Many popular species of gamefish relate to structure, whether it be a rockpile, shipwreck, or reef. And while boaters can catch fish drifting over and around these structure spots, setting the anchor and chumming the fish to you is often a great way to increase your catch.
The best skippers take great care in “setting up” on a spot to best position their boats — metering the spot on the echosounder, measuring wind and current, motoring ahead of the spot, deploying the anchor and scoping back into position.
Here are some basic tips boaters can use to get their boats properly set up for structure fishing.
- It all starts with the right gear. A good “fluke style” anchor like the Bruce or Danforth provides excellent holding power. A good rule of thumb is to have at least a boat length of galvanized steel chain and as much anchor rode as your boat can carry. I like to put out 4:1 scope (for example, 400 feet of line in 100 feet of water) to hold in windy conditions.
- Meter around the spot. Use your boat’s sounder to help determine the size, shape and orientation of the structure, as well as the position of surrounding fish. Fish will often stage on the upcurrent section of the structure. It can be helpful to use a floating marker buoy to visibly mark the spot where you want your fishing lines to end up. This way you can also see if the boat swings away from the spot due to changes in wind or current.
- Check conditions. Wind and current will effect how your boat lays on the anchor (your buoy float is a good indicator of current). Gauge both of these factors and motor far enough upwind and/or upcurrent so when you scope back on the anchor, your boat will be positioned just “uphill” of the structure.
- Practice makes perfect. Eventually, you’ll get a feel for how your boat reacts to wind/current. Generally, choose your heading away from the structure based on the stronger of the two forces. You may need to “split the difference,” for example, if the wind is coming at 240 degrees and the current is at 270 degrees, motor ahead of the spot at about 255 degrees and drop anchor.
- Make adjustments. Even experienced skippers frequently miss the mark initially. Once your boat settles in, check your compass to see how you’re laying the relative position of the structure. If your bow is pointed at 235 degrees, pull anchor and reset. Cross the structure at that heading, motor well out from it, and re-drop. It may be necessary to repeat this process throughout the day, as the currents shift and/or the wind changes direction.
When you do these things right, your chum will drift down towards the structure, getting fish into a biting mood. And your baits and lures will be in position to intercept gamefish as they face into the current and chum line.