Fishing With Yamaha Helm Master EX®
Courtesy of Yamaha Marine
If saltwater fishing is your passion, you and your boat could have a new indispensable fishing tool—Helm Master® EX. It can make your fishing more precise, more productive, even less strenuous, and you can only get it with Yamaha Outboards.
Helm Master EX is a fully integrated electronic helm that links the digital-electric-computer (DEC) assisted binnacle controls with a multifunction joystick, autopilot, proprietary GPS receiver and color touchscreen display to control the shift, throttle and steering system of your boat providing automated maneuvering under a wide range of situations. First developed as an aid to navigating in tight quarters, it has evolved into a system capable of controlling the positioning and movements of your boat in ways you could only have dreamed of just a few short years ago.
This article will forego the technical aspects and general navigational benefits of this remarkable system and concentrate on some of its practical applications for fishing since many of the capabilities of the system were designed specifically for fishermen. From the feedback received from Yamaha pro fishermen, captains and customers who have used or experienced the system in real-world situations, be assured once you try it, you will wonder how you ever fished without Helm Master EX. As you become more familiar with its capabilities, we are sure you will find ways to apply it to even more fishing situations than the ones we touch on here.
Before we start, it is important to recognize that there are some functions available with the multi-engine Helm Master EX system that are not available with the newest version released for use with single engine applications. This is due to the additional maneuverability inherent with twin, triple and quad engine installations. To learn more about those differences go to https://yamahaoutboards.com/en-us/home/rigging/all/helm-master-ex.
Let’s explore some of the system’s most prominent fishing-friendly functions and how they can be used for specific types of fishing, starting with FishPoint®. This is a refinement of StayPoint®, the initial spot-holding mode built into earlier Helm Master versions that is used most frequently as an aid to navigating for holding boat position for situations like waiting for a bridge opening. As the name would suggest, FishPoint takes that function to a new level with fishermen in mind.
FishPoint is the function that will make your fishing less physically strenuous, especially if you like bottom fishing, because it makes your anchor obsolete. Just imagine fishing for blackfish, grouper, codfish or snapper, pretty much any species that is structure oriented, and all you have to do to hold position over a favorite piece of bottom is press the FishPoint button on the system’s joystick control. It takes a lot of trial and error to become proficient using anchors and GPS to achieve that kind of accuracy and once you get it right, you frequently have to repeat the process when conditions like prevailing tide, current or wind direction change. When that happens, it is back to retrieving, repositioning, and dropping the anchor all over again. And with FishPoint you will never have to worry about fishing a spot when the wind is blowing in the opposite direction as the tide, a situation that makes your anchor virtually useless because the opposing forces will not let the boat settle back on the anchor line.
With Helm Master EX, all that work is a thing of the past. The system does it all with increased positional accuracy and it self-corrects as conditions change. It gives you the ability to establish boat position over structure instantly and effortlessly. It allows you to move the boat in measured increments over structure with either the bow or stern into the prevailing wind and current by switching from FishPoint Bow to FishPoint Stern on the touch screen monitor.
FishPoint, like many of the system’s modes, relies on its proprietary GPS receivers to establish and hold the boat’s relative position and to detect the compass direction the boat is pointed, all with amazing accuracy. The mode allows you to set the thrust output of the engines needed to hold position in almost any wind and current conditions quietly and smoothly. In FishPoint you can change or correct the boat’s position in preprogramed increments of 5, 10 or 20 feet forward, back, to port or starboard by clicking the joystick in the direction you want the boat to move. You set the distance for each incremental movement on the system display or leave it in the 10-foot default setting. Try that with an anchor. These functions provide the angler with the ultimate solution for structure fishing.
For example, on a recent trip to the Gulf of Mexico to fish for red snapper and grouper on a Yamaha-powered triple engine 36' center console, Helm Master EX was used to hold position in various spots over a small wreck that was loaded with fish. The system had to deal with 20 knots winds, offset current drift and 2 to 4-foot seas, but as soon as FishPoint Stern was engaged the boat held stern to the wind and seas and remained stationary within a very tight area while we bailed fish for the next couple of hours. The surprising thing about it was, thanks to the thrust setting feature, the engines accomplished the feat so quietly and with movements that were so subtle that you hardly knew they were working at all. The state of refinement of FishPoint is such that it shifted the engines in and out of gear sequentially with just enough thrust to hold position with barely a hint of movement perceptible to the anglers on board. It worked so well that we almost forgot it was working at all and were able to pay more attention to fishing.
