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Downrigger Review Choose Fresh or Saltwater – They’re all fun.

Downrigger Review Choose Fresh or Saltwater – They’re all fun.

This guy needs a lot of things…. a bigger boat, a plan, a lifejacket and a downrigger just to name a few.  We all have our favorite fishing equipment brands.  Usually, they become our favorites by trial and error.  It’s helpful when someone tells us about a great product or when we read about something new.  Then all we have to do is give it a try.  This is no less true for something as common as downriggers.

Downrigger Review

This guy could have used a down rigger.

Cannon Downriggers

The biggest name in downriggers is Canon.  They make equipment for every size boat and every level of fishing experience.  The electric downriggers require an additional element of expertise. All the Cannon downriggers are rated for salt-water.

Cannon Mini Troll Downrigger

A manual downrigger is easy to use.

This is perhaps the smallest of the downriggers easily attached to the gunwale of a small boat.  It holds up to 150 of light steel line.  The clamp expands to 2 1/2 inches.  The reel is horizontal.

The mini-troll is exactly what the guy in the video needed for his canoe.


Pros  ………Inexpensive……….Lightweight…….Sturdy …….. goo for small canoes…..Easy to install

Cons……….Not useful on larger boats………Not useful in deep water

If you are looking for a rig for your canoe or small boat, the Mini-Troller may be perfect for you.  There are other manual downriggers offered by Canon.

Cannon Downrigger Kit

This downrigger kit contains everything you need.

The next step up in the manual downrigger series is the Uni-Troll.  This rig can be bought separately or in a kit.  The mount is easy but permanent.  In this model, there is a rod holder.  The kit comes with what is shown.  Although the 3 items are not particularly expensive in themselves, it is nice to purchase the bunch knowing that they will all work together.  The knock-off is pretty universal, but with the kit, you will have one.


Pro………Everything included but your bait ………Inexpensive………Sturdy

Cons ….. There aren’t any cons if you want a manual downrigger and related tackle.

Cannon Magnum Electric Series 

The electric downrigger adds accuracy.

Canon has a series of electric downriggers that vary in size and price.  This model is the least expensive of the magnum series.  This has a built in rod holder and all electric release and retrieve.  It has a permanent mount base.  It is as easy to hook into your boats electrical system as your fish finder. The Magnum series has models that provide for two rod holders.


Pros……Easy to use……..Easy to install…….Sturdy……..Large capacity reel….. electric

Cons……..Installation is permanent…….Higher cost…….Difficult to use manual override

This entire series is durable and easy to use.  I am, as they say, old school.  With the exception of my fish finder, I don’t use too many electronics because they become oversized sinkers with any loss of power.

Scotty Downriggers

Scotty offers an entire series of downriggers.  There is a model for almost every fishing application.  Generally, these units are lighter yet a bit more cumbersome to use than the Cannon models.  Durability may be a weakness.


This is a basic manual downrigger.

This lightweight downrigger clamps easily to the gunwale of a small boat.   There is no rod holder so a second piece of equipment would need to be added for the rod unless it is being held.  The horizonal reel can make retrieval a bit awkward, but the action is smooth with a manual drag system.  The rod length is adequate to keep bait off a small boat but will not work on a larger craft.


Pros….. inexpensive….. removable…. fully manual.

Cons……fully manual…. awkward reeling position…. very lightweight

This is certainly an adequate rig for a light boat or canoe used from time to time for a bit of trolling relaxation.

Depth King 

This downrigger has a rod holder.

The Depth King is an upgraded model of the Scotty Lake Troller featuring a rod holder and a permanent mounting system.  The rod is extendable.  This manual system is good for any sized boat, but the reel capacity is limited.


Pros….. Inexpensive….. sturdy mount….. rod holder….. telescoping rod

Cons……limited reel capacity….. awkward retrieval system

This manual upgrade is a good buy for the “sometimes”.  It is easily attached to any boat.  The rod holder means just one piece of equipment.  It also means less movement for a strike.

