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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
|#2 Floating body bait
|3-1/2 in. Spoon
Deep'r Diver Depth Chart
|Amount of line out
|#2 Floating body bait
|3-1/2 in. Spoon
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
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.