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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
AN INTRODUCTION TO GPS FOR FISHING

Record keeping and data management of your fishing hotspots is now vital for serious bassing. I've been carrying a small voice-activated recorder for years, and recently added a digital camera to capture once submerged terrain, and store those in a laptop with a link to GPS coordinates. While making a route to follow on the next trip I can refresh my memory of what that ground looks like in the event its flooded again. That's especially valuable now as the lake level drops exposing interesting shallow water structures and cover I wasn't aware existed. I read off a GPS coordinate so I can return to an exact spot, and take an average of several satellite shots for pin-point accuracy next visit. What's really important to me is the subtle bottom changes not easily found with a bait, like actually seeing a little ditch that normally runs under a hydrilla mat. It's those depressions, maybe only 6" deeper than surrounding terrain that bass will stack up in during the heat of the day. If you know where they are, a lure can be put right on top of some waiting bass rather than fan casting the entire area hoping to find such a target.

When I get home and have time, I go through the voice notes comparing them to photos in sequence, then go to Map Create on the PC and make waypoints using various icons to signify type of target to work on next time I visit the spot. I have a Fishing Hotspots Elite map card from Lowrance that shows underwater topography, and have a new large capacity memory chip to contain only the lake I'm fishing so I can store lots of new information from the GPS and the sonar. I can also record the entire sonar screen sequence seen real time, viewed later on the PC, and can back up, stop, move forward frame by frame. That turns up some likely targets too, often missed while actually fishing and watching the line. I often sit there saying to myself "HOW did you miss that gob of fish stacked up on that shelf?" Well, I mark that spot then move the chip back to the Lowrance unit and go take a closer look. If it proves a good spot, I'll try to make notes of when and under what conditions I caught or found bass, slab crappie or walleyes.

When I turn the unit on I see hundreds of icons sometimes unless I zoom in enough to separate them, but have my scouting already done, and if conditions call for it, can quickly abandon a pre-planned route to explore a pattern that doesn't fit the chosen route. This is an excellent way to get acquainted with a new lake quickly, too.

The Map Create software is for the PC to plan routes and record them for use on the boat unit. The Elite Hotspot Map is a $100 chip about as big as a postage stamp that goes in the GPS/sonar bay on the front, containing over 400 detailed lake maps on the SE USA set. There are 4 of them covering each quadrant of the US. You get a card reader made especially for that chip card, and can make up to 5 new cards with a favorite lake on each. I get the 1 Gig cards so I can stuff plenty of routes and waypoints on each. When on the water I can then browse the files to find the route I want to follow on the GPS. I can log days of sonar records in sequence on that chip then read back the sonar images on the PC to record interesting holes, structures, cover, wads of fish, etc., then include those as waypoints on whichever route is closest.

Navionics mapping company has been adding high definition lake maps to their inventory, showing bottom contour at 1 foot intervals. If a HD map is available for your lake get it. They might not have been able to get into shallow water if surveying at low pool, but you really don’t need HD in shallow water. That map will help you find great deep structure and open up a whole new fishing experience.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Your club tournament organizer calls you the evening before the Friday night event to name the mystery lake. Oh, boy, haven't been on that one before! You arrive at the earliest allowed time, an hour before blastoff, to see the makings of a fog that's sure to be there when weigh-in time arrives, and you'll be on the lake without a clue which way to go to make it in time. Will you try to follow the other guy that seems to know where he's going?

I'd rather make a waypoint on the GPS at the launch ramp, then a string of them on the way out into the main lake to a good turning point visible from much of the lake. Then you'll have a trail building to mark your every turn wherever you wander, and when returning, just aim for the last blastoff waypoint in the main lake, then follow the known safe route from waypoint to waypoint until you glide up to the ramp.

If it's a 2 day event, you surely made some extra waypoints where you found fish that can be revisited in the dark. You found a nice hydrilla field butting up against a sharp drop-off into a creek channel, sure to hold some fish maybe next time you get to it, but finding it without a GPS would be next to impossible because of the lack of visible landmarks.

Makes a BIG difference fishing a strange lake, or even a favorite lake with no moon light but plenty of fog.

