For years fishermen have searched for ways to improve their catch ratio and keep their friends happy. Many ingenious minds have gone to work and devised devices like outriggers, diving planers and even kites to aid them in catching fish.
Of all the devices to be introduced into the marketplace during the past twenty years, the downrigger has to go on record as being one of the most effective fishing aids ever designed.
The downrigger concept is not new. In fact, primitive types of downriggers were used by Indians fishing the Great Lakes during the 1800s. The first true downrigger was a commercial rig patented years ago called the "Hirty-Girty". This rig was used on the West Coast for deep commercial fishing. It wasn't until the mid 1960's during the inception of the Lake Michigan salmon fishery that the downrigger was successfully introduced as a valuable sport fishing aid. No one is sure of the exact origin of the current downrigger, but it is a known fact that the first designs consisted of window sash weights with trolling lines attached to a heavy line, and lowered to a desired depth. As salmon fishermen started refining the concept, new gadgets were being developed, one of which was a large tricycle wheel mounted on the back of the boat. The tire was removed and the wheel was wrapped with a heavy line and a sash weight was attached. The weight was lowered and raised by turning the pedals. These devices were crude but they laid the groundwork for the sophisticated Walker downrigging system we use today. This innovation enables you to increase your chances of finding and catching certain fish.
How it works!
The downrigger is a winch-type mechanism that feeds cable off a rotating reel through a guide system along an extension arm. A weight is attached to the end of the cable and the line release is attached to the weight. The fishing line from an independent rod is attached to the release mechanisms on the downrigger cable.
By lowering the weight, you can drop the line down to the desired depth. A footage counter is connected to the reel unit to indicate the specific amount of cable that has been released. At the desired depth the reel is locked into place.
The independent fishing rod is set in a holder attached to the downrigger or placed directly behind it on the gunwale. A bow is placed in the rod by tightening the line between it and the release on the downrigger cable. When a fish "strikes", it pulls the line from the release on the cable and thereby sets the hook. As tension on the line is released, the rod appears to snap straight up and allows the angler to play the fish without excess line weight.
The downrigging unit is typically mounted on the stern or along the rear side of the boat.