Make maximum use of your GPS to drastically improve your catches this fall.
Capt. Ronny Biddy of the Hackberry Rod and Gun Club, a guide on Calcasieu Lake for 11 years, shut down his big engine, jumped to the bow and lowered his Minn Kota.
We were slightly upwind of a productive oyster bed.
“Start casting toward the shoreline,” Biddy instructed.
With the shoreline about 75 yards away, we cast 40 yards from the boat out into open water.
As soon as my fishing companion, Teri McFarland of Fittstown, Okla., cast a Stanley Wedge Tail grub, it hit the water, her line twitched and she set the hook. When I looked to see McFarland’s rod bowed, I felt a tap on my line and set the hook. We both had on nice-sized speckled trout when I heard Biddy report, “Oops! I missed mine.”
Then, just as quickly, he said with a big grin, “There he is,” as his rod bowed, and his drag slipped.
On our first three casts from the boat, we brought three nice speckled trout in and put them in the livewell. As I hurriedly made a second cast and brought that fish in, I asked Biddy, “How in the world did you pull up out here in open water and immediately put us on fish?”
Biddy replied with a big grin.
“I knew where this school of trout were,” he said. “I found them about the same time yesterday on this same reef.”
Biddy set the hook on another speckled trout, and I saw McFarland’s rod bend at the same time. I wanted to know more, but with the great fishing, I couldn’t resist the urge to catch fish instead of hearing the rest of the story.
However, after we’d put 15 trout in the boat and drifted off the reef, I asked Biddy again how he’d located a school of trout out in open water for two consecutive days.
“I could tell you, but if we don’t keep fishing, the school’s liable to move,” he said.
Cranking his big engine, Biddy steadied his depth finder/GPS. I noticed that he went back to a mark he previously had set, lined up on that mark and then started drifting along the same track where we’d drifted earlier. Each time our boat veered to the left or to the right of the track on the GPS receiver, Biddy adjusted the drift with his trolling motor to ensure we stayed on the same track where we’d drifted before.
While I studied the screen on the GPS receiver, Biddy and McFarland began catching trout again. I quickly abandoned the GPS and started fishing. On this drift, we only caught 15 trout in about an hour. But I noticed when I went back to look at the screen on the GPS receiver that we’d drifted past the point where we’d turned around to start our second drift.
However, we continued to catch fish. When the bite ended, and we had about 45 trout in the cooler, I sat Biddy down on the deck of the boat and asked him to explain to me what he did with his GPS receiver and how he pinpointed trout and caught them.
“I not only mark every oyster bed I fish as a waypoint on my GPS, each day I fish that oyster bed and start catching fish on it, I mark the spot where I first catch fish,” Biddy reports. “I mark the route I’ve drifted over that oyster bed and save that route if I continue to catch fish on it.
“Then the next time I return to this oyster bed to fish, I can drift along the same route I’ve drifted before, and more than likely catch trout in the same places I’ve caught them before.
“Although a school of trout will often feed all over an oyster bed, there seems to be certain places on each oyster bed that produce more trout than other spots do.
“Without a GPS receiver, you can’t mark the exact site on that oyster bed where your boat has been when you’ve caught fish. But by using a GPS receiver and hitting the MAN-OVERBOARD function every time you catch a fish, you can note your boat’s position when you’ve caught a fish.
“When the fish quit biting, I store that drift as a route, restart my drift to pass over the first place where we’ve caught fish and then use my trolling motor to stay on the exact same drift line over the reef.
“This system doesn’t always produce trout and reds because the fish aren’t always on a reef every time you go to it. However, I work with my GPS every day I’m on the water. I’ve learned that by making the same drifts that I’ve made in the past and caught fish, if the fish are on the reef, then generally I can expect to catch specks and reds following the same drift that I’ve used in the past.”
Biddy compares learning to use a GPS receiver to learning to drive a car. The more you use it, the better you get with it. Also, the more you utilize a GPS receiver in the same area, the more you can learn about the waters you fish, where the fish hold at certain times of year, and the exact spots inshore where you can expect to catch specks and reds at certain times of the year.
