Maybe you have been fishing with down riggers, maybe you are new to the
sport, or maybe you already use divers, but have problems with them.
This article will discuss the basics of setting up, rigging, and
running multiple divers from smaller boats.
You may be saying to yourself that you already run a diver on each
side, so why do I need to run multiple divers per side on my boat?
That is a good question. Divers are an inexpensive way to deliver
baits to the target area while fishing. Divers also add an extra
component to your spread; one that is unique to divers. They are loud
and stealthy at the same time. What? How can that be? Well, what I
mean is, the divers are directional so you can adjust them to shoot out
away from the boat and they can be set a long way back from the boat so
that they are away from rigger cable hum and engine noise. At the same
time you are pulling a disc through the water that creates a lot of
turbulence. See? They are stealthy on one hand and create their own
noise on the other.
First you need to get the boat prepared to run multiple divers per side. You will need adequate rod holders that can withstand the high pressures exerted on them from running divers. Many manufacturers produce quality products to meet the demand like: Traxstech, Berts, Big Jon, Vector, Fishlander, and others. All of these will work, so pick the system that you like and that is within your budget. Be sure to use through bolts with large washers or backing plates to ensure a solid mount for years of trouble free service. The holders you choose need to be mounted on the gunwales forward of the riggers. Give yourself enough room to allow the diver rod to bend on the strike without coming into contact with the rigger cable or rigger rods, and with enough space between the rod holders to easily grab a rod without interference.
After you have the boat set up, its time to select the proper rods for the job. If you are planning on running two divers per side, you need a high and a low diver rod. The high diver rod is for running the outside most diver, typically a diver set to 3 on the dial and this rod’s position is the furthest forward on the gunwale. The outside diver is also referred to as the high or shallow diver. The inside diver, also referred as low diver or deep diver, is typically set to 1.5 or 1 on the dial and is positioned furthest aft on the gunwale. This rod is typically shorter than the high diver rod to assist in creating separation between the lines of the two diver rods. If you are planning on running 3 divers per side, you will also have a middle diver. As the name implies, the middle diver will be situated between the high and low divers and the dial on the diver will be set in between the high and low diver settings. The middle diver rod will also be of a length in between the high and low divers to assist in keeping the lines separated.
Most rod makers that produce rods for the GreatLakes have a series of rods designed for divers. I recommend sticking with an actual diver rod instead of trying to get away with a rod designed for another purpose. The diver rod design can handle the constant pressures exerted on diver rods day after day. When choosing diver rods, make sure they are long enough to clear your outside downrigger cable and downrigger lines when the diver rod is loaded up from the diver pulling on it.
Now that you have the rods selected, you will need some reels to go with them. Choosing a reel is kind of like choosing a spouse. Everyone likes something different. The only things I suggest are a smooth drag, enough capacity for the line you select and a line counter. The line counter cannot be emphasized enough because it is what allows you to repeatedly place the presentation in the same position. You can get away with non- counter reels, but with the selection on the market, why would you want to? I suggest a reel that can hold about 300 yards of your line of choice. With that capacity, you will have ample line to let the diver out and also be prepared for a fish of a lifetime. Drag systems are personal preference, but you generally get what you pay for. Typically, the more expensive reels will have a better drag system, but not always, and there are reels to fit any budget, so get shopping!
Going hand in hand with reel selection is the line you are going to use. Monofilament, braid and wire are all pretty common and some people use regular Dacron. Each line has its advantages and disadvantages.
Monofilament is the cheapest, has the largest diameter and has the most stretch. The larger diameter doesn’t allow it to dive as deep as braid or wire because the resistance from the water pressure will overtake the diver’s ability to dive at some point. This is a good thing and a bad thing. If you are targeting fish in the top 50’ of the water column, mono works fine most of the time. Mono line can be a great advantage for shallow fishing because it requires more line out to get the diver to a certain depth, therefore the diver is further from boat noise. However, if you plan on fishing depths greater than 50’ on a regular basis, the inherent stretch from monofilament line becomes a hindrance. With large amounts of line out the stretch of the monfilament will not allow you to break free the release arm from the diver, making retrieval very difficult. These cases are where braid comes into the mix.
