Downriggers Catch Offshore Fish

Few things frustrate us as much as staring at mark after mark on the fish finder, while our offerings go untouched. I’ve even had people tell me that they “don’t believe their fish finder” because they see lots of fish but can’t seem to get a bite. “I’m always looking for bait, and I’m always looking for thermoclines, and a lot of the time they’re at about the same depth. With the downriggers, I can make a presentation right there.” Henderson says he always runs two downriggers, and mixes up what’s offered on the lines — usually skirted baits, plugs or live baits — to give the fish some options. Even when there isn’t a strong temperature break beneath the surface, Henderson still utilizes downriggers to give his baits a slightly different look. “I’ve run them as shallow as 3 or 4 feet below the surface,” he notes. “A lot of times, they prefer a subsurface bait,” he says. “I like them mostly for drift-fishing live baits, more so than for trolling,” he says. I’ve seen it where the current is running north on the surface but goes the opposite way below a temperature break. Will a downrigger come into play in all your offshore fishing situations?
How Pros Use Downriggers to Catch Offshore Fish
Downriggers allow offshore captains to fish deeper zones near thermoclines and baitballs to target pelagic species that might choose to feed well below the water’s surface.

Few things frustrate us as much as staring at mark after mark on the fish finder, while our offerings go untouched. We’ve all been there — wondering what we’re doing wrong, why the fish won’t rise to take a bait, and what we could be doing differently to trigger a strike. I’ve even had people tell me that they “don’t believe their fish finder” because they see lots of fish but can’t seem to get a bite. Hmmm.

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At times, even the most voracious offshore pelagics — including billfish, tunas, wahoo and mahimahi — simply refuse to move up through the water column. In this very situation, however, they may well take a bait that’s presented at their own level.

We have a number of ways to get baits down beneath the surface: planers, lipped lures and using oodles of lead are all options. But you’ll have a tough time finding someone versed in the use of downriggers who doesn’t believe them to be a superior tool for reaching deep fish in a number of situations.

Thermal Adjustment
“Fish don’t just sit up top, especially when there’s a strong thermocline,” says tournament angler and team captain Mark Henderson of Liquid Fire, who fishes everywhere from the Gulf coast up to his home port in North Carolina. “I’m always looking for bait, and I’m always looking for thermoclines, and a lot of the time they’re at about the same depth. With the downriggers, I can make a presentation right there.”

Henderson says he always runs two downriggers, and mixes up what’s offered on the lines — usually skirted baits, plugs or live baits — to give…

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