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High and Wide

Tips for planning a center console outrigger installation.

Originally published in December 2010 print edition

Popular on open boats, T-top outriggers are generally adjusted from below (inset).

Want to build a wider trolling spread for sailfish or dolphin season? Modern T-tops are commonly built to accommodate top-mount outriggers, preserving the fish-around quality of a center console vessel.

The first step in choosing new outriggers is to determine if your T-top has mounting plates already welded in place; if it was built within the last few years, the answer is probably yes. If not, mounting plates can easily be added and in most cases are stock items from fabricators or outrigger manufacturers. The modern outrigger bases are designed to fit standard 4- by 6-inch mounting plates with a 3- by 5-inch base and standard bolt pattern. This allows for easy new installations or upgrading.

There are several good options when choosing outrigger bases and poles. Manufacturers I see regularly are Rupp Marine, Lee's Tackle, Taco and Tigress but there are others.

Telescoping poles simplify storage.

What are some desirable features that may add value to your boat? The convenience of deploying and stowing riggers from the helm, without having to reach up on top of the top, is huge. Some models will require less effort to swing than others. For example, the popular Taco bases require that the handle be pulled down to move the rigger which lifts the rigger up out of locked position, but the weight of the rigger then must also be moved. The new Rupp Revolution does not require lifting of the rigger to unlock and is easier to deploy since the weight of the rigger stays on the mount. Tigress, too, introduced an easier cranking T-top outrigger this year, the Tiger Shark III.

It's important that the handle has a clear path to fully deploy. Also determine how many positions you want to be able to move them. Is swinging the riggers back 80 degrees to only one position okay, or do you want more options such as being able to swing them forward also for cleaning?

Outrigger pole selection is by length, and the tips of fixed-length poles should not extend beyond the engines; any longer creates a problem for docking and high-and-dry forklifts. A 30-foot boat can probably handle 15-foot poles. Telescoping poles are more desirable and can be longer than fixed length, if the extra spread is important to you. Telescoping poles are also great for multipurpose family boats, as the riggers can be retracted without removing the poles and having to store them somewhere. They also add versatility; you could fly fish with the poles in, then later troll with the poles extended.

Braided nylon is the most popular halyard material for T-top outriggers. The line has no memory and is easy to deal with when the poles are retracted or removed. Several companies offer halyard kits that include all the materials needed. Monofilament halyard can be used, but generally it's best with fixed-length poles that remain on the boat.

Light clips should be used, as T-top riggers are not designed to pull great big marlin lures (and certainly not dredge teasers—best keep these on a transom-mount downrigger, for instance). Blacks clips are common, as are Rupp's Klickers which adjust easily, release well and can handle moderate loads. Single-halyard setups are most common on T-top riggers, as the spread is not really wide enough to accommodate multiple clips. The rigging line should be taught when the riggers are stowed for running and a small pad eye can be installed under the top for the halyard pulley lanyard. Unfortunately, the halyards will probably not be tight when deployed and clipped to the stowed position pad eye, but often the lanyard can be wrapped around the top leg up high and then clipped to itself to keep it tight. If not, add a second pad eye under the top. If you run the halyards from the gunnels, you take away the unobstructed walk around which somewhat defeats the purpose of the T-top. FS

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