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Save Your Strikes on GPS

Work the waypoints to catch dolphin and other bluewater gamefish.

A skipper ready to punch in a waypoint will be able to return and methodically cover where a strike has occured.

Most all boaters know the basic marks you'll want to enter into a GPS: your inlet, neighboring inlets, aids to navigation, wrecks and reefs. For that matter, many of the latest units come pre-loaded with charts that cover virtually any conceivable waypoint. With one exception: Strikes!

From a bluewater fisherman's perspective, target species bites are very important to mark for immediate use as well as future reference. If you target summer dolphin, for example, mark the spot where you get the bite (not where you release the fish) and after a while, you may see a pattern emerge of where your most active area is. To further refine this, try to determine the reason the fish hold there. It may be that bait is frequently on structure there or current edges form there often. There is always a reason. Remember that ocean current and wind make it nearly impossible to accurately fish a specific position, in open water, by dead reckoning alone. Depending on your heading, by the time you've retrieved your line and reset your bait, there's a real chance you're a quartermile or more away from the original point. Yes, a drifting pallet or big patch of sargassum may be easy to find, but if the fish are orienting to something more subtle, unless you have a GPS waypoint, you're trolling blind.

Once you've saved a waypoint or two, the first thing to do is to return to your mark at the same speed and direction of the initial bite. Assume there are more fish there, and watch the bottom machine and surface for bait. After a few passes similar to the one that triggered the first bite, try different compass headings across the spot. Often it's the presentation of the bait in one particular direction that triggers a bite. - FS

Stung Fish

One thing to keep in mind, when working an area where you've had a strike, is that fish may clam up after feeling the hook. (Exactly what goes through their head is of course a matter of speculation.)

Some tips for rekindling their interest:

›› “Prospecting,” or dropping a bait back through the spread, then winding it back in quickly, is an effective way to trigger a strike while trolling.

›› Stopping on your waypoint to let the baits sink, and then trolling again, can also work.

›› Confident you've worked a spot thoroughly? Gradually expand the area you are working at a little higher speed to cover more ground. Don't expand the area too soon; certainly you've heard it said, “Don't leave fish to find fish.”

›› Be patient. Once you've hooked up, try to make the most of it by turning the boat slightly in the direction of the hooked fish to loosely circle it, to keep the rest of the baits active in the strike zone.

The GPS becomes a powerful tool when loaded with fishing waypoints from the chart, your own secret waypoints of bait, structure you've discovered, and now the locations of encounters with the target species.

You don't need the latest top of the line GPS, but you do need to take the time and make the effort to record the waypoints that will return you to the fish. You may wish to retain waypoints on your plotter for future trips, but if you'd prefer to clean the slate, note that many of the newer multifunction systems allow for data upload to your home computer via an SD card. That would be a great way to build files for different places and times of year.

First Published Florida Sportsman July 2011

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