Riggers And Halyards

RiggerSetting your boat up with good quality outriggers, release clips and halyard configurations is an important aspect that can sometimes be either overlooked or in some cases just thrown together with out much thought. Often we see boats throughout the New Zealand game fishing scene with cheap, sloppy riggers and stretchy halyards that I can only begin to imagine what type release they have on the ‘bite’.

Getting a nice, crisp release rather than a sloppy, stretchy release from your riggers will increase your hook-up ratios without doubt. Other issues such as hook-rigs, hook types, strike drags and drop back lengths are usually considered to be more of a problem. Time, effort and money can be better invested in insuring your boat has nice high, wide, rigid riggers and the right release clips for the job.

Many boats seem to persist with cheap riggers and mono or nylon halyards that are pulled tight with bungy cords. For one, mono or nylon stretches, this, compounded with the springy nature of cheaper out-riggers and the bungy-cord connection creates a very sloppy release, especially if rubber bands are then added to the equation.

Setting up your halyards should depend entirely on the areas, target species and techniques you intend to use. There are many options of halyard configurations, depending on switch-baiting, live-baiting, dead-baiting, lure fishing with or without tag lines and so on. Whatever configuration you choose it should be user friendly and easy to fish with and it should maintain a crisp release.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with all of the following, but it’s just a few basic ideas that I’ve picked up that may help out to stiffen up your riggers and improve your hook-up rates.


There is a good selection of out-riggers available on the market today. Obviously, the Internet is a great place to find suitable riggers for your boat, bearing in mind there are differing out-riggers for differing styles of fishing.

In Cairns, the boats generally use shorter but very rigid riggers due to the fact that quite large skip-baits and swimming baits are towed in pretty rough conditions at times, obviously spongy or springy riggers would be a disadvantage in this situation. Cairns captains like to have their baits held in a rigid position, rather than springing out of waves and tripping out all day.

Some captains even prefer to have their rigger on the big or skip-bait side mounted higher than the swim bait side to maximise the skipping and swimming action of their baits, bearing in mind, the most critical time when any captain needs his riggers to work is during a turn. Tight turns are no more evident than in the Cairns fishery and it also enables the baits to be towed at a more suitable constant speed and maximizing fishing time.

In fishing hotspots such as Madeira, The Azores and Bermuda, trolling big lures for Blue Marlin is the main technique. Riggers with larger spread, height and strength are generally utilised to maintain a consistent lure spread during turns and obviously on the bite. These riggers are usually strengthened with cable stays or ‘spreaders’ as they’re commonly referred to as. This can be an expensive exercise but worthwhile, bearing in mind that some lures in New Zealand we consider to be big, maybe towed in the long rigger position in these locations.

Rupp riggers and Lee’s riggers are two popular brands of ‘spreader’ outriggers that can be purchased over the Internet. These range from single through to triple ‘spreader’ riggers depending on the size of your vessel and what you intend on towing.

I realise that neither of these two scenarios relate that well to New Zealand conditions, but they’re just examples of setting your riggers up to suit your intended fishing techniques and maintaining a rigid rigger system.

An effective way to stiffen up your riggers some captain’s employ without too much expense and fuss is to connect a stay from the bow rail of your boat to approximately ¾ of the way up your rigger. If done properly, it can be tidy and can be un-clipped easy when not in use and it obviously reduces a lot of the springy nature of cheaper riggers.

Halyard Configurations

There are many halyard configurations employed by captains around the game fishing fraternity, once again, they need to be specific to a style of fishing, target species and remain rigid to maintain that crisp release.

Bungy CordIn some situations, as in New Zealand, halyard configurations need to be multipurpose such as lure fishing, dead baiting, live baiting and switch baiting. Whatever the scenario, it needs to be quick and easy, and user friendly as the last thing you want is it being a major operation to change from one technique to the next.

As stated earlier, we see many boats throughout New Zealand that use mono or nylon halyards that are pulled tight with a bungy cord. I’m personally not a fan of mono halyards or bungy connections due to their stretchy or springy nature. I prefer to use either ‘Starter’ or ‘VB’ cord that can be purchased at any marine chandlery. Cord obviously has minimal stretch that produces a much crisper release and it’s also a lot nicer to use from a crews perspective.

Cam CleatUsing cam-cleats to secure halyards is a good option to keep your halyards and riggers tight and rigid. It also gives you the opportunity to alter how tight your halyards are in differing fishing situations. Bungy cords obviously don’t give you as much versatility and they certainly don’t hold you halyards or riggers what I consider rigid enough.

Setting up your halyards up with starter cord is pretty straightforward. It’s important that three good quality rollers are used on each rigger to ensure that your halyards move freely, as it can be pretty frustrating from a crew’s perspective using halyards that don’t slide nicely. A roller at the top and bottom of the rigger and the other down by the cam cleat cord should enable the halyard to move freely even when pulled down tight. By using rollers, your halyards certainly won’t wear as quickly as if they were pulled through rings or glass eyes.

Ronstan rollers certainly spring to mind as a popular choice and they too can be purchased from most marine chandleries, but I’m sure you maybe able to find other suitable rollers available on the market.

