When it comes to deep water fishing, you’ll have a hard time beating a good electric downrigger. Electric downriggers are perfect when you need to get your lure down deep – and keep it there. The rapid retrieve makes them great for trolling below 75 feet, as well as for solo fishing.
These powered units allow for effortless retrieval, have rapid retrieval rates, and pack all kinds of useful features like automatic retrieval, waterline zeroing, and depth cycling. Also, unlike hand-crank operated manual downriggers, powered units won’t turn your forearms into jelly after a few retrievals!
While they used to be prohibitively expensive for most recreational anglers, advances in manufacturing have made them an increasingly affordable option – especially when you consider their advantages over manual units.
If you’re considering an electric downrigger, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting a quality piece of equipment that will last for many years. I’ll break down some of the best electric downriggers available now, and how to pick the ideal one for your boat.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Electric Downriggers
Why go with an electric downrigger?
While both electric and manual downriggers certainly have their place, there are a number of advantages powered downriggers possess over their hand-cranked counterparts.
Electric downriggers are typically wired to your boat’s 12V power supply, giving them plenty of power and speed for weight retrieval. With retrieval speeds of 250 feet-per-minute and up, you’ll be able to reel in your downrigger line and weight far faster than by hand cranking.
Rapid retrieval speeds also mean you’ll be able to get your lure back in the water far quicker, and will reduce the odds of tangling up your lines.
Possibly the biggest advantage of powered downriggers is their ease of operation. Unless you’ve got forearms like Popeye, working a manual downrigger can get tiring quick! With an electric model, all you’ve got to do is press a button and your downrigger line will start reeling itself in.
Electric units are also much easier to use when fishing solo. Rather than having to worry about reeling in both the downrigger line and your fish, you’ll be able to focus on the fish while the downrigger takes care of itself. Many units are also equipped with an auto-stop feature, so they’ll stop reeling once your weight reaches the waterline.
If you’re trolling deeper than 75 feet, then an electric downrigger is pretty much a must-have. Hand-cranking a 10-pound downrigger weight up from 100 feet deep is no one’s idea of a good time, so if you’re planning to troll deep on a regular basis, go with an electric model.
Downrigger manufacturers are constantly innovating, and have come up with a number of extra features that can make your experience that much easier.
Depth cycling allows you to automatically cycle your tackle between two pre-set depths. This mimics the behavior of fish swimming and can help attract more bites.
Waterline zeroing simply stops the retrieval automatically when the downrigger reaches the waterline. This will prevent accidental impacts between the ball and your boat. It also means you don’t need to
Bottom tracking allows you to set your lure at a preset depth above the bottom. This will help prevent snags and keep your tackle where the fish are at.
Digital control screens allow you to control the entire downrigger operation with ease, pre-program depth settings and adjust the ascent and descent speeds. Some models can also be integrated using a transducer or probe with your other electronics like fish finders, and mobile devices.
Top 5 Electric Downriggers – Reviews
When it comes to electric downriggers, canon has been refining their game for years, and this cutting edge downrigger is the final result.
It features a lightning-fast 250 feet per minute retrieval rate, and a push-button ‘auto-up’ function that retrieves your line with the touch of a button. When retrieving your line, the downrigger will stop automatically at the waterline – preventing bouncing, and stopping weights from colliding with the boom end or your hull. The clutch system is ultra-smooth, allowing you to slow down the retrieve or drop speed.
A telescopic stainless-steel boom extends the arm from 24” out to 53” – making it ideal for a wide variety of craft. The low-profile, swiveling base easily pivots from side to side and allows to you to turn the entire unit inwards when you’re not using it. With a 20-pound weight capacity, you’ll be able to deep troll while minimizing any blowback.
A three-digit counter gives you a clear reading on your weight’s depth. As with other downriggers, an adjustable rear mount rod holder comes included. When you need to change the downrigger line or fix a snag, the side plate easily pops off with a few turns of a screwdriver.
Lastly, the unit is equipped with cannon’s positive ion control. This feature neutralizes the negative energy field created by your boat’s electronics, which can repel away fish. Whether or not this makes a major difference is up for debate, but it’s nice to have nonetheless.
- Arm Length: 24” to 53” Telescopic
- Mount: Fixed/Swivel
- 250 ft. per minute retrieval speed.
- One-touch auto up feature.
- Weight stops automatically at the waterline.
