Paper maps and technology give anglers an edge

There’s no question that today’s electronics and GPS mapping programs are good.

I mean, real good.

However, there are other tools that belong in anglers’ fish-finding strategies.

Like, I still use paper maps and utilize satellite imagery even when I’m on the water. In my mind, it’s important to use every mapping tool available to me.

I know some anglers may think paper maps are antiquated and seemingly useless when they have detailed maps on their graph screens.

But that’s not the case.

They remain critical to my studies because they give me a broader overview of what a system has to offer, regardless of a lake’s size. At quick glance, I can see where the flats are, where creeks dump in, channel swings and gain general information about the water. I’m not looking for sweet spots – my graph will provide that when I get in that area – but I can get a bigger view of how the lake lays out. Also, when I find a good area, 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.

Maps really help me at tournaments after a practice day. I can take the information I found on the water, lay the map out on a table and compare similar areas that might offer the same water clarity and structure.

Maps also help me select 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 still use my Humminbird graph and Lakemaster mapping 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 at Toledo Bend last year, I found places on the Lakemaster chip that I had no idea were there. In no way could I have won the way I did without that map chip. It was so accurate that I didn’t even have to study my sonar to make sure I was on the right contour of the 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. And when I’m in a remote area, I can see what’s on the other side of a bank 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 look at both and compare the two. (You can pay for real time service that gives you instantaneous imagery, but it can be quite expensive.)

I carry an iPad in my boat that utilizes Verizon cellular service and my cellphone 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 cellphone.

The bottom line is all anglers – competitive and recreational - need to embrace every tool that will give them the best opportunities to put together effective game plans quickly.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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