Fishing & Hunting Tips

How to use a downrigger

Fishing has evolved a lot from time to time. There are countless fishing gears to choose from. But something fishing equipment can’t solve, and that is technique. Imagine you own a Lamborghini, but you can’t drive. So honing different techniques is important for a successful fishing trip. In this article, we’re gonna discuss the technique of how to use a downrigger.

Did you know that downrigger eliminates the need for rapid casting simply by superior control and maintain the lure?

Table of Contents

What is downrigger?

 The downrigger is a technique of trolling. It uses an attached cannonball to an electric or manual hand-powered winch to bear the fishing line. You’ll have the ability to dip your lure in a specific deep water level which isn’t possible normally.

The downrigger offer is lure depth consistency. You can do 5 feet lure dive to up to 250 feet. Not only it allows our lures to reach such great depths but also keeps them there as long as you need.

So, let’s lean over towards the water from your boat, and let the cannonball roll. I’m confident that you will know very well about how to use a downrigger after you finish this article.

Assemble your stuff

Before you start your downrigger adventure, get your things assembled. I’m sure those if you haven’t performed downrigger yet, find it pretty informative.

Now let’s take one step at a time and use those downriggers properly.

  1. Choose your preferred spot

Since you’re gonna do downrigger, start somewhere the depth is at least 80 feet. If you don’t have an appropriate idea than ask the locals. Or if you’re angling by purchasing tickets, let them know that you will be downrigging and need the location of that given depth. Try to choose a spot where the water bed is flat. You wouldn’t want your rig to get tangled in tentacles like branches and bushes beneath the water bed.

  1. Release the reel

Switch your reel in the free-spin mode which will allow the line to release without any obstruction. Throw your line into the water and release the drag clicker. Now, wait for the line to soak up some water and drop at least 20 feet below. Just turn off the drag clicker and stop releasing line. Merge the rod into the rod holders of the boat.

  1. Merge the line with downrigger

Hold the line in one hand and the line release clicker on the other. Use a clip to attach the line release clip onto the line and then slowly place the cannonball on your preferred spot.

  1. Hand-powered downrigger set up
  • Firmly hold the reel handle before releasing the brake.
  • Let the cannonball dive into your preferred depth with the help of depth counter integrated with the spool.
  • Once the ball reaches your preferred depth, secure it by locking the brake.
  1. Motorized downrigger
  • Let the switch loose that forces the cannonball to go down.
  • When you think you’ve had enough depth, check the counter and lock the switch to stop the cannonball dive.
  • Watch if there’s a bow in your rod. Simply reel up the slack when you see it.
  • If you wish to bring up the line, whether you want to or there’s a hooked fish, simple jerk off the rod to release the line from the clip.
  • This is where motorized downrigger shines. Because with a manual system, you’d end up cranking up the line with one hand and fight the fish with other hands. But for motorized downrigger, simply flip the switch back on and let the motor slowly resurface the cannonball. Meanwhile, you can commence battle using both of your hand.

These are the basic ideas about how to use a downrigger. I reckon lonely angler tend to use downrigger mostly. But when you’re looking to catch something big, trophy sized, a downrigger can make the task all the easier.


A few tips

If you already think that there’s all that to it, then you’re wrong. I know avid anglers are aware of these tactics, but for those new young enthusiastic angler, these are some must follow tips.

  • Avoid injecting the line entirely within the line release clip. Because it may become hard to break off when needed.
  • Don’t blindly drop your downrigger into some unknown bodies of water. It’s a good idea to buy fish finder that also offers topography to measure the water depth.
  • Don’t turn the line swiftly. It may result in entanglement. When turning the line, watch out for a sudden strike because faster turn speed on the outside and slower line on the inside might allow any upcoming fish to catch up to the lure.
  • Adding a slider on the line will increase your chances of getting a bite. Once your cannonball achieved the desired depth, attach a slider that is typically two or three foot in length. Use a small leader clip to attach the slider on the line and drop it in the water. The cannonball will drown the slider at half of its depth once you attach the line with the line release.
  • Don’t get used to the same idea over and over. Mix it up a bit. Such as the colors. Use a bunch to see what works.
  • Steer clear of other fellow anglers. Especially those who are trolling around with their boat. You’d not want to entangle your line with theirs and create mass confusion. Keep at least the distance of 20 yards minimum.



Every advantage of a technique and product comes with a disadvantage. So you need to know about them and take some precautions accordingly.

  • I hope you never face this mess. Trust me. It’s not pretty. Just slowly pull up all the cannonballs as you get a fish strike. But before you do that, for the love of God, please put the boat in neutral. You’d not want your fresh catch trying to escape from down under the boat.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of a cannonball. Weigh in at 10 pounds, it can damage the boat if gets dropped. The velocity equals the gravity with a ten-pound weight can create a crack on the floor. Never mind if it gets dropped on the feet. If that happens, bye bye angling, hello emergency response members.
  • Before you hit the water, take care of legal proceedings. Check out the law and requirements if you’re angling in a new body of water. Each state demands different legal solutions before you are eligible to cast the line. See If the law allows you to wield more than a rod per person. I’ve found this site to be legit and offers smooth licensing solutions.
  • When using a hand-powered downrigger, hold the reel handle firmly. Because once our disengage the brake, the reel may wiggle and spin out of control.
  • As you hold the tackle in one hand and the line in the other, be sure to stay clear of any opening of the boat. Stick to the side that has railings. And watch out for unstable tides. You’d not want to lose your balance and fall off the deck. Trust me.

Just be comfortable, and stick to your plans. It’s not rocket science so the chances are messing up is low. I hope I’ve covered all the basics of how to use a downrigger.

How to use a downrigger

In the end

I would emphasize on downrigging because it increases the chances of strikes. Especially if you identify where to put it. When the sun is high and the water temperature is increasing, trophy-sized fish dive into the depth where the water is comparatively cool.

Perfect time to load up the downrigger. Scientific studies show that game fish like Marlin, Tuna, and Sharks dive deep in the water only a part of the day. That’s why downrigger not only ensures a possible strike, but also prevent wasting any trolling lures on the surface water as well as the cost of fuel, and boat rent (if you’re using a rental)

That’s it for today folks. Our team has reviewed dozens of websites and used the downrigger first hand and gave their feedbacks. Hopefully, we’ve done enough to help you understand how to use a downrigger. It’s a striker. You need them to up the game. Happy rigging people.

Nicholi Wyto

Hey I'm Nicholi Wyto is a professional sports fisherman and hunter, love to enjoy spending time in Michigan’s rugged northern forests. I love to explore my experience and help others who are interested in fishing and hunting.

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