I have covered in depth how important I feel that a graph or fish finder is for fishing for blue catfish extensively in the blue catfish anglers #1 tool and covered in detail some of the options to look for when choosing a fish finder for catfishing as well as my top fish finder picks for 2011 for catfishing.
These articles came on the heels of an onslaught of questions about choosing a fish finder and what to look for and people emailing me wanting to know which unit I would suggest in certain price ranges. Following the article on my top fish finder picks I started getting rapid fire questions through the ask a catfishing question page about GPS units and just how important they are to catfishing, so I wanted to circle back up and cover some more on what I use GPS for when catfishing.
Years ago when mapping chips (like Navionics) and downloadable maps were first introduced to the market the mapping was very limited. These were black and white maps that had minimal details and information available through them but as soon as the first downloadable map was available for GPS on one of the lakes I fished I jumped on it so I could check it out, it just happened to be a lake I had been fishing for close to twenty five years at the time.
The details again on the initial maps was limited but I was amazed on my first few uses of these maps the structure and contours that I was finding on this lake that I had no idea existed.
Fast forward a few years and color fish finders and GPS units started hitting the market and I upgraded to standalone GPS unit because at that time Navionics was releasing a new mapping chip with a much higher level of detail. This was a game changer for me as it made the initial black and white maps with minimal detail look like childs play in comparison to these highly detailed maps and they opened a whole new world of blue catfish hiding places up to me that I had been driving right past for years. These were the very first initial 2D color maps.
The latest innovations to work in combination with the new HDS sonar units like the Lowrance Elite-5 and other units are 3D multidimensional mapping chips that provide an even greater level of detail. Having worked with these new 3D multidimensional mapping chips of recent they provide a level of detail for the bottom structure that is unheard of and makes again the 2D mapping look like childs play.
The Navionics Fish ‘n’ Chip High-Definition Electronic Marine Charts are compatible with the HD sonar units but the traditional 2D mapping that has been sold for years is still on the market as well. I am not going to beat the differences between the 2D mapping and 3D mapping to death you can find the details on these with a quick Google search.
The latest trend in GPS mapping and navigation is apps for smartphones. Like many things in the world right now fishing is invading the smartphone world as well and iPhones and iPads are making their way into boats with anglers using them to share information and track locations. I am starting to see more and more anglers motoring around the lakes with iPads and iPhones in their hands using these for mapping and navigation for fishing.
In the future I am going to cover the Navionics iPhone app as well as some other cool tools I have seen as well.
Given all the questions I received about GPS units I wanted to circle back around and cover this in more detail.
[box]Here is a brief summary of the questions I received:
- How important is it to have GPS when catfishing?
- Is GPS something that I have to get?
- What exactly do you use your GPS for when fishing for blue catfish, what about channel catfish?
- Should I buy a Navionics mapping chip?
- What is your take on the Navionics iPhone app?[/box]
How important is it to have a GPS when catfishing? Is GPS something I have to get?
This is an essential tool in my boat. As soon as I launch my boat I turn on my sonar and my GPS and I use them throughout the day. To me they are essential tools. Could I fish without them? Sure I could but they certainly help with my fishing from several aspects. GPS and the mapping chip changed several things about the way I approach catfishing.
Is GPS something that I have to get?
No, the purpose of the articles I write about fish finders and any other catfish tackle for that matter are simply to provide information and help anglers make informed decisions, as well as better understand the tools that are available to them and how they can be used to increase their success when catfishing. GPS is certainly not something that you HAVE to have but it is helpful. I explained it to someone the other day like building a house. if you decide tomorrow that you are going to build a house you can do so with an old hand saw and an old school motorless hand drill, or you can have a high powered battery powered circular saw and a cordless drill. Either way you are going to get to the same end goal of building a house, it’s just how you want to go about getting to that end goal.
What exactly do you use your GPS for when fishing for blue catfish, what about channel catfish?
The list is really endless but here are some of the highlights:
- Marking locations – I use the GPS to mark locations for blue and channel catfish that I fish or places that I am fishing. This can be everything from a location that I fish that produces well for me to something I drive over or past and I think looks “fishy” and I want to come back and look at later. The biggest benefit I get from this is marking locations in open water and being able to get back to them quickly and easily and not spending time driving around looking for some underwater cover or structure because it is too far from any landmarks. Having locations marked also gives me the ability to go back to an exact location in that I have fished in the past and find that location within a matter of a few feet. This again ranges from just marking places that I have caught fish or bait, areas I want to go back and look at again, or even places I have thrown out chum for channel catfish.
- Navigation – I rely on this heavily for navigation, especially when navigating shallow water or areas that are heavily timbered. Several of the lakes I fish have areas with long shallow points or main lake humps and when the water levels are low there can be inches of water above them making them dangerous. The same thing applies to fishing shallow water areas and knowing where a boat lane is or fishing heavily timbered areas and keeping track of how to navigate these areas without hitting stumps. This can also be very helpful at night or in foggy conditions or when fishing a water body you are unfamiliar with.
- Mapping – If you are fishing new water on a lake you have never fished or even a new area on a lake you have been fishing for ages then having real time mapping capability is a huge plus. The ability to zoom in on detail and look for contours, shallow water hazards and structure is a huge benefit. This has also really changed the way that I navigate during certain times of the year as well. Prior to mapping I would often times just move from point A to point B with no real approach but with the ability to see contours I most often follow these contours as much as possible when moving from place to place looking for fish in the process.
- Database – My GPS is my “brain outside my brain” and really serves as a fishing log to some extent. I will often save waypoints and name them when I find productive areas like “early April blue catfish” or “June flathead catfish” or even “May shad” or something to that effect to help jog my memory when I am running through places to target that I don’t fish in a regular basis. At one point over the course of about two years I saved a waypoint every time I caught a blue catfish over 25 lbs and was using that data to go back and analyze the movements and behaviors of trophy blue catfish in combination with my fishing logs. The possibilities are really endless. You also have the ability to save these waypoints and download them onto your computer and analyze (or change them) them from your PC and can even view them online with a map overlay.
[box type="tick" style="rounded" border="full"] Do you use GPS when catfishing and how essential is it to your fishing success? Tell us below.[/box]