Do You Know Where Your Stuff Is Running?

As the title implies, to be an effective Lake Ontario troller knowing at what depth your applications are running in the water column is paramount to success. In previous articles we talked about the importance of running your baits in temperature and/or the thermocline. So how do we do this?

One of the sure ways to tell how your stuff is running on your boat at your trolling speed will require a bit of effort on your part but will be well worth the effort in the long run. What we did on our charter boat was to get into a known depth of water as verified by our fishfinder and follow that contour line as we trolled. We then make sure that our speed is right for the application we are running. Next comes the tricky part! We have one man stand right there on the downrigger and let it out till it bounces bottom and then bring it back up a few feet. The trick is to do this a few times until you see on your line counter how much cable you have to let out to find bottom. We do this for each rigger on the boat because all riggers are not created equal. We have had the same make and model downriggers not match. We found that each rigger can have its own personality. We then built a chart for the different depths of water and the different riggers. We even have sets of numbers for power pro riggers as well as cable riggers. As one might suspect, the more cable that is let out for deeper water, the more blowback there is increasing the disparity.

When we fish in less than 130ft of water or so and the fish are hugging bottom, another trick to employ is to fish it from the “bottom up”. Let the rigger out till it bounces bottom and then bring it up to the desired depth that you want to target. This is also a good time to learn how each of your riggers run, verify your findings, and record it.

Dipsey Divers can be checked in the same manner as the downriggers by getting into a known depth of water and bouncing bottom with them. I can guarantee you that you will be surprised at your findings. There are variations from makes of reel to reel and from dipsey to dipsey. There are also variations between reels of the same make and model! One cause can be just because of unequal line amounts on each reel.

We have also run the same tests with our copper applications to check them as well. I can tell you that they do not always run at a sink rate of 22ft/100ft. There are variations in the uniformity of copper line as well as accurately measuring the length of each segment. We have used archery rangefinders with some success to measure the lengths.

There is also another way to use your fishfinder to tell where your downriggers are actually running but it takes a little calibration. If you set up the frequency on your graph to 50 Hz (wider angle lower frequency), you should be able to see your rigger weights on the graph. They most likely are not actually going to be at the depth in the water column where they are showing on your graph. Transducer placement and cable blowback are going to have an effect. The cone angle coming from your transducer is going to ping off of the farthest edge of the cone where it hits the bottom and reflects back. It’s very similar to the hypotenuse of a right triangle. This is where it pays to know how much cable you needed to let out to run at 100ft down in the column. If you know this a head of time you can now look and see where it actually shows up on your graph while you are trolling. I’m willing to bet that on most of your boats it’s going to indicate that it’s running deeper than what it actually is. Think about it. If I have to let out a 120ft of cable to get down to 100ft in the column, the transducer is going to see the rigger ball that far (120ft) away. Add to that any forward placement of a through hull transducer and you can even add a few more feet. On my charter boat the rigger weights typically show 9ft deeper than what they are “actually” running in the water column when running power pro. Here’s something to try on a slow day or if you are curious. It can help explain this in real time! Get in a hundred feet of water and remain stationary. Next let your downrigger weight down slowly and watch it descend on your fishfinder. You will see the rigger weight disappear on the bottom of the graph but it will still have about five more feet to go before you feel it thunk the bottom. This is because the hypotenuse of the cone angle is pinging off the bottom deeper than 100ft directly below the bottom. It’s pinging a 105ft away from the transducer (the hypotenuse). With a forward mounted transducer it can be even more.

Being dialed in on the fish can sometimes separate the men from the boys. Knowing exactly on your boat where all your stuff is running for all of your applications can help get you there. The best way to find out how your stuff is running is to get out there and build yourself a custom list on the way things work on your boat.

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