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Modern Carbon-Fiber Outriggers Reach New Heights

Offshore: Is there a better way to build an outrigger?

Modern Carbon-Fiber Outriggers Reach New Heights
Affixed to the gap tower of a 47-foot Front Runner, Gemlux’s GS-52 carbon fiber outriggers (painted white) feature two-inch diameter base poles and spring-assist layout arms. (Photo courtesy of Front Runner Boats)

From bayboats sneaking out to bluewater targeting mahi on calm days, to massive center consoles pulling triple-tier dredge teasers in pursuit of blue marlin, outriggers emerge as indispensable tools that enhance any offshore angler’s ability to attract fish to the boat.

Their primary benefits become evident in their ability to position fishing lines and teasers in undisturbed water away from prop wash, and also reducing the risk of tangling when maneuvering to hook multiple fish or trolling in windy conditions. Outriggers for small- to mid-size center consoles span a wide range with pole lengths available from around 15 to 25 feet.

The simplest telescoping aluminum outriggers, featuring push-button locks and stainless eyelets, stand out as the most budget-friendly option. A pair of fifteen-foot telescoping aluminum outrigger poles can be purchased new for slightly over $600. Despite their affordability and practicality, aluminum outriggers may exhibit undesired flex at the connecting sections when subjected to heavy loads.

outrigger on boat
Traditional aluminum sportfish outriggers require extensive support to keep the poles from folding.

Carbon fiber has become the preferred material for outrigger poles, as evidenced by top manufacturers like Tigress, Marsh Tacky Carbon, RUPP, Taco, Lee’s Tackle, and Gemlux, all incorporating this advanced material into their designs. Recognized for its lightweight and stiff properties, carbon fiber offers a superior alternative to aluminum with the enhanced stiffness proving particularly valuable when trolling in rough seas, minimizing whipping action so baits and lures can run true—not skip and pull unnaturally. Tigress 18-foot carbon fiber telescoping outriggers retail for $1,666.99 and retract to under six feet.

If telescoping outriggers aren’t necessary for your trailering or storage needs, opting for fixed-length poles is an excellent choice. Providing enhanced strength and durability, fixed-length poles offer additional advantages, including the incorporation of internal halyard rigging. Beyond functionality, the streamlined appearance of fixed-length poles with internal rigging is highly desirable, although it comes at a higher cost.

Noteworthy in this category are Lee’s one-piece 22-footers with internal rollers that have a MSRP of $3,650. Marsh Tacky Carbon offers their flagship XT Series internal-rigged fixed-length 23-foot carbon fiber outriggers for $7,300. Notably, these outriggers weigh less than 3 1/2 pounds.

outrigger on boat
Tigress offers telescoping carbon fiber outriggers measuring 21 feet in length. They collapse to less than six feet, making them an ideal option for trailer boaters.

Beyond this length, outrigger poles exert excessive stress on fiberglass hard tops and the metal base mounts designed to pivot outriggers into position. This becomes especially problematic for center consoles exceeding 40 feet in length and even larger sportfish boats seeking extended outriggers to manage multiple halyard and teasers lines. In such cases, the preference leans back toward aluminum outriggers, available in lengths of up to 50 feet or longer, equipped with layout-arm designs complemented by collapsible back bars and sturdy base tubes. These elongated aluminum outriggers utilize spreaders, cables, and turnbuckles to reinforce the poles, effectively enhancing the strength of their hollow-tube aluminum construction.

Although this design has proven effective over decades and has remained relatively unchanged, raising and lowering these long and heavy outriggers requires significant effort. Moreover, it is advisable for those who fish regularly to remove them from the boat at least once a year for cleaning, polishing, and maintenance. Failure to maintain outriggers may result in loose cables, indicating potential issues such as backing off of turnbuckles or insufficient tightness of spreader studs.

Despite the sportfish industry’s clear preference for bridge-operated aluminum outriggers, Gemlux, based in Jacksonville, has recently made a significant departure from tradition by introducing three new carbon fiber outriggers, spanning from 30 to over 40 feet. This move marks the first notable attempt to disrupt the conventional outrigger design.

Designed specifically for convertible, express, and walkaround sportfish boats, as well as large center consoles equipped with gap towers, Gemlux’s Gulf Stream outriggers stand apart due to their lack of traditional spreaders and cable wire. The sleek aesthetic, combined with the stiffness and weight reduction of carbon fiber, along with the capability for internal rigging of halyard lines, sets these outriggers apart from any other option currently available on the market.

The three-point mounting system ensures optimal strength when fishing or running in rough seas, and evenly distributes stress across a wide mounting surface area. However, these cutting-edge outriggers come with a high price tag—the four-section GS-52 (configurable at 26-, 28-, and 30-foot lengths) is priced at $24,000 for the set. The GS-60, made up of five sections, offers configurability at 33-, 35-, or 37-foot lengths, supporting up to four halyard rollers—MSRP is $30,000.

outrigger on boat
Marsh Tacky Carbon fixed-length carbon fiber outriggers allow for internal halyard rigging.

Gemlux Gulf Stream outriggers command a price that mirrors the extensive investment in their development and production. The company painstakingly crafted and tested numerous components at their in-house 3-D printing farm. Price is also a direct correlation to factors such as the thickness of the carbon fiber layers, the quality and density of fibers, and the precise positioning of fabrics. These elements collectively contribute to shaping any brand outrigger pole’s durability, weight, and stiffness, as not all carbon fiber outriggers are created equal.

Recommended


The preference of T-top mounted carbon fiber outrigger poles has been noted, raising the question: Will low-maintenance carbon fiber eventually replace traditional aluminum sportfish outriggers known for their cumbersome rigging?


  • This article was featured in the April 2024 issue of Florida Sportsman magazine. Subscribe Now.



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