The downrigger is a trolling device that lets you set your lures at an exact depth. It's basically a boom arm with a spool of steel wire and a single or dual rod holder positioned above the arm. A heavy weight is attached to the end of the steel wire. Attached to the weight is another wire with a release and a lure that is set anywhere from 10 to 200 feet (3 to 61 meters) behind the release [source: Ross].
The length of the boom arm depends on the size of your boat. Short arms should be used on boats under 15 feet in length. Use a long arm on boats 22 feet (6.7 meters) or longer [source: Hoffman].
The distance between the weight and the lure is known as the lead. Most anglers using a downrigger to catch walleye suggest using shorter leads, which let you make quicker turns and avoid tangles. Longer leads are best for when the walleye are skittish and can't be tempted to come close to your boat.
Many walleye fishers use multiple downriggers to maximize their strike potential. When setting your downriggers, it's important to alter the depths of your weights to give the walleye a variety of targets. Walleye feed up and from behind, so if your walleye doesn't like one lure, it may continue on to the next. Circling your boat in a figure-eight pattern will enable you to drop your bait down at different angles. Also, keep in mind that boat speed, wind speed and current speed will all affect the angle and distance of your drops.
As always, you want to fish for walleye around ledges or other structures. Most walleye fishers recommend using pancake weights because they are skinnier and produce less drag. Some downrigger users also attach a dodger or a fishing spoon between the release and the lure to further attract the walleye.
For a simpler but equally effective trolling device, read on to learn about the advantages of planer boards.