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I've been trolling for the last four years, but this is my first year with an electric downrigger on the back of my 16' Tracker. I hear a lot about guys letting their cannonball hit bottom and then drag it when laker fishing. Doesn't that make anyone else a little uneasy!? Perhaps its because I'm new to it, but it always makes me nervous when things starts to shallow up and I've got a lot of cable out, let alone to let it hit bottom on purpose. I mostly fish Cayuga, but is this common practice and is it safe? I've only been out 5 times this year, and I haven't had my rigger fire once yet. So, I'm looking to try something different. I'm going to start off running cowbells with Gambler rigs and will either be close to the bottom, or on the bottom depending on what you guys think. Any input is appreciated, as always!

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it is very common... I dont drag bottom but I drop it to the bottom and bring it up 5 feet

 

I have only hung a ball once and it was on about a 20 foot tree... stopped the boat backed up and the rigger pulled the whole tree up

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I recommend you dont try to hit the bottom unless you really know what your doing. Ive had my rigger balls drag either trying to anticipate blowback while fishing clos e and or not realizing how fast the bottom came up. Fortunately I had no issues and think the bottom was sandy but it would scare the hell out of me to hang a rigger ball onnthe bottom. Ive heard of people who had their rigger ripped right off.

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I let my rigger hit bottom all the time on Erie for Walleye. I immediately raise it for a two or three second count. I do this so I can flutter the spoon up all the way from the bottom, through the suspended fish, when I have a good looking screen on my fish finder.

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I am guessing you want to target lake trout when you talk about fishing bottom, and all insults withheld, I offer some other considerations.
First would be your speed. Cayuga doesnt have crazy currents, but they are there. Do you have a ball speed unit such as a fishhawk? I like to see 1.8 mph if I am looking for bigger fish, however smaller eater size i troll 2.3. Ive come to know the summer lake trout as lazy, so you have to give them an easy target.
Second would be the depth you are fishing. Ive been told there are steady amounts of trout around the 85fow mark as of now. In my opinion, there is such a thing as dead water, which is anywhere the hot nasty water is close to the bottom.
Consider the time of day. I like to eat all the time really, but especially breakfast and dinner. Lunch and brunch not so much. I feel its the same for these fish.
Look for marks! Lake trout like to bury right on bottom. Sometimes you have to decern the difference in a wave that makes your boat tilt for a second, and a lazy laker resting on its belly, but as with most fishing, fish the marks. (Dont forget fishing around bait).
Im not sure what you are doing for a set up on your downrigger, but I have a tendency to run my spoon 5-7ft off the ball with no problem, and often 10ft from bottom (unless my boy ran me a ground). A black and purple with a silver or glow back with never fail you along with a chartreuse/glow combination.
I take the time to type this for one, Id like for you to not get discouraged, and Id like to hear back from you (and hopefully a success story), and for 2, I despise dragging in cowbells, I would rather combine the above mentioned considerations with a strip of hotdog.
Best of luck!

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3 minutes ago, redjay05 said:

I am guessing you want to target lake trout when you talk about fishing bottom, and all insults withheld, I offer some other considerations.
First would be your speed. Cayuga doesnt have crazy currents, but they are there. Do you have a ball speed unit such as a fishhawk? I like to see 1.8 mph if I am looking for bigger fish, however smaller eater size i troll 2.3. Ive come to know the summer lake trout as lazy, so you have to give them an easy target.
Second would be the depth you are fishing. Ive been told there are steady amounts of trout around the 85fow mark as of now. In my opinion, there is such a thing as dead water, which is anywhere the hot nasty water is close to the bottom.
Consider the time of day. I like to eat all the time really, but especially breakfast and dinner. Lunch and brunch not so much. I feel its the same for these fish.
Look for marks! Lake trout like to bury right on bottom. Sometimes you have to decern the difference in a wave that makes your boat tilt for a second, and a lazy laker resting on its belly, but as with most fishing, fish the marks. (Dont forget fishing around bait).
Im not sure what you are doing for a set up on your downrigger, but I have a tendency to run my spoon 5-7ft off the ball with no problem, and often 10ft from bottom (unless my boy ran me a ground). A black and purple with a silver or glow back with never fail you along with a chartreuse/glow combination.
I take the time to type this for one, Id like for you to not get discouraged, and Id like to hear back from you (and hopefully a success story), and for 2, I despise dragging in cowbells, I would rather combine the above mentioned considerations with a strip of hotdog.
Best of luck!

