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Downrigger Ball Flashers

Downrigger ball flashers are essentially long strings of flashers attached directly to the downrigger ball instead of the fishing line.  They are also referred to as 'gang trolls',  'ball trolls',  or 'cannonball trolls'.  Their job it to attract fish to your downrigger ball where your lure will be close behind.  It could be that they attract fish by looking like a school of bait fish.  Another theory is that the flashing and vibration attract fish out of pure curiosity.  Whatever the reason, the advantage of using ball flashers is that they attract fish to your lure, but they don't hinder the fight once you hook a fish.

I've had great luck using ball flashers for landlocked chinook and coho salmon.  They also work well when trolling for mackinaw.  Downrigger ball flashers are worth a try when targeting other cold water species such as trout or kokanee salmon.

Try them for kokanee in high elevation lakes where kokanee form tight schools.  For the most part, I leave the flashers at home when targeting kokanee salmon.  They are always worth a try when nothing else is working.

Practice catch and release, and good luck!
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Hardware

There are lots of downrigger ball flashers on the market.  I'm sure that all of them work great.  I went ahead and just made my own.  My dad had some old trout trolling flashers in his garage that he gave me.  I cleaned them up and attached several different flashers together into a string that measures about six feet long.  Once I created the string of flashers I added duo-lock snap to the front so I could attach it to my downrigger ball.  I then added some reflective tape to the outsides of the blades and some glow tape to the insides of the blades.  This put the finishing touch on my homemade ball flashers.

Technique

I snap my string of ball flashers directly to the downrigger ball.  Once I have it in the water and it looks like it's spinning correctly, I'll fasten my line release about one or two feet above the downrigger ball using a stacker clip.

Downrigger Ball Flasher Setup

The trick is to get your line release close to the ball flashers without getting too close.  If you get it too close your line will tangle up in the flashers when you lower the ball or slow down to fight a fish.  Too high, and your lure will be too far away from the flashers where the fish are being attracted to.

How to Avoid Tangles

Some people are afraid to use these because the threat of tangles.  Just take it slow, and follow this advice:

  • Lower the ball slowly so the flashers don't tangle in your downrigger cable or fishing line.

  • Make sure that the string of flashers is not so long that it can reach your propeller.

  • Keep the boat moving at all times.  If you have to stop the boat - pull in your fishing lines.  Otherwise, your lure will sink down and wrap up in the flashers.

  • Using short set backs means that fish will be very near the boat once they're hooked.  This gives you less time to tire out the fish, so set your drags loose and be prepared to give them some line until they tire out.

  • When using two downriggers, make sure that the flasher strings are shorter than the distance between the two downrigger cables.  If they are too long, the flashers can actually tangle in the opposite downrigger cable.

  • If you have quick-retrieve downriggers, pull in your line first before bringing up the downrigger ball.

Tips

  • Don't be afraid to fish shallow!  I've caught fish using this technique with my downrigger ball as shallow as 15' deep.  Basically right under the boat.

  • If your flashers and set backs are short enough, it allows you to make really tight turns without having to worry about your lines or flashers getting tangled up.  This can be a deadly technique when you find a school of feeding fish - just keep making circles and figure-eights back through the same fish.

  • Try running a lure without any dodgers or flashers attached.  When you hook a fish, there won't be anything between you and the fish.  Minnow lures and Apexes are great for this technique.

Resources

Vance's Tackle Downrigger Tips