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Product Tutorials > Downriggers Tutorial >

Big Jon Downrigger Tutorial




Outfitting Your Boat

When you rig a boat for trolling, you will want it to provide you and your buddies with the most enjoyable fishing trips you could ask for. Here are some time proven trolling boat layouts. If you fish alone in a small tiller boat, then mounting the downriggers at the transom is the most practical choice. You can keep everything in easy reach, eliminating the need to get up and move around the boat. (See illustration 1)

If two or more people are fishing in a small boat, try mounting the downriggers midship. Everybody can reach the downriggers and rods from either end of the boat. Pedestal mounts may be needed for the downriggers to clear the gunwales of the boat, while swivel mounting bases will make for easier docking of the boat. (See illustration 2)

On larger console style boats, a pair of Captain's Paks on swivel mounting bases are a popular arrangment.  The swivel mounting bases allow you to spread your lines wider when fishing and can be turned inline with the gunwales when the boat comes to the dock. (See illustration 3)

If your boat is large enough for a fishing party, mount a pair of Pro Sportsman at the transom and a pair of Captain's Paks on swivel mounting bases further forward on the gunwales.  With this many lines in the water, your lure presentation will resemble a school of bait fish. (See illustration 4)

The same kind of presentation can be achieved by installing four Captain's Paks on a removable transom bar.  The whole downrigging system can be removed as one unit when using your boat for other purposes. (See illustration 5)

When installing a planer rigger system, there are two important facts to remember.  First, the taller your mast is, the greater distance your planers will travel from the sides of your boat.  Second, the futher forward you mount your mast, the less distance your planers will travel behind your transom.  Both points will effect navagation and line control. (See illustration 6)

A popular method of mounting a planer mast is to use a pedestal seat mount (contact our Service Department for this custom order).  They can be made to fit most seat bases that are found on most boats.  The seat mount makes the mast easily removable for storage.
(See illustration 7)

Two single reel planer mast mounted on the gunwales just behind the cabin or canopy top are popular for larger boats where the bow is not as easily accessable. (See illustration 8)

You can upgrade your mast with a pair of electric planer reels.  Big Jon electric reels come complete with remote switches and circuit breakers, so you can operate them from the boat's cabin. (See illustration 9)

Plan your boat for comfort and safety.  Having too much equipment, or having it located in the wrong place can hamper your ability to move around freely.  Before mounting any equipment, get in your boat with your fishing buddies and discuss the best location for each piece of equipment.  All equipment should be easily accessible to all fishermen.
Basic Downrigging
Downrigging is a method of trolling that uses a manual or electric winch and weight (cannonball) to carry your fishing lines and lures to a specific depth, where feeding fish are to be found. While downrigging is commonly thought of as a deep water fishing technique, it is more accurately understood as a method of "controlled depth fishing"

By using downriggers to control the depth of your lure presentation, you can place your lures at any depth from just below the surface to 200 feet deep and keep them running consistently at that depth. So, once you've determined what depth the fish are feeding at, you can keep your lures in that "feeding zone".