- Pre-spooled with 250 feet of 150lb. stainless steel cable.
Scotty’s high-performance offering is not only one of the best downriggers in the world; it’s also a thing of beauty. With a shockingly quick 295 ft. per minute pulling speed for a 15-pound weight, or 260 ft. per minute for a 20 pounder, you’ll have nearly unbeatable pulling power.
A battery-powered fully illuminated digital counter displays the depth; while a clutch brake with the largest braking surface in the industry provides you with total control over the rate of retrieval. The telescopic boom extends from 36” out to 60” long, and unlike the competition, it also tilts upward so you can lock it in an upright position when not in use.
Mounting is done with Scotty’s excellent no. 1026 swivel pedestal mount, which offers you 16 different locking positions. It comes pre-spooled with 300 feet of 180 lb. test stainless steel wire, and a fully adjustable stainless steel rocket launcher style rod holder.
One minor issue is that the auto-stop function requires you to use Scotty’s #1008 auto stop beads to stop the weight at a preset position. This works well when set up, but it’s not quite as convenient as the competitor’s waterline auto-stop.
- Arm Length: 36” to 60” Telescopic
- Mount: Fixed/Swivel
- Best in class retrieval speeds.
- Tilt-up boom arm.
- Multi-position auto up (requires stopper beads).
Best High End Downrigger
If you’re looking for the cream of the crop electronic downrigger, then look no further – you’ve found it. It’s absolutely packed with cutting edge features, turning your downrigger from a simple electric weight retriever to a fully integrated fishing system.
Controlling the unit is done with the full color 3.5” LCD screen with both day and night modes – which allows you to change presets, raise and lower the weight, and adjust the positive ion control. You can also wireless integrate up to 4 optimum downriggers, and control everything from your cannon app or hummingbird fishfinder.
The unit can store up to 5 pre-set depths and will remember the depth of your last catch. You can cycle the depth of your weight between preset settings, and it also features a bottom tracking system – so your weight stays a fixed distance above the bottom. You’ll need to pick up an optional cannon transducer to use this function.
Dual-axis rod holders can store two rods and a 400 foot spool of 150 lb. test stainless steel cable comes included. Like other cannon models, it also features a waterline zeroing function – protecting your boom arm and hull from swinging weights.
The stainless steel boom arm extends from 24” out to 53” – making it ideal for a wide variety of craft. Like the cannon models, it also features a low-profile 360° swivel base, a zippy 250’ per minute retrieval rate, positive ion control, one-touch auto-up, and an easily accessible side plate.
- Arm Length: 24” to 53” Telescopic
- Mount: Fixed/Swivel
- Wireless integration and control.
- Depth cycling for realistic lure behavior.
- Bottom tracking system (requires transducer).
- Cycle between preset depths and retrieve speeds.
- One-touch auto up and waterline zeroing.
If you’re looking for a well-made, functional electronic downrigger without spending an arm and a leg, the Cannon Mag 5 ST is the perfect choice. It features a 24” fixed stainless steel boom – making it ideal for most small to medium-sized watercraft.
Like its larger magnum 10 counterpart, it features a one-touch auto-up which stops automatically at the waterline. A three-digit line counter makes your weight’s depth easy to spot, and with a speedy 250 ft. per minute retrieval speed means your risk of entanglement is minimal.
Unlike many other models, it comes with a fixed non-swiveling mounting base, so if you want your base to rotate you’ll need to purchase the swivel base separately. Cannon also includes positive ion control, a dual-axis adjustable rod holder, and 250 feet of stainless steel cable.
While it might not have all the bells and whistles of more expensive models – if you’re looking for a no-frills electric downrigger you’ll have a tough time beating this unit.
- Arm Length: 24”
- Mount: Fixed
- One-touch auto up retrieval.
- Waterline zeroing.
- Ideal for most small to medium-sized watercraft.
- Speedy 250 ft. / minute retrieval rate.
Scotty’s mid-level electric downrigger is no slouch when it comes to performance – and at a similar price point to the other manufacturer’s entry-level models – it’s a good value. The #1101 features a 30-inch boom arm, giving you plenty of room to clear the freeboard on small and medium-sized boats.
It’s mounted with a swivel-mounted base that can be locked in 16 different positions, as well as a tilt-up arm that can be locked in the upright position when you’re not using it. The multi-position auto stop allows you to pre-set your stop position, which you’ll need Scotty’s #1008 stopper beads for.