How much better it would be in the daylight! We've had many a pro get lost on Ouachita, missing weigh-in, forgetting to set waypoints to navigate back to a marina not visible from the main lake.

I found another use for GPS. Our hydrilla beds are disappearing as the lake level continues to drop. When scouting the edges I noticed lots of interesting structures like occasional boulders, rock piles, and ditches or creek beds not noticed before. I erased all "My Trails", turned off the unit and returned to one end of the hydrilla, then turned the unit back on. Trails are simply a record of everywhere I go with the unit on, not routes. I then began making a new trail following the edge of the hydrilla, making waypoints as I went marking what looked like great casting targets like hydrilla growing on short points, ridges, and noted dips in the hydrilla indicating holes and short valleys between ridges. When I came to the far end a mile away I turned the unit off again to close that trail. On my next visit I'll be able to parallel the trail and compare that working trail to the recorded one, then be able to spot my targets, casting to the waypoints. If that works out well with a good catch I'll make a new route out of the productive waypoints. That will hold until those waypoints are left high and dry, then I'll make a new trail, and maybe another route. I'll name the routes using elevation at the time, like Hotel5694 for Hotel Island @569.4 feet.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I've been updating boat trails through parts of the lake littered with flooded forest. It's tough enough to navigate that by day, a nightmare by night or in fog. Now channels are much better defined with rows of tree snags sticking up not visible before. Not one of my old routes is precise enough to prevent lower unit damage, so now while I can see the remaining big trees a foot ot two deep I can come up with a no-fault route. I'll transfer those to the PC master map so whenever I download a map to the Sonar chip those routes will be there.

While at that I'm taking another look at islands that funnel wind-driven waves that concentrate baitfish through the gap between islands. I'll assign an icon to each pair corresponding to wind direction so I can accurately pick the right island set (out of 200 islands at normal pool, probably 300 today at low water). Blue for NE/E, red for SE/S, green for SW/W, and yellow for NW/N. Red & green are the classic colors for navigation light colors corresponding with best wind directions. Fishing the best pair(s) on any given day with a steady wind certainly results in added boated bass. When the wind kicks up to 15 or more, that's my go-to plan. It will take quite some time to catalog them as I fish my way around the lake.

There's been a lot of surface breaking action lately. After GPSing as many as I can get to I've noticed they almost always happen in the same spots, in groups of spots, and on particular routes baitfish and bass take. I've also noted from recording those spots baitfish also tend to inhabit certain spots for lengthy periods through the day. With those locations identified I can go and set up with high confidence surface action will return, on time, in a predictable pattern of travel across open water. Without the GPS I'd have to triangulate off certain trees, points, or other signs hoping to be within casting range. I have an idea the fish are following channels or other structures that might be used for seasonal migrations. If that's the case I will be able to locate bass in pre spawn, post spawn more efficiently. It'll take studying the recorded sonar frames and looking for clues as to what the bass are relating to, and why baitfish get in those habits.

I set up an emergency escape route setting waypoints with nothing but deep water between them. I've often wondered how quickly I might get back to the ramp at night with fog catching me or heavy clouds making it super dark. Now I'll be able to run WOT across a dark lake at night in case of emergency. I have a pair of auto fog lamps on the bow to spot any unlit boats along the way.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I'm about to save someone a lot of time with a planning strategy I wish I had before building a couple hundred waypoints. I've focused only on Lake Ouachita, no problem there. My problem came about this week fishing Degray Lake south of here, setting waypoints. When I got home and uploaded them into my pc, I discovered I can't separate waypoints by lake unless examining the coordinates, seeing some are very different from the Ouachita coordinates. It took me 5 hours to correct that error, renaming all waypoints according to a file naming convention.

The filenames are a little weird looking at first, but it's necessary. The first of 6 characters is the first letter of the lake name. The new waypoints begin with "D". All the others now begin with "O". The last character is a code letter for M for "Marina", "H" for "Hotspot", "S" for "Shallow". A productive main point is
"P", a secondary point inside a cove is "SP". A hot cove is "C". Try to use codes easy to remember. All waypoints record date created, so that makes a log to sort them by season for a return trip that season.

The middle characters can be an abbreviation of an area name or some landmark.

LNTR might be a lone tree out in open water. OLNTRH would be a lone tree stickup hotspot on Ouachita.

