Fishing Boat Hardware: Carbon Fiber vs Aluminum Outriggers?

Outriggers have been essential to the success of offshore fishermen since Capt. Tommy Gifford developed his first poles from bamboo and proceeded to catch an Atlantic blue marlin with the novel accoutrements. His original attempts to create a wider and more manageable trolling spread were well received throughout the burgeoning sport fishing industry and many anglers were keen on the concept — not the material.

The famed Rybovich clan launched the notorious Miss Chevy II in 1947, which modeled the first-ever aluminum outriggers. Racing along at 20-knots, the world’s earliest dedicated sportfish boat featured many significant innovations, including aluminum fishing outriggers with wire braces. Since that historic day in south Florida when the cedar-planked hull first splashed, aluminum outriggers have remained relatively unchanged.

Meeting the demands of the harsh marine environment where saltwater wreaks havoc on nearly everything it touches, aluminum outriggers have been the standard for years and facilitated fantastic catches across global fisheries. Yet as modern components are introduced to the sportfishing market, the consideration of carbon fiber vs aluminum outriggers remains.


Carbon Fiber

Flexible & Heavy

Salt exposure causes pitting

Limited finish colors

Tube-into-tube overlap trap saltwater, eventually rendering telescoping functionality useless

Stiff & Lightweight

Requires minimal Maintenance

Custom Color options available

Allows for longer poles and increased spread capabilities

Provides for the option of internal halyard rigging

Today, many boatbuilders, owners, captains and mates embrace innovation. As manufacturers make extraordinary contributions to sport fishing in the development of new designs and materials, aluminum outriggers with multiple release clips are no longer the superior means of widening a spread of teasers, baits, and lures. The issue is that when aluminum fishing outriggers reach a certain length, spreaders are necessary to increase the stiffness and rigidity of the poles.

These perpendicular bars position guy wires along the pole to bear tension and prevent the outriggers from bending or breaking under load with the associated strain of a triple-tier dredge teaser, high-speed wahoo spread, or blue marlin that won’t let go of the squid chain. And, each individual spreader has multiple cables, turnbuckles, bushings and sleeves that add to the required periodic maintenance of any fishing operation.

In recent years, carbon fiber has taken over as the most desirable material for fishing outriggers due to its lightweight attributes, strength, and stiffness. Carbon fiber outriggers spanning upward of 40-feet do not require spreaders or guy wires and provide many advantages that are unattainable with aluminum fishing outriggers. Not only do spreaderless carbon fiber outriggers look better than aluminum outriggers, but they also allow for the internal rigging of halyard lines.

With so many different outrigger brands available, it has become apparent that not all carbon fiber fishing outriggers are the same. Quality control in production varies greatly in any industry, and the strength and rigidity of any carbon fiber component is in direct correlation to the knowledge and expertise in material and manufacturing. Inherently, the thickness of the layers, the grade and density of fibers, and the positioning of fabrics all play a role in the durability, weight, and stiffness of a finished carbon fiber outrigger pole.

Unlike aluminum outriggers, which bend when used inappropriately, carbon fiber poles will break when tolerances are exceeded, and their users don’t get a second chance upon catastrophic failure. It is not difficult to develop a carbon fiber outrigger, but it is difficult to do it right and no outrigger on the market is as highly engineered and heavily tested as those produced by GEMLUX. The resulting perfection authored by a team in industry leading experts allows for many practical benefits from a material that is significantly lighter than aluminum.

With pole lengths up to 22 feet, GEMLUX collapsible carbon fiber outriggers ( are desirable because they can be easily broken down and stored when not in use. Crews that aren’t concerned with collapsible outriggers typically prefer GEMLUX internally rigged poles, which provide the ideal combination of performance and presentation. The benefit of internal rigging is that there are less lines to tangle in use, transport and storage — and it looks better. By design, many internally rigged outriggers feature permanently fixed length designs and are often damaged during delivery. An industry leader for over 60 years, GEMLUX ships 22-foot carbon fiber internals within a single 96-inch box, and the poles can be quickly assembled using only a screwdriver.

For the most successful manufacturers, quality is deeply rooted as part of their company culture. You get what you pay for, and this holds true for both producers and consumers. That is why some brands are trusted for their products and customer experience, and others are not. Although aluminum outriggers remain an entry-level option, there is no comparison to the durability, longevity, and performance attributes of the highest quality carbon fiber outriggers. Goodbye buggy whip and spreaders, hello carbon fiber.