Over the summer months, trout, especially those in the deeper lakes of the North Island’s central plateau, tend to head for the depths. Grant Dixon says the use of a downrigger to fish both deep trolling and harling depths make this piece of equipment a must-have on most lake boats…

While jigging is one way to target these deeper lying fish, for those who like to keep on the move, running your lures off a downrigger is an effective way of presenting a lure to them.

Copper or wire line was previously used
Before downriggers, anglers often used 100 metres plus of wire or copper line on 4/0 multiplying reels to reach the fish down deep – not a lot of sport in that!

Previously, the main technique to get your lure down was the use of lead and wire trolling lines. This was more a way of harvesting fish, rather than catching them in a sporting manner. Using 100 metres of lead and wire, plus substantial amounts of backing, was the norm and was not much fun. Dragging that sort of weight around soon tired the fish and could hardly be called sport.

With the introduction of downriggers, where a heavy 10kg ball or weight was dropped down on a cable, the line being attached via a release clip, much lighter line could be used.

Standard tackle now is a fastactioned carbon fibre rod, a small multiplying or centre pin reel, loaded with light 4-6kg mono. The fish strikes, releasing the line from the clip and it is game on.

Another advantage is a downrigger can be used to target fish at a variety of depths using the same tackle. No longer does the trout-troller need a harling outfit for the shallows, a lead-line for depths to 20 metres and a wire line for targeting fish at greater depths – the one rod does it all, fishing a variety of depths depending on how deep you set the downrigger. Downriggers have improved my enjoyment of trout trolling, although there are some basics you need to be aware of.

As the skipper, you need to keep a constant eye on the depth sounder, especially when fishing bottom contours. A moment’s inattention at the helm can see the boat move from say 30 metres up to 10. As the downrigger ball is almost directly below the transducer, the depth change is immediate and if the ball is not raised quickly, it is likely to get hung up on the bottom.

Downriggers have revolutionised trout trolling tackle. Smaller reels, such as the blue Abu spooled with four-kilo mono on the bottom left, are now the norm compared to heavier wire, harling and leadline outfits.

There are some sophisticated downriggers available, some of which have their own associated depth sounders. These can be set to follow the bottom contours, raising and lowering the weight accordingly, keeping the lures from getting snagged automatically. For the same reason of immediacy, you cannot swing across the stern of a boat trolling conventional lead and wire lines. Their terminal tackle with be most likely a hundred metres or so astern of them – cross too soon and you are likely to catch their lines.

If you are coming towards another boat and anticipate you want to turn behind them any time soon, make the move early and while giving them plenty of room, pull your lures in front of them rather than behind. Downrigged lures are generally run only 50-60 metres behind the ball, so are unlikely to collect those of the passing boat when you pass in front. Because the lighter mono used can be damaged by the release clips over time, I tie a small section (100mm) of dacron into the main line some 50-60 metres along its length. The clip is attached to the dacron, thus saving the mono.

Faith Dixon
Faith Dixon with a nice Taupo trout taken on downrigging gear from 30 metres;

Multiple lines can be fished from the one downrigger using release clips attached to the wire cable a minimum of 2-3 metres above the weight. There is a bit of an art to deploying multiple lines on the one downrigger, but practice makes perfect. The main thing is to take it slowly, especially when dropping the weight to any depth as the water pressure on the lines can break it out of the release clip prematurely. Then you need to wind up and start the process from scratch.

Article by: Grant Dixon