"OSKCOC" is for Ouachita, Skier's Cove, cove. IOW, the whole cove is hot.
"DMLFTH" is for Degray, Millers Flats, hotspot.
"OHHHHH" is a hotspot out in the middle of Ouachita with no particular locale name.

Devise your own system before you have a hundred lines of names to change. You'll be glad you had a system even if later you think of a better one. You can change it anytime but it takes a lot of time.

Even if later you have no idea what a name referred to, you still have the coordinates and date created, and can re-visit it to decide on a better name. If a few visits later prove unproductive, delete it.

I'd suggest setting depth notes based on normal pool. Adding the depth in the file name is a good idea. That way you can sort for files based on a standard pool level. When finding a new spot in low pool, note its depth based on full pool. If fishing in full pool and you only want hot spots actually 12 feet deep, sort any falling 12 feet below normal pool.

I name files according to local names to make it easier to select waypoints from a list for sharing. Seeing it on the display only helps me. Without a locale name it's very difficult to look at a file name and know where it is without displaying it.
Point 332 means nothing to me even though I made it. If someone calls wanting me to email a couple of good spots around Pollard Creek I don't have to open the program to look at them. I can just clip files from Windows Explorer to an email.

OK, instead of always using locale names in the middle, which might not be known especially on a lake I'm not familiar with, inserting adjusted depth in the middle of the name works fine. The names with numbers in them always sort at the top of the list. Also, it isn't necessary to always use a code at the end. If there's enough characters left just spell out a full name ending in any character. For that matter you might just always put the season in the name. OFALLH would be Ouachita fall hotspot. OFL10H would be Ouachita fall 10 feet depth below normal pool (578' here) hotspot.

I had about 320 fishing waypoints for Ouachita alone, the display looking like a photo of someone's freckles. That doesn't count navigation points used for poor visibility motoring. I noticed many of them formed groups covering about the same ridge, hump, string of humps, the same submerged road which is drawn on the display anyway, and many were in the same cove end. I chose one waypoint in each group best representing the center of an area, then deleted the extras. I'm down to about a hundred points now, so renaming isn't too big of a chore done a little each night. It's a good idea to keep those extras a while before deleting, as that's evidence of consistent activity in an area. Once you realize the area is hot it's safe to use just the one point and name it to indicate a done deal. I might begin naming earliest points with a T on the end to indicate Temporary, pending repeat successes there before labeling it an H "hotspot". If I return several times and don't get a bite I might go ahead and delete it right there.

In the future I'll pay more attention to existing waypoints on the display before hitting the Waypoint button, which takes time away from fishing.

I trade waypoints occasionally via email, formerly sending off points named 1-300. Without a file naming convention I wonder now if they ever located that little dot on the screen, not having much idea where to start looking without a coordinate map of the lake. That's why it's important to name them according so something that relates to the lake, at least which end it's on, which marina or launch ramp is nearby. As a side note I expect new waypoints discovered on a trip to my points in return. I do find free ones on internet with no reciprocation asked for, but many of those are old and not very productive, probably not updated. They serve to give you a little idea about where you might begin on an unfamiliar lake. You can make things a lot easier for folks coming down to your favorite lake.

While the lake level has been dropping maybe to record lows I've been marking really super bass hiding holes often in places that normally don't look very productive. I've also been mapping flats and potential spawning areas probably nobody would have guessed were there. None have been seen fishing some places where nobody wants to look dumb trying. I've been working on my deep water fishing the last few years mostly because the shorelines get too crowded with no anglers in open water except coming and going, so I've been criss-crossing out there and coming up on some interesting humps, ridges, and other structures that ought to hold bass during at least one seasonal pattern. I found a clump of deep trees around something large that appears to be maybe a scuttled houseboat or party barge that I have never heard a peep about, nor have ever seen anyone fishing over it. That will remain a secret until folks start seeing me there. It ought to be an interesting target next summer.

