Stainless Steel or Braid for Your Downrigger

Over the last few years there has been much debate over the pro’s and con’s of cable versus synthetic braid for downrigger line. The long and the short of this argument is that they both work well, and each bring to the table some unique properties. Up to this point I have been in the stainless steel cable camp. My reasoning is related to where I spend most of my fishing hours. I am sure that those of you who are advocates one way or the other have similar reasons for choosing the side of the fence where you are hanging your hat. My feeling is that I will change out to braid the next time my cable is showing signs of wear.

  • 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.
  • Stainless cable will take a licking and keep on ticking. When fishing shallow in reservoirs, many times your downrigger ball will become snagged on a submerged log. 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 what ever you don’t want it too.
  • Braid does not kink. Because of the fact that braid is flexible almost to it’s detriment as mentioned above, you don’t have to worry about the cable becoming kinked because some nimrod 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.
  • Cable kinks. I loose cable in increments of two to three feet on a regular basis. Once cable becomes kinked, you have to cut out the damaged section and install a new connector and thimble kit. If you don’t, you will end up replacing everything from the kink down when your cable snaps and it is unfortunately only a matter of time to yet be determined. Weights are expensive so clip and change out the items previously mentioned.
  • Braid does not carry an electrical charge. As I am sure you have already heard, fish are affected by voltage leaks. Because of this, and the fact that over time, voltage leaks are more common as your boats wiring ages, braid makes sense especially in a saltwater environment.
  • Stainless cable transmits electricity. As stated in the previous bullet point, this can be good or it can be bad. If you use a black box such as the ProTroll model or the Cabella’s model, cable can serve a purpose allowing you to send out the proper electric charge to actually attract fish. You can also help to keep the negative effects by maintaining the sacrificial anodes on your motor and hull.
  • Stainless cable comes in 150# test and 180# test. Cable looks stronger, but that is deceiving. I am not saying that it isn’t strong, only that once you overload it, you should remove a substantial section because when it is cork screwing without load it indicates damage.
  • Braid comes in 150# test and 250# test. Braid is more susceptible do damage from grit than anything else. In areas of sandy bottoms, care should be taken to keep the braid out of the grit simply because the grit will wear out the cable from the inside, something you don’t have to worry about with stainless cable.
  • downrigger stops are going to be different than the box of stops you have been using on your cable so be prepared to make some changes there as well should you make the switch.
  • Your downrigger releases will work with either braid or cable so this should not be an issue when switching from cable to braid or back again.
  • I am interested in your opinions in regards to Cannon downriggers and Scotty Marine downriggers. If you own another brand of downriggers and you fish here in the Northwest, I would like to hear from you as well. You can click on the webmaster link below.

I am sure that I could go on and outline more differences but for me it would not serve a purpose. My personal feeling is braid is the better investment when replacing your downrigger cable. I don’t like excessive blow back when fishing at depth and I have no intention of putting a black box on my boat anytime soon.  I have lost many a weight due to kinks in the cable and terminator failure. But in saying this, don’t use the excuse that braid doesn’t kink for a reason not to regularly check your terminators and wear areas or you will be replacing more than just a terminator rig. Like I mentioned previously, weights are expensive! I prefer the Scotty braid over any of the others at this point, but that is subject to change as I look into this further. Cannon provides a good quality braid as do a number of other makers. You can also buy braid in bulk and make your own.

Here’s what I want you to do now …

  • First, in the comments section below, let me what you think.
  • If you would like to see what I have to say over the next few months Please sign up for my Weekly newsletter below.

See you in the comments!


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About Kent Cannon

My passion is fishing and hunting as well as traveling throughout the Northwest and writing about those adventures. I was separated from my job a few years ago due to the still ongoing economic downturn. I had spent years working, focusing on things that really were not near and dear to my heart all the while scrambling and climbing to what I perceived as the top. I of course did not realize what I was doing, because I was caught up in the moment, focusing on what I thought was the American dream. Crashing and pushing ever forward like a Lemming headed for a cliff, oblivious the world around me. I was more than a little bitter over loosing my job; it was a good job as far as jobs go and I was making a lot of money so I could live according to the manner in which I wanted to be accustomed. In the process of trying to find another job in an unfavorable economic climate I found something that I had left behind many years ago. I found me! That is how and why I started this website, looking for myself and sharing things that I found along the way. Even though I am older now, suffering a little from arthritis and my hair is now somewhat graying I still have fire in my belly for the next adventure. The more that I seek out my next adventure, the more excited I become!

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