As good as today's bass boat electronics are, mapping chips make them even better.
Navionics is the leader of that field and their platinum chip is turning average anglers into superstars.
The chip is a memory card that contains hundreds of lake maps that can be pulled up on your fishing electronics screen. It fits most GPS/mapping sonar units. When on a lake, the map displays automatically and indicates your position on the map.
More importantly, it displays bottom structure that can help you located the fish.
"If you're fishing against guys who don't have the chip, you will beat them like a drum," insists Skeeter/Yamaha pro Alton Jones. "You will see things on your graph that simply don't show up on most mapping programs and paper maps."
The ease with which the mapping chips can be used is one of their biggest benefits. With mapping capabilities on your graph, you can see where you are on a lake and find subtleties in the structure you might not otherwise notice.
"You can zoom in on the end of a point and see little nooks and crannies you might not notice," said Jones. "You still have to find the sweet spot on the structure, but with the use of quality sonar, you will save yourself a lot of time."
The Navionics Platinum chip is broken into five regions: north, south, east, west and Canada. Each card contains hundreds of topographic maps within each of those regions. The company's survey team is constantly updating the maps with more current information than is found on antiquated paper maps.
In addition, you can get 3D viewing, satellite photo overlay and panoramic lake pictures. Many of the lakes show 1-foot contours that enhance your vision of the bottom beneath you.
Waypoints stored in your graph appear on the map so you can drive right to them and know you're on the right spot.
"Another feature I love is you can set the level of shading based on depth contours," said Jones. "For example, if I'm keying on water 10 feet or less, I can set it up to shade those areas and they become more vivid. It helps you narrow down depth ranges and find key hot spots related to that depth range."
There are safety benefits as well. Updated maps show hazards where channels are well defined.
"You can see shoals, and at night or in fog it helps you navigate when you can't see well," Jones added. "You can't see other boats, but you at least know where you are on the lake."
The map also shows residential and other civilized areas, Jones noted, "So if I get in trouble I know where I can find help."
Platinum chips are priced around $200, although others with less detail can be found for less.
"Navionics also has a computer program (HotMaps Explorer) that sells for around $30," said Jones. "You can pull up a lake on your home computer, download your waypoints and put together locations you want to fish before you leave the house."