High Performance Electric


This is a top of the line downrigger.This Scotty electric model is the top of the line in this series.  It boats a dual rod holder, fully electronic function, a sturdy permanent mount plate, a swivel base, heavy telescoping rod, and digital readouts.

Pros….. sturdy….. swivel base…. dual holder… digital

Cons…. no really any cons if this is the rig chosen

There are several models of electric downrigger presented by Scotty.  All of them are durable and user friendly.

Other Downriggers

There are a number of equipment options that are less known but capable of making a day on the water wonderful.

Brocraft Minnie

A downrigger cant be more simple than this.

This little fellow is compact and light weight with a durable mounting plate.  The rod does not extend.  The manual reel and drag site level.  Of the series we have seen, this is the least expensive model.  It would be fun for anyone fishing in shallow water, from a small boat.

Seahorse Minnie

The gimbal design puts this downrigger in a class alone.

Seahorse offers a full line of downriggers with this being the smallest.   The Minne has a side mounted reel, non-telescoping rod and a fairly great mounting system.  However, all Seahorse downriggers feature a gimbal base.  They move related to the need rod position and retrieve as well as to the angle of the gunwale.  This is an added feature make turning while trolling very easy.  The Seahorse Line of downriggers is the most expensive of all related models because all models have a gimbal base.



There are many downriggers on the market.  Cannon and Scotty are the best quality for a reasonable price.  You should know you boat, your catch and the water you are fishing as you decide with downrigger will be best for you.

Bilge Plugs Can Cause a Disaster So Install Them Properly

Bilge Plugs Can Cause a Disaster So Install Them Properly

Its true.  Bilge plugs can cause disaster.  More accurately, forgetting to install bilge plugs can cause disaster.  Friends of mine have sunk boats large and small by forgetting the bilge plug.  I have been running boats for 60 years.  Last week, I forgot the bilge plug.

Bilge Plugs Can Cause a Disaster

The Idea

My brother-in-law and I decided to spend a day on the water looking for bass.  We chose Lake calm bay ready for a boat with a bilge plugNacimiento in San Luis Obispo County in California for the excursion.  Boots towed the boat behind his truck.  I navigated.  We picked a weekday because weekenders and folks with kids weren’t likely to be on the lake.  As it turned out, we had the lake to ourselves.  That didn’t mean that the day on the lake would be easy.

The Trip

So early in the morning, at least for my brother-in-law, we started to the lake.  The first stop was to pick up the boat.  Halfway to the storage yard, I realized that I forgot the pin for the folding tongue no breakfast no bilge plugon the boat trailer.  So, we retraced our steps.  Once the boat was hitched, we decided to get breakfast.  Actually, it was really more like brunch.  At any rate, we drove around a popular restaurant  that never closes.  We circled a few times to find a spot big enough for truck and trailer.  Eventually, we parked and walked to the restaurant.  We had not noticed the closed sign as we circled the place.  No breakfast/brunch.  So back to the truck and back on the road.

The Inspection

The closed “always open” restaurant predictioned of the kind of day we were going to have.  After a nice, 90 minute ride through foothill, backroads we arrived at the lake anticipating launching at a gated community launch ramp where I happen to own property.  There were two gates.  We chose the wrong one.  So, we had to wind through the whole community to the other gate.  At the second gate, we were told that we would have to have a “zebra mussel inspection” before we could launch.  I knew this so I had everything in order for the inspection.  Being a cautious person, I carry a photo copy of my boat registration in case it gets wet.  The inspection station would not accept the photo copy.  Discouraged and not a little frustrated, I went to a back to the boat to check a bag I had thrown.  Thankfully, there was the original insurance!

I went back to the guard shack and was told that because I was not living in the community I could not launch my boat.  After some tense conversation, I found out that I could pay a launch fee on top of gate house inspection forgot to check the bilge plugthe zebra mussel inspection fee.  So, I gladly said I would pay the fee.  But ….. I emphasize but…. we could only pay with cash.   Yes, its true, between us we were $10 short on the total of the two fees.  But…. again I emphasize but… we  were told that there was an ATM at the first check point.  We got back in the truck, hauling the boat, and wound around to the first check point.  We found the ATM, got cash, and wound around back to the other check point.  Because we were zebra mussel free, we paid the fees and headed for the launch ramp.

