What Are Outriggers Used For on a Fishing Boat?

What Are Outriggers Used For on a Fishing Boat?

Outriggers are used for deep-sea trolling and are made of two long poles. They are attached to the side of the fishing boat, allowing you to easily set lures at different distances and depths. They are generally made of fiberglass and aluminum. The outriggers also allow you to reach a wider area.

What is an Outrigger on a Fishing Boat?

If you do not use an outrigger on your fishing boat you could quickly end up with a big mess of tangled lines and net. It will take a long time to untangle them. It can also be hard to control the distance and depth of the lures without an outrigger. The outrigger is designed to let the fishermen set many lines at the same time into the water and control the location of the lures easily. If it is used with side planers it will help to keep the lines from each other. Every line will have a lure on it that is designed to reflect in the water and oscillate to appear like it is a swimming fish.

This will trick the predatory fish into thinking that there is an easy meal waiting for it. Trolling will work by simulating a school of fish when you put a big number of lures in the water at the same time to draw in predatory fish. They think there will be a feeding frenzy about to happen.

How Do Outriggers Work?

The outrigger consists of a pole with eyes for halyard lines and a base. The base is mounted to the boat using a base plate. Some boats already have the base plates pre-installed so you can just install the outrigger system. The base is designed to swivel the rod up and down and to the rear. Some outrigger setups use clips and pulleys to move the lines in and out. 

The system will generally have two or more release clips on each pole so you can add your lines from the rod to them. When a fish grabs the lure, the release clip will open and the load will be transferred to your rod. This is when the battle starts; the release clips can have their maximum force adjusted for the lures that have different drag forces.

Types of Outrigger Setups

  • Double Halyard Lines, Sheet Line & Bungee Cord: This is similar to the one below but it is connected to the gunnel with a sheet line, cam cleat, double pulley, and rope guard.
  • Double Halyard Lines & Bungee Cord: This is a standard set up with double halyard lines. They are connected to the gunnel by using a double pulley. This is great for a start-up rigging on multi-pin bases.
  • Tag Line With Double or Single Halyard Lines: These outriggers are designed to fish with higher speeds and larger lures. They use spring clips to keep the tension in the lines
  • Double Halyard Lines for Professional Use: This is different from the others but basically the same set up as the first two. The difference is there is two of each; sheet lines, cam cleats, rope guides, and double pulleys.
  • Center Rigger With Single Halyard Line: These are similar to the tag lines setups. They do not make use of the cam cleats and pulleys though.

How to Install an Outrigger

It is a simple process to install an outrigger but you need to focus on a few details. You will need to check to see if you have mounting plates installed if you have a T-Top style boat. The mounting plates are a solid base for the assembly. To have a solid installation you will need to use stainless steel fasteners. They are bolted to the supporting structure with backing plates. This will help to evenly distribute the load. The length of the poles is based on the length of the boat. For a boat that is 30 feet, it can handle 15-foot poles.

  • Deck Mount: This is for boats in the 20-30 foot range. They are cheap and easy to install. This mount will let the lines remain close to the surface. They can handle poles that carry two lines. Make sure that the pole is not too heavy or it will damage the deck.
  • Side/Top Mount: This type of mount is for boats in the 16-20 foot longboats. For larger boats in the 20-30 foot range, they can be used as top mounts. The advantage of this mount is that it is cheaper and has more space for rods. It cannot support long poles and can be in the way on the walk around boats. The top mount is good because it is out of the way but difficult to reach from the cockpit. It keeps the lines further from the surface.
  • Wish-Bone: These mounts are mainly used for 30-foot boats or larger. They can handle outriggers about 15 feet in length. They will allow more spread as you use the longer poles. They can also be held lower to the water and hold up to three lines. They are heavy duty but a bit more expensive and are difficult to work with.

Trolling With an Outrigger

  • Speed & Lure Action: Make sure that you run at the correct speed so your lures will behave correctly. If mixed lures are used, make sure that they have the same speed requirement.
  • Boat Control: When you are trolling be aware of the current and wind direction so you can adjust your direction and speed.
  • Depth and Placement: The depth of the lure depends on the type of fish you are trying to catch.


  • Outriggers are typically used for deep-sea fishing.
  • Outriggers will allow you a larger trolling area.
  • Telescoping poles are better to use as they can be extended longer than the ones that are fixed when in use. They are also not as obstructive when they are not in use.
  • Use the lightest pole to reduce the strain on your boat and mounting brackets.

Most fishing boats have outriggers. Learn more about How Much a Fishing Boat Cost?

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