I've fished downriggers for 30 years. Used home made to start with and since then Riverias, Cannon, Walker and for the last ten years Penn manuals. Penns are the best for me for ease of use and reliability. Great service department if ever needed.
I have to agree with DKuiper,... I too have used quite a few different makes and the Penn Fathom-master's manual riggers are the easiest that I have come across to use.
One hand operation, release the clutch mechanism and control the cable spool with one hand as your dropping the weight. Once it's at the depth you want ,.. tighten the clutch dial and set your rod tension an drag,... your DONE!!
1) Everyone will pretty much tell you theirs are the best. Generally, if you're buying new you get what you pay for. You can easily spend $300+ per rigger on a good long-boom manual with a swivel base. You can also spend $150 a pop.
2) Check out used electrics on Ebay. I'd personally buy electrics if you have the choice. It's really nice to just hit the switch. If you're obsessive about changing lures like I am you'll be suprised how tired your right arm will be after cranking riggers and fish all day.
I bought the Canon Uni-trolls. They come with a swivel base for a pretty good price. Clutch system seems to work well. I used them for the first time last weekend, I liked them. If I was more than an occasional weekend warrrior I would probably bought electrics.
I'm sure all of the popular brands are of good quality or else they couln't have remained in business as long as the have. My only experience is with the uni-troll, which I've had for the last 21 years, and it still works quite well. Thus far, no problems with it at all.
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