The Launch

Boots is a skilled driver so the launch went smoothly.  Once off the trailer, I tied the boat to the dock and waited as he parked the truck and trailer and walked back to the dock.  The day was beautiful. Boots We were free of zebra mussels. And although we hadn’t eaten yet, the boat was in the water.  I started the motor.  When Boots arrived, we pushed off.  It took about 15 minutes to leave the dock once the boat was in the water.  We had food for a late brunch, fishing tackle, cold drinks.  We were off for a day of fishing.  Closed restaurants, zebra mussel inspections and trips to the ATM didn’t matter anymore.  We were on the water.

boat at the dock with no bilge plugClose to shore, moorings or docks, speed is usually restricted.  So, we moved out to the open lake at 5 mph.  Even at that speed, the boat seemed odd – it handled, well, like a boat.  At we accelerated to cruising speed, it dawned on me. I had forgotten, in all the confusion at the registration office, to put in the bilge plug.  The boat had been filling with water since coming off the trailer.  I turned around giving more throttle and headed back to the dock.  Fortunately, no more water could come in while the boat was in motion.  Narrowly missing a few recently launched boats, I installed the bilge plug while Boots retrieved the trailer.  We pulled the boat onto the trailer, took out the recently installed bilge plug, drained the water, relaunched the boat and, once again, headed out across the calm lake.  Oh yeah, we reinstalled the bilge plug before we relaunched the boat.

The Day

Once on the lake, we had a fantastic day.  I won’t mention the bilge pump that wouldn’t work.  Eventually, the trim control began working smoothly so the motor didn’t rise too far and cavitate.   I certainly don’t think anyone needs to know about the 45 minutes it took to get a fishing license at the local marina because the computer was slow.  Because the lake was like glass, we were able to get the boat up to 48 mph.  We cruised from the dam at one end of the lake through the narrows at the other end.  We trolled for several hours.  Boots got one massive hit, but his line broke.  Most likely, it broke for one of two reasons.  Either the fish was pretty big or the line was almost as old as us.  I prefer the latter explanation.  Realizing we hadn’t eaten, we pulled onto the shore on a beach in a narrow part of the lake.  We made ham and turkey sandwiches with chips and cold drinks.  Some visitors came down to the lake to drink.  Boots shared part of his sandwich with them.


The Moral

All my life, I have checked everything from gas to life preservers before heading out in a boat.  Except this time.  A tiny, forgotten bilge plug almost sank my boat and wrecked our day.  Next time, we’ll have breakfast before we leave.  We’ll carry cash.  I will install the bilge plug before hitching the trailer to the truck.  We can’t wait for another day on the lake with friends dropping by for lunch.

Always remember,  in life, never launch until you check your bilge plug.



Fishermen, Frustration, Shrinking Lakes

Fishermen, Frustration, Shrinking Lakes

Where’s the water?

Frustrated fishermen keep asking, ” Where’s the water?”  It’s a legitimate question.  Despite a lot of  rain last winter, central California is still suffering through low water levels.

This is my dock on a large lake in Central California.  The closest water is almost 3/4 mile from where this picture was taken.  The “full” level is the light brown line just below the trees.


fishermen frustrated on lake nacimiento

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The Best Fishing Lure

The Best Fishing Lure

The Best Lure Ever – In My Opinion

I have been fishing since I could walk.  At some point, I talked my Dad into buying me a fishing package advertised on a comic book…. 6 ft. rod, open-face spinning reel, plastic tackle box, stringer, bobber, a package of hooks and a plastic weight for casting.  I practiced casting in the yard for hours.  I decided I needed a lure to cast so I went to the local bait shop.  A wooden floating Rapala caught my eye.  Its still the best lure I have ever used.

Best lurerapala is the best lure


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Winterizing Boats

Winterizing Boats

Your boat is your most expensive piece of fishing equipment.  At the end of every fishing season, winterizing boats is important.  Proper winterization makes spring launching easier and  saves your boat from damage while sitting.