Tag lines are pretty popular amongst many good marlin fishermen around the world when towing lures. Tag lines generally are used to reduce the ‘drop back’ between the release clip and the rod tip on the bite and they also return the clip to the base of the halyard automatically with the use of a weighted tag-line returns.

Tag lines aren’t suitable for teasing fishing and their certainly not suitable for either dead or live baiting. Tag lines do have some advantages with lure fishing but generally I don’t like using them unless necessary (i.e. your riggers are mounted well forward of the cockpit or you have enormous riggers). I don’t like how tag lines sag during an important turn just as you raise a fish and I like to have the ability to change between differing fishing techniques quickly without the hassle removing unwanted tag lines.

That’s just my opinion and it’s just the style of fishing I like, but it’s just something you may like to consider when setting up your riggers in the future.

There are many more halyard configurations that you may like to set up, such as an inside halyard (mounted half way up your rigger) for your short lures if lure fishing is your thing, but from a recreational perspective all I can suggest is to keep everything pretty simple and easy to use and try and obtain the cleanest release possible.

Release Clips

There’s a variety of good quality release clips on the market today that are available from either the better tackle stores or once again over Internet. Choosing the right release clip for the job intended is equally as important as choosing the right halyard system.

Blacks ClipIn my opinion, the Black’s release clip is about as good as you can get on the market today due to its versatility. The Black’s clips are suitable for lure fishing, both dead and live bait fishing due to wide range of release pressure they provide.

Rupp has recently brought out a larger clip similar to the Black’s clip that certainly looks good too; at this stage I would presume that this clip would be more readily available over the Internet.

Aftco Roller Trollers are another popular release clip used in New Zealand. For my money Roller Trollers are pretty poor release clips when fishing with lures or baits. For one, Roller Trollers are approximately four times the cost of Black’s clips and they certainly don’t have the variation or accuracy in release pressure you can apply through Black’s clips.

What Roller Trollers are very good for is in switch baiting scenarios, where a teaser can be cleared easily with the line being reeled through the roller without any fuss, if the fish does get hold of the teaser, the roller will trip open.

Other wooden clothes peg style clips, have either been superseded by better or newer designs or are best suited to towing big dead baits as in Cairns. There are other clips on the market as well such as Aftco Gold Finger that are adequate but they certainly don’t have the versatility of the Black’s Clip.

Dacron Sleeves

Rubber bands have been a popular choice for long time of connecting the line to the release clips or tag lines, although rubber bands certainly have their fans and merits I personally don’t like using them.

Firstly, as you have probably gathered by now, I don’t like a stretchy or springy release especially with live or dead bait fishing. Secondly it’s the time taken getting a lure or bait back in the rigger after a trip out or bite that I really don’t like. If I raise or get a bite from fish and miss it, I generally like to make a turn to see if I can pick it up again. In this situation I like to get the lure or bait back in the rigger and position as soon as possible.

With rubber bands, twisting them on the line and back in the same position can be a time consuming and inaccurate exercise on occasions, especially if they continually break!

What I like to use is certainly nothing new and has been discussed on many occasions in magazines previously. Dacron sleeves or loops that slide up and down the mainline with ease are great little things that are suitable for lures and bait fishing. As long as they’re made properly and whipped off nicely you will not have any problems.

Dacron Sleeve Step 1I usually try and use a type of dacron that has waxy but strong texture, obviously you want the sleeve to have strong holding and you don’t want it to tear or rip from over use. I like to use the same size dacron as the line weight it’s intended for (e.g. 50lb dacron for 50lb line) but this is not essential, as long as doesn’t slip in the rigger and it’s not too bulky it’s fine.

Dacron Sleeve Step 2With a piece of fine wire, or for those who can afford an expensive top shot kit, use a small top-shot needle to tuck the dacron into itself about four times before tucking a small 2cm tag back in side the dacron sleeve for a tidy finish. The main line is then passed up the center of the dacron from the loop end and out the end. I usually try and make the sleeves about 20 –25cm long so they have good holding, but I’ll leave that in your capable hands to fine tune.

When the loop is in a suitable position on the mainline, I whip the end of with some dental or fine rigging floss just so it holds nicely and doesn’t move when fighting a fish.

Dacron Sleeve Step 3Dacron sleeves or loops are great because you know where your lure or bait needs to be, if its not quite right it can be quickly and easily moved by sliding it up or down the line to suit and above all else it minimises any elasticity on release. In lure fishing this may not totally essential, but it certainly is with live and dead baits.

Setting up and getting your out-riggers right can be a little tricky at times especially when trailer boats are concerned, but with a little thought and planning your riggers can become an important tool for catching fish and improved hook-up percentages. I certainly don’t expect every one agree with what I have mentioned, as there are certainly plenty of options, preferences and fishing techniques used in game fishing.

Rather than ‘chasing your tail’ changing from double to single hook rigs or circles to J hooks, perhaps have a look at your rigger system and try and obtain a crisper release, you maybe surprised at the results…Good Luck!