When a fish takes your lure, it will pull your fishing line from the line release. This will allow you to fight the fish, without fighting a heavy weight.
Step-By-Step Operation Of A Manual Downrigger
While the boat is running at trolling speed, set your fishing reel to free-spool, apply slight pressure to the reel with your thumb and let your lure out to the desired distance. Then set the drag clicker to stop your reel from free-spooling. Now, place your fishing rod in the rod holder.
Next, take hold of the fishing line (beyond the rod tip) in one hand. With the other hand, reach down and firmly take hold of the line release. Lift the cannonball out of the water and attach the line to the line release. Then ease the cannonball back into the water.
While firmly gripping the downrigger reel's handle, loosen the clutch knob (found on the right side of the downrigger) by turning it counter-clockwise. This will release the tension on the clutch disc plates that holds the cannonball at a given depth.
When you feel the weight of the cannonball pull on the downrigger reel, crank the reel counter-clockwise to lower the cannonball. Watch the line counter that is mounted on the top of the downrigger. The line counter is marked in one foot increments.
After you see the depth you desire marked on the line counter, retighten the disc clutch by turning the clutch knob clockwise until the clutch holds the weight of the cannonball.
Once you've set the clutch on your downrigger, set the drag and drag clicker on your fishing reel. Then take up the slack in your in your fishing line, until there is a bow in your fishing rod.
When a fish strikes or when you want to retrieve your lure, remove your fishing rod from the rod holder and abruptly lift it to release your fishing line from the line release. Then fight and land your fish or retrieve your lure.
Finally, to retrieve your cannoball, firmly grip the downrigger reel's handle, loosen the clutch knob and crank the downrigger reel clockwise until the cannonball surfaces. Then tighten the clutch knob to hold the cannonball securely.
Basic Planer Rigging
Just as downrigging allows you to control the depth of your lure presentation, planer rigging is a trolling technique that allows you to control the width of your lure presentation. This is especially effective when fishing for "boat-shy" game fish. Depending on the height of your planer mast, the planer (Otter Boat) can achieve distances of up to 100 feet from the sides of your boat. Line releases holding your fishing line are attached and lowered down the planer tow line and away from your boat. When a fish takes your lure, it will pull your fishing line from the line release. An effective way to vary the depths of your lure presentation is to tie Big Jon Mini Divers or Deep'R Diver disks on the lines closest to your boat.
Step-By-Step Operation Of A Planer Rigger
Start by preparing two tow line retrieval lanyards made of a couple of shower curtain hangers and a couple of lengths of tow line cord. Then, with your fishing rods prepared with the lures of your choice and placed in your boat's rod holders, bring your boat to trolling speed and maintain that speed.
Place your Otter Boat (planer) in the water. Take hold of the reel with one hand and loosen the clutch by turning the clutch knob counter-clockwise with the other hand. NOTE:
Big Jon's Otter Boat is recommended as a good choice of planers because of it's ability to gain greater distance from your boat than the old fashion boards and skies. The Otter Boat also performs better in rough water and doesn't stall when your boat is making a turn.
Let out the tow line by turning the planer rigger reel clockwise. Do this slowly so that the tow line stays tight and the Otter Boat can plane out from the side of your boat. When the Otter Boat has reached the distance from your boat that you desire, retighten the clutch knob securely. Repeat steps 2 and 3 on the other side of the boat.
Now, take your first fishing rod from the front rod holder and place your lure in the water. Let your lure out to the distance that you want it to run behind the boat. Reset your reel so it doesn't free-spool and place your rod back in the rod holder.
Take hold of the fishing line that you have just let out and attach a line release to it (A). (There are many styles of line releases on the market to choose from. We are showing the "Pinch Pad" style here). Then, use the retrieval lanyard to pull the planer board tow line within reach. Clip the line release hanger clip around the tow line and close the hanger clip (B). Then, let out the retrieval lanyard until the tow line has returned to it's normal position.
Remove your fishing rod from the rod holder and let out more fishing line. As you do this, the line release will slide down the tow line. Stop the first line just short of the Otter Boat. (This line should be run with a shallow running lure). Now, set the drag and drag clicker on your fishing reel and place your fishing rod back in the rod holder closest to the front of the boat.
Now, take your second fishing rod from the rod holder and repeat step 4. On this fishing line, that is closer to the boat, you may choose to vary the depth of your lure presentation by using a Mini-Diver or Deep'R Diver disk attached about 4 feet ahead of your lure. Now repeat steps 5 and 6 and place your fishing rod in the next rod holder back from the back from the first rod holder.
 
NOTE: Each successive fishing line added to the tow line should be placed below the previous fishing line to avoid tangling with other lines when a fish strikes and pulls the fishing line from the line release. Now, you are ready to repeat steps 4 through 7 on the other side of the boat.
In-Line Planers
Like planer rigging, using in-line planer boards is a method used to get your lure presentation out to the sides of your boat. In-line planers like Big Jon's Otter, Mini-Otter and Side-Liner do not require the use of a mast, they clip directly to your fishing line.

Using in-line planers will allow you to cover a much wider area as your boat passes through the area that you want to fish.

If you want to add some variety to your lure presentation, Big Jon's large Otters and Side-Liners can be used along with Big Jon's Mini-Diver and Deep'R Diver diving disks to take your lures to deeper depths.

A unique feature of Big Jon's Side-Liner is that it has built-in rattles. The rattles are a proven method of attracting a fish's attention in large bodies of water, like the Great Lakes.
Step-By-Step Operation Of In-Line Planers
Bring your boat to trolling speed. Then let your lure out to the desired fishing distance behind the boat.Once your lure is out to the desired distance, set the drag clicker on your reel to prevent it from free-spooling. Then place your fishing rod in the rod holder.
Take hold of the fishing line and clip the swivel clip (at the back of the planer) around the line (as shown in drawing A). Then, attach the line release to the fishing line, ahead of the swivel clip (as shown in drawing B).
Remove your fishing rod from the rod holder and place the planer in the water. Keep your rod tip high and let out line until the planer moves out to the desired distance from the boat. NOTE:
The maximum distance that an in-line planer will move away from a boat is governed by the height of the fishing rod's tip. This makes longer fishing rods desirable when fishing with in-line planers.
When the in-line planer has reached the desired distance from the boat, set the drag clicker on your reel to prevent it from free-spooling. Then, place the fishing rod in the front rod holder. Set the rod holder to hold the fishing rod straight up to keep the rod tip as high as possible. This will allow the planer to gain the greatest distance from the boat.
When a fish strikes your lure, the line release will"Pop-Off", allowing the planer to slide down the line to a "Speedo Bead". The Speedo Bead is placed approximately 18 inches in front of the lure to keep the planer from interfering with the fish.
Otter Release
The Otter Release is the "Plug and Barrel" style of release. To use it, fit your fishing line into the notch in the plug end of the release. Then press the plug and fishing line into the barrel end of the release. The amount of pressure you apply when inserting the plug will determine if it will "pop-off" with a light or hard strike.
Offshore Release
The Offshore Release is a "Pinch Pad" style of release. To use it, pinch top and bottom halves of the release to open the pads. Then insert the fishing line between the pads and release the pressure to allow the pads to close around the fishing line.
Diver Disks
Trolling with Big Jon's Mini-Diver and Deep'R Diver diving disks is a simple way to add depth to your lure presentation. Their low visual profile won't spook even the most shy of game fish. They also aid in controlling the positioning of your lures. With the nose weight set on center, the diver will run straight behind the boat. With the nose weight set off center, the diver will run to the side of your boat.