Winterizing Boats

Storing the Boat

for Wintering Boats
Sun Joe 14.5 amp Electric Pressure Washer

Your boat should be thoroughly cleaned, inside and out, before being stored for the winter.  This is particularly important if it sat in the water all summer.  In fresh water, algae can grow on the hull.  Floating dirt gets caught in the algae.   If not cleaned, the hull will eventually stain.  Salt water can eat away metal fixtures and damage unprotected fiberglass and wood.

The boat has is covered with beer and food.  There are mud and sand deposits everywhere.  Often water saturates floor boards or carpet.   Food and beer can stain the floor and upholstery.  Moisture can cause mildew.

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State Parks, County Parks – Family Fishing Fun

State Parks, County Parks – Family Fishing Fun

State parks can provide great fishing.  We think of county and state parks as great places to hike, camp, picnic and play.  When there is a lake, there is so much more to do.  Type “state parks” or “county parks” into your browser.  You will probably find a list of parks, in your state, that offer fishing and boating.  These parks are accessible and inexpensive.  They can be a vacation destination out of state or a great day trip.  Fishing lodges and guided trips are great, but not a possibility for everyone.  Not everybody can get to an isolated lake or stream to fish.  Accessible fishing in parks can be fun for the family or someone who wants to get away for a few hours of fishing.

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Fishing Spots – Hard Walking, Better Fishing

Fishing Spots – Hard Walking, Better Fishing

Every fisherman wants to find hidden fishing spots with untouched water.  Anglers ask, “Is there a good fishing spot near me?”  It might be a rock sheltering fish in a creek.  A drop off near the shore of a lake may attract feeding fish.   A spring fed pond off the beaten trail attracts few people.   A boat makes it easy to find an isolated spot on a lake or river. On board electronics make it even easier.   On land, with so many people fishing, hidden fishing spots can be hard to find, but offer more fish.



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Stream Fishing – Challenging, Exciting, Peaceful

Stream Fishing – Challenging, Exciting, Peaceful

I love stream fishing in the spring.  Its too late fish spoons as water levels drops.  Its too early to have a lot of success with dry flies because of debris on the water.  But, choosing the right bait is pretty easy this time of year.  Almost anything will work.  There’s water in every stream.  The fun and challenge of stream fishing is reading the water and knowing where to find the fish.

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Boat Cover – Long Term Protection, Beware

Boat Cover – Long Term Protection, Beware

How do you store your boat?  Years ago, our porch became a boat house.  You may store your boat in a garage or undercover at a storage facility.  Over the last few years, I have stored my boat, in my yard, under a good boat cover.

Why a Boat Cover?

There are good reasons to store a boat, long term, under a boat cover.

  • Boat Covers are cheap compared to Storage.
  • Covered boats are easily stored in a yard and kept safe.
  • The cover can be removed quickly and applied all season long.
  • A cover can be opened to get something out of the boat.
  • One person can put on the cover.
  • The cover can stay on when the boat is moved.

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Fast Water Fishing- Spring Runoff Action

Fast Water Fishing- Spring Runoff Action

We’ve waited all winter for the chance to get into that stream or stand along the bank of that river.  Its time, but fast water from spring runoff can make things challenging and dangerous.

fast water fishing

Fast Water Means Safety First

We should think about safety when we think of the fun of fishing in spring runoff.  Ultimately, we want to be around to fish the rest of the year.

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Power Ice Augers – Effective, Heavy, Expensive

Power Ice Augers – Effective, Heavy, Expensive

If you are ice fishing, you need  a hole in the ice.  Most people use power ice augers.  What are the advantages to a power auger?  Are there any disadvantages?  Need more time to ice fish – start an online business for free.

Power Ice Augers – Effective?

Of course, power augers are effective.  They cut through the ice in seconds.  But there are things to keep in mind.

  • They are heavy. A snow machine, hand sled or several trips with equipment is needed.

    power ice augers
    Eskimo Stingray S33 8 inch $349.99 You Save: $45.74 (13% ) $304.25

  • They are noisy.  But, only while running.
  • They are finicky.  Test start your auger before you leave home.
  • They can pollute.  Make sure the gas cap is tight.  Use the right oil mixture.
  • They are dangerous.  Wrists can snap.  Clothing can get caught. Feet can get augered.
  • They are expensive.

