Fight the fish, not the fishing gear! Downriggers were created for one principal reason: to allow fishermen to troll their lures at a specific depth. Years of testing and practical use had shown that a moving bait or lure in the water, trolled at the depth where fish were present, was the best way to ensure a hookup and get results. Downriggers improved both trolling results, and the fun factor - they put the ‘sport’ back in sport fishing.
The earliest downriggers were very simple in form, generally consisting of a spool of wire mounted to the boat with a heavy weight hung on the end of the wire.
The lure or bait was attached directly to the downrigger weight and did not release when a fish struck - the fisherman had to wind up both the weight and the fish.
This concept of deep trolling became popular with sport fishermen when the idea of attaching a rod, by means of a release clip, to the downrigger was introduced.
A release is hooked to the wire and then the fishing line from the rod is hooked into the release. The downrigger weight is then lowered to precisely the depth required. When a fish hits, the line is released from the downrigger wire, leaving the heavy weight on the downrigger. The angler is then free to fight the fish on the rod and reel alone, without the added drag of traditionally heavy lines and trolling weights used in the past.
Scotty introduced its first downrigger over 35 years ago and now produces the most complete range of downriggers and accessories in the world. Scotty, “The Way To Fish!”.
Choosing a Downrigger:
Manual or Electric?
Choice of downrigger reflects style of boat, type of fishing, budget and
personal preference. One must first decide whether to purchase a manual or
electric downrigger. A manual downrigger requires more physical labour, but does
not require a power source or wiring for installation. They are generally
lighter and more portable. Manual downriggers are generally more affordable and
are a great way to get into downrigger fishing. An electric downrigger makes
downrigger fishing a breeze, but requires a 12 volt power source and a wired
installation. With a press of a button or turn of a dial, you can have hands
free operation while you land that fish. In an emergency such as loss of power,
these units can be operated by hand, but they are designed for use with power
only. Electric downriggers are heavier and thus less portable, but they offer
the convenience of hands free operation and easy retrieval of your gear. These
are the downriggers that charter operators and serious fisherman use and are
perfect for larger boats and heavier use.
Once one has decided whether to choose electric or manual, style of boat and
type of fishing should be considered to choose a model. Consider the spots
available for mounting and other gear on the boat (ie, swim grid, motor, kicker
motor, etc) in order to choose a boom length that will: 1. Adequately get your
lines out away from your boat to keep them clear during turns, 2. Allow you to
reach your gear when attaching or removing release clips (this might change if
you add a pedestal swivel mount) 3. Allow you to store the rigger in the space
you have available.
How Will I Mount it?
Now consider how you will mount your downrigger on your boat. Depending on
the model, your rigger may come with a slide in mount or a tilt mount. You may
also be able to add a pedestal swivel mount or other to accommodate your boat’s
features. See the mounts page for the options available to you.
- Keep a good bend in your rod while fishing. There is a moment of slack
when a fish hits and a bent rod will take up this slack as the release clip
lets go. Watch for your rod tip bouncing slightly as you get nibbles and hits.
- Be prepared to change your lures or bait if you don't see any action. Ask
other anglers what they are using and check with local shops to see what is
working the best in your area. Use sharp hooks and always check your local
regulations for limits and restrictions.
- Check your gear for weeds or small fish every 1/2 hour. Pull rods one at a
time to keep a lure in the water while you reset.
- Trolling in a lazy zig-zag pattern will often increase strikes due to the
increased coverage. This motion also affects your lures as your turn slows the
inside line and speeds up the outside, creating a variety of motion to attract
fish. You can also change your trolling speed to change the action of your
gear. Try to select lures with action appropriate for your trolling speed to
get the most our of their design.
- Use tidal action to your advantage instead of fighting it. Fish with a
fast running tide to the end of your tack, pull your gear and repeat from your
- Try to practice catch and release. Handle fish as little and as gently as
you can, leaving them in the water if possible. A fish which is bleeding from
the gills should be considered part of your daily limit.
- Some anglers use small bells on the end of their downriggers to indicate a
strike or a snag. These can be very useful, especially when fishing solo.
- Always attach your fishing rod and reel to your downrigger while your boat
is in forward motion. This helps avoid tangles.
- Note the reading on the depth counter on your downrigger when you catch
fish, then return to that depth for best success.
- Use caution to prevent downrigger wire from becoming tangled in your prop.
Mounting your downrigger as close to the stern as possible will reduce the
possibility of getting your wire caught in the prop. Consider the use of a
prop guard to eliminate tangles and cut lines.
- Keep your fingers away from the underside of the downrigger base and
remove the lead weight when the downrigger is tilted up or unattended. Be sure
to use the red lock lever properly to keep the downrigger upright.
- Reinforce the downrigger when mounting it to your boat. It should be solid
and supported before you fish. Always use properly bedded stainless steel
- Bring your gear to you when retrieving weights or resetting lines. Avoid
leaning out, as sudden or unexpected motion by the boat could send you
overboard. Consider using a 3025 Downrigger Weight Retriever as a safety
- When trailering or travelling on the water, weights should be removed,
lines tensioned and brakes set. Downriggers with swivel bases should be turned
to the stern; downriggers without should be removed or locked into the upright
position. Do not leave weights attached. Always remove and place in a proper
holder (ie 3022 Weight Mate). Weights can easily bounce free from a seemingly
safe spot and if they are still attached to your wire they can be a danger to
both boat and person.
- Never use heavier weights than fishing conditions require. Heavy weights
reduce performance and efficiency and will shorten wire life.
- Never let the wire go slack. Kinks may form and the wire may also spill
over the edge of the spool, causing tangles and damage.
- Never let your fishing reel spin freely while you lower your weight. Use a
slight drag to maintain control.
- Never use nylon or other monofilament line on your Scotty Downrigger.
Nylon may stretch with use and shrink back on the spool with enough force to
damage the equipment. Use of nylon line will void the downrigger warranty.
- Never attempt to retrieve a weighted or snagged downrigger cable by hand.
Wave or boat motion could cause serious injury. Always keep a pair of wire
cutters handy and be careful not to lean over the boom. Cutting tensioned wire
may cause the downrigger boom to fly up unexpectedly.