It produces a bit less pulling power than Scotty’s more expensive models at 235 ft. /min for 7-pound weights and 203 ft./min for 15 pound balls. One outstanding feature of this model is its power consumption. It has the lowest amp draw of any downrigger and draws less than 1/3 of the power of some of the competition.
Included with the downrigger is a boom-mounted adjustable rod holder, 250 ft. of 150 lb. test stainless steel downrigger cable, and a three-digit depth counter.
- Arm Length: 30”
- Mount: Fixed/Swivel
- Tilt-up boom arm.
- One button auto up (requires stopper beads).
- Low amperage power consumption.
- Excellent value.
How to pick the right electric downrigger?
With so many different models, features, designs, and price points, choosing the right electric downrigger for your craft can seem like a confusing task. Let’s break down what you need to know when picking out a downrigger.
Mounting your electric downrigger to your craft will generally require you to drill through the gunnels. Unlike manual downriggers, electric units are usually permanently mounted to your craft, so you’ll want to make sure you find a good mounting location.
Most fixed mounts are built with a swiveling function – enabling you to rotate them inwards when they’re not in use. Some models also let you tilt and lock the boom arm completely vertically, so you don’t need to rotate the entire unit when docking or boating in tight spaces.
Retrieval speeds are generally rated in feet per minute, with 200 to 300 feet per second common to higher-end electric downriggers. Keep in mind that retrieval speeds will vary based on the weight of your downrigger ball. Retrieving a 7-pound weight will draw less power from your downrigger than a 15 pounder – this translates to a faster rate of retrieval for the lighter weight.
Higher-end units will have faster retrieval speeds that cheaper ones – but they’ll also draw more power from your marine batteries. Depending on the size of your boat – you’ll need to consider the benefit of added power vs. the battery requirements.
Most models can pull up to a 20-pound downrigger weight without a problem, so you shouldn’t have any issues with power.
Arm length is an important consideration when picking out a downrigger, and the right length is largely a factor of your boat size and freeboard. You’ll need enough length to prevent a downrigger ball from smacking into the side of your hull, but you don’t want so much as to make handling your tackle difficult.
- Small Boats: Smaller boats, under 15 feet or so, should go with a 24” boom length. This will give you enough clearance to avoid collisions with your hull, and still be easy to handle while sitting down.
- Large Boats: Larger boats, above 15 feet long, should go with a longer arm in the 30” to 50” range. This will give you enough room to clear your boat’s higher freeboard. If you’re running multiple downriggers, then you’ll also need to consider the space between them, so you avoid entanglement during turns.
Some downriggers come with telescopic arms, allowing you to change the arm length on the fly. This feature makes the downrigger more versatile and makes swapping the downrigger between different boats later on more convenient.
Your downrigger’s power consumption is another important consideration. When you’re running other boat electronics like trolling motors and fish finders, adding an electric downrigger can seriously increase the drain on your batteries.
Depending on the exact model’s power consumption, you may need to add an additional battery to your craft to run it. If your craft is on the smaller side, then going with a model with lighter power consumption often makes sense.
As mentioned previously, electric downriggers vary widely in terms of extra features. Features like waterline zeroing and one-touch auto-up are major game-changers, and if you’re used to using a manual downrigger will change your entire experience.
High-end models with bottom tracking and depth cycling offer a totally different experience – and take all the guessing out of downrigger fishing. Whether or not their worth the additional cost is matter of opinion, but if you’re a serious deep trolling angler, they’re definitely worth considering.
How to use an electric downrigger?
While installing and setting up electric downriggers takes a little up-front work, once you’ve got them set up, actual operation is pretty straightforward.
First, put your boat in gear to create a little forward motion – this will reduce tangles. Let out about 10 to 20 feet of line and attach the release clip between the downrigger ball and your fishing line. Now lower the weight down to your desired depth by using the controls on the downrigger.
Once the weight is at your desired depth, take any slack out of your fishing line, place it in the rod holder, and make sure it’s under tension. This will ensure that when a fish takes your lure the release clip will engage and free your line.
When a fish takes your hook, the release clip will break off causing your rod tip will pop up. Now hit the auto-up button on your downrigger, grab your rod and reel in your fish!
Take a look at this brief video for a hands-on look at mounting and using an electric downrigger:
Featured image source.
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.