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Use Controlled-Drift Electronics To Catch More Fish


These four new electronics will help you increase your catch by automatically controlling boat drift.

Integrated propulsion and GPS systems enable boats to maintain their position despite wind and currents, a feature loved by anglers wanting to stay put where the fishing is hot.

Now, four propulsion manufacturers introduced a new wrinkle to the mix at the Miami boat show in February. These new electronic controlled-drift systems enable boats to follow a controlled drift, allowing anglers to glide along with the current — and the moving fish. Here’s a rundown of the new controlled-drift electronics available.

Mercury Marine Skyhook

Mercury Marine launched Skyhook Advanced Features, an enhancement for any Mercury Joystick-equipped outboard vessel, can be purchased and downloaded from Mercury’s GoFree store. Skyhook features Heading Adjust, which enables adjusting the boat heading in 1- and 10-degree increments; BowHook, which can be used to unlock heading and just maintain position, allowing the boat to point in whichever direction the winds and currents dictate; and DriftHook, which lets the operator maintain heading and unlock the position of the vessel allowing winds and currents to move the vessel along.

Skyhook Advanced Features will be available for purchase starting in May 2017. These features require Mercury’s latest Joystick system and, initially, VesselView703 (also available in late May). |

Yamaha SetPoint

Competing outboard engine manufacturer Yamaha introduced SetPoint at the boat show, a new feature for its Helm Master integrated boat-control system.

Like Mercury’s product, Yamaha’s SetPoint has three similar primary modes: Stay Point, Fish Point, and Drift Point.

Stay Point keeps the boat positioned near a particular spot, maintaining a selected position and heading (handy at a fuel dock or bridge opening). Fish Point maintains a selected position, making use of the captain’s knowledge in heading a boat into the current or wind, bow upstream or downstream. Drift Point allows the boater to drift the boat with the wind or the current. It maintains a selected heading but not a position. The new Helm Master SetPoint boat positioning function will be available in May 2017. |

SeaStar Solutions SeaStation

SeaStation, from SeaStar Solutions, makers of the aftermarket joystick control Optimus 360 integrated outboard system, also holds position and heading.

Mode 1 holds heading regardless of position, good for kite fishing or drift fishing. Mode 2 holds position regardless of heading, which is good for bait or wreck fishing. Mode 3 stays in position and holds heading, good for bait fishing near a structure, waiting for bridge openings or a spot at the dock to become available. The system requires Optimus 360 Joystick Control System and other accessories. |

ZF Marine iDrift

Last but not least, the fourth controlled-drift system introduced at the Miami show comes from inboard propulsion specialists ZF Marine and is named iDrift, designed for drift fishing, kite fishing, or wreck fishing with ZF’s Joystick Maneuvering System. iDrift has four modes of operation: Free Drift uses the vessel’s hydraulic bow thruster (a necessity for this system) to hold the vessel’s compass heading, but allows the vessel to be carried at the speed of the current. Surge Controlled Drift uses the bow thruster to hold the vessel’s compass heading, but will also engage the main engines, to slow the vessel’s speed by pushing it against the current. Sway Controlled Drift uses the thruster, and main engines, to push against any wind or cross current to allow the vessel to drift in a given direction and travel at the speed of the current. Controlled Surge and Sway Drift uses the thruster and main engines to maintain compass heading, control directional forces from the wind or cross currents, and slow the speed of the vessel’s drift relative to the current. |

Rich Armstrong

Senior Editor, BoatUS Magazine