I procrastinated forever on getting speed and temp at the ball. It was too pricey, too much of a pain to install and who needs it anyway? Last month I finally swept away those arguments and made the decision to go ahead. Now that Iíve fished with it, I donít know how I ever lived without it.
First I had to decide which to buy. The two market leaders, the Fish Hawk 840 and the Sub Troll 900 each have their own solution for getting you the information you need. The Sub Troll costs about $420; about $200 less than the Fish Hawk. The Sub Troll sends a radio signal up a plastic-coated downrigger cable, while the Fish Hawk sends a sonar signal to a transducer you must mount on your transom. Both have a sensor/sending unit that attaches to the downrigger wire just above the cannonball.
Most of the people I talked to were in the Fish Hawk camp. I heard some grousing about service issues at Sub Troll, but I didnít hear much of anything about differences in performance.
I opted for the Sub Troll. I donít have a lot of space on the transom of my 18í Lund for another transducer, and I liked the big, analog dial for reading speed. (Temp is in a small digital LCD screen set within the dial.) And, if youíre watching a budget, the price differential is too big to ignore.
Installation was fairly simple (it would have been a snap for anyone who knows the first thing about wiring, which I donít). The downrigger cable feeds through a little antenna that you fasten to your downrigger boom with a couple of cable ties. The antenna plugs into a coaxial-style cable that you plug into the back of the readout unit.
Your downrigger cable terminates at the sending unit. Beneath that, you need to make a leader of 18 inches or so to hold the cannonball. The leader snaps on to the bottom of the sending unit. You want the leader to be strong enough to hold the ball, but not as strong as the 150-pound test downrigger cable. Thatís because if the ball hangs up on something, you want it to break away, leaving the $200 sending unit still at the end of your downrigger cable.
The first two times out were rough. On my first trip, I learned that Iíd rigged my cannonball leader a little too break-away friendly. And break away it did. Bye bye cannonball. On my next trip, I learned that Iíd left too much cable around the swivel base of my Walker downrigger. The connection where the Sub Troll antenna plugs into the cable got pinched, and I ended up snapping the post off the male connector in the cable. Out of business again.
A trip to Radio Shack found a replacement cable for about $10, and though it was a pain to have to re-run the cable, I got it done and was soon back in business.
In the limited use Iíve given it so far, the Sub Troll has worked beautifully. Knowledge is power, and the knowledge of the exact speed of your lure, and the exact temperature of the water itís running through is a beautiful thing. Weíve boated a couple of very nice kings already this year, and the Sub Troll played an important part in both.
In each case, I had made a subtle change in course that ran my lure too fast or slowed it too much. I made throttle adjustments based on what I knew (as opposed to what I thought) and the fish hit quickly after.
Because it is still early, our Lake Michigan fish are holding near to the top. Iíve really only run the Sub Troll through 15-20 feet of water so far. But as the waters warm and I start trolling through 40-80-foot depths, Iím confident the unit will continue to provide valuable, reliable information that helps directly in putting fish in the box.
A final note. When I had a question during installation (and later, with the broken-off plug) I called the service number at Moore Electronics for answers. Both times, I got someone on the line who was patient, who knew what I was talking about and who was able to tell me what I needed to know. In the early going, at least, Iíve been pleased with the service response