Best Downrigger (For Kayaks And Small Boats)

When it comes to fishing, sometimes you need a little help from some extra equipment. And a downrigger could be just the thing you need.

To give you a little advice on downriggers and how they might be able to help you we’ve put together this short guide. So hopefully you’ll be able to find the best downrigger for your kayak, canoe or small boat.

Our Top Downrigger Picks:

(the links above take you to Amazon. Scroll below for more info)

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What Is A Downrigger And How Do They Work?

A downrigger is a device that can help you to get your bait deeper under the water to where the fish are. With a downrigger you can set the depth so that it will take your lure to that particular depth.

Video: Using A Downrigger

The way it works is that it features a weight that helps to pull your bait to the depth at which it’s been set. The weight is attached to a line and a separate attachment clips on to your fishing line, so that it can pull your baited line down to the set depth.

In order to find the correct depth a fish finder can be useful, as this let you see exactly where the fish are and the depths at which they can be found. A fish finder can also show you the underwater landscape, such as drop offs and areas of underwater grasses.

When the fish bites your bait, the clip linking your line with the downrigger is designed to detach from your line, so that you can then reel in your catch using your rod and reel.

Downrigging can be useful for trolling from a boat, as the downrigger can help you to keep your lure at a specific depth, with the option of easily adjusting the depth as the underwater landscape changes.

> Recommended trolling motors

Features To Look Out For

Manual Type

With a manual downrigger, you’ll probably notice that they can be less expensive than electric ones. This is because there are simply less mechanical parts and you have to do most of the work yourself, such as turning the spool.

You’ll often discover that there may be less features in general on a manual one than an electric one, for example depth counters. So you may have to remember how many turns of the spool you’ve made in order to work out your depth. However, some manual models will have depth counters.

A rod holder can be a useful feature but may not be included with all types of manual downriggers.

Electric Type

An electric downrigger can be useful if you’re fishing by yourself, particularly if you’re fishing in deeper water, as you can often retrieve the line and weight simply by pressing a button; meaning you won’t need to manually reel it in.

Video: Manual Vs. Electric Downriggers

Electric models may make it easier on your arms if you fish regularly and for long periods, as repeatedly turning a manual one could get tiresome after a while and could mean you have less energy to reel in your fish.

Some electric models may also come with extra features, such as automatic depth adjustment, rod holders and various other accessories. You will also need to consider a battery or charger for your downrigger so that it can work for the duration of your fishing trip.

Mounting Options

How the downrigger will attach to your vessel will likely be an important thing to consider. Some will have easily detachable mounts and others will be more permanent.

If you don’t plan to fish every time you’re in your vessel, a portable mount may be more suitable. The same goes if you’re planning to rent a boat. Portable mounts will often clamp onto your vessel, such as to the gunwales.

It may also be possible to find mounts that can attach to rod holder mounts or gear tracks on kayaks. Alternatively, some downriggers will come with mounting hardware to allow you to mount it directly to your boat.

> Other kayak ideas

Pros & Cons Of Fishing With A Downrigger

Pros

A downrigger can let you set the depth of your lure, allowing you to reach deeper areas of the water, as well as let you maintain that depth as you troll, meaning your bait won’t hit the bottom unless you want it to.

Downriggers can also be useful for when the fish head into the deeper waters during off season, meaning you could potentially catch fish at all times of the year.

It can be useful to use a downrigger if you plan to fish in the ocean, as it can help you keep your bait where you want it instead of it being dragged with the current.

Cons

While manual downriggers can be more affordable, electric ones can be expensive. So you may have to decide where and how often you might use it to see whether it’s worth shelling out for an electric one.

You will likely require additional gear, such as a fish finder, in order to know the depths of the water and the depth at which the fish can be found.

Another disadvantage of a downrigger is that it could get caught on things on the bottom of the lake or ocean, which could result in the line snapping if there is no automatic clutch system to let out the line.

Recommended Ways To Use One

One of the most effective ways to use a downrigger is by trolling, which can be done either from a boat, kayak or canoe. A fish finder can be an essential tool in helping you locate the fish and know the correct depth at which to set your downrigger.

Once you know the depth that’s required and after you’ve baited your hook, let out the line on your rod so that you’ve got plenty of line to reach beyond your vessel and to the depth you’ll need to hit.

You can then attach your line to the clip that links to your weighted downrigger line. This means you can then start to lower your downrigger down to your desired depth. But make sure the spool of your fishing line can be reeled out till it reaches the correct depth.

