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Bought a couple used downrigger setups and 1 of the downrigger balls had this attached. It has a quick clip on the other end. What is this for? Doesn't look like any release I have seen. My only guess is a weight retriever of some sort.

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My guess is that's used as a slider. Send your downrigger with line down to say 50'. Then clip that around the downrigger cable and clip another line on and using the linecounter on your reel, send it down to 40'. That way you can run two lines off one downrigger. Chamberlain and Blacks both make sliders of their releases.

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How's it work? Dont plan on using it but I'm curious as I can't picture what gets done with it

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Dont really know much about them either but i have a few i also got when i purchased some downriggers , I will check around and see if i can get some info for you .
 

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See the link below. They were \ are primarily used for salmon fishing. You would attach a 1 lb. Lead weight to them and pull the line to drop the weight when a fish was on. So, every time you caught a fish you lost a pound of lead.

 
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