Virtual anchoring has been around for a few years now, and it’s a feature that can be initiated via either electric trolling motor (like Spot-Lock, with Minn Kota), or in many cases, with modern outboards (such as Yamaha’s Helm Master system). In a nutshell, whichever systems you’re using, GPS and sometimes a heading sensor are integrated with the motor and/or your boat’s chartplotter/fishfinder, and they use the data stream to constantly apply power and maneuver to hold the boat in place. These systems are pretty dang impressive – they have no problem battling forces like current and wind, and can usually hold your boat inside a shockingly small radius of 10 feet or so. But, can they really help you catch more fish as compared to traditional anchoring? After spending several days fishing with virtual anchors, there’s no question: the answer is yes.
Fishing in the shallows, several anchoring techniques work equally as well. But when we spent a day aboard the Grady-White Canyon 456, rigged with the Yamaha Helm Master system, we discovered that in deeper waters, virtual anchoring is vastly superior to the traditional methods. The reason? It eliminates anchor swing entirely. When we dropped five lines down over a wreck and started catching snapper, grouper, and triggerfish, our lines never came close to tangling. We hooked bottom much less often than usual. And we didn’t swing on and off the wreck, but hovered directly above it.
Savvy anglers may, at this point, note that while anchor swing does cause problems it also brings your baits to different sections of the wreck or reef you’re fishing. True. But so did the Helm Master. With the system set to Fish Point (which holds the boat in one spot without determining heading, allowing the bow to swing down-wind) every few minutes when the bite slowed the captain tapped the joystick in one direction or another, moving the boat in 10 foot increments. This allowed us to work the entire wreck, from bow to stern.
The bottom line? Without this system, there’s absolutely no doubt we would have caught fewer fish and we would have lost more rigs. We’d have had tangles, snags, and gone off-target for periods of time. As it was, there was never more than a moment or two spent without someone on the boat hooked up, and quite often we had multiples going. Virtual anchoring will help you catch more fish, period.