I’ve had a number of questions recently regarding Navionics hot maps and the uses for catfishing or just fishing in general. The questions about Navionics Hotmaps range from everything from the basics like what are these maps, how do you get them on your fishfinder all the way to more advanced questions like how I use these cards specifically and how do they fit into my catfishing techniques.
Quite some time ago I covered some of the GPS uses for catfishing and I have been meaning to put something together ever since to cover some of the basics behind how the Navionics Hotmaps work. I run the Navionics Hotmaps Premium South in my Humminbird 1198C and have been using these cards for about eight or nine years. I cannot imagine catfishing without these charts.
What Exactly Are The Navionics Hotmaps
In a nutshell they are electronic topographic charts that map the bottom of the lake showing structure (changes in bottom), boat ramps, hazards and other features on the water that are helpful not only for fishing for all species of fish but also for navigation.
The charts are placed into your fishfinder on an SD card (like you use in a digital camera) and the fishfinder reads the charts and displays them on the screen. Depending on the sonar fishfinder or GPS unit you use you can choose from a number of different display options including viewing only the charts, or showing them side by side with other screens like traditional sonar, down imaging or side imaging.
Navionics is the clear leader in these charts and has been producing these mapping cards for years. The technology behind how they map the lakes and watching them charting the waters is impressive in itself, but for these purposes I will stick to what the maps are about and how they can help you when fishing for catfish.
On most compatible marine electronics you will be able to view the traditional electronic topographic maps but on newer units you also have an option of the “Birds Eye View” for navigation (both shown below).
Many sonar and GPS units come with “built in” maps but they are typically nowhere near the detail of the maps provided by Navionics. I have yet to see one that comes loaded on a unit that even comes close to these charts.
Screen Shot Of The Navionics Map From Humminbird 1198C
Screen Shot From “Birds Eye View” On Humminbird 1198C
How Do You Get The Charts On Your Fishfinder
The charts come on a digital SD card (like used in a digital camera). Most marine electronics have an SD card slot (though you do need to confirm compatibility). You simply insert the SD card into your sonar or GPS unit. After inserting the card or “chip” as most anglers call it is as simple as going into your GPS settings on your unit and selecting the data source as Navionics Hotmaps and you are up and running with the charts and maps on your unit.
There is no other setup or installation required. The whole process should take less than a minute or two tops!
How Are Navionics Hotmaps Used
Navigation – the charts provide clear detail on structure and known water hazards in most instance. They even outline marker buoys in many cases so you know areas where you need to watch for warning signs and potential safety issues ,no wake zones etc. In addition it just makes it easier to get around, especially when fishing on new or unfamiliar water, fishing at night, or fishing in other low visibility conditions. There are times where I literally drive by GPS in the dark only scanning the water for the lights of other boats.
Storing Locations – Most GPS systems have the ability to store waypoints. Having the ability to store and view those waypoints on a detailed map provides the ability to have a better look at these areas and the bottom contour and then scan them with your sonar. This can even be done where you setup waypoints for areas you want to view from the comfort of your home, transfer them to your sonar and then quickly and easily find them on the water. I store locations that range from hazards, locations to catch gizzard shad and threadfin shad at different times of the year, interesting areas I see on my sonar I think could be catfishing hotspots at different times of the year and just simply marking active fishing locations that I might not remember later.
Putting Catfish In The Boat
I use the Navionics system for fishing for blue catfish, channel catfish and flathead catfish but rely heavily on the maps for blue catfish. Many people refer to blue catfish as creatures of “edges and ledges”. Now, these fish don’t hold or feed exclusively on edges and ledges but these type areas can often be excellent locations for finding active feeding blue catfish. Using the Navionics Hotmaps card gives you the ability to quickly and easily spot and find structure that will commonly hold blue catfish and allows for simple navigation to these areas. This used in combination with a sonar fishfinder can be a very productive combination.
I find most people also change they way they navigate when they start using these charts and rather than running across the big middle of the lake they begin navigating and scanning contour lines when moving from place to place. This simple change alone often leads to putting more fish in the boat.
What Is The Difference Between Basic, Premium and Platinum
There are three different types of cards, Hotmaps, Hotmaps Premium and Hotmaps Platinum. Here is a basic summary of the features and a brief explanation. The bottom line is Hotmaps is the basic card, Premium is a step up giving you more maps and more HD lake maps, and Platinum has the most maps and additional features not included in the basic and premium models.
Contains over 14,000 total lake maps with complete fishing information for your GPS
Over 700 high-definition lake maps featuring exclusive 1′ contours from on-the-water surveys
Contains over 17,000 total lake maps with complete fishing information for your GPS
Over 1,000 high-definition lake maps featuring exclusive 1′ contours from own on-the-water surveys
Contains over 17,000 total lake maps with complete fishing information for your GPS Over 1,000 high-definition lake maps featuring
Exclusive 1′ contours from Navionics own on-the-water surveys
True 3D lake-bottom views
Top-down satellite imagery
Panoramic lake photos for most survey lakes
Which One Do I Buy
First and foremost determine which region you are in (shown in the map below). The cards are specific to regions so you want the right card for the bodies of water you will be fishing or area of the United States you live in.
Once you have your region determined look at the listing of maps for your region and determine which lakes you need and whether a standard or high definition map is available for your water bodies and the proceed from there. They have a tremendous amount of area mapped but you should always confirm maps are available for the water bodies you will be fishing.
Navionics Hotmaps Regions
Freshest Data Feature
In addition to all of the features outlined Navionics Hotmaps also have a feature called “freshest data”. The company is constantly updating their charts to make sure everything is accurate as possible and with the purchase of your card you get access to one year of free updates from Navionics so you constantly have the latest and greatest data.
The update process is simple and painless and is as easy as inserting the card in your computer, updating the maps online through their website and then putting it back in your sonar or GPS unit.
One last feature. The Navionics Platinum card also comes with a feature called Navionics PC. This gives you free access to the computer application. This is a simple download and install that gives you access to the same charts from your computer.
This gives you the ability to:
- Explore waters
- Create navigation routes
- Mrk GPS locations
- Map out your potential fishing locations and more from the comfort of your home
- Save locations and create notes about them on your PC
- Measure distances
- Calculate on the water travel time
- Calculate fuel consumption
- Upload pictures or sonar screenshots to the application
- You information and email the file to be opened in Google Earth by others
For more information on the PC application and to get a better idea of the mapping details watch the video below.
The Bottom Line, How Will This Help Me And Is It “Worth It”
Yes, Yes, Yeesssss!!
As previously stated I rely heavily on this product for catfishing. It not only makes it safer and easier to navigate but it helps identify and locate potential fishing areas much more quickly and easily than anything else that is out there. Finding contours, navigating right to them and scanning them with your sonar for bait fish and active feeding fish and getting catfish baits in the water and catching fish much more quickly.
I can say without a doubt that these products are hands down worth the investment, regardless of the species of fish you are targeting.
If you have a basic sonar or GPS I suggest the premium version and if you have a Lowrance HDS unit or Humminbird DI/SI combo unit I suggest the platinum card.
You can find these products through the links below.