Autopilot is essential to Great Lakes fishing

Mike SchoonveldMy football coach had a saying, “Watermelon is the second best thing in the world. Everyone has their number one favorite, but watermelon is second.” I don’t remember why he told us that bit of philosophy, but I remember it.

When it comes to the second most necessary electronic gizmo to put on a boat destined for use as a Great Lakes fishing vessel, my vote goes for an autopilot.

Some would say a fish-finder or sonar. Personally, that’s not high on my list, though a useful tool. If I could catch every fish I mark on my sonar, most days I’d sink the boat. If I had to mark a fish to catch a fish, most days I’d be in trouble. It’s most useful to me most days to simply tell me how deep of water I’m fishing.

I’ve heard others say they’d be lost without a speed-n-temp probe. There are several makers out there, I’ve owned more than one; actually, more than two, but most of the year, I don’t even use it.

Some would argue for their radar. Others would say don’t leave port without a VHF marine radio. I’ll admit, a GPS is high on my list.

On any given day I’ll use all of these as well as surface temperature indicators, cell phone, Sirius Weather Radar and others. And on any given day, any one of them can be numero uno.

But the second best thing on my boat is my autopilot. I call it Otto. As much as 90-percent of the time each day, Otto is driving (steering) my boat, leaving me to attend to the rest of the tasks. Sometimes the helm is empty, sometimes I’m at the helm but watching the sonar, GPS, talking on the radio, monitoring the rods, yelling at the other fishermen. Otto keeps us on course.

There are entire articles written about autopilots detailing how they work, why you need them, the different types available, trouble shooting, which brand is better than others, etc. I’ve written some of them. But if you want your boat to have the second best electronic you’ll ever install, go with Otto.

Categories: Blog Content, MicBlogs, Michigan – Mike Schoonveld

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