A typical drone fishing flight
In our last blog we talked through the basics of what you get out of drone fishing and why you should try it. In this post, we will have a look at a typical drone fishing flight so you can get a realistic idea of what’s involved. This is not intended to be a how-to guide, but rather an overview of what drone fishing is like. There are even a few tips along the way for those who already drone fish.
We will get into more detail on equipment selection, tips and techniques in future posts.
Preparation for drone fishing
Like all good things, a little preparation goes a long way. Fishing (as well as drone fishing) is made better and more enjoyable if you prepare (at least a little) for the task. This could be as simple as checking your gear and charging batteries. On the other hand, some fishers will prepare extensively and researching depth contours and GPS marks for great fishing spots.
You will discover the level of preparation which gives you the right balance of enjoyment for the effort. Everyone’s different! Some fishers check every knot the night before, others just throw their fishing gear in the back of the car or boat and hit the water.
For drone fishing, the drone is obviously an important piece of fishing gear. Getting into the habit of checking that your batteries are charged and that everything is in good order will help you focus on the fishing, rather than the gear.
Although you can charge drone batteries from a car or boat (or even solar panels) while you fish, it is always good to start with fully charged batteries.
Most good fishing drones will give you about 30 minutes of flight time from each battery, however these times are reduced with heavier baits or lures. Just as your car uses more fuel when you tow a trailer or climb a hill, your drone will use more with load or when it flies ‘uphill’ against strong winds.
Choose your spot
In upcoming blog posts we will look at how to choose your drone fishing spots “more scientifically”, but for today, let’s assume you are launching from a beach where you have fished before.
Make sure you give yourself plenty of space and try to setup close to firm-packed sand if possible. On an outgoing tide this will be above where the waves are currently reaching. This gives you a good ‘launch and landing pad’ and helps to keep sand out of your gear. Also, be considerate of other people on the beach and keep well clear.
Just like manual casting, the wind direction and strength can play a role in choosing your location. Remember that an onshore wind will increase the workload on the drone when it’s heavy with your line, but the flight back will be easier. For an offshore breeze, the opposite is true. There is no right or wrong here as long as your drone is rated for the conditions and the bait load you are wanting to fly.
Essential drone fishing gear
A basic drone fishing rig consists of your fishing drone, a dropline, your rod, line, bait and a rod holder or beach pole. That’s all you need to get your bait in the air and the fish into your cooler. The rod holder could be your best mate or partner, but you do need a way to hold the rod while the bait is flown! Personally, I like drone fishing with someone else - it’s more fun.
Getting ready for launch
Assemble your rod holder, rod and bait, then assemble and prepare your drone. The dropline (dropper or droploop) may be a new term for you but it’s quite simply an additional section of line with a loop that keeps your fishing line and leader well below your drone. The dropper stops the main line getting tangled in the propellers of the drone. There is plenty to talk about in the setup and options available for the rig, but we will leave that for a future post. Here is a picture of the basic rig.
It’s the Angle of the Dangle!
Where you attach your dropline to your main fishing line is important. Although the dropper keeps the main line away from the drone’s propellers, you also need to ensure that the bait is sufficiently far away from the drone to prevent a pendulum effect. Good fishing drones are programmed to compensate for the swaying of the bait, but a larger bait needs to be at least 5-6m below the drone to minimise the power of the swinging load. This helps improve drone control and reduces battery consumption.
You will find plenty of videos and pictures of drone fishers hovering the drone at eye-height while they attach their baits….. DON’T DO THAT!
Fishing drones generally have long carbon fibre propellers that are spinning fast. The last thing you want is to be injured by these props due to an unexpected change in conditions, human error or a technical fault. The safe way to launch your bait with any fishing drone is to setup the drone and the fishing rig before take-off. This is the correct and safe way to launch your bait with a drone.
With the drone locked, attach the dropper line to the release device on the drone. If your drone has a safety tension setting like the SwellPro TrollSafe, now is the time to adjust and test the release. Will it hold the bait but release it safely?
The purpose of the TrollSafe release is to protect your drone should there be an unexpected strain on the line. If a bird takes your bait or flies into your line, or if your reel jams, this little device will save your drone.
Laying it on the Line
Use a handful of damp sand to hold the line on the ground. This will allow for the line to lift as the drone takes off. Now, most importantly, choose a position for you and anyone else with you to pilot and watch from. This should be at least 10m away from the drone and off to one side. Iff the drone has an issue or the wind gusts unexpectedly, the drone will have plenty of space and people will be safely out of the way.
Clear for Take-Off!
Now the time has come to get that bait into the air… Unlock the drone so the propellers start spinning, check your safety checklist and then lift off smoothly and gently. The dropper line will free itself from the sand and soon the drone will reach a height that it is about to take the load of the bait. Slowly take on the weight and then let the drone hover for a few seconds to check that everything is alright.
Now, check that your reel is set correctly to pay out the line and slowly push your joystick forward to start the flight out. With any drone flying it is important to use smooth inputs into the sticks. In a manual flight like this, you would fly out manually to your drop location, always keeping an eye on the distance readout on your remote control and of course the drone and bait. A fishing drone with a good quality camera is invaluable to determine where the drone is by looking down at wave sets, shoals or gutters.
If your fishing drone has app control, you can setup an automated flight to a precise location and then drop the bait.
Take the reel and let the drone take the wheel…
Once the drone is in the right location, hit the release switch and your drone will drop the bait exactly where you want. Then hit the Return Home switch and the drone will pilot itself back to the take-off point and land smoothly - all while you do the fishing…
So, I hope this gives you an overview of the basic drone fishing process. For seasoned drone fishers, there may have been a few points that are worth remembering if you have got into bad habits…
Next time we will look at features to look for in a fishing drone and setting yourself up for success and fun. If you have any specific questions or issues you think I should talk about please post me a question below.
Until then… bent rods, tight lines, warm breezes, good friends