ball, and the trolling line - via a quick-release clip - to the eye on the end of the fin.

Finned Downrigger Weights

Finned Downrigger Weights

The keel on Bass Pro Shops finned weight ensures accurate tracking underwater and prevents cable twisting.


The Cannon Finned Down-Rigger Weights shown here sport a reflective strip on each side of the fin, although there would be little light to reflect at their operating depth.

The Planer

Down rigger planers like the Sea Striker Planer shown here are an alternative to down rigger weights.

Sea Striker Planer

They're made from stainless steel and dive to depth because of their hydrodynamic design, rather than the forces of gravity.

They're attached to the end of your down rigger line via the ring which slides along the bridle.

Once tripped by a striking fish, they capsize and can be easily brought to the surface.

Lures to Use With a Down-Rigger

Any sinking lures work well with this rig, particularly diving plugs which descend to depths well below that of the down rigger weight.

Lure colour is much less important when fishing deep, but 'noise' makes all the difference.

Look for high-action lures with internal rattling beads and large spoons that transmit low-frequency throbbing vibrations.


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