Video: Downriggers 101

Once your line hits the depth, reel in your fishing line so that there’s no slack in the line. This way you’ll be able to see when a fish takes your bait. Your line should then unclip from the downrigger and you can then reel in your fish.

Top 5 Best Downriggers Reviewed

1: Scotty #1099 Depthpower Compact Electric Downrigger & Rod Holder

Scotty #1099 Depthpower Compact Electric Downrigger & Rod Holder
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    Length: 37 inches
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    Width: 13.2 inches
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    Depth: 7.5 inches
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    Weight: 7.9 pounds

2: Scotty #1073DP Laketroller Manual Downrigger

Scotty #1073DP Laketroller Manual Downrigger
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    Length: 17.5 inches
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    Width: 7.5 inches
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    Depth: 6.2 inches
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    Weight: 3.4 pounds

This Laketroller Manual Downrigger from Scotty could be an ideal choice for canoes, kayaks or small boats, as it can be mounted in a variety of locations, including gunnels, transom or on a flat deck.

It’s a manual downrigger that comes with 100 feet of 150 pound stainless steel cable and is designed to be used with weights under 4 pounds, so it can be good for lake or pond fishing but may not be ideal for deep sea fishing.

It can be easily retrieved by turning the spool, which can reel in 1 foot of cable per rotation. This one, however, does not come with a rod holder included.

3: Scotty #1106 Depthpower Electric Downrigger With 60-Inch Telescopic Boom & Swivel Base/Rod Holder 

Scotty #1106 Depthpower Electric Downrigger With 60-Inch Telescopic Boom & Swivel Base/Rod Holder
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    Length: 43 inches
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    Width: 13.3 inches
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    Depth: 7.4 inches
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    Weight: 22 pounds

The Scotty 1106 Depthpower Downrigger is an electric model that features a telescoping stainless steel boom that can reach up to 60 inches and collapse to just 36 inches, which could make it ideal for storage and for a variety of boats.

It comes with 250 feet of 150 pound test stainless steel cable, as well as a multi-position auto-stop and a Power Grip Plus line release system.

One handy feature is the included swivel pedestal mount, which can let you change the position of the downrigger. It can also be tilted and locked vertically when it’s not in use.

It offers fast retrieval speeds and adjustable descent speeds, and is able to lift 7 pound weights at up to 235 feet per minute. It also features an adjustable rod holder on the boom for convenience.

4: Scotty #1050 Depthmaster Manual Downrigger With Rod Holder

Scotty #1050 Depthmaster Manual Downrigger With Rod Holder
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    Length: 28.5 inches
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    Width: 9.6 inches
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    Depth: 6.5 inches
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    Weight: 7 pounds

The Scotty 1050 Depthmaster is a manual downrigger that has a positive drive depth counter and a 23 inch boom. It features an automatic clutch brake that will pay out cable if the line happens to get stuck.

It comes with a deck mounting bracket that can be ideal for attaching to kayaks or small vessels and features saltwater protection for added durability.

Another feature it has is a rod holder mounted on the boom, so you shouldn’t need to worry about finding a separate mounting spot on your craft. It also features 200 feet of 150 pound stainless steel cable and can be retrieved manually by turning the spool at a rate of 1 foot per turn.

It’s even designed to be used from a seated position, which could make it more suitable for small vessels, such as yaks or canoes.

5: Cannon Manual Downrigger

Cannon Manual Downrigger
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    Length: 20 inches
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    Width: 11 inches
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    Depth: 3 inches
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    Weight: 3 pounds

This Cannon Manual Downrigger could be a good choice for a canoe or kayak because of its compact size. The Mini-Troll is designed for trolling for smaller fish from smaller vessels and can be used with weights of no more than 4 pounds.

It features a 2 and a half inch C-clamp base that can be mounted to the side of your boat and it has a swivel head depth counter for setting your bait at your desired depth.

It’s saltwater resistant and comes with 100 feet of 120 pound stainless steel cable. However, it doesn’t come with a rod holder or line release.

Reelin’ It In: Conclusion

Fishing with a downrigger can help you to catch more fish in deeper water, as it can let you set your bait to a specific depth and maintain that depth, which can be particularly useful if you’re trolling.

You’ll have seen there are many types of downriggers, both manual and electric, that can be ideal for small boats and kayaks. Just remember to think about where you plan to fish and what you plan to catch.

A manual one may be ideal for occasional lake fishing but you may prefer an electric one if you plan to fish in the sea or more frequently. How it mounts to your vessel may also have an impact on the type of downrigger available to you.

Whatever one you choose, make sure it’s the right fit for your fishing. Let us know how it improves your catch rate and remember to share this with your fellow anglers.

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