Braided lines are ultra small diameter compared to monofilament for the same test rating. Braid line has little if any noticeable stretch and is much more expensive initially. I say initially because braid can often be used for several seasons without having to be re-spooled where mono will often have to be re-spooled annually if not more often. Braid line’s small diameter allows the divers to reach greater depths with comparable amounts of line out due to less water resistance. The lack of stretch helps by allowing the angler to break free the diver arm at virtually any distance back. Braid is soft and winds on reels nicely and shows signs of fatigue when it’s time to change it, like chaffing and discoloration.
Wire line has a strong following as well. With no stretch and a thin diameter, it is great for reaching great depths with divers. Wire has also been found to emanate its own unique hum in the water that is said to drive fish crazy some days. And by crazy, I mean crazy feeding. Wire line is expensive and can be finicky to deal with, you have to be diligent on keeping kinks out of the line, Kinks in your wire under pressure will fail, sending your rig to the bottom of the lake. Depending on the number of days you fish, wire is also best suited to roller rods, and roller rods are about double the cost of a regular diver rod, so that adds to the expense of getting started.
With all the choices, your head may be spinning. To get started, I suggest braided line on all your reels. Braid is the most functional and gives the user the most benefits with the least amount of problems for the dollar. Braid can be run on any rod, not requiring rollers or special guides and will last at least a couple seasons for all but the most active charters.
After all of that you still need to select the type of divers you are going to use. There are several makes and sizes available on the market. Dipsey divers from Luhr Jensen, Slide Diver, Big Jon, and the new Walker Deeper Diver are all adjustable. There are also divers like the Jet diver to get the lure down, but are not adjustable to the side. This article is focused on the use and application of the Luhr Jensen Dipsey Diver. Dipseys come in a variety of sizes and there are different rings that attach to the outside of diver to increase its surface area. Rings come in several sizes starting with the standard size that is supplied by the maker and going up from there. The increased surface area will make the diver pull harder in the direction the diver is adjusted to.
Each fishing situation can call for different size divers and different size rings, but for starters I recommend the standard size #1 dipsey right out of the package. I also recommend the use of snubbers when using braid or wire line. Snubbers are a stretchable piece of material designed to act as a shock absorber to suck up some of the energy from the initial strike of the fish. Snubbers are directly attached to the diver on the lure side. Then the leader is attached to the snubber and the lure is attached to the leader. Like everything else, snubbers come in a couple different configurations.
The Luhr Jensen snubber is simply a piece of hollow tubing with a piece of heavy test Dacron in the middle of it. As the tubing stretches, it hits the end of the Dacron and stops. Several companies make this style and they all have about the same effectiveness and life span. Another option is a solid stretchable material where tension increases as it stretches, companies like Dreamweaver, Wolverine, and Opti make versions of these. These are also very effective and seem to have a longer life. You also need a leader attached to the snubber. I prefer using straight 15-20# mono until the fall, then switch to 30# for added insurance against abrasion from fall male kings. Lengths of the leaders vary according to preference, but a good starting point is the length of the rods they are fished on. So an eight foot rod should have about an eight foot leader. This will assist in netting fish and make changing lures easier as well.
Now that all the components are selected, you need to put it all together. After fitting the reels to the rods, you can spool on the line. When using a braid, it is important to put a couple wraps of mono on the spool first to prevent the braid from slipping on the arbor of the reel. Tie the mono to the arbor and get a few wraps on the spool. Attach the braid to the mono via a double uni-knot. Detailed instructions and pictures for tying the double uni-knot can be found here
On smaller reels like a Daiwa SGA27 series or similar, I spool the entire reel with braid after the 10’ of mono. After topping off the reel, I slide on an 8-10mm bead and then attach a heavy duty coastlock snap swivel of at least 75# test rating. The knot for attaching the swivel should be a Palomar. The bead will prevent the swivel and knot from entering the end eyelet of your rod when fighting a fish those last couple feet to the net. That prevents the knot from getting beat up and also prevents the ceramic insert from getting beat up from the swivel. If you choose mono, that is easy, just spool it on until the reels are full. Wire line is similar to braid, needing something to prevent the line from slipping on the arbor. Some reels come equipped with a screw on the arbor to loop the line over. That will prevent slippage and the couple wraps of mono is unnecessary. When choosing wire or braid, a common trick to fill up the spool of larger reels is to partially fill the reel with mono or Dacron backing to fill it in, then top it off with the preferred line. Which ever line you choose, make certain the spool is full to take full advantage of the reel’s retrieve ratio.
