Fishing with a Dipsy Diver

Dipsy Diver Magnum with O-Ring for added depth
Dipsy Diver Magnum with O-Ring for added depth

Deep lake trolling is a popular method for catching trophy salmon and trout. When the summer months arrive and the water temps heat up, salmon and trout like to swim in deeper water, often in or near the “thermocline,” the point in a column of water where the temperature rapidly changes from warm to cold. As summer drags along, that thermocline heads deeper, making it more difficult for anglers to flat line troll for fish. So how do they get their lures deeper? Well, for many anglers they use downriggers. Downriggers can be expensive, however, so a Dipsy Diver is a great alternative for reaching the same depths without breaking the bank.

What is a Dipsy Diver?

A Dipsy Diver is a simple to use device for anglers who want to troll without using a downrigger. Basically, the Dipsy Diver is a weighted plastic disc that dives down in the water column when trolling. This diving allows the attached lure to be placed in the optimal strike zone. Once a fish bites the lure and is hooked, the tug of the lure pulls line from the release mechanism which eliminates nearly all of the resistance, allowing the angler to fight the fish freely. The Dipsy Diver is also designed to be adjusted so baits can be trolled port, starboard, or directly behind the boat. This feature gives the angler the opportunity to troll wider areas of water. Dipsy Divers are manufactured in a few different sizes with specific depth limits for each. They’re also painted in different colors and patterns to help attract fish.

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Dipsy Diver setup

To get the most out of your Dipsy Diver, you want to make sure you have it set up properly. It’s very easy to set up and use the Dipsy Diver, but some anglers ignore obvious problems in their setups and will lose their diver trolling or even while fighting the fish. Here are some simple, hopefully obvious tips on setting up your Dipsy Diver properly.

  • Use strong line from the reel to the Diver. SomeĀ anglers think of the Dipsy Diver as an accessory to trolling and not the integral piece in keeping your bait down in the water. This thinking usually means anglers will keep their reels spooled with their favorite, ten to twelve pound mono or braided line so they can keep the “light line” characteristics on their equipment and really feel the fight with the fish. The problem is the power of the diver pulling on the line is too great for anything less than twenty pound test. It’s my experience the best line to use is braided because it’s thin yet strong and has little to no stretch.
  • Tie your lines with strong swivels. Do not tie your line directly to the Dipsy Diver. Always use a swivel- I recommend stainless steel 50 lb swivels. Make sure you tie your swivel on your line using a strong knot that you depend on and are comfortable with. I prefer a palomar knot but you can use whatever you feel comfortable with.
  • Buy a Dipsy Diver Snubber. The Snubber is a small piece of rubber tubing with a braided line core that stretches to absorb the shock of a hard striking or soft mouthed fish. The Snubber is particularly important if you’re using braided line as indicated earlier.
  • Paint your Dipsy Diver black. You may or may not want to do this, and that’s okay. In my experience, I find when fish are really selective, the painted black Dipsy Diver has more success than the bright colored ones. If you can stretch out your Snubber, it’d be a good idea to paint it black as well.

How to use a Dipsy Diver

Dipsy Diver ConfigurationsUsing a Dipsy Diver is very easy compared to other trolling equipment like downriggers. The biggest difficulty, which isn’t really all that difficult, is adjusting the tension release so when a fish strikes, the pin will pull from the release allowing the angler to freely fight the fish rather than the down force of the Diver. The Diver’s tension release is adjustable with a screw driver, so be sure to work with it to find the right amount of tension to minimize errant releases. Once you have that figured out, you can adjust roughly where you’d like the diver to tow behind you when trolling by shifting the base plate weight. Underneath the Dipsy Diver is an easy to read indicator and on it you can set the direction incrementally either way. For a straight behind the boat troll, set the weight
to zero on the indicator. Move the weight from zero up to 3 in either direction for a track favoring a particular side. Using these adjustments carefully can allow anglers to put out multiple lines on each side of the boat without worry of tangling.

Dipsy Diver depth chart

Below are some general depth charts for different sizes of Dipsy Divers. These are guidelines based upon using 20 lb test monofilament in a trolling speed of 2.5 to 3.0 mph. Depths can change based on factors like current, line diameter, lure or attractor, even debris in the water. As a rule, depth will increase or decrease by 10% for each one MPH faster or slower trolled.

Dipsy Diver Depth Charts

Equipment to use with a Dipsy Diver

Because of the stress on your equipment when trolling with a Dipsy Diver, it’s wise to purchase good, strong gear capable of the extra pressure.

  • Strong braided line. Try going with a 40-50 lb test braided line as your main line. Strong enough to support the Dipsy Diver in action but thin enough to spool on most every levelwind reel. The favorites are the typical: PowerPro, Spiderwire, Sufix 832. You can read more about the best braided fishing line here.
  • For leader line, I highly recommend fluorocarbon. It’s strong and incredibly clear. As for favorites, you cannot go wrong with Seaguar 100% Fluorocarbon line. Read my blog on the best fluorocarbon fishing line to get other recommendations and more on the Seaguar line.
  • Many anglers make the mistake of using a traditional downrigger rod to fish with Dipsy Divers (myself included). Don’t do that. For the force the diver will make, you need a good 9 to 10 foot rod with the first five feet staying straight. Okuma makes a GLT Dipsy Diver rod that is a great pick, but you can find others here to scope them out for yourself.
  • The most important piece in a rig is obviously the reel. I’ve found the best practice is to spend as much as you can on the reel and you’ll never regret it. Just about any trolling reel will work, but in this situation you really should buy a line counter reel. Spend the extra money and get the line counter built in rather than relying a small, cheaply made piece of plastic that clips to your rod. Trust me.
  • 50 lb test stainless steel swivels. Avoid line twist at each end of the line you use by connecting these to your equipment.

If trolling is how you like to fish, but you’re not sure you want to make the serious investment in Downriggers, give the Dipsy Diver a try. It’s affordable, easy to set up, and easy to use. Anglers everywhere trust the dipsy diver for all varieties of deep water fish. Make it a part of your arsenal as you target your favorite fish on the lake.