If your dream is trolling for big game from your small boat, the size of your vessel need not stand in the way, as long as you have the correct setup and use of your small boat fishing outrigger.
For successful fishing with outriggers, your aim is trying to achieve the irresistible illusion of a school of panicked bait. To achieve this, you need a white-water wake and a fishing outrigger.
Basically, your vessel’s engine can produce a variety of mechanical noises that includes an exhaust that’s in water, a prop that spins to create a bubble trail and the sliding hull making splashing on offshore seas.While this is probably the most challenging part of installing the fishing outrigger on your boat, the kit should come with instructions on how to attach the hardware. Bring your boat out to an open area, with enough space to allow your poles to fully extend, and read the user’s manual.
Ultimately, your boat creates a white-water wake, which in turn attracts a variety of bait fish. Your boat does this work for you, but it is of little use without an effective fishing outrigger, specifically setup and used as a small boat outrigger.
The key to a functional trolling pattern consists of a backbone that has properly rigged outriggers since it has the power to keep baits from knotting together. This also can increase the height of the lines so the baits function on the outer surface rather than penetrate and cause problems. Having this backbone setup ensures a steady small boat.
What Are Outriggers
Outriggers help widen the trolling area and accommodate multiple lines, so that a spread of lures can be run behind the boat, creating a larger footprint in the water (school of bait!) that will attract more fish. Also, and not less import, outriggers elevate the lines so the lures can run on the surface, which is particularly important on a smaller boat.
Outriggers are long fiberglass or aluminum poles fitted to each side of a fishing boat and come in rigid or telescopic varieties, ranging between 15 and 35 feet in length. These poles are connected to the boat’s cabin or deck with special mounts that can cater to a variety of boat designs and preferences.
Best Types Of Outriggers For Your Small Boat
Obviously, your outriggers need to pivot, turn or fold for travel, docking and storage. While rigid or fixed outriggers tend to surround large area, they are more annoying to handle and store.
Fixed poles also tend to be heavier and thus disrupt the weight and balance of your small boat. Which is why telescoping poles are recommended for small boat owners. They tend to be lighter, are easily retracted and stowed.
Outrigger poles can be either aluminum or fiberglass/carbon fiber. While aluminum poles are strong and look great, they are more susceptible to corrosion and tend to be higher priced. Lighter fiberglass or carbon fiber outriggers tend to be less rigid but are better suited for small boats and tend to be more economical.
Fishing Outrigger Set-up For Smaller Boats
When outfitting your small boat with outriggers for fishing it is important to take into consideration that you need to make the necessary adjustments to get your riggers and lures to compensate for the loss in height.
The most effective set up ensures the ends of the poles are 4 to 5 meters (30 - 40 degrees from the horizontal) above the water, so your lures get the best action.
It's important to hit this angle for a few reasons:
The lures themselves aren't as variant (they don´t spin as much), thus they are more effective throughout any situation.
There is less of an effect that will scare away fish and seem unnatural in the water.
Lures move more and seem more natural to your potential catch.
To get the most height on your outriggers opt for the longest outriggers, there are several carbon fiber options to choose from that are both light and stiff. Though make sure to choose poles that are no more than 2/3 the length of your boat. Also, consider looking out for bases that offer adjustment of height and rake.
TIP: If you have a T-top, mount your outriggers from it, it will give you an extra 6 feet of height.
Trolling Speed And Lures For Small Boats Using Outriggers
Optimal Trolling Speed is an imaginary number. There is no such thing. Different sized boats and motors, different conditions, all make handing out a knot number impossible. Most experienced trollers know this and rather apply a “test the waters” approach to creating an optimal white-water wake.
Capt. Anthony Mendillo, of Keen M Sport Fishing in Isla Mujeres, Mexico says: “One of the essential methods for maintaining control over velocity is to pay attention to your bait.
You want to slam harder and harder, quicker, and quicker til’ they begin to rotate, then reduce your speed until you are able to really tell that is the best speed for gradual trolling on that trip”.
However, even peak natural bait trolling speed presents a challenge for small boat fishing. The prop wash on a small boat is longer than on big boats. The width of prop-wash to width of boat is just wider, percentage wise, on smaller boats. Your lures and rigging cannot be the same as on big boats, your leader should be lighter and shorter.
Legendary lure-maker and fishing house-hold name Peter Pakula, has been featured in Marlin Magazine, Hooked Up Magazine and Get Game, advices to adjust lures and lines for small boats:
“Personally I don't use wind-on equipment because it limits the lures themselves so I alter the swivel so that everything slides down:
For 6, 8 and 10kg tackle: Leaders are 7', doubles 11' 100 to 150lb
For 15 and24kg tackle: Leaders are 12', doubles 19' 150 to 300lb
For 37 and 60kg tackle: Leaders are 17', doubles 19' 300 to 400lb"
Most lure makers should be able to give you a recommendation based on your boat’s configuration and your outrigger setup.
Installing Outriggers On Your Small Boat
It’s time to install your outriggers! While you can hire someone to do this for you, with a little sound measuring you should be able to do this yourself.
Position The Bases
If You Have A T-Top:
Soft-top: Use Rupp’s Stinger base to avoid drilling in the soft top and metal mounting plate.
Hard top: Use TopGun bases that place the rigger control below the top. Darin Asher, technical service advisor at Rupp Marine, suggests: “Be sure to mount the base where it won’t interfere with the T-top supports or hit people in the head”.
Be sure to take the T-top slope into account. Boats with more than a 10-degree drop should include an angled wedge to keep the riggers level.
If You Don’t Have A T-Top:
Boats that don’t have a T-top can have either gunwale or rod-holder outriggers. Locate each outrigger base on your hardtop at least 2 or 3 feet in front of the most forward gunwale rod holder inside the aft cockpit and 3 to 5 inches inside the edge of the hardtop.
You need to make sure that your bases are symmetrical — on the same place on every side of your boat. Check underneath for possible interference with wires, dome lights or structural supports. Once you completed this step, mark the four mounting holes on the base with your marking pencil.
Then measure and mark it all again, remember the carpenter’s motto ‘Measure twice, cut once’.
Turn every base by turning the knozzle and using the locking lever located on the outside, drill holes and bolt the base.
On solid tops: Use a small five-sixteenth inch bit to drill every hole. Add an extra bead of sealant, then begin bolting your base with the required hardware (washer, bolts, etc.).Your plastic washer placed between the base and the top of an outrigger washer will prevent corrosion.
Cored Tops: Drill every hole with one seven-sixteenth-inch bit. Then you’ll need to insert additional spacer tubes. You’ll also need extra backing plates before you start bolting and bedding the bases.
This is probably the easiest part of installing your outrigger, but make sure the telescoping poles (perfect for small boat outriggers) is completely drawn back.
Begin by inserting your an locking clip in the foundation at the bottom of every pole. Make sure that the sections clip can align in the opening at the bottom end of your outrigger pole. After that, insert the bottom pole portion in base of the outrigger so the section clip of your lock button goes into the opening inside the base.
Rig Your Lines
The outrigger kit should come complete with all the necessary rigging items, such as snap swivels, cords crimps, a carabiner, and a binding chord with a crystal circle.
While this is probably the most challenging part of installing the fishing outrigger on your boat, the kit should come with instructions on how to attach the hardware. Bring your boat out to an open area, with enough space to allow your poles to fully extend, and read the user’s manual.