The aptly named fish finder ranks at the top of ev­ery an­gler’s list of nec­es­sary elec­tron­ics. But where does the chart plot­ter fit in that high-tech hi­er­ar­chy?

In the past, plot­ters helped an­glers ef­fi­ciently find the fish­ing grounds, and lit­tle else. But these days, us­ing tracks, routes, way­points, over­lays, trolling-mo­tor con­nec­tiv­ity and sonar-log­ging fea­tures, plot­ter charts be­come more like trea­sure maps, lead­ing an­glers to op­ti­mal fish and bait con­cen­tra­tions.

Pro fish­er­men and char­ter cap­tains liken plot­ters to com­put­ers. Here’s how five of them use their units to find and catch more fish.


“I think of my boat as my of­fice and my plot­ter as my of­fice com­puter, and ev­ery­thing I need is on there,” says Capt. Phillip Wilds, who runs An­chored Char­ters Guide Ser­vice out of Panama City, Florida. “I need the bot­tom ma­chine to see the fish, but as far as mak­ing things ef­fi­cient, it’s the chart plot­ter.”

Wilds op­er­ates two Hum­min­bird Solix 12 mul­ti­func­tion dis­plays aboard his Barker 26 Open, which is equipped with a Minn Kota iPilot Rip­tide Ul­terra trolling mo­tor. He runs his trolling mo­tor from his Solix, mar­ry­ing the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of both to max­i­mize his in­shore fish­ing trips.

“One of the great­est things is to have the plot­ter plot a track and then fish back through it,” he says. “It’s go­ing to take you on your ex­act trail back through the fish, and you don’t have to do any­thing ex­cept fish.

“If you want to work an edge or a ledge, you can set it to work a con­tour line and stick to a cer­tain depth.”

When fish­ing off­shore, Wilds uses tracks and the Minn Kota’s SpotLock to see the boat’s re­la­tion­ship to the struc­ture he’s fish­ing and to stay on that struc­ture. “Up here in the Pan­han­dle, there are a lot of spots I fish that aren’t much big­ger than a cof­fee ta­ble,” he says.


Capt. Terry Nu­gent, who runs Rip­tide Char­ters out of Cape Cod, Mas­sachusetts, says he never leaves the dock with­out the track­ing turned on for his Ray­ma­rine e165 and e97 mul­ti­func­tion dis­plays aboard his Con­tender 35T and Hy­draS­ports 22 LTS. Nu­gent tar­gets stripers, chas­ing them un­der the birds in runand-gun fash­ion. “Tracks al­low me to see the di­rec­tion the fish are trend­ing at any time. When­ever we find bait or a bunch of birds on the wa­ter, or if we’re trolling and get a knock­down, I drop a way­point. You’d be stunned by how that builds a pic­ture for you.”

Nu­gent deletes his tracks at the end of June, once the striper bite fades. Dur­ing fall, he tracks tuna. “Some years, they’re in 250 feet; some years, they’re more

fo­cused in about 120. Over the course of a week or two [with tracks on], you can see that maybe they’re fo­cus­ing be­tween 120 and 150 feet. It be­comes ap­par­ent.”

Be­cause he tar­gets mi­grat­ing fish, he does a mas­ter re­set on his Ray­marines at the end of each fish­ing year. Other cap­tains, par­tic­u­larly those who tour­na­ment-fish or bot­tom­fish for species such as snap­per and grouper, re­li­giously cat­a­log their points and tracks on SD cards by re­gion. Or, like Wilds, they or­ga­nize them on their MFDs by lo­ca­tion, depth, fed­eral/state wa­ter ar­eas or other fac­tors.


“I’ve got tracks for 10 years,” says tour­na­ment cap­tain Mark Maus, who runs his Yel­lowfin 36 — equipped with two Sim­rad NSS evo3s and a Sim­rad GO9 — out of Sara­sota, Florida. “I down­load ev­ery­thing to cards, and then I iso­late my stuff to two ar­eas.”

Maus uses tracks to troll for a va­ri­ety of species and to help him nav­i­gate back to un­fa­mil­iar lo­ca­tions. He also em­ploys Sim­rad’s Track­Back fea­ture on his sonar to en­ter way­points when he sees some­thing new.

Sim­rads dis­play seven full screens of Track­Back his­tory for an­glers to scroll through. Touch the sonar screen or the main in­put key, and a way­point au­to­mat­i­cally drops onto the plot­ter.

When tar­get­ing white mar­lin, Maus says, tracks also come in handy. “White mar­lin run in wolf packs. If we hang a white, and it takes 20 min­utes for us to get it to the boat, I can go back, based on the track, and hang an­other one. There’s no rea­son to drop a way­point to save for later be­cause they’re mov­ing.”

If he’s pre-fish­ing an area for sails, he might mark 20 or 30 way­points where he found bait. The next day, though the bait will have moved, Maus says he’ll run-and-gun the points be­cause “some­thing will have held bait in those lo­ca­tions.”


Capt. Greg Shute fishes much of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay out of his 27-foot Judge. He uses his Furuno TZ­touch2 and 1870 units when he’s drift-fish­ing for stripers. “Usu­ally, I’ll have a point or some­thing I’m try­ing to drift over. I set up and drift the first time and can fol­low a par­al­lel line to the track to make sure I hit the spot again,” he says.

Shute em­ploys sev­eral Fu­runospe­cific tech­nolo­gies on his plot­ter, in­clud­ing a two-fin­ger touch, which au­to­mat­i­cally drops a way­point, and a color-chang­ing tool that varies the track’s color with ei­ther tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions or bot­tom-type changes.

“I can zigzag over ar­eas while look­ing for fish and note where the bot­tom com­po­si­tion changes,” he says. “I will then use where I see the color changes in con­junc­tion with marks I had on the fish finder.”

Shute also changes the ac­tual color of a given day’s track so that he can tell the dif­fer­ent trips he has made. By look­ing at the tracks and way­points he has used, he can tell where he has fished and where he has caught fish. Nor­mally he deletes the data ev­ery two weeks or so.


Tour­na­ment cap­tain Bill Platt keeps his data on SD cards based on re­gion. “I can see where I catch fish year after year. The plot­ter is a com­puter now, not just a nav­i­ga­tion chart.”

Platt fishes a SeaHunter 39 with triple Yamaha F350s; his boat is equipped with the Yamaha Helm Mas­ter sys­tem and with three Garmin 7612 MFDs. “A big mis­take peo­ple make is they pull up at a way­point and look and see no fish there,” he says. “I start look­ing around. A lot of times the fish move. If I mark them again, I see which way the cur­rent is run­ning and drift past the fish. Then I use a track to come back around and fish them.”

He uses his Helm Mas­ter’s Set Point func­tion to stay on the fish and keep the stern to the cur­rent. If the fish move, he drifts again and watches his track.

“I find so much stuff look­ing around my dif­fer­ent way­points,” he adds. “If I run a char­ter, I go to a spot and I look all around. It’s like find­ing trea­sure.”

Tour­na­ment cap­tain Mark Maus en­gages tracks on his Sim­rad NSS evo3 mul­ti­func­tion dis­play.

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