With the purchase of my new 58’ game boat I’ve finally got into using a centre rigger on a regular basis. It is nice not to have to put a 50 wide outfit on strike drag in the t-top rod holder and then having to try to pull it out while a wahoo is screaming drag after hooking up.
In the previous two articles we covered outriggers, those poles that lay outwards from the sides of your boat to increase your trolling spread, and how to rig them. Most boats that use them will have two outriggers, one each side. Centre riggers offer a third option.
A centre rigger is essentially a third outrigger that is different in that it is mounted in the middle of the boat between the two outriggers. The outriggers point out to the side and the centre-rigger points upwards and aft. As far as rigging goes, the centre rigger is set up and rigged just like an outrigger. The centre rigger has eyelets through which a lanyard is run and a release clip is tied into the lanyard.
Centre riggers are commonly mounted on either hardtops, targa tops, or from flybridge mounted rod holder rocket launcher set ups. The base can be a specifically designed adjustable angle base that looks just like an outrigger base, or it can simply be the placing of a lanyard rigged ‘rod-blank’ into one of the rod holders in your targa rail rocket launcher.
Some of the simpler shorter setups don’t even have a lanyard; just a clip at the tip and the pole is removed each time that the centre line is reset.
The whole idea with centre riggers is that they provide the opportunity to raise the towing point of the troll outfit that is in the centre of your trolling spread. If the base of the centre rigger is at head height (such as on a targa top) then the centre rigger may run aft from its base at an angle skywards at about 45º. If the base of the outrigger is higher, then the centre rigger may be angled backwards much closer to horizontal.
I think you don't need to worry as much about the angle in relation to your deck as you do the height above your deck. Where you are going to mount the pole is your most important consideration. You want to still be able to reach the rigger and its lanyard.
If you run a pole off the hard top of either a centre console or half cabin boat, you may want a centre rigger that points upwards (at an angle somewhere between 45º to a straight-up vertical green stick bird-trolling style pole).
If you run a centre rigger pole from high up off a tower or a flybridge hardtop, you might opt for a shallower angle closer to horizontal. The critical factor is nearly always the height of the base.
One common setup is to have the tip of your centre rigger higher than the tips of your outrigger poles. This way the outrigger lures won’t get tangled with the WWB (way-way-back) shotgun lure when making a tight turn.
Also the centre rigger keeps the shotgun line well out of the way of the short ‘corner’ lines for turns. The centre rigger gets the line up above and out of the way of your surface baits that are closer to your boat’s transom and you can execute turns with less risk of a tangle. Also, the centre rigger’s higher angle into the water means less main line in the water and more life in your lure.
I mention surface baits because we also run downriggers as well, one off each corner.
A negative of the centre rigger can be slack line tip wrapping the fishing rod on release (if the clip is not positioned past\aft of the rod tip). Most flybridge boats have long 16’ centre riggers to prevent this problem.
As already mentioned, the centre rigger is often the highest outrigger in comparison to the others when they are all deployed in the fishing position. Its line runs straight down the middle with its bait\lure often being the farthest back.
To use a centre rigger:
For example, in a lure trolling spread the crew runs a lure back, way way back, known as the WWB or shotgun. Once the shotgun lure is in position, the main fishing line is then placed into\through an outrigger clip, often an Aftco Roller Release Clip in the case of a centre rigger. Then the clip is run out to the end of the centre rigger pole by running out the lanyard by hand. The centre rigger set-up keeps your fishing line high and out of the way of other lines in the trolling spread. It allows you to place the outfit into a rod holder in the cockpit that is easy to get to.
When the fish strikes and hooks up, your fishing line pops out of the centre rigger’s release clip and, down in the cockpit, you can then remove the rod from its rod holder and fight the fish direct from your rod tip.
In small trailerable craft, it is common not to bolt the centre rigger pole into the mount\base (or rod holder tube) because having it easy to remove allows you to stow it when trailering or going under a low bridge.
