So you decided to give drone fishing a try? Good choice.
Drone fishing is an exciting new fishing method for shore based anglers.
The increased casting distance that can be achieved with a drone will lead to better catches, more strikes and less wasted time and bait.
Imagine casting your bait out from the beach for hundreds of meters and dropping it right over a fishing hole.
You can cast out bigger baits, better present your bait and use minimal sinker weight. You could never achieve this with a surf casting outfit.
The more natural presentation of your bait - right in the target zone - will lead to more strikes and bigger fish.
So that all sounds really good. Almost too good to be true.
Of course there are also a few downsides of drone fishing.
As with everything in life there are pros and cons. But I believe the pros outweigh the cons in this case.
Nevertheless, lets look at a few cons. One of the cons would be the need of having to buy an expensive drone. A cheap drone wont have the required GPS functions, lifting capacity and control range required for drone fishing. Another con would be the very real risk of loosing the expensive drone due to some unforeseen line tangles, technical failures or piloting errors. Getting a waterproof drone that is made specifically for fishing could reduce this risk somewhat. But crashing it 500 meters offshore could still mean that you will probably never see it again, even if it’s waterproof and floats.
Another con is that you might not be allowed to fly a drone wherever and whenever you want. People get annoyed by drones. Drones, weekends and busy beaches don’t match well.
So after these considerations, lets have a look at what’s needed to get into drone fishing.
The first thing obviously would be a drone.
There are only a few suitable drones available. The thing they all have in common is a relatively high price tag.
The most expensive drones are those that are specifically made for fishing, such as the splash drone.
The splash drone is waterproof and has a build in release mechanism for dropping your baits.
If those specialised fishing drones seem a bit too expensive, the next best choice would be a DJI Phantom.
The phantoms are not waterproof but have otherwise a very good lifting capacity and control range of over a 1km.
The advantage here is that there are many used ones around and you could pick up a slightly older second hand model for far less money.
Unfortunately the phantom drones don’t have a build in release mechanism.
It’s possible to buy them aftermarket or - if you’re technically minded - to build one yourself.
There are other drones on the market that could be used for fishing. But the above two options are the best in my opinion.
If money is not so much of an issue then I would recommend the splash drone for sure.
And no matter which drone you get. You’ll need at least one or two spare batteries.
Drones don't fly for long. The DJI can fly for about 20 minutes on one charge. It’s enough for 3-4 longer casts. With two batteries you’ll get 6-8 casts.
It doesn’t seem a lot. But because you can fish in more productive water, it’s usually enough to catch fish.
The next things you need are a suitable rod and reel.
If you already have a surfcasting outfit then you could probably use that.
The biggest consideration is that the reel needs to have a very large line capacity. You need a minimum of 500 meters of line in my opinion.
If it’s spooled up with braided line it will hold more line than mono.
Fishing with braided line on a long distance is also much more fun, as there is no stretch in the line and you can feel every bite.
For that reason I would not use mono line for drone fishing.
So I would recommend a large capacity surf casting reel preferably with a free-spool function such as a shimano bait runner, spooled with 30-50lbs braided line.
Or even better a big overhead reel (shimano tld25) with 30-50lbs braided line. With an overhead reel the chances of line tangles and resulting drone crashes are much reduced. The bigger reels can hold a lot of line. Make sure to get a reel that can hold at least 500 meters of braided line.
The downside of an overhead reel is that it’s not very good for old fashioned casting. So if you’re looking for a multi purpose reel, a surfcasting reel is a bit more versatile and can also be used for beach fishing, rock fishing, boat fishing, etc.
So far we got a drone with release mechanism, a nice big reel with around 700 meters of 30lbs braided line.
Next we need a rod. I normally use just a standard 10 foot surfcasting rod. Although you don’t actually need a surf casting rod for drone fishing, a long rod is better at keeping your line above the waves when flying out your baited drone. Larges waves crashing down on your line with drone still attached could easily lead to a quick, unplanned end of your drone fishing career.
So for surf beaches, I'm using a long surf casting rod. And for calm beaches it doesn't matter so much and a shorter rod can be used.
You just gotta make sure that the rod is strong enough to land some potentially very big fish.
Now you have a drone, a suitable reel and a rod. Ah what a good life.
Next you need a rod holder or beach spike. You only got two hands.
Once you’re ready to fly out your bait, you wont have a free hand to hold your rod.
So make sure you either got a keen helper or perhaps - a bit more reliably - a rod holder.
To get things started it’s best to keep the rigging simple.
You can just start out with a simple two hook dropper rig. Attach it directly to the braided line with a uni to uni knot.
Use a medium to light weight sinker and put some tasty bait on the hooks. Same as you would do when surfcasting.
Now you have the rod in your rod holder, you got your rig ready and the hooks are all baited.
Ready to start up the drone. Actually it’s best to already turn it on while you bait the hooks.
The motors need a little time to warm up before you can fly.
Once the drone is ready start it and fly it to the edge of the water. Take your baited hooks. Have your reel in free-spool or at minimum drag and walk with the hooks towards the drone. Control the height of the drone with the controller in your other hand.
Try to fly the drone high enough so that you can just reach it with outstretched arms to attach your bait.
I just use a little bit of bend wire that I attach to the sinker. The bend end of the wire just kinda hangs over the bolt of the release mechanism.
As soon as I hang the wire onto the release mechanism I fly the drone up and make sure that it’s pulling the line easily.
If everything looks good I walk back to my rod so I can keep an eye on the reel.
Then I fly the drone about half speed forward to wherever I want to drop the bait. Usually around 300 meters offshore.
Try not to fly the drone to fast as this could result in line loops and tangles. You want a constant slow pull on your line with just a little tension to prevent tangles.
At 300 meters out you can hardly see the drone. But you’ll feel a tuck on the rod when you open the release mechanism and the bait falls into the water. Then I just hit the return to home button on the drone. It will come back automatically. While it’s on it’s way back, I wind in some slack line.
I’ll land the drone manually once it’s back overhead and turn it off. Then I’m back on the rod, waiting for bites.
Once you hook up you gotta reel in over 300 meters of line. It takes a bit of time - but totally exciting with a good fish on the other end.
I hope this little introduction to drone fishing has helped somewhat to better understand how it can be done.
There is a lot going on when getting started with drone fishing. Flying the drone and taking care of the hooks and line may not sound so complicated, but it can be quite a handful on the first few tries.
As with everything after a bit of practice you get more and more comfortable with the whole setup and everything becomes streamlined and easier to control. It certainly is a lot of fun and you wont get bored easily when you fish with a drone.