"The Hot Setup"
for Wire Diver Rods

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Wire Rod in action

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Home Salmon Busters™ Great Lakes Info Tips and Trix Capt. John's Log

Please Heed this Warning!


I have mixed emotions about doing this article, because the 30 pound test 7 strand stainless steel wire has no-stretch and will destroy a normal Dipsy rod in short order.  After much thought I decided to do this page on something I don't recommend for the recreational sport fisherman.  Sure, it catches fish, but it's dangerous to use and the 30 pound test braided 7 strand wire will saw thru 150 pound downrigger cable and body parts.

I first used this technique in 1989 in Port Austin, Michigan.  I made sure I included the date, so you could see it was before the invention of the modern day Spectra braided lines, sometimes called, "super lines."

Note:  As time allows I'll be able to get a better start on this page.

The one thing you can use for food for thought is that you'll need a all roller guide 10 foot rod, or like in my case I ordered the best quality roller guides (Aftco) on the market and rebuilt one of my older diver sticks.  The cost of the 10 roller guides was around 70 bucks, not counting the thread and the 2 part finishing epoxy.

Luhr Jensen makes a reason priced 10 foot diver rod, however I don't believe they put enough guides on the rods, and the quality of their installed roller guides is poor when compared to Aftco.

Rebuilding each 10 foot diver rods took me approximately 8 hours per rod to cut off the old line guides, twist on the 10 new guides and apply the finishing epoxy.

You'll need the build a rod winding jig (see above photo) and that's maybe a 10 minute job, if you have the power tools to do it.  Use C-clamps to affix to a stationary table and you're in business as a rod builder.

In my policy of striving for the best all around Great Lakes website on the internet, I'll share what knowledge I have about "reel wire line divers."  Even though I don't recommend them any longer, I'm sure some of one you will still persist in using them.

Best Regards,
Capt. John 5/23/02 

The Discovery

During the summer of 1988 the Kings fishery was on the skids in Lake Michigan.  Bacterial Kidney Disease was rampant and the once fantastic Chinook fishing in Frankfort was on hard times.  Couple this with one of the hottest summers in Northern Michigan, it was just plain tough to catch fish.  Well respected charter operator out of Frankfort, Michigan named Mel Wantz was experiencing success reaching the fish, at and below the 100 to 120 depths.  Capt. Mel was willing to share his vast knowledge and showed me his "secret weapon rod," is was a diver rod rigged with 30 pound test 7 strand braided wire stainless steel wire and a large Deep Six.   A Deep Six was a Les Davis product then and was before being bought out by Luhr Jensen and Sons in Hood River Oregon.  Then wire line was customarily used in bottom bouncing for Lake Trout and was not considered Salmon tackle.  However, it did solve the problem of getting  down to the strike zone.

Needless to say, I was on my way to imitate Capt. Mel successful "secret weapon" rod and promptly installed 600 feet of wire on two of my diver rods to reach those ultra (100 to 140 foot) deep fish.  Well, this did help and what Kings we were able to boat, for the most part came off Mel's concoction.  The fish stayed deep that summer, because it was one of the hottest summers ever experienced in northern Michigan.

Now, moving forward into the spring season of 1989 I was lucky enough to have a dock at Bruce Deshano's Marina in Port Austin.  Having just finished a hectic March and April on the Big Manistee River, little time was left to even considering purchasing new diver rods, so I did the logical thing and used what I had.  The rods left over from the summer of 1988 were showing the wear and tear of the wire grooving the guides, but what the heck and I used them anyway.

I soon found this was a winning combination for the awesome King fishery that Port Austin still sports to this day.  I noticed  a more severe angle of attack when compared to the traditional mono divers.  Keep in mind, this was before the advent of the Spectra Fiber, or Spider Wire we take for granted today.  Also, in 1989 snubbers where only an idea and none were being marketed.

To share a bit of trivia with you, once the fish went deep in the late 70's, the divers were sleeved and drop weights were employed by the clued in anglers.  Plus, we never pulled multiple diver programs.  They were unheard of in the 60's, 70's and up to the mid-80's.  Outriggers use to be much more popular than they are today, as an added side note.

Correct Rod is Vital

If you don't have a roller guide rod in mind, there's no need of you to read any further, because in short order the 30 pound test braided stainless steel wire will absolutely destroy the eyelets, or line guides on any regular diver rod.  The rod that I have found most forgiving is a Wolverine, or Charter Choice 10 foot diver stick.  This rod has plenty of backbone and the first 5 foot is soft enough to provide a good shock absorber action to handle a 30 pound gone-berserk King.  I know this to be fact, because on the same charter in 1996 we landed a 30, then after the same rod was re-set 32 pounder tore into us just minutes later.

The fact is, that a rod too stiff will mean plenty of lost fish and you'll form a strong dislike for wiring line diver fishing in a big hurry.

Just about any diver rod can suffice, but if you want to have the absolute best tool for the right job, you're going to have to re-tie the rod with Aftco roller guides.  This is a painstaking labor of love, as you carefully cut off the old line guides with a razor knife.  

The bottom line is that if your not willing to have a roller guide rod, leave the wire alone!
Reason?.....as your guides become deeply grooved, and occasionally you'll have a strong "tuna" (meaning King Salmon) take your 600 feet of braid, then you'll be into the backing.  When the mono backing reaches the sharp edges of the cut-up guides it will be
severed, causing lost fish and a much unneeded trip to the tackle store.  

