Installing Downriggers for Pontoons: Optimize Your Fishing Boat

installing downriggers for pontoons

Do you love to go fishing and have your very own pontoon? If so, there’s an easy way to turn it into a proper fishing boat. Many people are installing downriggers on their pontoon boats to increase their chances of catching that prized fish.

If you’re a beginner angler or you haven’t spent a lot of time fishing from a boat then you might not know what a downrigger does. A downrigger is a device mounted to the boat that is used for trolling or catching fish. It’s designed to work with your fishing rod to attract nearby fish.

While downriggers are quite safe, it’s important that you have a pair of wire cutters handy in the event of getting snagged on an underwater object. Getting caught on submerged trees or man-made structures can cause your pontoon boat to sway or even flip over in windy situations.

Some Things to Know Before You Get Started

Before you buy a downrigger and install it, determine where you’re going to put it. Make sure that you pick a place that is easy to use and can be securely fastened to your boat. Fortunately, this isn’t too much of a problem with pontoon boats as most downriggers are able to be mounted to the boat’s rails.

Another thing that you’ll want to determine before you buy your downrigger is if you want an automatic or manual downrigger. We’ll get into the pros and cons of both types later, but for now remember this: manual downriggers are better for fishing at depths less than 30’ and automatic downriggers are optimized for 30’ and deeper.

When Installing Your Downrigger

Before you can get your downrigger installed and running you’ll need to install a downrigger pontoon mount. Your best bet is to find a square mount that attaches to the rails of your pontoon boat. The Stanchion Rail Mount by Scotty is a sturdy downrigger mount that is easy to set up and doesn’t require any drilling and screwing in.

Just make sure that you buy a mount and downrigger that are compatible with each other. The Scotty Stanchion, for example, is compatible with all Scotty downrigger models except for the Laketrollers.

Your next step is to install your downrigger. Manual downriggers are easy to install and can be done by virtually anyone. If you go with an automatic downrigger, you’ll probably need the assistance of a professional who knows how to install it. This is because automatic downriggers come with a lot of complex electrical equipment that must be protected from water at all times.

Manual Downrigger or Automatic Downrigger?

Which downrigger you go with depends widely on your preferences and fishing needs. If you're on a budget then go with a manual. Automatic downriggers can cost more than double the price of manual ones, and that doesn't even include installation fees. Here are some things you should know about manual and automatic downriggers:

Pros of a Manual Downrigger

  • Cheap and easy to install. A durable manual downrigger typically costs between $300 and $350
  • Ideal for people who don't want to put excessive weight on their pontoon
  • Easy to get started in shallow settings
  • Bullet Point 2

Cons of a Manual Downrigger

  • Purely function with no added flair
  • Having to manually reel up every time you make adjustments or check your bait is inconvenient
  • Not practical for deeper waters

Pros of an Automatic Downrigger

  • Quick and easy to set up in deep waters
  • Remove the need for manually reeling every time you need to adjust
  • Is able to sync with fish finders
  • Can automatically adjust itself depending on the fishing hotspot

Cons of an Automatic Downrigger

  • Expensive - most automatic downriggers cost between $500 and $1,000
  • Need to be installed by a professional with electrical knowledge
  • Delicate electrical components must be protected from water

This video does a great job showcasing some of the high-tech features that come with automatic downriggers:

Ultimately, the type of downrigger that you choose depends on you. Since most anglers don’t use pontoon boats for heavy-duty fishing, manual downriggers are usually enough to get the job done.

What Are Some Good Downriggers?

Not all downriggers are created equally. You want to make sure that you find one that's corrosion-resistant and durable. Here are some of the most popular downriggers on the market:

1. The 2116 High Performance Electric Downrigger by Scotty

high performance electric downrigger

The Scotty 2116 is a critically-acclaimed automatic downrigger that’s compatible with the Scotty Stanchion downrigger pontoon mount.