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Thanks for the info. I don't have a probe at the moment. I'm trolling too fast though, as I've recently learned. The best I can do on a calm day is 2.8-3.0. I'm going to try a couple buckets to remedy that. I'm taking off out of Treman tomorrow AM and I will certainly post a report. Tomorrow will be my first time giving cowbells a try, but I'll take what you said into consideration and will see what happens. Up until now, I've been fishing the rigger anywhere from 60-80FOW with UV Moonshine spoons, sometimes with a dodger and sometimes without. All my fish this year have come on the Dipsey's with silver/blue or bronze/blue spoons. Just trying to get my rigger game dialed in a little better...

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Ahh dipseys. Im familiar with the south end a little. Sharp drop offs and points all over. Have you noticed in your attempts to not hit bottom if you took hits on the inside of turns? I run my dipseys on a 3 side swing setting, so as you turn, the dipsey not only speeds up (outside) or slows down (inside) but also rises (outside) and falls (inside). If you're taking a considerable amount of hits on turns, keep track on what side of the turn. This will give you a good indication if your speed is too slow or too fast. Before i bought a fish hawk, i would set up, get as close to 1.8 SOG and if i didnt start taking hits but seeing marks id start to swerve, some would say aggressively and note the dipseys. From what you are saying, i would definently do something to slow down. Just for reference, I bought 36in bags from Basspro for a 22ft boat with a 305 and they are marginally enough. Good luck tomorrow! Weather looks promising!

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Posted (edited)

Just a suggestion and I know folks do bounce rigger weights off the bottom but I think it is taking an unnecessary chance with your equipment and possibly your boat. When fishing a derby on Seneca some years back while camping at Sampson State Park. I saw a guy in a fiberglass boat get a large part of his gunwale ripped out of his boat and his downrigger go to the bottom in about 80 ft of water right out in front of the marina.. I talked with the guy at his campsite and he told me that he was fishing close to bottom with his riggers and his rigger ball snagged something and he had his rigger drag tightened up all the way so it  didn't release and ripped out the rigger from the gunwale. Luckily there was a guy at an adjoining campsite who was a diver and had his stuff with him and he was able to find the rigger for the guy but his boat was really messed up. It was a good lesson to me and I always make sure my rigger drag has just a tiny bit of play in it so that it will slip if necessary. :smile: A couple years afterward I heard that there were large anchors with very heavy metal cables down there left from the hydroplane races they used to hold on Seneca which had subsequently been removed.

Edited by Sk8man

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I drag bottom and in hundreds of hours dragging bottom, I have hung up once. Most of the lake bottom in laker land is mud/silt bottom.’ I have brought up tree limbs, tackle and garbage over the years. Keep the clutch loose enough that it will not rip the rigger off the boat if it hangs up.


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I have a 10# ball drilled with a 24" piece of 5/16" threaded rod in it for dragging. Tap the ball and put a jam nut on the rod, it has many hours on the bottom, so far no issues




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I know some guys used to put chain hanging from the ball held on with wraps of thick solder. If it hung, the solder would break and rip the chain off.


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Posted (edited)

I guess I should have mentioned in my comments that the Lake O bottom in most of the places I fish there is pretty flat  gradual sloping and for the most part featureless and this is very different than in the Finger Lakes where you have abrupt underwater cliffs, sunken barges, etc. so it is much riskier there too and there are more effective ways to fish for lakers there than riggers. (e.g wire rigs with cowbells and gambler rigs or peanuts) and 40 oz. sinkers dragging along the bottom):smile:

Edited by Sk8man

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Lake Ontario’s way easier to drag bottom on.. the finger lakes are glacier lakes so you can be in 100ft one second and be in 30ft the next.. having 2 people on board is key or bounce in spots that are gradual in the finger lakes

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On 8/16/2019 at 9:24 AM, lfoster607 said:

I've been trolling for the last four years, but this is my first year with an electric downrigger on the back of my 16' Tracker. I hear a lot about guys letting their cannonball hit bottom and then drag it when laker fishing. Doesn't that make anyone else a little uneasy!? Perhaps its because I'm new to it, but it always makes me nervous when things starts to shallow up and I've got a lot of cable out, let alone to let it hit bottom on purpose. I mostly fish Cayuga, but is this common practice and is it safe? I've only been out 5 times this year, and I haven't had my rigger fire once yet. So, I'm looking to try something different. I'm going to start off running cowbells with Gambler rigs and will either be close to the bottom, or on the bottom depending on what you guys think. Any input is appreciated, as always!