Attaching the wire to a swivel

For the strongest and most serviceable way to affix a strong barrel swivel to the diver end of the stranded wire line I use the same principle as working with downrigger cable.  Crimping sleeves have never failed me, but first I double the line and re-insert all the tag ends into the last or top sleeve.  This way there's no sharp needlelike protrusions to jab your paws when handling or changing divers.  Need photo.

Use at least a extra strong 40 pound test barrel swivel to save tackle and a bunch of grief.  Light, or regular snaps will not stand up to the punishment that the no-stretch wire will deal out.

The wire will blood knot to 30 pound test mono, if you take your time with the knot.  I prefer 30 pound mono for backing and keep the wire just below the top of the reel spool so it doesn't get wound-up inside the reel.  Even with the close tolerances between the reel frame and the spool tangles can occur, because of the ultra-fine diameter of the 30 pound test wire.

Blood knot to 30 pound test mono for backing

Advantages, or Disadvantages?

The whole deal with wire divers can be viewed from either direction.  What some will see in the plus column, others will see as a negative feature.  Especially if you're not a highly experienced Great Lakes fisherman.  The nature of this beast is the complete lack of any give, or stretch, and I mean absolutely none!  When a raging tuna flexes his left pectoral fin, you will feel it transmitted through the 30 pound test cable in a way that can't be explained, only experienced!

Agreed, this method will enable deep trolling when compared to monofilament, but please don't consider it the end all, or be all.  It can cost you dearly with broken leaders, straighten hooks and gaping holes left in the fishes oral cavity, as you  permanently reorganize his dental records.

My worst experience with it cost me two 12 pound cannonballs, 2 releases, one diver, one snubber and three lures, plus a 20 some pound ornery King.  How did this happen?  The King whacked the diver in the harbor, then charged the boat and wrapped the 4 and 5 rigger cables together, then headed away from the boat in a big hurry.  While common sense reasoning says the 30 pound test can't saw through 150 pound test downrigger cable, but it can, because the rigger cables were stationary, while the 30 pound braid kept moving and gnawing through the heavier cable with no problem.  Granted my deckhand that day was as worthless as tits on a bull, it was an all too expensive lesson to learn.  Hey, you gotta blame someone when the best part of a Mr. Ben Franklin leaves your billfold!

Tip:  One thing you should beware of is the fact this line can and will break from crystallization.  This can occur from it being bent back and forth to many times.  If your using a roller guide top with very small tip pulley, rather than a Twilley Tip let of a few inches of line occasionally to eliminate this potential problem waiting to cost you dough.

Slide Diver Ring Equals Playing field

I'm pretty sure in the year 2000, Randy Even who's the designer-manufacturer of the Slide Diver came out with a one step larger ring that fits both his product and the Jensen Dipsy Diver.  Now, this new and enlarged ring more than put the Spectra braid "super-lines" on the same footing with the 30 pound test stranded wire.  The significant increase in the surface area of the diving planer is the reason for additional depth.  The simplification is, more surface area, the deeper the diver will dig due to the downward force of pressure.  

35 pound test "Tiger Braid" from Mason Tackle will attain the same depths as wire will, all be it may, you'll have to let out a little more line for the same results.  Tiger Braid is a multi-use Spectra Fiber super-line that doesn't require roller guides, so a regular diver wand will be enough.

Extra care pays dividends

One of the major reasons I don't recommend wire any longer is the amount of fish that are hooked up, only to have the hooks pull out after a lengthy struggle.  Most charter guest have no idea of what they're getting into when booking a Salmon charter for the first time.  Their concept is, just wind them in.  Well, that's a far cry from the 15, or 20 minutes they spent dealing with Mr. King Salmon.   Any angler will get tuckered out from the ensuing battle on the wire, constant even pressure is a problem for them. Compound this with the wire losing fish from torn out hooks and worn out anglers and you'll see why my feelings about wire are semi-negative. 
The reel problem begins with, there's no constant stretch, which maintains a constant pressure like mono will.  Also, on the blistering runs that Kings are known for, the no water drag feature of the wire doesn't help slow the fish down.  Therefore, a 70 yard run will turn into a 100 yard run.  Keeping in mind, additional line lost, must be regained and with over-excited anglers this is a
dilemma of the first magnitude.  Tried charter guests will seldom admit so, and the losing ability of keeping the line tight generally means lost fish.

Playing a fish on wire is a entirely different ball game, than on monofilament rigger rods.  Like the song by the legendary rock group, the Eagles, "Take it Easy."  Let that fish wither and die a goodly distance from the boat and don't be in any hurry to drag that rascal to the net is the soundest advice I can give.  A green large fish, on wire right behind the back of your boat is a Freddie Kruger, "Nightmare on Elm Street" in the making.

Soft hands and cushioning the rod surges from the vicious tactics of a hefty King can help, but it's not the complete answer.  Patience is our best weapon to occupy yourself with while the fish becomes more manageable. 


I use a 330 GTI Penn, because I've had the wire explode 47LC's

Use no reel with a ceramic level wind line guide

Your biggest enemy will be kinks in the wire line

Always maintain line pressure on the spool to prevent coils from turning into kinky backlash.

Constantly beware of broken strands of wire

Soft hands kill more fish

Run a slightly looser drag to cushion the hard rod yanks

Always leave the your reel's line-up clicker on

Never free-spool wire!

Use a 40 pound test leaders behind the diver to the lure, the direct shock of the
no-stretch wire to cause lesser line values to pop, or snap on the hit....especially with attractors. 

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