On my big boat I use a ring at the tip end of the centre rigger, and either a pulley or glass ring near the base and another pulley that I tie off to the tower leg. This creates a triangle. I put it about head high on the tower leg. Low enough to reach easily but high enough that you don't walk into it. You run it up and down, in and out, just like the lanyards on the outriggers.
A straight pull type lure is standard fare to be pulled from a centre rigger. If I’m trolling slower, a garfish with a weighted skirt head is ideal on the shotgun from the centre rigger.
All riggers, including centre riggers, can be set up provide dropback and to change the angle at which your line enters the water.
Dropback is not as necessary a factor when pulling lures – although some crews do run dropback on their softheaded lures. However drop back is almost universally used when slow trolling live baits. Either there is a belly of main fishing line between the rod tip and the pin type release clip; or the line runs through a roller-troller release. With the roller-troller approach, the angler gets themselves quickly to the rod in order to freespool the reel in a controlled fashion, and lets line out without backlashing and the bait (dead or alive) is feed back to the big fish.
Dropback is very commonly used with dead baits. It’s used almost 100% of the time with single hook live baits that have been rigged on mono-type leaders.
Using a centre-rigger keeps the shotgun rod in the cockpit and within reaching distance so you can access it easily in order to free spool to drop back to a fish that either misses the lure or is playing with the bait.
This set up also allows you to wind the lure forward a few cranks of the reel handle and this often incites a fish into aggressively striking and hooking up.
In my 36’ triple-outboard 130km/h centre console, we often forgo the centre riggers because it is difficult to manage it at such high running speeds. Therefore, I run the shotgun outfit from the t-top rocket launcher (which gives the WWB both elevation and spread separation).
The only hiccup with this setup is that it can be difficult for short anglers to grab the rod and reel outfit and lift if out of the holder. I’m just on the taller side of too short, and I have to step up onto the icebox on tippy-toes to get up to the rod. With heavy tackle blue water gear and the reel set with a heavy strike drag of say around 7kg; it can be hard to get the outfit out of the t-top rod holder once it’s hooked up and dumping line to a fleeing pelagic. Also running a heavy outfit on strike drag will not be too beneficial to the welds in a t-top rocket launcher – I’ve seen a few crack and break.
In practise the centre rigger is more useful for smaller lures or baits. Smaller offerings create less drag in the water and are therefore less likely to keep pulling the line out of the rigger clip.
When big baits, teasers or lures keep pulling out of clip repeatedly, then a lot of time is spent being side tracked while resetting the line. When pulling bigger baits it can be more time efficient to forgo the centre-rigger and to run the line direct from rod in the game chair’s rocket launcher.
Another option is to pull the WWB bait on wire (and two hooks) back there so that you don't have to check it more than a few times a day.
Some sporties (aka sportfishers, gameboats) have two different pulley systems on their centre rigger: one running from the port side and the other on the starboard side of the flybridge. Each pulley may have a different clip – one side could be a roller troller clip (allowing the oufit to be free spooled until the angler wants to lock up on fish and it pulls out of the clip) and the other side a Blacks clips (which is set up so that the line just pops free on strike).
It is not uncommon to run two lines off a centre rigger, one shotgun in the usual WWB spot and a bird, daisy chain or teaser off the other lanyard.
The use of centre riggers occurs more often in tournament fishing versus social fishing.
Social fishing allows for more flexibility on how the rod is handled. During tournaments, only the angler can engage the reel and strike the fish for a legal capture. Consideration, depending on the scenario, can be given to giving an angler ready access to the rod in the cockpit to prevent hiccups with multiple anglers touching the rod and\or eliminating the risk of something happening while the outfit is being passed down from flybridge.
On heavy tackle it also allows an angler to position themselves in the chair with the rod before locking up.
A centre rigger is a lot of fun, they increase your options and they look pretty cool too.Reads: 2027