Fish On!

How to select and install outrigger equipment.

Outriggers are used to increase the width of the trolling spread of bait and lures. When considering what type of outriggers and poles to purchase, the biggest factors are price, convenience and presentation of the bait. Options generally include either aluminum or carbon fiber poles, and simple gunnel-mounted outriggers or convenient T-top mounts.

Gunnel-mounted outriggers are the simplest and least expensive outrigger option. They can be set in a variety of positions—straight up for running, angled out for trolling and straight back for navigating under bridges. They are also the easiest to install since only an angled hole, saw and a drill are required for installation. A pair of gunnel-mounted outriggers ranges from less than $400 up to $700 depending on the features. Simplicity, however, is not always the best option. Captain Mark Henderson of the Liquid Fire Fishing Team advises, “A disadvantage of gunnel-mounted outriggers is [that] there is more line in the water because the angle from the release clip where the line is held is lower. Therefore, to let a lure or bait out the same distance as an outrigger from the T-top, there will be more monofilament in the water, which increases drag pressure and diminishes the action of the lure.” The most popular option for center console boats is top-mounted outriggers. Their position from above the top provides both a cleaner presentation of the bait and complete fish-fighting ability around the boat with no obstructions from a gunnel outrigger. If your boat does not already have outriggers installed or is not equipped with outrigger mounting plates, aftermarket mounting plates can be added for about $300 a pair.

There are two types of top-mounted outriggers. The first are top-mount models that require someone to climb up on the gunnel to raise or lower the poles. These types of mounts start around $600 for a pair or come complete with poles and a rigging kit for about $1,300. The second type of mounted outrigger is much safer and very convenient and allows a fisherman to change the direction and angle of the outrigger by using an elevation crank under the top. This provides a much safer way to change angles and lower poles when in rough seas. These outriggers may require mounting plates or wedges that don’t come in the box, and prices range from about $1,300 up to $2,500 for a pair of mounts. The great benefit is that you can install these yourself.

Outrigger pole options are not as readily available as the mounts—your choices involve length and material (aluminum or carbon fiber). For most boat owners aluminum poles cover their needs. For vessels under 30 feet, a pole length of 15 feet eliminates the additional weight and length of 18-foot poles, as there is less “bouncing” of the poles when extended while running offshore. This means less stress is placed on the T-top and bases. Boats 30 feet and larger tend to have a softer ride, which allows the vessels to easily handle the additional length and weight of the 18-foot poles. “The added length of the 18-foot poles provides the opportunity to add an additional line on each side and also increases the width of the trolling spread by 6 feet. This increases the surface area to make a wider and fuller bait presentation,” says Henderson.

Aluminum outrigger poles are far less expensive than carbon fiber poles, however, they are much heavier. Because aluminum is more flexible it may not allow the bait, lures or dredges to swim as true through the water. Also, aluminum poles do not hold as well under heavy loads when trolling large lures or pulling heavy dredges, especially in rough seas.

Carbon fiber poles are rising in popularity. These poles are much lighter, create less stress on the outrigger mounts and allow easy maneuvering when swinging them out to their fishing and running positions. Carbon fiber poles are also stiffer and create less whipping movement, which allows the bait to run truer for a natural display under water. That said, carbon fiber poles are at least four to five times more expensive than aluminum outrigger poles. They can also be more sensitive to nicks and scratches—a major dent or scratch can weaken the strength of the pole, and the repairs can be more costly than those on aluminum poles.

Whether you select gunnel or T-top mounts, aluminum or carbon fiber poles, there are many affordable choices that will fit your budget and increase your sport fishing fun.

Southern Boating, July 2015, By Jose Chao