Double Duty Diver Reels by Capt. Mike Schoonveld

Double Duty Diver Reels by Capt. Mike Schoonveld

 Fishing tackle is expensive and I’m a cheapskate.

Anytime I can multi-purpose the gear I use on my boat, I’m happy. One of the easiest things I double-duty is spooling the reels I use for running Dipsey Divers or other brands of diving planers. I spool them once then keep them in the game almost all season long.

great lakes diver fishing

In the spring, I want monofilament on my diver reels.

During the first weeks of the season, I may only be deploying 15 or 20 feet of line between rod tip and diver with the directional weight adjusted to make diver and lure troll as much to the side of the boat as under the surface. The fish are near the surface and I want my lures near the surface.

Often the divers squirting out to the sides and just off the stern are exactly what the fish want. I once witnessed a fishing companion catch his limit of cohos in less than ten minutes with a Dipsey Diver pulling a Jointed Rapala. I don’t know if he ever got the rod inserted into its rod holder!

Divers pull hard whether you have 15 feet of line out or 150 feet. So you need a heavy rod to hold up to the strain.

A diver-stout-stick doesn’t allow much cushion in the set-up. Using a snubber as a shock absorber between diver and lure surely helps, but using monofilament line along with a snubber helps even more. When the fish hits the lure you want it all to stretch, not break.

diver fishing salmon great lakes

Years ago I learned to use a minimum of 30-pound test line on my diver rigs.

Before divers were invented, I thought anything more than 15-pound line was over-kill for salmon. That was when alewives were abundant and kings less than 20 pounds were rare. 

 Then I learned divers pull hard and when the strain of just dragging them through the water is added to the slashing strike of a salmon or steelhead, 15-pound test, even 20-pound test line didn’t cut it some of the time. I moved up to 30-pound line (mono, braid or wire) and have been using it ever since. Thirty-pound strong line has proven to be strong enough that I now own divers old enough to be high schoolers.

There’s a down side to the heavy line, especially with the 30-pound monofilament. Thirty-pound line is thick. Thick enough to impede the diver from pulling deep. In the spring and fall, divers running out more than down are just what the fish want. The rest of the year, divers are a way of putting lures down deep to where the cold water loving trout and salmon are swimming.

Since mono is stretchy, it acts as a shock absorber when a fish strikes the lure and on a short line, that’s important.

As the season progresses and the fish go deeper, I continue using mono, first just letting out more line; eventually, combining more line with adjusting the diver to settings that make it dive deeper and not skirt out from the boat so far.

With 50 feet of 30-pound mono between rod tip and diver, the diver’s adjustable weight set at 1 ½, my lure is running around 20 feet deep, I estimate. Twenty feet is not deep by Great Lakes fishing standards.

great lakes salmon diver fishing

I catch fish on divers three or four times deeper than that, but not by using monofilament as a diver line.

For one thing doubling the amount of mono deployed, letting out 100 feet instead of 50, with the same diver setting, isn’t going to double the depth the diver and lure will operate. Using mono may not even get the diver and lure to 30 feet deep. Thirty-pound mono is thick enough to produce a lot of water pressure as it’s trolled. That pressure greatly inhibits the ability of divers to dive.

Same line, same diver, same setting, same lure: Let out 15 feet of line, the diver pulls down to four feet deep. Let out 25 feet of line, the diver pulls down to seven feet. Let out 40 feet of line, the diver pulls down to 10 feet.

Almost as important to me as actual depth I can attain is how easy is it for me pulling on my end or the fish pulling on it’s end to trip the diver? Monofilament line stretches between 15 and 20 percent depending on brand. When you have more than 50 feet of mono out, you may as well be fishing with a rubber band.

Pull hard on the rod and between the bellow in the line and the inherent stretch, it’s nearly impossible to trip a diver to bring it in. It’s just as bad on the other end when a fish is pulling on its end of the set up.

Tug hard on either end and you or the fish are just stretching the rubber band. At best, you will be able to crank the fish close enough the diver will trip. At worst, you fight the diver for a minute or two and though you think you are keeping the line tight you are only pulling the diver, not the fish. The fish is almost free-swimming behind the diver and can easily throw the hook.

Once I need to start running my diver lures deeper than 20 feet, I switch to running the diver on thirty pound test braided line. Braid is much thinner; I don’t get the line drag through the water inhibiting the diver from going deep. Additionally, braid’s zero-stretch means neither me or the fish has a problem tripping the diver.

braided line fishing trolling reel So when I’m adding a new diver reel to my line-up, I spool it up to do double duty. It contains both monofilament and braided line and only costs me a few bucks to switch from one to the other.

Spooling Large Great Lakes Trolling Reels

A reel and its drag mechanism works best when the reel is spooled at or near it’s line capacity. Thirty pound test braided line is very thin. Filling a Great Lakes sized reel with it would take a mile or so of line—at least much more than would ever be needed. So I start out with 30-pound mono and fill the reel to about three-quarters full, maybe a bit more. Thirty-pound mono fills a reel quickly. Then I use a double uni-knot to attach a 150 yard spool of braid to the monofilament backing already on the reel. I wind on the whole spool.

One hundred fifty yards of braid means 450 feet and since I seldom deploy more than 250 feet to get my divers down deep, that gives me 200 feet extra. If I hook a fish large enough to run that much off the reel, good for me! It seldom happens.

Once the braid is installed, I use another double uni-knot to attach the braid to more 30-pound monofilament. Then I reel on 100 feet of this mono.

In this configuration, the reel is ready for shallow work spring or fall. Spring, I seldom encounter a fish that takes the entire mono topshot off the reel during it’s fight. In the fall it happens, but who cares? It’s a part of the fun.


When it’s time to go deeper, I just strip off the monofilament top-shot and discard it. Then I tie the diver straight to the braid.


A reel filler 100-yard spool of most mono is less than 10 bucks so I get three top shots from one spool.

Three bucks well spent, I say. 

- Written by Captain Mike Schoonveld






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Very Informing, enjoyed that!

marty piccola

Great Article !! Great advice !!

Glenn Daugherity

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