Jim
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
There's a setting on most GPS units that allows you to rely on the presence of a strong WAAS signal. If it's turned on and you don't have that beacon, you get no GPS display. Major ports around the nation and at major airports have WAAS as a third beacon for high accuracy navigation in high traffic areas. The prime signal is from satellites in view of the antenna, the second a US Coast Guard beacon, the towers scattered around the nation mostly along major commercially navigable waterways. Those are analyzed by the GPS unit to perfect a position. The WAAS preference is advisable for you sea-going and Great Lakes anglers, especially around busy ports, having to pay attention to routes you would expect large ships to be sharing your water. But most of us are inland and too far from any WAAS signal. In fact, if a lake you are boating on is below the horizon of a line-of-sight Coast Guard beacon, all you'll have to work with are the satellites. That gets you pretty good location fixes if enough of them are in the sky together, good enough for our purposes. Having either of those other two signals increases accuracy very nicely. So if you are having trouble locking on to constant GPS positions, look for that WAAS setting and disable it.

Another problem I'm seeing is folks complaining their GPS sometimes shows them fishing on land. That's especially true when using maps downloaded off the internet. I download maps of lakes not originally included in my Hot Spots Elite card, and so can you very easily. The problem there is not having the correct coordinate system set in the unit to match the coordinate system used in making the map. You can't have UTM selected in the unit software while trying to use Lat-Lon maps. You'll risk running aground if trusting the display. If your GPS is lying, suspect that setting.

All WAAS enabled GPS units will use a WAAS signal if it's available whether you select it or not. I get it when fishing Lake Dardanelle near Little Rock where the airport has it. Lake Ouachita never gets it. But if you set the unit to require WAAS, there is no GPS at all if you get out from under WAAS. On the tournament trail, moving into and out of WAAS coverage, it's best to not require it unless you are fishing busy waterways and depending on highly accurate navigation where it's best to stop until WAAS resumes. If you get on a lake with it, great, it'll be used anyway. In coastal waters it's probably best to require it, especially since satellites are often too low or too few to rely on them completely. Here we just have to wait for enough of them to move overhead. Even with a strong Coast Guard signal there still won't be GPS available since there isn't enough information to triangulate for a position. That signal or WAAS just improves satellite fixing and makes real time GPS possible. But if you enable required WAAS where WAAS is not available, you will do without GPS unless you have both the CG signal and enough satellites.

Once you locate a good fishing spot set a waypoint where you want the boat to stay put as though anchored. Some GPS units have an "anchor alarm" to can set to sound off as soon as the boast wanders a distance you set as maximum departure. If zoomed in you can see where you need to troll back to. That eliminates having to set out markers that can wander in high wind and be difficult to relocate in waves. While at it, change the map orientation from North Up to bow of boat on top of the map- Track Up. That way right is always right, left always left, forward is always to the top of the map whichever cardinal course you take. It's a good idea to leave the map orientation set that way for fishing in general. If using a paper map in conjunction with GPS then the factory default is sometimes better to help orient the paper map, but the North arrow is always displayed anyway. But if you have a good electronic map on screen you wouldn't need a paper map unless the map has marks on it or better detail, like fishing hot spots, not on your electronic map.

Jim
 

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hey jim,
i think i'm going to talk to yankee & tell him that since you do such a great job on the forum here, he needs to go see you & personally thank you. ....and, i'll volunteer to ride with him & that way, i can go out on the lake with you and Actually See some of these neat things you're talking about.

now, all i've got to do is covince yankee to take the trip!!!!! LOL

ronnie
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I've been waitin on Jared to show up, so if'n you come up too ya'll will get a double welcome. I'll give you all the lesson you want however many days. Actually most folks have got all they could manage to see in less than a day. That goes for ANY Basshole. Give me enough time to plan so I won't be off to Lake Erling or some other place while yer passing through Hot Springs. You might have to come over for Jared :sad2: We WILL get together someday, hopefully as a Basshole-wide event, if not just for a BBQ and some fishing.

Meanwhile, we can accomplish a lot here. Ask and I'll try to answer with the best available information.

If your unit starts that power up problem again, take it inside and apply an ice pack to the Power button, then heat it, back & forth several times. A little olive oil on the soft plastic helps. The storage temperature limits are -4 degrees to +167 degrees F. I put mine in a gallon freezer bag into the freezer (only gets 20F in there) for 10 minutes, then use a hair dryer and thermometer to monitor heating. That loosens up the plastic and lets it pop up off the micro switch under the plastic bubble. Keeping the unit stored outside under a tarp or in the sun will cause that problem. Mine are out of warranty, so this works fine for me, only had to do it twice on the oldest LMS 332C (have two of them). I keep mine in the garage, and haven't had a problem in the last year.