Of the divers available, Big Jon's are the easiest to use. Just tie your lure and about four foot of leader to the clip at the rear of the diver. Then, tie the fishing line coming from your fishing rod to the clip at the top of the diver. Big Jon's divers are designed to pull straight in-line when a fish takes your lure. There is no need for a line release.When the diver disk is pulled straight in-line, there is no water resistance, so you fight only the fish.
 
Step-By-Step Operation Of In-Line Planers
Start by tying the line coming from your fishing rod to the clip located on the top and center of the diver disk. Then, tie a length of line (approximatly four feet long) to the rearclip on the disk. Tie your lure to the other end of this line.
If you use a shorter rod, the lure should be approximatley twelve inches from the ree
The nose weight on the bottom of the diver disk determines the direction the diver will travel from the boat. When the nose weight is set at the center mark, the diver will travel straight back from the boat. Move the nose weight to the right (when viewed from the bottom of the diver) and the diver will travel to the right side of the boat. Move the nose weight to the left (when viewed from the bottom of  the diver) and the diver disk will travel to the left side of the boat.
While the boat is at trolling speed, place your lure and then the diver in the water and let out your line. Apply slight pressure to the reel's spool with your thumb to create some resistance for the diver to work against. The diver disk will work against the water's resistance and pull down to a deeper depth.
As you are letting out your fishing line, you will reach a point where your line starts to move back towards the rear of the boat. When this happens, the diver has reached it's maximum depth.
Because of many variables, such as speed,line weight, lure weight and water temperature that affect the performance of any diver, there are no exact charts to determine how much line to let out to reach a given depth.(The charts at the bottom of this page give approximate depths.
Once the diver has reached it's maximum depth or the depth you've decided to stop at, set the drag clicker on your reel to prevent the reel from free-spooling and place your rod in a rod holder.
Now you are ready to repeat steps 1 through 5 with your remaining fishing rods.
When a fish strikes your lure, the tension of the fish pulling on the fishing line will cause the diver disk to be pulled straight in-line with the fishing line. This feature eliminates any water resistance, so you fight only the fish. No "Pop-Off" release is needed when you are using Big Jon diver disks.
 
Mini-Diver Depth Chart
Amount of line out 50 ft. 100 ft. 150 ft.
#2 Floating body bait 16'deep. 24'deep. 30'deep.
3-1/2 in. Spoon 15'deep. 22'deep. 28'deep.
 
Deep'r Diver Depth Chart
Amount of line out 50 ft. 100 ft. 150 ft.
#2 Floating body bait 18'deep. 27'deep. 45'deep.
3-1/2 in. Spoon 17'deep. 25'deep. 40'deep.

 

 

Finding Fish
Locating feeding fish is one of the most important skills a fisherman can develop. You can mark fish on your fish finder and not intice them to strike your lure if they are not in their "Feeding Zone"!

Most species of fish have a preferred temperature of water that they will actively feed in. Find this area of temperature with fish present and you will greatly increase your chances of catching fish.

Remember, fish are cold blooded. In water that is too cold, fish wll be dormant, sluggish and will not feed. In water that is too warm, they will be seeking a more comfortable environment. So an understanding of how different temperatures of water break up will help you locate feeding fish.
Here are the two main ways defferent temperatures of water will break up.
On inland lakes, water temperatures tend to settle into horizonal layers of warm and cold water that are separated by a moderating layer, known as the "Thermocline". The thermocline will be the most active "Feeding Zone"
On larger bodies of water, like the oceans and the Great Lakes, masses of water temperature are much larger and in a constant state of change. The location of these large masses of temperature are highly afffected by changes in weather conditions. These large masses of warm and cold water also have a moderating layer known as a "Temperature Break". Because of the constant shifting of the warm and cold masses, temperature breaks often appear as a vertical layer.The area of, and immediately around the temperature break is the most active "Feeding Zone".ead of the swivel clip (as shown in
drawing B).
In recent years, Great Lakes charter captains and tournament fishermen have gained access to surface temperature maps, showing the break up of warm and cold waters on the Great Lakes. These maps are gathered by satellite and updated daily. Learning to read these maps will help take the guess work out of where to fish on the Great Lakes.







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