(By Kevin VanDam)

Electronics One of Many Fish-Finding Tools

Today’s electronics and GPS mapping programs are good – real good!

But those tools aren’t all an angler needs to help him find, develop and run patterns on sizable lakes.

Do you use paper maps and utilize satellite imagery when on the water? I do.

Some anglers believe paper maps are antiquated and useless since they have detailed maps on their graph screens.

But that’s not the case.

Paper maps offer a broad overview of what a system has to offer. At quick glance, I can identify primary and secondary flats, where breaklines turn into a flat, underwater points not defined by the shoreline and general information about a lake’s characteristics. The graph will help me dial in the sweet spots when I get in that area – but paper maps give me a bigger view of how the lake lays out. Or, when I find come across a good area while fishing, I can look at the map and see what makes it special. That’s not as easy to see on the graph when zooming out, even on our larger screens.

I pour over paper maps after a tournament practice day, comparing places on the map with those areas I found on the water with other parts of the lake.

Maps also help you find general areas based on seasonal patterns on large bodies of water. In the spring, I can identify flats and travel routes; in summer I look for offshore areas in which the bass relate, and in winter, I can identify wintering habitat.

Don’t get me wrong; I use my Humminbird graph and Lakemaster mapping continuously for drilling down in a specific area. And with these newly charted HD maps, I can see things that I never knew were there.

For example, when I won an event on Toledo Bend recently, I found places on the Lakemaster chip that I had never seen. That map chip was so accurate that I didn’t even have to study my sonar to make sure I was on the right spot I was fishing!

Satellite imagery can be equally valuable at seeing things like areas with vegetation, water clarity and feeder streams that may lead to a backwater area. When I’m in a remote area, I can see whats lies in the back of a creek arm or where a canal may lead.

There are several online services that provide satellite imagery but I use google maps and Acme Mapper. I’ve found they often provide images taken at different times so I compare the two.

I also carry an IPad that utilizes Verizon cellular service and my cell phone uses AT&T. The reason for this is some services are stronger in some areas and weaker in others. If I can’t log onto a satellite site with my IPad, there’s a good chance I can with my cell phone.

My point to all of this is anglers can be more efficient if they utilize all the tools available to them and not just what their electronics have to offer.