Boating Tips


Posted 5/10/2010

Improved Bottom Fishing Success is Only an Anchor Away!

Black sea bass are a favorite bottom fish and great eating, too.  Catching tog like this requires pinpoint anchoring.

Improved Bottom Fishing Success is Only an Anchor Away!

There are few types of saltwater fishing more relaxing and enjoyable than bottom fishing. With a little experience it can be fast fun with the added reward of tasty fish dinners. It's great for novice or experienced anglers and kids love it!

Bottom fishing is all about structure, finding it and positioning your boat over it. Finding it is easy as going to your state's Fish and Wildlife website and checking for artificial reefs in your area. Most coastal states have developed reefs dressed with concrete rubble, dredge rocks, reef balls, sunken vessels, military vehicles, barges and other items. You can also check local fishing charts for locations of wrecks, hard bottom and reef. Your GPS/Chart plotter will guide you there and your depth finder will provide a closer look. When you find spots you plan on fishing save them as waypoints to make returning foolproof.

There are a few items you'll need for anchoring accurately and a marker buoy is at the top of the list. It should be adjustable so you can set the line between the float and the weight for the depth of the water. Catching some bottom fish requires pinpoint anchoring and that takes two anchors, while others can be found spread out over a wide area of structure and a single anchor will do the job.

For those pinpoint occasions a second set of ground tackle (anchor, chain and rope) can be kept in a tote and stored off the boat when not needed. Now that you have the gear let's look at three basic anchoring techniques that can put you on the fish.

A single anchor can position the boat on larger structure pieces and wrecks adequately. The disadvantage of a single anchor is the boat will move with the slightest changes in wind speed or direction. To deploy a single anchor start by dropping a marker buoy on the spot. Then let your boat drift in neutral with the chart plotter screen zoomed in to ¼ mile or less and the plot trail turned on. This will show you how the prevailing wind and current will make the boat lay at anchor by leaving a drift trail on screen. Now run to the down drift side of the buoy, turn directly into the drift and steer a parallel course past it. How far is a function of water depth. For example, if the water is 60 feet deep multiply 60 by 6, dropping the anchor a minimum of 360 feet up drift from the buoy. Allow it to hit bottom and then power back towards the buoy in reverse letting out line. When you get close, go to neutral and let the boat settle back on the anchor and then let out whatever else is needed to put you on the spot.

To provide some mobility over structure with a single anchor use a separate piece of line about 30 feet long to bridle the boat. This is done by powering forward about 40 feet up the anchor line and tying the bridle to it using a bowline knot. Then tie off the other end of the bridle to the spring line cleat on the port or starboard side of the boat. The bridle forces the bow to face the prevailing current or wind at an angle, which makes it "sail" out in that direction. How far it sails is controlled by wind and current speed and adjusting the bridle line to increase or decrease the angle. You can cover a lot of area with a single anchor and a bridle, but only use it when wind conditions are light to moderate.

Using two anchors offers you the ability to adjust your position with extreme accuracy. Start by dropping the marker buoy and determining the drift, but instead of placing a single anchor directly up current of the marker you will be placing one at a 45 to 60 degree angle to the right of center, dropping back and setting it, and then placing the second anchor at a 45 to 60 degree angle to the left of center. When deploying the second anchor you must pay out the first anchor line to get into position. Once you drop the second anchor, back down toward the buoy while taking the slack out of the line to the first. When done, all you have to do to move to one side or the other is let out one anchor line and pick up the other. The repositioning possibilities are only limited by the amount of line you have and the strength of the prevailing current and wind.

Anchored and ready it's time to drop some baited hooks and fill the cooler, but be sure to check the local regulations (closed seasons, size and bag limits) for the species you are likely to encounter.