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What Is The Difference Between Downriggers and Outriggers?

What Is The Difference Between Downriggers and Outriggers?

Downriggers and outriggers are essential parts of fishing on a boat, but to people who are less experienced with this pastime, the two terms can sound very similar. And because of that, these two pieces of equipment are often confused with each other despite having different properties.

So today’s article is going to address what each of these items are, what their purpose is, and how they’re different. So enjoy reading the different between a downrigger and an outrigger.

What is a downrigger?

A downrigger is a device that allows you to control your fishing line, and more specifically, send it deeper than you’d otherwise be able to. Some downriggers can even allow you to send your lure over 100 feet downwards! And this can be really helpful if you’re looking to catch fish that reside in deep waters.

As far as the device itself… There’s a base that attaches to your boat, and then several poles that support a weight which is connected by a steel cable. Obviously the weight, usually a cannonball, is what allows the lure to sink so far into the water. And the only other major component of this contraption are some release clips.

And there are also several ways you can upgrade a downrigger with add-ons. For instance, you could add a line counter that would tell you exactly how deep your lure is or even automate the downrigger so that you don’t have to manually drop the line.


What is an outrigger?

An outrigger is a device that allows you to send a line very far away from your boat, or even multiple lines. In fact, one of the major advantages of having an outrigger is that you can cast away several lines without them getting tangled together. Because of the way in which the outrigger throws them.

Each outrigger contains a base that attaches to the boat, a pulley that is used to control the halyard(s) of the outrigger, the pole(s) of the device, and of course… some trusty release clips.

Outriggers can typically be customized based on what’s needed. They may be outfitted with extra pulleys or eyes, have height and angle adjustments available, or even be upgraded to a hydraulic version that allows the fishermen to swing the poles out with a simple press of a button.

Outrigger Poles

How are outriggers and downriggers different?

Now, I’m sure if you read the descriptions of both of these devices, you can already tell how they’re quite different. But let’s dive a little deeper…

Firstly, as you may have noticed, downriggers require five main parts whereas outriggers are a bit more simple and only contain four main parts. And additionally, downriggers have more specialized add-ons than outriggers do. But outriggers boast a bit more customizable options for a fishing crew’s style.

Secondly, outriggers offer a bit more flexibility in terms of where it can attach to the boat. Because while some outriggers’ bases can be placed on a boat’s hardtop, on the gunwales, or even on the side of the cabin… Downriggers’ bases can only really be placed on the gunwales of a boat.

It’s also worth noting that outriggers are more expensive than downriggers. Prices range of course (depending on things like quality), but a manual downrigger would normally only cost about $250. And a manual outrigger could be closer to $1,000. Plus, it’s far more expensive to install a hydraulic outrigger than it is to automate a downrigger.

Which one is better?

Downriggers and outriggers both have their own advantages and disadvantages, but ultimately, they’re both meant for different fishing purposes. So it’s really like comparing apples and oranges if you get down to it. Which means that one isn’t better than the other.

And if you’re considering investing in one of these pieces of equipment, then just remember to choose one that matches your needs. Downriggers are for those that plan to fish in deeper depths, and outriggers are more suited for people who prefer to fish in “big waters”.


Although downriggers and outriggers may be confused sometimes to those that aren’t familiar with the devices, they’re very different from each other. And hopefully, after reading this post, you feel more informed about the attributes of both. Because they’re each helpful in their own way. And definitely worth the investment if you think they’re necessary for the type of fishing you want to do.

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