Take the hum out of downrigging with braids

By: J.D. Richey Journal Outdoors Columnist
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First off, happy Memorial Day everyone! Hope you all have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend I’m sure many of you are heading out camping and fishing somewhere — there’s a lot of good trouting taking place in many Sierra lakes at the moment and kokanee are also coming on strong in several locations.
It makes me think about trolling with downriggers… which are about as nifty a gadget as you can get for targeting deep dwelling trout and salmon. However, they can also be more than just a little annoying!
I’m talking of course about the dreaded cable hum that you get when you get the downrigger balls down past about 10 or 15 feet. The droning whine of the cable as water pushes past it can drive you a little nutty after a while. Luckily, there’s a better way these days…
Scotty Fishing Products ( now makes downrigger cable out of braided line – yep, the same kind of stuff that you’d put on your reel – and it’s making traditional wire cable obsolete.
In my opinion, the best attribute of the downrigger braid (it comes in 250-pound and 175-pound test) is you completely eliminate the insanity-inducing hum of the cable. But the advantages go beyond that.
With downrigger braid, you also do away with the need for what industry folks call “black box technology.” I’ve never completely understood the black box stuff, but basically wire cable, when dragged through the water gives off negative ions, which can repel fish. To ensure that you’re not sending the fish running for the hills, it is said that you need a black box, which is basically some electronic gizmo that gives you positive control over your ions or something along those lines. I like to keep things as simple as possible when fishing, so anything that keeps me from worrying about things live negative ions is okay with me!
Additionally, the braided stuff is great for ocean anglers. Out in the salt, old school cable will eventually start to rust from the inside out, depending on how it’s cared for. Eventually, it will get brittle and wear out and you may have to change it once or twice a year. You don’t get that with the braid… which also won’t fray like the metal stuff when you drag across a rocky bottom.
It’s also easier since you don’t need any cable crimps or special connection pieces. Heck, in a pinch, you could knot your ball on with a Palomar Knot and be okay.
One downside of downrigger braid is it costs about twice as much as regular cable. The upside to that, however, is that you should have to change it out a lot less frequently. Another bummer is that the shut-off switches on some downriggers like Cannon electronics won’t work with this stuff. Before switching, be sure to check with your manufacturer to see if downrigger braid will work on your unit.
If you own a Scotty, however, you’re in business as you can pick up different shut off beads and make everything work just fine.
Once I heard about downrigger braid, I immediately changed my old cable out and have been really happy with the results.
J.D. Richey is a 1986 Placer High graduate whose outdoors pieces have been published nationally. Find him online at