Best downrigger, fish bags, and more. This is a big category covering boats, motors, and accessories needed to excel on the water. We bring you insights into some of the on-the-water tools we use to catch fish and safely navigate the range of rivers, lakes, streams, bays and ocean that we commonly fish in Alaska.

Best downrigger, watercraft, and accessories for 2021

Silver Horde KatchKooler DeluxeSilver Horde KatchKooler Deluxe
We’ve been using the original KatchKooler for many years and love its performance. This upgraded Deluxe version is even better. It features a high-density, closed-cell foam inner liner, rip-resistant outer shell, a larger size to fit more fish (41.5” x 19.5”) and a strong handle. We can get three, 15- to 20-pound Chinook and 10 pounds of ice in the fish bag. We are big fans of fish bags over hard-bodied coolers; they can be stored compactly until needed, are super light when empty, and easier to carry.
Fish Fighter Products Net HolderFish Fighter Products Net Holder Universal Mount
The Net Holder Universal Mount is designed to be versatile and easy to mount in many different types of boats. Our tester mounted it on the rail, forward of the boat seats, in his 22-foot Rogue Jet Chinook. This net holder is made from powder-coated, marine-grade aluminum and comes with stainless-steel mounting hardware.
Gunnel GuardRiverWild Boats Square “No Slop” Gunnel Guard
Many boats these days, especially open sleds, have extruded rubber gunnel guards to which rod holders and other sliding accessories can be mounted. Unfortunately, the rubber gunnel-guard material used is generally rounded on the edges. The result is that sliding rod holders and other accessories wobble around a bit due to sloppy fit. This can create big problems. The solution? Order some of RiverWild’s “No Slop” Gunnel Guard. The edges are square, not rounded, so accessories fit perfectly with virtually no slop. This stuff really works great, and as far as we know, RiverWild is the only place you can get it.
Insulated Fish BagFish Fighter Products 48-inch Insulated Fish Bag
Fish bags take up far less space than hard coolers, and are a great way to keep fish cold. Fish Fighter’s 48” fish bag is large enough to hold several typical Chinook, or even more coho. It’s insulated with 1” closed-cell foam, has heavy-duty web handles and two zipper pulls to open and close it. Put a bag or two of ice in it and it will stay cold all day, especially if you keep it out of the sun. Cleanup is simple—wash it with soap and water and set it upside down, open, to drain and dry. Fish that are properly bled and kept cold will be much better on the table than those that aren’t.
Fish Fighter ProductsFish Fighter Products Cannon Downrigger Billet Lockable Knob
Fish Fighter noticed a way to improve the function of a Cannon downrigger’s swivel-base release pin, which has to be pulled out and held out to swivel the downrigger. The Billet Lockable Knob is designed to make swiveling the downrigger easier. It replaces the factory swivel-base release pin and allows you to disengage the lock without having to hold onto it. Swiveling the downrigger can be a one-handed operation with the Billet Lockable Knob, whereas it’s a two-handed operation with the factory swivel-base release pin. Ingenious. The Billet Lockable Knob is made of machined billet aluminum, then powder coated. It’s a nice upgrade to Cannon’s downriggers.
LeeLock Crab CrackerLeeLock Crab Cracker
This handy tool is essential when processing a big pile of live Dungeness crab. We tested LeeLock’s prototype and loved it. The aluminum device fits perfectly on top of a 5-gallon bucket. Crabs are placed on top of the tool and with a couple whacks of a closed fist, the crab is killed. Then just pull the carapace off and all you have to do is shake off any organs that remain attached to the two clusters and remove the gills. It’s quick and easy. In the past we boiled crabs whole. Not only does that present a possible health hazard because of Domoic acid which is a toxin located in crab guts produced by a micro algae called Pseudo-nitzschia, but it also takes a lot longer to cook the crabs. Previously we could fit 12 whole crabs into our 42-quart Camp Chef pot; now we can cook the clusters from 24 crabs in the same pot. Cooking them whole means it’s also messier to clean them, and you have to wait for them to cool to avoid burning your hands when removing the clusters from the whole crab. This sturdy, solid-aluminum tool doubles as a measuring device so you can determine which crabs are legal. In Alaska, you can only harvest male Dungeness crabs that are 6.5” or larger in carapace width.
Downrigger Wall MountFish Fighter Products Cannon Downrigger Wall Mount Storage Hanger
What to do with the downriggers when they aren’t being used is an age-old question for those who own them. Fish Fighter’s solution is simple and elegant: Hang them on a wall with their Wall Mount Storage Hangers. Downrigger Wall Mount Storage Hangers are sold in pairs and are designed to fit most Cannon manual and electric downriggers.
Electric DownriggerCannon Optimum TS Electric Downrigger
Downriggers have evolved into fully integrated electronics with features unimagined 20 years ago. The Optimum TS sits at the pinnacle of all this technological development. The list of features is long and impressive. It can handle 20-pound downrigger balls. It can be controlled at the downrigger or through the Cannon app on your smartphone or tablet. It has a 3.5” LCD just above the keypad which provides a wealth of information including a sonar picture if you buy the Cannon transducer (required if you want to use the Bottom Track feature). The downrigger is programmable in different ways; for instance, if you want to troll five feet of the bottom, you can use the Bottom Track feature to maintain five feet (or any distance you select) off the bottom. This is extremely effective for Chinook, and has applications for the imaginative halibut angler, too. You can also program it to cycle through depths, say from 35 feet to 25 feet and back, and you can set the cycle interval in seconds. This cycling feature can be extremely effective at getting following fish to strike. You can program the deploy and retrieve speeds; you can store up to five preset depths in the unit; and Cannon leads the industry with its positive ion control (built-in, adjustable black-box technology) that can actually attract fish to your gear and can be adjusted for different species. The Optimum TS can also connect wirelessly to Humminbird fish finders and you can view downrigger info right on the Humminbird display. Up to four downriggers can be wirelessly networked together, too. The Optimum TS has more features such as Fish Hawk integration, however we did not test that feature. The Waterline Zero and Short Stop features automatically stop the weight on the ascent a set distance below the waterline or when the weight breaks the waterline. This keeps swinging downrigger balls from damaging your boat, and the stop prevents damage to the boom and prevents lost downrigger balls. The overall construction places an emphasis on ease of use and corrosion resistance. Suffice it to say that we have had experience with a lot of manual and electric downriggers over the years. Most modern downriggers are good, but this one has more features than any we’ve ever used. If you learn to use what this downrigger can do and apply these capabilities to fishing situations, you will catch more fish.
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