Jim
 

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Jim's detailed explanations are clear and easy for us dummies to read and understand. Until he gets around to publishing a book a friend of mine has a simple book on sonar/GPS that I use when needed.
http://www.iovino.com/donbook
This is not as good as having Jim explain things on this site, but well worth the money.
Tom
 

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jones7773 said:
now, all i've got to do is covince yankee to take the trip!!!!! LOL
ronnie
Im game ronnie.. all I need to do is convince Joe to give me the paid vacation time. LOL

ROAD TRIP!!!

LOL

Id honestly love to get out that way sometime.
 

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jared,
all we have to do is to tell joe that when we get back, we can take him out on the lake & show him how to catch more bass ...but keep in mind, you're gonna have to produce ...or, Get Fired!!! LOL ....he can't fire me, I'm Retired!!!!!!!!

ronnie
 

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LOL! Talk about putting the pressure on me LOL!!
I feel the pressure when I am just fishing for a hundred bucks... but for my salary?? oh brother.. CHOKE time LOL!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Once I'm no longer helping my wife's business (when she retires fairly soon) I plan to travel the nation at least one more round, towing the boat. I figure there will be the possibility of meeting Bassholes along the way and hopefully fishing with ya'll. Maybe I'll show up on Jared's porch before he gets out of SC again.

Jim
 

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Jim,

Just joined this forum. You may recognize my name from another forum so if you need anything on Humminbird SI's here let me know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Keep your eyes peeled for questions and jump on it. That's something I couldn't help with, only seeing it live on the lake twice so far. Since retiring I haven't been working the ramps and seeing new stuff, so will sort of fade away eventually.

Jim
 

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Ouachita said:
Keep your eyes peeled for questions and jump on it. That's something I couldn't help with, only seeing it live on the lake twice so far. Since retiring I haven't been working the ramps and seeing new stuff, so will sort of fade away eventually.

Jim
Come on Jim......... you can never fade away! Not until they close the lid on us!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Keith, I really am thinking about another trip to Florida to fish and hope we do fish together. All my plans for this year were changed with baby sitting while daughter goes back to college. A 6 month and 30 month old. When that's done I'm helping my wife in her business. Occasionally the two say "You ought to be fishing tomorrow!" I look at the weather and it's supposed to storm :sad2:

By fading away I mean that there is no all day interviewing fishermen, helping fix problems, showing how to use a sonar or GPS feature, getting to witness a new toy, seeing the latest equipment nobody knows anything about yet. To keep up I'd pretty much have to buy new every year. Ain't gonna happen. More & more I find myself reading manuals for folks, Garmin, Lowrance, Humminbird, Northstar, etc. and trying to help them over humps. That's the hard way. :wack: At some point I figure I'll mostly be on the water, already planning to build a river houseboat I can stay in, use as a fishing/hunting camp, take in & out. Once that happens I suppose I might get to the point of "Internet? What's that?" I don't PLAN to fade away and become a river rat, but hey, who knows about next year or a decade from now?

Jim
 

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KeithsCatch said:
Come on down to Florida Jim. Would love fishing with you.
Definately Jim just make sure you dont forget a few hundred thousand gallons of water, but id love to fish with you! dave
 

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Well Jim,

If you do that houseboat, keep me a place to tie up!

J.E.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Sure will! While working on the Arkansas River I toured a home-made river rat's houseboat home and haven't been able to forget about that. He had one end so it would swing out to let his fishing boat inside. Seats were laid down then the floor folded over the boat, then bed, couch and table folded down. Coolest setup, ready for storms, working on the boat. Floor was a little spongy from no supports. He'd haul it onto a ramp on a party barge trailer occasionally to drain the pontoons. Very interesting fellow, beard about 2' long, never a haircut, Vietnam vet, colorful character, fish catching beer guzzling and the biggest liar on the river :usa:

I think he came up with that story about his dog being a CIA spy.

Jim
 
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