Cartography Wins Tournaments: Use It!

Close might count when you're fishing buddy hasn't showered in a couple of days.

It doesn't count when you are trying to put together a productive trolling pattern. Sometimes, the difference between winning a major tournament or finishing last is a matter of inches. A few feet one way or the other can determine whether you are a hero or a zero.

It was close to 20 years ago when I experienced my first major revelation involving mapping cartography (in this case a Navionics map chip) while walleye fishing.

While trolling Saginaw Bay with a friend with a fairly good breeze at work. We set up his boat in 20 feet of water and trolled out to 30 feet, then moved over a quarter-mile and repeated the course.

We caught several walleyes and deduced that they were scattered over an area about two miles wide.

Then I started taking a closer look at the waypoint coordinates we'd saved. Almost every fish was caught on the 25-foot contour line. What happened next changed my trolling approach forever. We made a move and charted a course that would keep us on that 25-foot line, and we hammered the fish.

From there, we asked ourselves if there was anything unique about the spots along that 25-foot contour where we were catching our fish. Thanks to the detail in Navionics' mapping, it became apparent that everywhere the contour line made a sharp bend or had a major irregularity, that's where the most fish were concentrated.

It's a lesson I've taken forward and applied everywhere from Green Bay and Bay de Noc to Fort Peck and Mille Lacs and even down South to Mississippi and Florida!

Back in the day, we'd aim the boat for the second pine tree north of the white cottage and once in awhile we'd hit it right and catch a few fish.

Today's cartography is opening a whole new world. The maps tell me exactly where the contour lines are in one-foot increments on most bodies of water and how they twist and turn. The implementation of sonar logging from anglers and Sonar Charts updated and compiled from that data is expanding the world of quality mapping even more.

I can store a trolling pass in my sonar/GPS unit and repeat it. I can target those tight spots or irregularities that so often seem to be the most productive, and I can keep notes on my experiences either on my smart phone or in a notebook for future reference. And speaking of smartphones, Navionics offers mapping aps for those as well!

It's that simple: Avoid a shallow mind. Become a deep thinker. You will catch more fish.


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