Now that everything is ready to go, its time to get out on the water and put it to use. For deployment, work from the outside in for the first time of the day. Adjust the outside diver to 3 for the appropriate side of the boat (weight will be on the bottom when going through the water, so you can hold it and look to see what way its pointing), reel it all the way to the rod tip and hold the lure in your hand. Now point the rod tip out away from the boat and drop the lure in the water. Once the lure is tracking even with the rod tip, loosen the drag, set the clicker on and lower the rod tip into the water to get the diver to catch. The forward progress of the boat will pull the diver out slowly against the drag. By letting the diver out on drag, it allows you to work on another rod on the other side of the boat, maintains a steady let back to keep the diver from falling and twisting up on the mainline and sometimes gets a strike on the way back! Place the rod into the appropriate holder and watch your line counter. When the diver gets to the desired depth, simply tighten the drag down enough to hold the diver in place.
If you are using a middle diver, now is the time to deploy it. Set the diver to #2 and repeat the process. Now deploy the low diver. Adjust the setting to 1 or .75 if a middle diver is used or 1-1.5 if no middle diver is used. Repeat on the opposing side of the boat and you have all your divers in the water.
The single most important thing to remember when deploying divers is to keep the boat heading straight. Once the divers are all set, and the drags are set tight enough to hold the diver, but loose enough to release on a strike, you can troll at will. Cornering is fine with 3 divers per side as long as the turns aren’t 90 degrees. Divers track through the water according to their setting. On a corner, the high diver will track at a different level than the low diver. So even though the lines may appear crossed at the surface, it’s actually pretty rare to have divers get snarled up if the adjustments are correct. It is important to check the adjustment dial occasionally as they may get bumped out of line while boating a fish. One diver out of alignment can cause problems in a hurry.
You may be thinking this is all fine and dandy, until you land a fish and its time to re-set the diver. I have found that re-deployment of divers is simple if you follow a few basics. I always re-set a diver out the back of the boat. Even with rigger rods out the back, it’s very simple to let the lure in the water until its tracking straight. With the diver reeled to the rod tip, slowly let out line with your thumb on the spool until the diver touches the water. It is critical at this point to make sure the diver is behind all the rigger rods right at the surface with the lure tracking straight back behind the diver. With the rod tip high above any other fishing rods, get the diver to catch just under the surface and walk it over until it is at the proper location in the spread. Get the rod in the appropriate rod holder, and slowly let the diver out on the drag. At this point, if you free-spool the diver, it will fall and snarl up with the low diver. It is important to maintain pressure on the diver so it swims into its position in the spread. Letting the diver out on drag every time is a good habit to get in to. There is no need to clear lines simply to re-set another line. With a little practice and a little patience it will become second nature.
Now that all the basics are covered, you may want some indication on where to run the divers. Some experimenting can be done to determine where the divers run in the water column on certain settings. Many factors effect the running depth including speed, diver size, diver weight, ring size, line diameter and line stretch. The best way to know for sure where each diver is running is to set them up and run the boat into shallow sandy water until the diver hits bottom. Make a note of it and proceed to the next diver. There are charts available to get you pointed in the right direction, but with so many variables, the best you can get with charts is close. Knowing approximately where the divers run will assist you in developing a program while running divers.
With all the information presented here, I have a few other recommendations for the beginners. When running multiple divers per side, I would start with two per side. Only after you have mastered running two divers per side would I consider three per side. I would also start out with braid on all the diver rods. Braid gives you the best bang for your buck and gives the best performance with the least amount of headache. For divers I would start with Size 1 Dipsey with the standard ring that comes with them. Again, only after you are comfortable with this setup would I consider switching to larger rings or magnum divers.
I would always run snubbers and recommend the Dreamweaver, Wolverine, or Opti style slow stretch snubbers. For leaders I would start with 6-7’ mono leaders until you get used to them. Some boats are easier to net from and leader length is the biggest factor in netting. I would also start out running all spoons on your divers. Spoons track well and don’t twist things up as quickly if you do get a tangle. Add in the flashers later on after you master the basics with spoons. What I am recommending here is minimizing the variables that cause problems. With fewer variables it will be easier to master multiple divers. It may take one trip or ten to get comfortable, but with confidence gained by minimizing variables, you will find yourself running multiple divers in short order.