Tips for better downrigging

Posted on June 28, 2013

Mike SchoonveldMost people who fish with downriggers understand the concept of blow back. Most people ignore it. They shouldn’t

Understanding it can put more fish on your lines.  Minimizing it can add even more!

When trolling with downriggers, you are pushing your downrigger cable, the downrigger weight, the line between the rod tip and the downrigger release through the water, as well as pulling a lure behind the weight. And water pressure is significant. Dip a bucket into the lake to fill it, even at trolling speed and you better have a tight grip on the handle.

If you picture your downrigger ball as trailing along straight below the boom on the downrigger, you are wrong.  If you see fish marks at 70 feet so you lower your downrigged baits to 70 feet on the depth counter, you are still wrong. Because of blow back.

Depending on numerous factors, that lure may be 15 or even 25 feet above the 70 foot level because of blow back. The precision depth control of a downrigger isn’t so precise at times.

It’s impossible to eliminate blow back, but it can be minimized. The minimization occurs by eliminating as much of the push and pull exertion of water pressure as possible.

One way is to troll slower. The problem with this is some lures work better at specific speeds. Switch to speed tolerant lures, but realize some fish, such as cohos and steelhead will belt a fast trolled lure, at times, and roll their eyes at a slow speed presentation.

Use heavier weights. A part of the blow back equation is how much the water pressure of trolling has to lift the heavy downrigger ball. It stands to reason, the heavier the weight, the more pressure it takes to lift it.  

Use thinner fishing line and downrigger cable. I’ve switched to using braided line, such as Spiderwire or PowerPro on my downrigger rods. This summer I’m using PowerPro Super 8 Slick. Twenty pound test has the equivalent diameter of six-pound monofilament. I was skeptical of switching to a braided line instead of steel downrigger cable, so I’m testing and it’s passed the tests. I spooled one rigger with PowerPro 150 pound test and the other with 200. It’s the 150 that really shines for reducing blow back.

I didn’t put a micrometer on it, but the 200 looks and performs pretty much like my wire downrigger cable. The 150, however, is visibly thinner and that skinny line makes a remarkable difference in blowback. I was trolling in 90 feet of water last week using 12-pound weights. I put the ball on the bottom with 104 feet of braid. I sent the wire down and it touched the lake bed when the counter read 128 feet.

The point is, consider blow back when you are downrigger fishing this year and consider doing what you can to minimize it. It will put more precision into your fishing and you’ll catch more fish.

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