For the past six years I have not attended a Sports Show or given a fishing seminar that this question has not come up. What do you use on your downrigger; braid or cable?
I have tried both and tested both on my Scotty Downriggers. Let’s start with braided line. Braid is far easier to use and has many benefits.
- Braid has a thinner profile than stainless steel cable. Because of the thin profile, you will experience less blow back (water resistance) keeping your downrigger weights in a more vertical position when trolling at depth
- Rigging braid is as simple as it gets. Tie it to the spool, wind it on under fairly heavy tension (might help to wet the new spool), then terminate with the rubber “bumper” and a palomar knot to the terminal swivel on a rubber snubber
- With braid there is no annoying hum while trolling
- Scotty offers a red stopper designed to work with braid so it will not slip
- Braid does not kink. Because of the fact that braid is flexible almost to its detriment as mentioned above, you don’t have to worry about the cable becoming kinked because some your buddy isn’t careful when handling the downrigger weights when you are first launching your weights over the side or retrieving them to move to another spot
- Braid does not carry an electrical charge. As I am sure you have already heard, fish are affected by voltage leaks on wire. Because of this, and the fact that over time, voltage leaks are more common as your boats wiring ages or cracks, braid eliminates the effects of leakage in the saltwater environment
- Braid if nicked can break easily.
- A non Scotty downrigger with auto stop will not work with braid
- Braid can cut groves downrigger spools if not installed correctly
- Braid doesn’t transmit an electrical charge known for attracting fish
- Downrigger stops are going to be different than the box of stops you have been using on your stainless cable so be prepared to make some changes there as well should you make the switch.
- Stainless cable will take a licking and keep on fishing. When fishing bottom for blackmouth, many times your downrigger ball will become snagged on a submerged object. Because of the stiff nature of cable, it will not tangle like braid. If you have ever fished for salmon with braid, you know that it is a literal pain when it comes in contact with anything. Because it is limp, it will quickly get wrapped around whatever you don’t want it too.
- Stainless cable transmits electricity. As stated above, this can be good or it can be bad. If you use a black box and the cable can serve a purpose allowing you to send out the proper electric charge to actually attract fish.
- Old timers will tell you know you’re at the right trolling speed when you hear the cable “hum” in the water. Braid won’t sing like the cable does.
- Cable kinks. I lose cable in increments of two to three feet on a regular basis. Once cable becomes kinked or you see curly cues, you have to cut out the damaged section and install a new connector sleeves to the rubber snubber. If you don’t, you will end up replacing everything from the kink down when your cable snaps. Weights are expensive so are clips, so change out any kinked wire as soon as you find it
- Wire has more blow back when trolling
- Stainless wire can rust if not maintained
- You should replace stainless cable every year. If you see any white power coating on it change it ASAP as it will break.
- Yes wire hums when trolled
So wire or Braid?
After doing many on the water tests with braid I still run wire, even with all the hassles evolved with using it. It just catches more fish when employed properly with a Black Box. When run side by side the wire side rigger when employing a positive charge or 6.5-7.5 of 1 volt on the wire out fishes the braid 4-1 on my boat. This was for summer kings, coho and winter blackmouth.
To insure you get the benefits of running a wire all batteries should be grounded together.
If you are not killing salmon on a hot bite, (especially when everyone around you is) it is time to break out the voltage meter and test the voltage on the wire.
If you’re running hot look for an electrical leak in your battery system. Go through anything that is drawing voltage and disconnect it one by one until you find the electrical leak. If your voltage is low check your zincs for wear. Make sure you have zincs are in good condition and are clean not powered coated.
Put a non conductive break between your downrigger cable and your ball like a rubber snubber. What you have is essentially a battery. Lead, copper, and Stainless steel creating electrolysis. Isolate the components from your downrigger cable.
Braid is lower maintenance, avoids the electrical aspect of downrigger fishing and might be the better choice for occasional angler that doesn’t want to mess with Black Boxes. However I know a lot of good fisherman who run braid and do well with it.
No matter what you think of the black box theory, it is a scientific fact. It is not a secret commercial trollers have been investing big dollars in this technology for years, and it is an important part of catching more fish. Ignore it if you want, but I know for a fact that it works quite well even in fresh water and I will continue to use it until something better comes along. That being the case I’m still in the wire camp when it comes to a choice between stainless cable and super braid for downrigger fishing.
Capt John Keizer