Finding Your Spot

A Part of the What's Biting Series

With the Federal Red Snapper season now complete it's time to find those honey holes in Alabama waters. Finding a new 'private' spot is just as exciting to me as catching the fish off those new numbers. Like every other aspect of offshore fishing locking in on new structure requires some work, lots patience and best utilizing your boat's bottom machine. I have been guilty way too many times of going

to one of my unpublished numbers, finding the spot and then doing a quick fly-by after not seeing any fish on the screen and moving to the next spot. Or at least spending the another hour looking for another spot, after leaving a perfectly located spot! I think I have finally learned my lesson that once you locate the structure on your bottom machine, you must give yourself a chance by dropping down on the spot. Countless times now I have pulled up over a reef and even without seeing any fish on the screen watched my anglers immediately hook up. After the fish have been boated, the next time I look at the screen it's full of fish marks.

Whether you are using the new CHIRP technology of your sounder or the older technology (like I still am), a little fine tuning can make a big difference in finding spots and fish. "When I get close the spot, I like to take the gain off the 'automatic' setting and turn it up manually," said Maclin Smith, a local expert of everything boat electronics from HMS Marine Electric. "Once the screen gets a little fuzzy and shows some distortion, that's when you need to back it down just a touch to give yourself the best chance at seeing the fish and the structure most clearly."

Smith also recommends using the zoom features of your sonar. "The split screen zoom is your best fish finding friend once you are on your spot. Half the screen can be zoomed in on the bottom and the other half will display the entire water column." This feature allows you to see any fish on the bottom but more importantly the bigger snapper that always seem to be lurking higher in the water column. Smith was recently fishing on some public pyramids with his kids and by using the split screen zoom was able to see big snapper just below his boat. He told the youngsters to only drop down ten feet. They were rewarded with a nice limit of snapper and a fewer cranks to get them to the boat.

If you have recently upgraded to using CHIRP, it does take a little getting used to says Smith. "CHIRP is so great at showing the individual fish, that you might think it isn't showing as much as your old system did.” In reality, CHIRP is presenting a much clearer view of what is below the surface. Any clutter that may have shown up as a false mark on the older units is removed by the advanced CHIRP systems. "CHIRP definitely will display less on the screen, but it is a much more accurate display of the fish below your boat.

Smith says if you are thinking about (again like I am) upgrading to the best in today's bottom fishing technology, your current unit might be capable of a simple plug and play upgrade. Others may require an entirely new set-up. Options vary by manufacturers and the age of your unit. There are lots of quality Red Snapper in our Alabama state water, use your bottom machine to get dialed-in and you too will be rewarded in both finding new spots and catching more fish.


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Jim Cox
Jim Cox (1323 Posts)
Jim Cox is an avid inshore, offshore, and big game fisherman. He has twice qualified for the prestigious IGFA Offshore Championships in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is the past president of the Mobile…