On another trip, this time off the coast of New Jersey on a 28' pilot cabin boat powered by twin Yamaha F300 outboards, we replaced the old-fashioned two anchor bottom fishing system the owner had been using for years with the newly installed Helm Master EX. We were fishing for blackfish and that requires pinpoint positioning over specific areas of structure. Big blackfish will often move from one place to another on a wreck or rockpile as current direction changes, and being just a few feet off a specific spot can mean the difference between catching big fish or working hard for a few small ones. FishPoint worked its magic with accuracy even the tandem anchors and windlass system could not match, maintaining position over various areas of a large wreck holding stern into the prevailing seas. We fished jigs tipped with crab to catch trophy-size blackfish and when the tide changed, all it took to move the boat to the opposite side of the wreck was a few clicks on the joystick. As the current picked up again, so did the bite. While this kind of positional control is a remarkable achievement, there is so much more you can do with the system.
There are a variety of pelagic fish that are attracted to floating weeds, objects and even stationary buoys. Think mahi mahi or cobia to mention a couple. You can use FishPoint to approach surface structure and hold the boat in place either bow or stern into the current and wind while anglers cast to fish hovering beneath or around these objects. The system is also excellent for holding the boat alongside nearshore hotspots like jetties and inlets where predators like striped bass, bluefish, snook and redfish will often hunt at certain tide phases. With the growing popularity of deep-drop fishing where water depth alone makes anchoring impossible, Helm Master EX is the perfect partner for bottom fishing for tilefish, wreckfish, snowy grouper, queen snapper—a whole array of target species—in water depths from a few hundred to well over a thousand feet. In the past, even relatively mild wind and current conditions made deep-water pursuits like these difficult to impossible to execute, but reports from Yamaha pro-captains using the system for deep-water techniques have been overwhelmingly positive. It brings a whole new dimension to a difficult form of offshore fishing. The more you think about the ways you can use FishPoint, the more you realize the benefits are almost limitless.
Here’s another. What if you employ drift fishing over large areas of bottom for black sea bass, summer or southern flounder, snapper or even for daytime swordfish or tilefish offshore? Yamaha developed the DriftPoint mode for just such fishing situations. In DriftPoint® your outboards are capable of keeping the boats heading while the boat drifts with the prevailing wind or current. You can even alter the drift to match a preset group of waypoints with the interface to your onboard chart plotter by using the DriftPoint Track mode that utilizes the boat’s chart plotter and autopilot. If any of these techniques are in your wheelhouse, this unique feature can make your presentations far more precise and productive. In other words, it will help you catch more fish!
Kite fishing is a time-honored technique that is effective for a variety of species. It is most notably used for sailfish, but tournament kingfish anglers are keen on the technique and so are offshore marlin and tuna guys. It generates visually exciting surface strikes by suspending live bait from release clips attached to the kite line to keep it splashing on or near the surface. To accomplish the task effectively requires precise boat control at the hands of a skilled captain who remains at the helm constantly correcting for wind, current and boat angle with the boat’s engines to keep the kites apart and maintain the spread of the baits suspended from them. DriftPoint makes it easy by providing the control needed to balance the effects of wind and current on the boat and to achieve the desired drift while holding the boat at just the right angle for the kites to take advantage of the prevailing wind direction. Kite fishing has never been easier than when it is done using Helm Master EX. In DriftPoint Track, you can set your drift to carry the boat over predetermined waypoints automatically while maintaining the drift characteristics you set in DriftPoint, which is even more amazing, and not just for kite fishermen.
Daylight deep-drop fishing for swordfish has become wildly popular, and to do it productively requires maintaining drift speed and direction over features like the depth contours of submarine canyons. DriftPoint Track is the difference between depending on the vagaries of current and wind to push the boat where those conditions dictate, to having an automated system that uses your outboards to control the drift characteristics and take the boat where you want it to go. DriftPoint Track makes it possible to program a specific set of waypoints and activate it, so Helm Master EX does the work of hitting the targets. It will make deep-drop fishing for swords far more productive with far less work for the person at the helm. In fact, these functions are beneficial for all types of deep-water drift fishing. Chunking in the canyons off the MidAtlantic coast is another time-honored technique that produces a lot of tuna. It is done by broadcasting a consistent trail of cut pieces of baitfish, or chunks, while slow drifting or holding stationary position over a specific canyon feature, rip or upwelling. Whole baitfish are used as hook baits and are played back along with the chunks where tuna can find them. The technique can be effective for bluefin tuna closer to shore or for yellowfin, bigeye and longfin tuna in the canyons further offshore. DriftPoint provides a level of control for this technique anglers have been searching for and is sure to provide a big advantage to boats equipped with Helm Master EX.
The more you learn about Helm Master EX, the greater its benefits become. It will impact your fishing in many positive ways. To learn more about this revolution in fishing, watch the videos and read more about it at https://yamahaoutboards.com/en-us/home/rigging/all/helm-master-ex