August Guest Post from Captain Terry Nugent
When it comes to using autopilot, most of the boating world thinks in terms of getting to the next waypoint in as straight and efficient manner as possible. While this is certainly a good way to utilize your autopilot, it’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as modern autopilots are concerned.
My Raymarine autopilot has a ton of features built in to it that can make all aspects of boating easier and more effective. As a small boat charter captain I often run without a mate. When we run south of Cape Cod in search of offshore species like tuna, mahi and wahoo my autopilot gives me that helping hand I would normally get from having a mate on board. Of course, I use the autopilot to get me to the fishing area, but once I’m on site that’s when the autopilot REALLY comes into play.
As I'm setting out the 7-9 rod trolling pattern the auto pilot keeps the boat tracking in a straight line, keeping the lines from crossing and letting me focus on getting the spread running properly. As we troll I set the autopilot to run a zig-zag pattern. With the boat turning left and right as I run on a given heading it adds more movement to the spread and that draws a ton more strikes than just trolling in a straight line. When we hook up, once again the autopilot goes into the straight line mode allowing me to work the cockpit without worrying about the boat turning and lines crossing and getting tangled.
After we land our fish I get the boat back to the waypoint I entered when the fish hit. Then I set the autopilot to run some of the more intricate patterns. I set the boat to run in either a Circle, a Cloverleaf or a Figure 8 depending on the conditions. These patterns keep the boat fishing right in the strike zone while I can focus on other tasks like dressing the fish, rigging another bait or changing out some of the lures. Be sure that when the boat is running on autopilot you always have somebody on board keeping watch to avoid an accident.
When the fishing day is over the autopilot gets the call once again to get us home in the fastest and most efficient way possible. By taking advantage of the pattern features in your autopilot, you can greatly increase how effectively you troll when you’re offshore. With the accuracy of today's modern autopilots interfaced with gps you might finally be able to give your mate a day off.
Bio: Originally from Holbrook MA, Captain Terry Nugent has been fishing the lakes, ponds and coastal waters from New England to Mexico for over 35 years and has been a Raymarine Pro Ambassador for over 10 years. During the off-season Terry occupies his time tinkering with tackle, at the local fishing shows and speaking at Clubs and Seminars large and small.