I fished Cayuga all last week and had no problem getting lakers to hit on downriggers and I was fishing no where near bottom. If you want to catch really big lake trout then the bottom is where they will probably be but if you are looking for the 3-5lb then you don't need to fish bottom. And you will occasionally get a nice laker OR a nice salmon fishing shallower. I have a 17 foot boat and speed can be an issue. I use a kicker motor and one or two 5 gallon buckets if needed to slow me down to 2 to 2.5, although usually not needed on Cayuga. Someone mentioned dispy rods- the best friend to small boats. I use wire dispy rods with the diver set on 2 with anywhere from 125 to 175 feet with flasher and flies. Early in the day is best. I also use flasher and flies on the downriggers. I am with you- I would get very nervous with my downrigger ball close to bottom on Cayuga unless I  knew the area I was fishing like the back of my hand. I've been surprised way too many times on Finger lakes and how fast things shallow up. I caught a downrigger ball on Canadice many years ago on a tree. Not fun. Good luck and let us know how you make out.

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We were on the water by 7am Saturday, launching from Treman. We drove out to about 150 FOW and started seeing marks so we got our gear set. I got the first hit off a Dipsey and blue/silver Cleo. It felt like a good fish and I got a good look at it, but lost it boatside. It was a nice brown. Based on what I was seeing on the finder, I felt no need to set the rigger close the bottom. I ran anywhere from 60-75' clipped right to the ball. I ran a Green Rainbow Cowbell with a Slimer Gambler 32" back, and 15' back from the ball. It finally produced the first fish on my rigger since mounting it back in May. It was a 15" LL that got put back, but hey, I'll take it! We only ended up with a few other barely-legal LL's the rest of the morning. So, at least I'm feeling little better that I'm starting to make the right adjustments as far as my rigger is concerned, but still don't quite have it dialed in yet. The bucket trick worked pretty good, and we stayed anywhere from 2.0-2.5. The amount of bait down there was insane. I just wish it would've produced more fish. I think the next thing I'm going to add to the arsenal are some wire Dipsey rods and Chinook divers. Hey...there's quite a learning curve to this, but it's starting to come together. Thank you all very much!

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6 hours ago, lfoster607 said:

We were on the water by 7am Saturday, launching from Treman. We drove out to about 150 FOW and started seeing marks so we got our gear set. I got the first hit off a Dipsey and blue/silver Cleo. It felt like a good fish and I got a good look at it, but lost it boatside. It was a nice brown. Based on what I was seeing on the finder, I felt no need to set the rigger close the bottom. I ran anywhere from 60-75' clipped right to the ball. I ran a Green Rainbow Cowbell with a Slimer Gambler 32" back, and 15' back from the ball. It finally produced the first fish on my rigger since mounting it back in May. It was a 15" LL that got put back, but hey, I'll take it! We only ended up with a few other barely-legal LL's the rest of the morning. So, at least I'm feeling little better that I'm starting to make the right adjustments as far as my rigger is concerned, but still don't quite have it dialed in yet. The bucket trick worked pretty good, and we stayed anywhere from 2.0-2.5. The amount of bait down there was insane. I just wish it would've produced more fish. I think the next thing I'm going to add to the arsenal are some wire Dipsey rods and Chinook divers. Hey...there's quite a learning curve to this, but it's starting to come together. Thank you all very much!

It is an ever learning hobby but so rewarding when things start to work and this site has helped me so much. Definitely invest in wire dispsey rods and put flasher and flies on them. Honestly, if I had to leave either my dipsey rods or my downriggers at the launch, I'd be waving "bye" to my downriggers. Maybe its because I have more confidence in my dipsey rods when I fish Lake O. I'm not sure about this but I wonder at times if there is too much bait, our offerings go unnoticed. One other suggestion I would make that helps me with my small boat is to use lures that have a wide range of speeds they will work at. That's because with a small boat you get tossed around a lot and it's harder to keep your boat moving at the same speed. I use medium weighted spoons and Spin Drs.  For me these seem to work the best especially when speed control is an issue. Keep posting to let us know how you're making out.

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27 minutes ago, Ric66 said:

It is an ever learning hobby but so rewarding when things start to work and this site has helped me so much. Definitely invest in wire dispsey rods and put flasher and flies on them. Honestly, if I had to leave either my dipsey rods or my downriggers at the launch, I'd be waving "bye" to my downriggers. Maybe its because I have more confidence in my dipsey rods when I fish Lake O. I'm not sure about this but I wonder at times if there is too much bait, our offerings go unnoticed. One other suggestion I would make that helps me with my small boat is to use lures that have a wide range of speeds they will work at. That's because with a small boat you get tossed around a lot and it's harder to keep your boat moving at the same speed. I use medium weighted spoons and Spin Drs.  For me these seem to work the best especially when speed control is an issue. Keep posting to let us know how you're making out.

This is what we saw for a good mile or two on the West shore on the south end. Perhaps we would've had better luck with meat rigs? The Humminbird was lit up like this for a few miles, but no takers. 

IMG_1373.jpg

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