The Sweetest Snap

Outriggers have been an essential ingredient in offshore fishing for decades, yet the task of selecting and installing the numerous components that create the perfect combination of optimal performance and presentation still troubles many. While modern outriggers often come standard on new boats with user-friendly packages, many choose to upgrade beyond out-of-the-box kits. Like most aspects of gear, tackle and equipment that our pescatorial pursuits require, when purchasing outrigger poles, release clips and halyards you, too, will likely be mesmerized by the numerous options and styles manufacturers now have to offer.


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Whether trolling or kite-fishing, outriggers enable anglers to control their spread with precise adjustments. Photo: Steve Dougherty

Big boat or small, the beneficial aspects of outriggers are easy to see. They enable blue water anglers to troll more lines by spreading baits and lures farther apart. By increasing the number of offerings in the spread, crews can more effectively simulate a school of fleeing baitfish and greatly increase the chances of enticing keen-eyed predators. Plus, outriggers create a more enticing surface presentation by pulling lures and baits from an elevated angle, and automatically provide the perfect dropback with natural bait presentations.

There are almost as many ways to set up your outriggers as there are boats on the water, but deciphering between the beneficial attributes each component offers doesn’t have to be difficult. To assist in your final purchasing decision be honest with yourself and what you plan on using your outriggers for. What species do you primarily target? Will you be fishing teaser lines? Do you often fish live bait? What is your budget?

No matter what configuration you select you will need a system that is hassle free, and one that enables your crew to quickly reset the spread. If you don’t take the proper steps when selecting, installing, or modifying outrigger components your time on the water may prove futile. Improperly rigged outriggers can actually impede the fish attracting abilities of your offerings. For example when fishing in rough seas, slack in your halyard lines will make your offerings skip and surge uncontrollably. Loose halyard lines can also result in missed opportunities, as the sagging lines may prevent your release clips from opening once a fish strikes. Speaking of which, malfunctioning outrigger clips are a common cause of missed strikes – an issue we will be revisiting in a few moments.

Spread ‘Em
The year was 1933 and Miami’s famed charter captain Tommy Gifford was busy developing the modern outrigger. Gifford’s original bamboo ‘riggers were a huge hit. His innovative concept is actually what led John Rybovich to design a base unit to mount the bamboo poles. Derived from Gifford’s original idea, Rybovich later introduced the sport fishing world to the first aluminum outriggers.

In today’s modern day and age, bamboo outriggers are obviously long gone and while fiberglass and anodized aluminum are the best options still widely in use, both fixed and telescoping, new-age materials are entering the market. Carbon graphite outrigger poles now take the cake when it comes to the latest, and lightest must-haves.

Release clips come in various styles and configurations to suit numerous applications. While they all provide the same purpose – to create the perfect release tension – depending on your particular application some will work better than others. Clips that offer reliable releases under light pressure may not be able to withstand the tension created by large lures. On the flip side, clips that can accommodate large billfish lures may not be sensitive enough to release small baits. Simple bent-wire plastic clips like Black’s Quick Release Clips and Rupp Zip-Clips offer no-frills anti-fouling designs that many utilize due to their simplicity and reliability. RUPP Klickers are similar to the bent-wire designs, except they offer a spring loaded tension adjuster for even greater versatility. When it comes to ultimate performance and versatility, AFTCO Roller Trollers and Rupp Nok-Outs feature smooth rollers that eliminate friction and chaffing. No matter what release clip you select, your decision should be one based on personal preference and intended use.

Electronic Assault
To coincide with the introduction of new-age materials for outrigger poles, several manufacturers have developed electronic base mounts to provide seamless deployment.

Tigress and Rupp are the leading authorities in outrigger development and both have recently introduced automatic outriggers. Tigress’ top-of-the-line T-top mounted electronic outrigger units feature a powerful 12V motor that make deployment as simple as the push of a button. Rupp’s latest creation is a bridge mounted outrigger system that features powerful hydraulic actuators.

Outriggers are like any other aspect of sport fishing. No matter what brand or style you choose to utilize, unless they are effective and functional they won’t do you any good. However when used properly, these great tools dramatically increase your success on the water.

Avoiding Common Issues

Problem: Halyard creep.
Solution: Hal-Locks.
Problem: Halyard chaffing.
Solution: Rather than cord, utilize 400lb. test mono, which stays clean, is easy to use and can be crimped rather than tied.
Problem: Malfunctioning clips.
Solution: Clean and lubricate clips.