Managing waypoints

Alton Jones
Here's my file of waypoints. They're cataloged for easy reference. No, you can't have them.

We have a lot of technology available to us as fishermen, and finding efficient ways to utilize this technology can really help up your game. One big challenge is waypoint clutter.

If you don’t watch out, one day you turn around and have 10 years of waypoints accumulated. Eventually you’ll run out of memory space if you don’t clean them up and store them in an organized manner. Plus, if you don’t have them handy – or can’t find the right set -- you can’t learn from the past when time comes to visit that particular lake again. 

I’ve developed a system that works for me. I have a cloud on where I store all of my waypoints. I create separate folders labeled by lake, and can access those folders any time from any computer. No matter what brand of GPS you use, exporting them and uploading them to a cloud is pretty easy.

The first thing I want to impress on you is that 5 or 10 years of waypoints is not a shortcut to tournament success. It’s not an “X marks the spot” thing. Conditions change, fish change, but it can remind you of good areas. When the tournament starts, that information is really just an emergency back up plan. I rarely base any fishing decisions on old waypoints.

In fact, here’s how I’m set up for tournament weeks. I wipe my front unit clean and enter that week’s waypoints onto it as I go through practice. I keep all of my old waypoint “cloud” information on my console unit. That way I have it in case of emergencies, but I’m not relying on it for current success. After a couple days of practice I get a better idea of what’s going on right then from the new waypoints on my front electronics, and that’s really how I build my tournament plan.

On the front unit where I’m marking current waypoints, it’s important that they be precise. I have my GPS antenna right next to my trolling motor. This can be incredibly important, especially when fishing a spawning tournament like we’re likely to see in the first two tournaments this year.

I do have one additional tip with this system. I downloaded a voice recorder app onto my phone, and if I find a bed with a good fish on it I’ll record a note, like “Waypoint 32 is about a 6-pounder,” and then I’ll give myself a reference on the bank like, “you line up the left corner of the red dock with the tallest pine tree on the horizon, and the bed is between those two.”

I add that last note so that when I come back on tournament day I don’t have to search for that bed again. I can stay back and take a long cast and hit that bed without getting close enough to spook the fish.

Every night I go in and transcribe my notes onto a piece of paper. A lot of times on tournament day I’ll laminate it so it doesn’t matter if it gets wet, and tape it to my console so I can study it while I’m going down the lake.

I got to looking back through my files this morning. I haven’t been to Lake Seminole since 2003. I looked over all of my waypoints from that tournament and downloaded them onto my console unit so I’ve got them if I really need them.  Because my two GPS units are networked, I still can see those previous waypoints on the front unit, but they’re in a different color so I keep them separate.

Another benefit of my two-GPS plan is plot trails, which can be extremely important at places like Seminole. With those old plot trails on my console unit I can easily access them and follow my previous track through areas that can be difficult to navigate.

The first two tournaments we should have fish in both stages – prespawn and spawn. We even could see some postspawn fish because they had some warm weather down there, but I think the majority of fish will be full-on spawning mode. It’s the week of the March full moon, and I’m playing the odds by going into it with the mid-set that it will be a spawning tournament.

Bedding fish throw another factor into the waypoint situation. I won’t mark every bed I find because a lot of those will be empty, but I’ll mark every keeper I find. I run the fish off the bed, go right up on it and mark it, then record a note on it if there’s a big bass on it. Imagine being in an area with 200 beds scattered around – it can be tough to remember which one had the 8-pounder on it!

At the end of the Seminole tournament, I’ll download the new waypoints to my Lake Seminole folder in the cloud so I’ll have them for the next time.