How to Catch Wahoo Using an Electric Reel and Bent Butt as a Downrigger for Slow Trolling Live Bait.

Last February I decided to go fishing alone. It was cold and rainy and I did not want to bring much gear along as I was going fun fishing. On this particular trip I brought 4 fishing rods and my bent butt rod matched with a Tanacom Bull Electric Reel that I use for light deep drop fishing. My plan that morning was to fish the edge of the Alligator reef off Islamorada for wahoo then head out to the Islamorada Hump and go deep dropping later in the day. The water temperature was 73 F. I put away the trolling rods on these cold days and focus on live bait fishing for wahoo and tunas. Not a fan of trolling in the winter unless it “feels right”. I am looking for big fish on these days with my favorite live bait – the Goggle Eyes. My favorite way to catch big Wahoo is catching them on light tackle while slow trolling live Goggles Eyes using Cannon Electric downriggers.

On my first drift I marked a large large bait ball(see image below).

I took a picture of the bait ball with my cell phone on this particular trip as I do on nearly all my fishing trips and saved the image so I could add it to my fishing log for historical reference. Right after I took this picture all hell broke loose. I scored Sailfish, King Fish and got 2 of my target species which were the Wahoo all on the deep baits run off my downriggers that day.

Like I mentioned earlier I only had one electric downrigger with me that day, but I had intentions of going deep dropping later in the day so I had my electric reel set-up with me. I wanted to get another live bait set deep so I could capitalize on the bite, but I did not bring my other downrigger so I converted my the deep drop set-up over to a live bait downrigger.

How to Convert Your Deep Drop Reel into a Downrigger for Targeting Live Bait While Slow Trolling

Electric Deep Drop Reel

I use a Tanacom Bull 1000 electric reel, you can purchase one online. I bought mine from Bass Pro shops a couple years back for $500.00 I have mine loaded with 40 lb Power Pro Braided line. The rod set up is a custom bent butt built by my rod sponsor, Adrenaline Custom Fishing Rods. I highly recommend having all your fishing rods custom made over time. Stock rods are great, but not guaranteed for life.

Deep Drop Fishing in the Florida Keys can be very addicting. If you are interesting learning more about how to the deep drop in the Florida Keys then stayed tuned to a future podcasts.

Below is Rob with nice Queen Snapper he caught while fishing me aboard Good Karma

Terminal Tackle Instructions

I double the braid using a spider hitch knot. Next I connect a 300-pound ball bearing swivel to the spider hitch knot using an Offshore Swivel Knot. I highly recommend using ball bearing swivels in all deep drop applications and they will help prevent line twists. To the 300 lb. Ball Bearing Swivel I attach a No. 378 Sure Stop Pro for a 60′ Downrigger Boom with a Snubber. I buy mine from for $19.99. Attached to the snubber swivel is a Pro-Troll Light Tension Release Clip by PENN. The cost of these release clips are $11.99 and I purchase mine from For a weight, it varies. On my Electric Downriggers I use a 10 lb. cannon balls. They cost about $50.00 and I pick them up at West Marine as needed. When it comes to the Electric Reel on a bent butt set up I prefer to use lighter weights, 1-5lb. lead deep drop weights are my preference.

How to fish Downriggers for Wahoo using Live Bait

Setting and Resetting the Bait

I leave the lead ball in the water at all times when setting and resetting the bait. I use a long release leader that attaches to Troll Master Release Light Tension down rigger release clips by Penn. This release leader allows me to attach the bait to the clip inside the boat rather than bring in the lead ball. Saves a lot time and protects your boat from the ball. I have been using these clips for almost 3 years. These are by far the absolute best light tension clips I have ever used and I have used them all.

Set the bait back 200-300ft, listen to the Podcast for as to why I set it the bait “way back”. Attach the line to the release clip. Move the boat forward as you as set the bait to the desired depth. Moving the boat forward speeds up the process. When the fish strikes, the line pops out of the the release clip, hit the button of your electric reel to get the lead out water. Fight the fish free from the lead. Make sure you get the weight out of the water.

Wahoo Caught of the Deep Drop Reel Converted to Downrigger for Slow Trolling Live Baits

So there you go. Bet this little tip will help you out and get you more fish this winter Also you can troll the bottom for Mutton Snappers and groupers in the deep water with this set up. Good Luck!

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Remember, anytime you’re fishing “It’s All Good.”

Capt. Ryan
Good Karma Sportfishing