If you’re a fishing guide or only have a few weekends that you can fish this year, you’ll usually go fishing, regardless of the weather. If you understand how to use a GPS receiver, cloudy overcast days, hazy days and rainy days won’t affect your fishing negatively.
“One of the reasons most anglers won’t fish on bad days, especially at Calcasieu, is because the lake is so big,” Biddy emphasizes. “Foggy, hazy or rainy days may mean you can’t see where you are or where the shallow water is.
“Also, you may have trouble finding your way back to port.
“So on a pretty day, I mark the route from the Hackberry Rod and Gun Club out to the main lake, and I store that route as home. Then I can go to that starting waypoint and follow that route back to the main lodge.”
From Biddy’s starting point on the main lake, he has routes saved to each of the oyster reefs he fishes. Once on the main lake, he decides which reef he wants to fish, pulls that reef’s name up out of the memory on his GPS and follows the route in his route menu from his starting point to that reef.
Even at night he can go to and from his starting point to any reef he wants to fish. When Biddy arrives at that reef, he can then pull up from his reef menu the last successful drift he’s made across that reef, use his trolling motor to duplicate that drift and fish in areas that have held speckled trout and redfish in the past.
In the Clear
Anglers know the difficulty of locating fish at Lake Calcasieu when the lake muddies up. Even though the specks and reds feed in muddy water, they can’t see bait as far away as in clear water.
“Because all the guides work together at Big Lake, when we leave the dock each morning and the lake’s muddy, each of us goes in search of clean water,” Biddy explains. “When we find clean water, we notify the other guides so that they can come to that spot and start fishing.”
To speed up this process, Biddy marks places on his GPS where he pinpoints clean water first. Over the years he knows the sites to run to first to look for clean water. He marks each of those clean-water areas with his GPS so that he can run to that clean water when the lake muddies up and locate spots that more than likely will produce specks and reds.
At different times of the year, speckled trout and redfish will concentrate on certain portions of the channel that runs through Calcasieu Lake out in the open water. Biddy marks the spots along the channel where he catches specks and reds as waypoints on his GPS receiver.
When he wants to go to those places to fish, he pulls up each channel location. His GPS will show him how to get to those sites by the shortest routes, how to drift across those channels, and where to anchor to catch the most fish in the shortest time.
Because on any given day, 13 or more guides will take anglers out of Hackberry Rod and Gun Club to try to catch speckled trout and redfish, they have 13 sets of eyes and ears searching for schools of trout and reds in every kind of weather condition.
If one guide locates a big school of trout, he can call the other guides, either on his hand-held walkie-talkie or his cell phone, tell them his location on the lake and give the GPS coordinates so the other guides can come to him by the shortest route.
“Once I get the GPS coordinates from another guide, all I have to do is type those coordinates into my GPS receiver,” Biddy said. “My GPS will show me how far I am from that guide, which direction I need to travel to get to that guide, and how much time I’ll need to reach him.
If I’m having a bad day of fishing and really need to help my party catch some more fish quickly because time’s running out, knowing where another guide is catching fish and how to get to him by the shortest route can really be a big advantage.”
After spending two days in the boat with Biddy and watching and learning how much he relies on his GPS receiver, I totally understand why he and the other guides at Hackberry Rod and Gun Club can produce so many speckled trout and redfish for their customers every day they’re on the water.
I’ve also learned from Biddy the importance of becoming more familiar with my GPS and its capabilities so I can find:
• more fishing sites quicker,
• the drifts that have produced the most fish the last time I’ve fished a site,
• directions from fishing spot to fishing spot quicker and easier,
• my way to the launch site safer and quicker, even in bad weather or at night and
• clean-water areas faster.
Also, I can call in my buddies fishing with me to the exact location where I’m catching fish.
To learn more about Hackberry Rod and Gun Club, visit www.hackberryrodandgun.com or call (337) 762-3391.