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How to Troll Without a Downrigger: A Guide for the Novice Angler

What is a Downrigger?

A downrigger is a type of fishing gear used for trolling, which makes it the perfect device to help you catch even more fish. The idea is simple: you can lower, or troll, your lure much deeper than what your rod and reel are capable of on their own.

Downriggers attach to your boat with a special arm that reaches over the edge of your boat and are designed to drop or lower your line when you hit a fish. This allows you to bait in specific places that are deeper in the water, leading to more fish in your catch!

The downrigger arm also provides power when reeling in any fish that grabs onto your hook. If you’re already using a rod and reel for fishing, then this is an easy upgrade that can really bring in some big catches.

The key difference between trolling with or without the downrigger is depth: while downriggers take care of the depth problem by letting you troll at much greater depths than what you can do with just rod and reel alone, they don’t allow side-to-side movement like actual trolling.

Most downriggers also come with a wireless control panel that lets you lower or raise your rig at the push of a button, so it suits both professional and amateur anglers alike.

Trolling Without Downrigger

If you don’t have access to one of these amazing devices but still want to catch some fish while trolling, never fear!

There are actually plenty of other ways to troll without a downrigger that will increase your chances for success. All you need is your rod, reel, and line.

Gear Replacements for Downrigger

Fishing Line

One way to replace a downrigger is with main fishing line. If the water body you’re fishing in is relatively shallow, you can attach your line to some weights and let it flow behind your boat in deeper waters.

The main benefit of using a fishing multiple line instead of a downrigger arm is that it allows for more side-to-side motion while trolling.

You can even use this method when trolling for fish that are suspended in the water column, which might be too deep for most other types of gear otherwise and you will know how much line you’ll need.

Trolling Rod

If you’re trying to catch fish directly under the boat, try attaching your fishing rod to the underside like how stingrays are caught. This will allow you to bring up any potential catches without dragging them. We recommend using a trolling rod that’s 7’6″ with medium light action.

Line Counter

If you’re not sure how much line you need, or want to know how deep your rig is at any time, try using a fishing line counter.

This handy device attaches onto your main line and will let you know when it reaches the desired depth.

Snaps Weights

Every fishing rod has holes on either end that are used to attach the line. If you don’t want to use line counters, another good alternative is snapped with weights on your main fishing line.

You can easily interchange different snap weights depending on how deep you’d like to fish and this method will also allow for some side-to-side movement.

Lead Core Line

If you’re trolling for species that are deep underwater—like tuna or billfish, then try using a lead core line.

This is one of the most effective ways to troll without downrigger because it allows for both depth and side-to-side movement…two key components of any successful trolling trip!

Diving Device

If you’re trolling for species that are deep underwater—like tuna or billfish, then try using a lead core line.

This is one of the most effective ways to troll without downrigger because it allows for both depth and side-to-side movement…two key components of any successful trolling trip!

Snap Weights

Snap weight is very simple to use and can be attached to your built in line counter or multiple lines without much effort.

Another good way to troll for fish that are suspended in the water column, will allow you to keep track of your line depth.

Keel Weights

If you’re trolling for species that are deep underwater—like tuna or billfish, then try using a lead core line.

This is one of the most effective ways to troll without downrigger because it allows for both depth and side-to-side movement…two key components of any successful trolling trip!

Rod & Reel Setups

Another method for fishing without downrigger is with your rod and reel setup. You can use this if you’re trying to catch fish very close to the boat by baiting under the surface.

If you’re not sure about whether or not there’s any fish around, start out by dropping your line into the water slowly so that you don’t spook them away. Sometimes just letting gear hit the bottom is enough to attract hungry game fish!

Jet Diver

If you’re trolling for species that are deep underwater—like tuna or billfish, then try using a lead core line.

This is one of the most effective ways to troll without downrigger because it allows for both depth and side-to-side movement…two key components of any successful trolling trip!

Rigging Your Tackle Box

Make sure you have all the gear you need before leaving your dock.

If you are using multiple types of tackle boxes, make sure to place similar equipment in each so that everything will be organized no matter how much fishing time has passed.

Fish Finder

Knowing exactly where to find fish is a good way to troll without using a downrigger. Using your fish finder, identify whether or not there are any species in the water column and where they’re likely to be lurking.

This will allow you the opportunity to plan out an effective trolling route!

A Few More Tips on How to Troll Without Downriggers

Use several lines with different rigging setups. Not all trolling methods will catch fish for every single species, so be sure to test out various types of trolling setups until you find one that works.

  1. Locate fish before beginning your trolling route.  Using a depth finder will allow you to determine where the best place is to start your trolling lines.

  2. Make sure you’re properly anchored.   If there’s too much movement in the boat, your trolling rods will sway and spook the fish you’re trying so hard to catch.

  3. Try using multiple types of bait. Different lures can attract different species—do some research on what type of fish are swimming in the area before heading out!

  4. Be mindful of the trolling speed.  If you’re trolling too fast, the weight of your lures will cause them to go deeper than your intended target. This might not be a problem for species that are normally caught much deeper but can be detrimental if you have other plans for where to fish.

  5. When in doubt, use a lead core line!

  6. Deep water trolling is one of the most effective ways to bring in large game fish that are suspended under the surface, but it’s also important to note that many species will stay close to the bottom.

  7. Try using your depth finder as you troll along the water columns so that you’ll be able to pinpoint their location and know what type of setup they’re likely to respond best to.

Practice Trolling Without a Downrigger

There are plenty of ways to successfully try out this technique and it’s definitely one that will catch fish! Get creative with your rigging setups and play around with different lures until you find the perfect combination for success.

Contemporary fishing is a lot of fun, but sometimes taking trolling methods back to the basics can be just as rewarding! Experiment with various types of bait or use different fishing quality lines until you find something that works.

Trolling without downriggers might take some getting used to, but once you figure out how to use this technique properly it will quickly become your go-to way to fish!

Final Thoughts on How to Troll Without a Downrigger

Trolling without downrigger shouldn’t be confused with line-trolling, which uses a fishing rod to pull out lines of lures instead of pulling them behind the boat.

If you’re trying to get your trolling setup perfect before heading out on your next trip, consider trying to fish without a downrigger! This technique is simple once you get used to it and can catch loads of different types of gamefish.

Be mindful of what type of rigging setups work best for each species that you want to target and then enjoy your time on the water. Congratulations—now you know about how to troll without using a downrigger!

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