The Scotty 2116 is far from cheap. However, when it comes to automatic riggers, this one can give you the most bang for your buck. Its working parts are durable and designed to take years of abuse.

When it comes to mid-range automatic downriggers, the Scotty 2116 takes the cake. What it lacks in special gadgets it makes up for in durability.

2. The Mini-Troll Manual Downrigger by Cannon

manual downrigger for pontoon

For a budget-friendly downrigger that can handle light fishing, go for the Cannon Mini-Troll. This mini downrigger comes ready to use without any additional installations necessary. It has an integrated C-clamp mount that can attach to the rail of your pontoon boat.

The Cannon Mini-Troll is perfect for casual pontoon boat anglers who want to catch smaller fish. It’s great for salmon and trout fishing.

If you’re looking for a downrigger that’s under a hundred bucks and is durable enough for saltwater and freshwater fishing, the Mini-Troll is your best bet.

3. The Uni-Troll 10 STX Manual Downrigger by Cannon

uni troll manual pontoon downrigger

Do you want a durable downrigger that is perfect for all types of fish? Try the Cannon Uni-Troll 10 STX. This heavy-duty downrigger is designed with hardy parts that are able to withstand years of use. The Uni-Troll 10 STX was built for maximum efficiency. It comes with a one-hand clutch system and has an enhanced 2:1 retrieval speed.

The Uni-Troll 10 STX is one of the best performing mid-range priced manual downriggers on the market. It is fast and easy to handle, and comes with a telescopic boom that can be adjusted anywhere between 24” to 53” so that you can get the reach that you need.

You can mount your Uni-Troll 10 STX onto the rails of your pontoon boat with the Cannon Rail Mount. This heavy-duty square mount has received a lot of praise from pontoon boat owners for its sturdiness and ability to fasten tightly to 1” to 1.25” rails.

4. The Digi Troll 10 Downrigger by Cannon

If money isn’t an issue and you want a state-of-the-art downrigger that pulls out all of the stops, the Cannon Digi Troll 10 automatic downrigger is your best bet. This high-tech gadget is for anglers who want to use technology to greatly enhance their fishing trips.

With a sticker price upwards of a thousand dollars, the Digi Troll 10 is not for everyone; with a retrieval rate of 250" per minute, it's also overkill for the average pontoon angler. However, the Digi Troll 10 has a number of cool features that you won't find on the regular automatic downrigger. Its backlit LCD screen and illuminated key panel can be easily seen at night and during the afternoon, when the sun's glare is at its strongest.

One of the most impressive features that comes with the Digi Troll 10 is the positive ion control. When activated, this feature emits positive ions into the water that are designed to attract nearby fish. Another interesting function is Digi Troll’s Bottom Track feature, which automatically keeps the bait on the bottom of the lake at all times.

Adding a Downrigger Will Transform the Way You Fish

Are you ready to improve the way you fish? Installing downriggers is easy and guaranteed to boost your chances of catching bigger and better fish. Here’s how downriggers can help:

Think of downriggers like miniature underwater cranes. They consist of a pole, fishing line, and spool. Once they’re connected to your fishing rod, downriggers are loaded with bait and dropped into the water at a depth of your choice. As you can see from the video, downriggers are great for luring those hard-to-find fish.


Remember, the trick to installing downriggers is to find the right square mount. A mount that doesn't fit with your downrigger is nothing more than a $50 paperweight.

Before you buy a downrigger for your pontoon boat, determine what you plan on using it for. Don’t make the mistake of spending a small fortune on the latest and greatest automatic downrigger, only to use it fishing for 10 pound trout. There are a number of different downriggers available that accommodate different budgets, so finding one that suits your specific needs for a reasonable price will be a piece of cake.

Downriggers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small and able to be mounted on the size of a kayak, while others are heavy-duty and designed for big saltwater fish. If you’re someone who enjoys fishing and relaxing on your pontoon, consider adding a downrigger to your boat. There are many on the market that cost as little as $100 and are designed for the casual angler.

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