The speed and ease of a power ice auger more than makes up for these issues.

There are a number of models of power augers ranging in price from $250  to over $1200.

Price is determined by cubic inch of the engine.  This determines the ease of drilling.  The size of the auger is also a factor in price.  Blades run from 6″ in diameter to 10″.  The larger the blade the bigger the hole.  Larger blades are more difficult to control.  An extension can be purchased for power ice augers.

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Ice Fishing Tip Ups – Ice Fishing Rods

Ice Fishing Tip Ups – Ice Fishing Rods

If you haven’t tried ice fishing, you don’t know what you are missing.  You can sit in a shack.  You can run between fishing holes.  Watching ice fishing tip ups or jigging with a rod, its just fun.

Inside or Outside

In a Shack

Ice fishing tip ups and rods are used in a fishing shack.  If a tip up is used, its generally set as a second line while a rod is used a few few feet away.

Rods makes more sense in a shack.  You don’t have to go very far to tend a line.

Know you ice fishing regulations.  Ontario, Canada allows two ice fishing lines per person. But, they must be 60 feet apart. This makes multiple lines in a fishing shack impossible.

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Catch, Release Policy- Maintaining Fish Stocks

Catch, Release Policy- Maintaining Fish Stocks

Fisheries have a catch and release policy to maintain fish stocks.

Keep Fish Jumping!!


Catch and Release

Policy Rationale

Catch and release helps the natural fish population continue to breed.  Healthy fish populations are important for lots of reasons.  They provide fun for  fisherman.  They are part of the local eco system.  They are a food for other animals.   Fisherman release fish to maintain the local population.

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Best Beginner Child’s Rod – Styles Available

Best Beginner Child’s Rod – Styles Available

 Kids can fish as soon as they can hold a rod.  Size is most important when choosing the best beginner rod for a child.

Best Beginner Rod Size

Holding the rod is the first step to fishing.  Watching me, my kids wanted to hold a rod although they didn’t really know why.   They were holding a rod long before they could cast.  I would cast and give them the rod.

A rod between 2 and 3 feet long seems the best size.  Its the right length to  handle easily.  Its long enough to play a fish.

child-fishing with beginner rod

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Lure Assortments- Fishing Fun

Lure Assortments- Fishing Fun

Fishermen love fishing tackle for a Christmas.  Single lures are great, but lure assortments are exciting.

Lure Assortment Value

The larger lure assortment the lower quality the lures.

Quality affects:

  • Action – the way the lure moves in the water.
  • Delivery – ease of casting
  • Durability – how long the lure lasts with normal use
  • Strike Success – how easily fish can take the lure

lure assortment

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Telescoping Rod – Under Appreciated – Under Used

Telescoping Rod – Under Appreciated – Under Used


Some fishing purists laugh at the idea of a telescoping rod.  I think they are practical, easy to carry and durable.  You can choose the rod flex as with any rod.

Telescoping Rod – Have One?

For the Beginner

My daughter gave me a telescoping rod many years ago.  They’re for beginners.  Right?  That’s not me.  Do you have one?

Carry-on luggage changed my mind.  I just won’t pay $25 for an airline to ship my rod.   The reel fits in the carry-on and, now, so does my rod at no charge.

Telescoping rods are for the beginner and for the practical.

           Rods for all Occasions

Retailer selling fishing equipment carry telescoping rods for all types of fishing.  Of course, extended length will dictate collapsed length.


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Fishing Equipment – Practical – Expensive?

Fishing Equipment – Practical – Expensive?

So you want to buy fishing equipment?

fishing equipment

Fishing Equipment

 Expensive or Practical

Should you buy an expensive lure or a package of lures for the same price? Should you by a high end rod or a rod and reel combo for the same price?

Familiar or Novel

Should you buy something that is familiar …. a replacement reel, for example or something novel?

Will the novel item be used?  Will a familiar item be boring?

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