Avoiding Bottom Fishing Mistakes
Captain Jim Sabella is one of the most widely known bottom fishing guides on the Carolina Coast. His years of experience have not only taught him the best tactics to catch bottom fish, but also things to avoid that will make your bottom fishing trips more productive. We recently asked Jim his thoughts on the biggest mistakes anglers make when bottom fishing. Here’s what we learned.
Going Too Far to Find the Fish
While many aspects of bottom fishing will change in the cooler months to come, we still need to fish in summer mode. The first thing we must consider is where the fish are. Too many times anglers run too far offshore looking for the fish. During the summer months, many of the bottom fishing species come closer inshore thanks in part to the water temps that bring the bait fish closer in. This is a common mistake that needs to be avoided. Running past the fish means wasted time and fuel.
Not Having the Right Anchor Set-Up
Another common mistake is placing too much focus on the tackle to be used rather than the equipment needed to stay over the fish. This means having the right anchor set up. Depending on the size of your boat, having the correct size and weight of an anchor as well as the correct size of anchor chain and line is key to your success. It’s a must to be equipped with a high tinsel anchor and chain that will make its way to the bottom through a stiff current. Making sure you have enough anchor chain is also an important part of the bottom fishing equation. Jim prefers 25 feet of 5/16th chain. Not having an anchor ball or a spare anchor is a rookie mistake. Bottom fishing with the same anchor set up that you use to anchor out on a sunny day with the family can only result in a bad day of bottom fishing. Just because you may have found the fish, doesn’t mean you can stay over them. The right anchor set up and your knowledge of how to effectively use it will make the difference.
Not Knowing How To “Fly the Anchor”
Flying the anchor is a concept that can save time on your fishing day. It’s a means of only partially retrieving your anchor to move to a nearby location. This process saves time, and your back. You simply lift the anchor so that it will clear the bottom and secure it while you move to the next location. Care must be taken to make sure that you clear the bottom and any structure in your patch. Also, make sure you keep the anchor line clear of the props by keeping your speed slow.
Not Changing Directions When Looking for Underwater Structure
With most ledges and structures off the Carolina coast running East to West, you have a greater chance to find new ledges by periodically altering your direction to North to South. This change will allow your depth finder to better locate the change in the bottom.
Staying Too Long at An Unproductive Fishing Spot
Staying too long in an unproductive fishing spot is like the proverbial, “beating of a dead horse”. After 15 to 20 minutes on a site with no catches or bites, it’s time to move on. With this in mind, it’s important to have a plan on where your next spot or spots will be. Never leave the dock or the boat ramp with only a single spot in mind. Create a plan that consists of a route that will save you both time and costly fuel.
Setting the GPS on North Up Rather Than Course Up
Keeping the GPS on North up keeps the chart unchanged regardless of what the boat is doing. In Course up the track is always turning depending on the movement of the boat. The Course up setting is far more effective for finding the ledges that you have marked. Since your boat is always moving, your screen should be as well.
Dropping Live Bait First
When starting with live bait you risk attracting larger and more aggressive fish. This will result in the target species leaving the area to protect themselves. Starting with dead or artificial bait and keep the bad boys away. You may not catch the big fish, but you’ll catch more of the smaller ones.