Don’t let that seminar speaker fool you, spots are as important to him as anything else. Probably more so than he is leading you to believe. Almost every target species in our local waters relates directly to wrecks, reefs or hard bottom, even if its a halibut that hides in the sand or mud to ambush its prey. The vast majority of the ocean floor is a lifeless wasteland, and spending any time fishing these undersea deserts is a complete waste of time, period.
The conditions that make a spot bite are of vital importance, but an angler can catch fish if he is set up on a spot properly even if the conditions are not ideal. Conversely, fishing in ideal conditions and not being on something that is holding fish will rarely do you any favors. How often have you fished on a sportboat that had to “re-set” the anchor on a spot, and it seemed like he only moved a few feet? Yes, it is that critical.
It can be as critical as having your GPS antenna far away from the fish finder transducer on your boat. You run over the numbers and the “X” on your plotter, only to look at the sonar and see nothing. When you do run over the marks you want to see on the meter, you hit “save” on the GPS as if the numbers were wrong in the first place. Maybe they weren’t wrong? Maybe, you need to be more aware of where your transducer is in relation to your GPS antenna.
Once you get the fine details of your electronics mastered, its now time to get to know your spots. I mean, build a real relationship with spots so you know them like you know your Mom. When your buddy gives you the GPS#’s of a spot that is not all there is, you need to ask the right questions. “Which way was the current going when you got bit?” “How high does the (rock, wreck or reef) come up?” Then, when you do fish that special spot, be sure to take notes to help learn every detail for next time. Spots that you think you have mastered may have intricacies you didn’t know about, so never assume you know it all.
Being set up properly is the most important thing about any specific fishing spot. Set up too close and you will be fishing for sculpin, rockfish and small bass, the fish that live in and closely around the structure. Your target species is typically far up-current of your GPS#’s, so set up accordingly. For example, when fishing for yellowtail on a wreck you should not even be able to reach the structure with a long cast followed by letting your bait drift back. We’re talking sometimes hundreds of yards when the current is really ripping. Again, you’ll need to be set up perfect. 10 feet to either side and you will likely catch nothing at all. A chopped chunk of sardine or squid dropped off the middle of your transom should drift to the structure proper. If it misses, you must reset.
Shoreline spots along the coast or islands are very much the same, except they are more apt to change over time. Kelp may die off or bloom, hill sides may slide and change the dynamic of a spot. Note changes in your log for the next trip including whether or not the fish bit, and where you had to set differently to be in position to catch fish.
Drifting has its time and place, but structure fishing is not it (unless you are fishing deep for rockfish and you do not have the anchor gear). Chumming is essential to get the fish in the biting mood, and the draw the exotics out. Drifting makes is impossible to chum effectively. If you have decided that you hate to anchor, then you have decided you are okay with catching much less fish, especially your target species.
So take the time to learn your spots. Not only the GPS#’s, but what makes them work. Anyone that tells you “it’s not that important” is either wrong or not telling it to you straight. A sportboat captain without spots is nothing more than a boat driver. Show me a professional fishing captain who’s GPS has gone out, and I’ll show you a boat on its way home for repairs.