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Small Boat Outriggers - Skirted Lure Trolling

By Peter Pakula August 2013


You've probably guessed what this article is about as the title Outriggers – Lure Trolling is a pretty good hint, but perhaps it should read "why your boat may be set up wrong if you have a 25-foot sports fisher or smaller."

There has been endless debate as to which motors will get you more fish, 2 stroke, 4 stroke, outboards, inboards, petrol diesels etc. Usually, the outcome is big boats with diesels will catch you more fish, but just maybe it has nothing to do with the size of boat and motors, maybe it's all about the outriggers!

Let's do the comparison

Big boats have very long outriggers, check out the length and how high the outrigger tips are off the water's surface, and while we're looking at the boat, note how high the gunwales are which governs how high the rod tips are when trolling for rods that are run off the rod tips and not in the outriggers

Here's an average sized sports fisher in Australia, New Zealand and PNG. It's very different to the big boat. The riggers are much shorter and the tips are very low to the water, plus the gunwales are much lower than the big boats.

Here's the problem, at the same trolling speed the prop wash is longer on the small boat than it is on the big boats, not just in proportion, but it's physically longer. Percentage-wise, width of prop wash to width of the boat is wider on the smaller boat. So, out of the two boats which one needs the longer and highest riggers to get the same performance out of the same set of lures? It may now be a little easier to understand that the lures and rigging used by the bigger boat will not perform as well on the smaller boat.

There is no terminology I'm aware of to describe the difference in prop washes and the difference in outrigger length or height. The terminology is the same for all boat with riggers as shown: ie Short Corner, Long Corner, Short Rigger, Long Rigger and Shotgun.

Unfortunately, there is no common terminology at all for the lure positions on boats that don’t have outriggers
They don’t have outriggers, so they don’t have outrigger positions. Trying to describe the positions isn’t easy

The reason all of this is important is the factors that govern the performance of lures are speed, position of the lure on the face of pressure waves and the angle of the leader to the water.


However, the reality is that these angles are hard to achieve as there is sag, or a belly in the line so that the lure is being dragged rather than trolled

The height of the rod and outrigger tips on larger boats as explained before compensates to a large extent achieving a much higher angle of entry. Unfortunately smaller boats have a lot more leader dragging in front of the lure.

There are several reasons this higher angle of entry is important:

Lures are more stable ie they spin less, so hooks are in a better position to get results

There is less leader in the water, so there is less leader trail, and lures are more active and have a more consistent action.

The differences are certainly hard to quantify but seems most applicable in calm weather where the bigger boats and longer, higher riggers seem to consistently out fish the other configurations.

So around about now if you fish from the big boat with long riggers you’re feeling pretty happy. If you’re fishing from a small boat with short riggers you may be thinking that maybe it’s time to put the lures away and try something else. Never fear there are some things you can do to improve the performance of lures on your boat.

Getting longer riggers is certainly the easiest solution. There are a number of outrigger companies offering Carbon Fibre and Aluminium outriggers that are incredibly light and stiff. There is a number of easy to use bases that offer easy adjustment of height and rake.

Mounting the riggers on the T-top gives you an extra 6 feet of height.

Speed is another factor you can control. By slowing down to speeds around 6.5 knots you dramatically lessen the length of your prop wash allowing you to run the spread of lures shorter which gives the lures a better angle of entry.


I mentioned earlier that “It may now be a little easier to understand that the lures and rigging used by the bigger boat will not perform as well on the smaller boat.” The solution is simple, use lures that are not the same as the bigger boats and 012don’t rig them the same way.

I imagine most lure makers would if asked would give you a recommended spread based on the configuration of your boat. Some have live chat available or phone numbers or emails to contact them.

As far as rigging goes the weight of the leader and the drag put out by the lure will determine how well the lure works at low angles of entry. The shorter and lighter the leader, the better the lure will work.

I found that using wind on leaders detrimentally affected lure action so I use double to snap swivel and leaders based on the line class and lures used:

For 6, 8 and10kg tackle: Leaders are 7', doubles 11' 100 to 150lb
For 15 and24kg tackle: Leaders are 12', doubles 19' 150 to 300lb
For 37 and 60kg tackle: Leaders are 17', doubles 19' 300 to 400lb

The lures I use are the ones I designed to alleviate the problems mentioned and have sufficient drag to get the leader up and out of the water and give the lures the best chance of getting a good solid strike.


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