Best Downrigger for Kayaks and Small Boats

Some additional equipment can be very helpful when it comes to fishing, a downrigger, in particular, may be just what you need. 

We've compiled a short guide below, providing you with some advice on downriggers and how they may be able to aid you when fishing, in the hope of helping you to select the best downrigger to suit your kayak, canoe or small boat. 

What are downriggers and how do they work?

A downrigger is a useful device that helps when you are trying to catch fish that are in deeper water. They work by lowering your bait into this area of water and you can then set the depth that you need the downrigger to reach, and it will then take your lure to this particular depth. 

They work by using a weight which then pulls your bait to the depth that you set on the downrigger. There will be a weight attached to a line and then on your fishing line, you will find separate attachments that pull the baited line down to the depth that you have set.

A fish finder can be useful for finding the correct depth. This tells you exactly where and at what depths the fish can be found. You can also see the underwater landscape using a fish finder such as drop offs and underwater grass areas. 

The clip that links your line to the downrigger is designed to detach when a fish bites your bait, this then allows you to reel in your catch using your rod and reel. 

As a downrigger helps to secure your lure at a specific depth, it is particularly useful when used for trolling from a boat. As the water landscape changes you have the option to easily adjust the depth too according to this. 

Below we have reviewed our top five picks of the best downriggers on the market, including both electric and manual options. 

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Best Downrigger for Kayaks and Small Boats - Reviews

The Scotty depthpower electric downrigger is compact and features all of the performance that you would find in a large model. 

With a tilt-up mounting bracket, the downrigger can be tilted and locked into an upright position and it features a power grip and line release too. 

Made from marine grade stainless steel, this is protected against saltwater to ensure longevity and durability. 

The Rodmaster rod holder makes this a very convenient option enabling you to fish with ease and there is also a multi-position auto-stop function. 

This downrigger has a very fast retrieval rate and excellent lifting power which is useful for heavy weights or in cases where you may be pulling out of snags, weeds, or kelp.

An ideal choice for canoes, kayaks or small boats is this Scotty Laketroller manual downrigger. It can be mounted in a range of locations, this includes gunnels, transom, or flat decks. 

This manual downrigger is ideal for lake or pond fishing, although it may not be suitable for deep sea fishing. Designed for use with weights under 4 pounds, it has a 100 feet of 150 pounds stainless steel cable. 

Turning the spool easily retrieves the downrigger reeling in one foot of cable per rotation. A rod holder is not included with this downrigger. 

This is a rugged and also low costing downrigger that is built for smaller boats in particular. 

This electric model is ideal for storage and a variety of boats. With a telescopic stainless steel boom, this can reach up to 60 inches and impressively collapses to 36 inches.

Features include 250 feet of 150 pound test stainless steel cable, a multi-position auto-stop function, along with a Power Grip Plus line release system. 

The swivel pedestal mount is a handy feature that allows you to change the downriggers position. When it isn't being used it can also be tilted and locked vertically. 

Impressively, this downrigger can lift 7 pounds of weights at up to 235 feet per minute thanks to the fast retrieval speeds and adjustable descent speeds. The adjustable rod holder on the boom makes this a super convenient option. 

The Scotty 1050 depth master has a positive drive depth counter and a 23 inch boom which makes it a good manual downrigger. If your line ever happens to get stuck the automatic clutch cable brake will pay out cable to rectify the issue.

It is ideal for attaching to small vessels or kayaks as it comes with a deck mounting bracket. It is also a durable option as it features saltwater protection. 

You do not need to worry about finding any additional mounting spots on your craft as this downrigger features a mounted rod holder on the boom. The downrigger also features 200 feet of 150 pound stainless steel cable which can easily be retrieved and the spool can be turned manually at a rate of 1 foot per turn.

This is an ideal option for small vessels including kayaks and canoes as it can be used from a seated position. 

The Cannon Manual Downrigger is a compact option that is great for canoes or kayaks. This is suitable for use from smaller vessels for trolling smaller fish, thanks to its mini troll design. Four pounds is the maximum weight that this downrigger can be used with. 

It can be mounted onto the side of your boat as it features a C clamp base which is only 2 and a half inches long. You can set your bait to your desired depth using the swivel-head depth counter. 

It is going to maintain its quality well as it is saltwater resistant. It also features 100 feet of 120 pound stainless steel cable. However, it is important to note that this downrigger doesn't come with a rod holder unlike some of the others we have mentioned, and it also doesn't feature line release. 

Best Downrigger for Kayaks and Small Boats - Buyers Guide

What features should you look out for?

The Manual Type

There are two different types of downriggers. Manual downriggers tend to be less expensive than electric ones. This is because you have to do most of the work yourself as there are fewer mechanical parts. For example, you are required to turn the spool yourself.

