When I began my career, lake maps were pretty basic. In most cases, they offered a simple overview of a lake or river with little or no detail below the surface. Of those that did provide subsurface features, the details were usually vague and inaccurate.
There were exceptions, however. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) charts did provide good detail of both shoreline and subsurface features. But NOAA charts were expensive and not readily available. Worse, they only cover inland waterways connecting to saltwater.
My first charts
The first charts I remember were hand-me-downs from my grandfather — lake maps by Rube Allyn, the former publisher of fishing periodicals who founded the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. His maps were very basic, but they did aid somewhat in navigation.
Later, I discovered mapping created by Southern Guide, Hooksetter, Atlantic Mapping and Lakes Illustrated (the ones endorsed by Tom Mann). At the time, they were considered “advanced” cartography. Although not truly accurate, they did approximate the location of submerged creekbeds, ditches, humps and many other unique subsurface features. And some were waterproof, which was a major advancement back then.
About the time I learned of NOAA charts, I also discovered aerial plat maps … particularly the ones for reservoirs that show what the terrain looked like before they were impounded. Those were a big help.
To better define a specific body of water, I would cross-reference the details of these various maps. I believed the more input I could gather, the better. Of course, applying that information was a little tricky, and the info didn’t always pan out. You could say it was catch as catch can.
Nowadays, lake maps are incredibly accurate and readily available. And most serious anglers prefer electronic mapping over paper.