The angling world is constantly on the move. With each and every season come changes in boats, rods, reels, tackle, and electronics. Technological advancements in recent years have far exceeded the innovations that occurred in previous decades.
Perhaps the most important modern advancements in fishing technology revolve around electronics. The development of sonar technologies such as side-imaging, down-imaging, and, most recently, forward-facing sonar, have forever changed fishing for many anglers.
These tools allow anglers to find fish faster than ever before. If I was forced, however, to identify the most revolutionary technology in the past 20 years, I would say it’s GPS and mapping technology.
The hardest part of catching fish is actually finding fish. Thankfully, most warm-water species – bass, walleyes, panfish, and catfish – make somewhat similar seasonal movements.
For example, springtime fish often congregate near ideal spawning grounds, including shallow bays with an incoming water source. As the season progresses, fish often shift to slightly deeper structure such as main-lake points, large flats, and sunken islands.
During the fall, another shift occurs, and fish often push deeper to ledges and basin areas. Many fish will remain in these areas throughout the winter months until they make the trek to skinnier water. A cursory awareness of these seasonal movements, along with a firm understanding of how to read an electronics map, allows anglers to find fish more readily than with any other tool.
While tools such as side-imaging, down-imaging, and forward-facing sonar most certainly help anglers find fish, the advancement of GPS and mapping is arguably more impactful. Without the additions of GPS and electronic maps, anglers would be forced to spend more time simply scanning, versus identifying key areas and then scanning.
Additionally, an electronic map is the only fish-finding tool that allows anglers to identify key locations without even being on the water.
In addition to reading a map properly, anglers should have a complete understanding of the features their unit offers.
Take a feature such as depth highlight, for example. This tool allows the user to highlight specific areas of a map with just a few simple steps. It is an incredible tool for expediting the finding and catching of fish. I rely on this tool nearly every time I’m on the water, using it to quickly pinpoint locations where fish reside seasonally.
For example, in the spring I set my depth highlight around shallow flats and bays – 5 to 8 feet of water – because the majority of the fish in a given system often will exist in these areas. As spring turns to summer, I typically highlight areas from 5 feet of water out to the deepest edges of the weeds.
This allows me to quickly locate the largest points, humps, and flats that will most likely concentrate species such as bass, walleyes, panfish, and muskies. During the winter months, I’ll use this tool in similar ways.
Every moment you’re on the water or ice, it’s important to recognize that you’re after a moving target. Fish don’t stay in one area for the entire year, but rather they make somewhat predictable seasonal movements. With every season, there often are vast areas of water bodies that are almost completely void of fish, while other areas are fully loaded.
It’s your responsibility to figure out where fish are at in their seasonal progressions and to ultimately catch them. Fish-finding technologies are constantly evolving, but that which anglers should rely on in their search are GPS and electronic mapping.