There generally tends to be fewer features on a manual downrigger than an electric one, an example being the depth counters. To work out your depth, you will need to remember how many turns of the spool that you've made. However, there are some manual models available that come with depth counters. 

A useful feature is a rod holder although this won't be included with all types of manual downriggers so it is necessary to pay attention to this with each of the products that we have reviewed below. 

The Electric Type

If you are fishing by yourself, particularly in deep water, an electric downrigger is a useful choice with lots of power. You don't need to reel the line in manually, this can be retrieved by simply pressing a button. An advanced but simple tool that aims to give you a hassle-free fishing experience.

If you fish regularly or for longer periods, an electric model can make it easier on your arms and reduces the fuss and hassle that you are often confronted with when doing this manually. The repeated turning of a manual model can become tiring after some time leaving you with less energy to reel in your fish. 

Automatic depth adjustment, rod holders, and a variety of other accessories are just some of the extra features available with some electric models. It is also necessary to consider the battery or charger for your downrigger to ensure that it is going to work for the duration of your fishing trip. 

The Mounting Options

It is important to consider how the downrigger is going to attach to your vessel. Some mounts will be easily detachable while others will be more permanent. 

A portable mount is an ideal option if you don't intend to fish every time you are in your vessel. This also applies if you plan to rent a boat. You will find some portable mounts that will even clamp onto your vessel, such as to the GunWales. Therefore it only needs to be attached when in use. 

It's also possible to find a mount that can be attached to the rod holder mounts or the gear tracks on kayaks. Some downriggers can also be mounted directly onto your boat as they feature mounting hardware.

The Use

How you intend to fish, including the environment that you are likely to fish in, is an important consideration because different downriggers are suited to different settings. For example, some will be better suited to fishing in lakes whilst others will be most suited for fishing in the ocean.

The benefits of using a downrigger

A downrigger can allow you to reach deeper areas of water by setting the depth of your lure. Your bait isn't going to hit the bottom unless you want it too as a downrigger maintains its depth as you troll. 

Downriggers allow you to catch fish regardless of the time of year as they are also useful during the offseason when the fish are more likely to head into deeper waters.

If you plan on fishing in the ocean, a downrigger helps to keep your bait where you want it, preventing it from being dragged with the current.

The drawbacks of using a downrigger

Although manual downriggers are more affordable, electric ones tend to be more expensive. It is worth considering where and how often you are likely to use your downrigger to evaluate whether it is worth investing in an electric one. 

Additional gear such as a fish finder is most likely going to be needed to give you an idea of the depth of the water, and the depth of water that the fish are going to be found in. 

A downrigger without an automatic clutch system that lets out the line is likely to result in the line snapping. This is because it may get caught on things along the bottom of the ocean or lake. 

The recommended ways to use a downrigger

Trolling from either a boat, kayak or canoe is one of the most effective ways to use a downrigger. A fish finder is an essential tool as this will help you to locate the fish whilst informing you of the correct depth to set your downrigger. 

You can let out your line once your hook is baited and you know the required depth. You will need plenty of line to ensure that it is going to reach beyond your vessel and also to the depth of water that you need to hit. 

To lower your downrigger to the desired depth, you can attach your line to the clip that then links to your weighted downrigger line. Ensure that the spool of your fishing line can be reeled until it reaches the correct depth. 

Reel in your fishing line so that there isn't any slack once you have hit the depth. This will enable you to witness a fish taking the bait. You can then reel in your fish by unclipping the line from the downrigger. 

Final thoughts

A downrigger allows you to set and maintain your bait to a specific depth, helping you to catch more fish in deep water. It is particularly useful if you are trolling; a method of fishing that uses one or more fishing lines. 

Many different types of downriggers available are ideal for small boats and kayaks in particular. You can choose from an electric or manual downrigger and this ultimately depends on your preference and the environment that you are going to be fishing in. Before making your purchase consider where you are most likely to fish and the types of fish that you are planning to catch. 

For occasional lake fishing, a manual downrigger is an ideal choice because as an occasional fisher, you aren't likely to be using it a lot. Therefore it isn’t going to consume lots of your energy. 

If you are likely to be fishing in the sea frequently an electric downrigger may be a preferred choice. This is because it takes a lot of the hassle out of fishing as the work can be done simply by pushing the button so you aren’t going to use a lot of energy.

The type of downrigger that you choose is also going to be determined by the way it mounts onto your vessel. Different types of downriggers are likely to be suitable for different types and sized boats. For example, some that we have mentioned are suitable for small boats and kayaks whereas others are suitable for slightly larger boats. This is an important factor to consider before choosing and purchasing your downrigger. 

Some of the downriggers that we have reviewed above come with rod holders which are super convenient and help to make your task much easier. However, others do not include rod holders so you may find this a little inconvenient and this is worth considering before investing in your downrigger. 

Ensure that you choose the downrigger that is the right fit for your fishing needs and your vessel too.

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