Hutchies Part IV: GPS at Hutchies ‘Building the Picture’
  |  First Published: August 2008

Last month, I went through how to get the best out of your sounder when targetting reef fish with lures. This month I will explore deeper the use of GPS, in conjunction with your sounder.


The first thing to do on your GPS, is immediately mark each reef, pinnacle, ledge or other good bottom structure when it appears on the sounder as you drive around your selected location. This enables you to return to a reef or pinnacle without delay.


You can estimate the size of your reef by running a system of circles around a central point of the reef and marking the extremities on your GPS. Once the size and position of the reef is established, position your boat to drift over the edges of the reef (and the ledges) rather than drift directly over the very top.

Do a trial drift to begin with to accurately assess the drift direction. This will give you a better guide in where to position your boat to drift over the correct area. It is pretty obvious that fishing over the same reef time after time will allow you to become very familiar with your local environment. In most cases you will be able to understand the direction of the current, depth of water, influence of tide times and wind direction as soon as you get to your spot.


The following step-by-step shots show the fundamentals of how to execute a boat's drift paths.

A fundamental theory of lure angling is to try and make sure you are presenting your lure to new fish as often as possible. Therefore, drift your lures side by side rather than over the same ground, that way you are always drifting over fresh fish rather than spooked fish.

The following GPS orientated shots are in split screen so that readers can also see the sounder shows:


1A. (On the left hand screen) The yellow cross shows the start of the first drift. After confirming the direction of the drift we drove in a straight but slightly angled line back to a new starting point. The black arrowhead shows the boat's progress along the second drift path.

(On the right hand screen) The sounder shows that we came across a fish at this point, a yellowtail kingfish under a bait ball.


2A.(On the left hand screen) We then drove back to our chosen starting point for drift three. It is also useful to set-up the second and third drifts on alternate sides of the first drift if you find action on the starting drift.


3A.(On the left hand screen) Well into drift three, and at about the same alignment as the fish and bait show from the first photo, we caught another fish. This time the fish was a squire and I noted on the sonar show that it looked just like a typical 'school of squire' representation.


This is how I was taught to build the picture by my Dad Steve:

Firstly, Dad has at least four sonar/GPS units across the dashboard of his boat, and at least three transducers.

The transducers are located off the transom, in the hull towards the stern, and up in the bow for when the boat is off the plane. A switch box helps coordinate between them.

As for the GPS units, one is set on sonar that is used just to study the bottom. The second unit is also set on sonar and used with the widest possible transducer beam to study the surrounding water. The third unit is set on GPS and it houses all the basic proven marks where good structure is located, routes and spots to find baitfish or big fish.

Finally, the fourth GPS unit is the radical deal. Start out the day with it blank, and then rapidly fill it with GPS marks for features that you identify on the day, such as reef, baitfish, fish caught and anything else that you feel is important. This is the information that you would use to plot your drifts for the day as the wind and current changes.

So now you know how to locate the fish, it is time to focus on fishing technique.


Frank Oo’s method of fishing has also been changed by the recent developments in the soft plastics scene. His stock retrieve sees him combining the gentle art of jigging the soft plastic lures on the way to the bottom of the ocean, and then winding the lure back to the boat in a series of quick jerks and fast retrieve actions that often attracts the kingfish, tuna, mackerel and mahi mahi that inhabit a massive area around Hutchison’s Reef.

His jighead choice is based on the diameter of the hook shaft and keeper collar. This is because many of the soft plastic lures are very small in diameter and a large diameter jighead shaft will tend to split the plastic or cause it to swim unnaturally.

Try to use the lightest jighead possible that will enable the lure to swim all the way to the bottom, as many fish seem to attack the lure while it is still on the way down.

As a skipper, Frank’s tactics are to slow the boat as much as possible by using a sea anchor/drift sock. Then as an angler he casts as far as the water is deep in the direction of the boat’s drift. This will allow the lure to reach the bottom before it is directly below the boat. Although there are some exceptions to the rule, Frank finds that the fish are not as eager to bite after you have drifted over the lure.


Frank normally starts with a 3/8oz jighead in depths up to 40m and increases this to a maximum weight of 3/4oz in medium current or windy conditions. If the wind or the current increases he would increase his jighead size to ensure that his lure still reaches the bottom.

In 60-80m his choice would be a 1oz jighead and he steps this up to 1.5oz in depths over 100m. Because of the larger size of these bigger jigheads the diameter of the hook shaft and collar increases, so the size of the soft plastic also needs to be increased to approximately 7-10”. These longer lures often have fatter bodies that fit comfortably on the big jigheads, and it is quite common to catch snapper with a 10” inch lure.


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