For example, when looking for an old submerged airport while guiding on Lake Whitney in central Texas, I used to line up my boat between the right-hand edge of the dam to my south and a water tower over by the Whitney State Park to my north. I'd move along that line until my boat was directly between a certain telephone pole at Lofers Bend Park to the east and a round, bushy tree in the backyard of a lakefront house to the west. Then, only 15 to 20 minutes of circling while watching my fishfinder was usually enough to find the humped runway area and see if any striped bass were in a holding pattern over it.
Early lake maps were not exactly NOAA charts, and some are still almost worthless. I can remember running a map-indicated compass direction straight away from a landmark on a main lake point that should have put me right on the junction of a feeder creek and the lake's main river channel. An hour later I finally discovered that the two channels actually connected about a quarter of a mile from where the map showed the junction.
I'm saying all this because, today, serious boating anglers who don't yet have any gray hair may not realize that we haven't always been able to target a waypoint as we idle away from the dock, run to it at top speed, cut the engine and coast to a stop within a boat length or two of the spot. Now, just looking at our screen not only shows us an extremely accurate map, it also shows us exactly where we are on that map in relation to our nearest secret open-water fishing spots.
Could things get any better? They not only could, they have! Recent advances in sonar technology working with GPS lets you see more than just an icon marking a waypoint over some depth contour lines. Two new developments let you see that submerged stump, brush pile or airport runway in photo-like detail.
Even early GPS units let us plot a string of track points as we traveled so we could come back and follow the same path again. Knowledgeable tournament anglers saved these track lines on practice days, sometimes saving them in a different color each day. They saved different icons along each track line to show where they caught fish, saw promising structure or spotted hazards they wanted to avoid. Transferring all the track lines to their laptop computers let them compare data from different days. They also kept notes on each day's wind and weather conditions, and comparing the best fishing spots from each day let them identify weather-driven trends in fish movement, which gave them a leg up on tournament day. Let's say a north wind moved the fish out of the coves to deep drop-offs on points one day and a south wind moved them back into the shallows the next. If the wind is out of the south on tournament day, guess where these savvy anglers will start fishing.
What if you could not only see your track line over the depth-contour lines, but also see all of the fish and bottom detail you saw with your new highly-detailed side-looking sonar unit in the form of a super-detailed structure map? Well, you can! New Gen2 HDS units from Lowrance now have enough computer power to record all of the StructureScan detail you saw as you saved your GPS track.
When you go back and fish along that track you don't have to settle for just waypoint icons and colored lines. Now you can see where your boat is in relation to where all of the structure, weeds and fish were when you saved the track! You can cast to structure before you reach it, and you no longer have to risk spooking the fish off that prize brush pile while you stumble around trying to zero-in on it.
StructureMap view is the feature's name, and when paired with Lowrance's StructureScan sonar imaging module, it lets Gen2 HDS units overlay StructureScan sonar images on a chart for review while you are on or off the water. It works with Lowrance's enhanced basemaps, Insight HD cartography, Navionics cartography and all HDS-compatible third-party charting cards. Visit lowrance.com for all the details.
Another traditional problem for anglers has been trying to figure out whether fish he saw on his screen were right, left, in front of or behind him. Now you can see everything in a 70,685-square-foot area around your boat and know exactly which direction to cast!
Humminbird wowed everyone at the BASSMASTER Classic in February with the announcement of 360 Imaging, another wonder that will enhance our seat-of-the-pants perspective of the underwater world. Owners of Humminbird sonar units with Ethernet capability can add this new plug-and-play feature to get a 360-degree underwater view around their boat. And, that view is presented in Side Imaging-class detail.
A transom-mounted transducer module lowers the 360 Imaging transducer below the hull and engine where it scans an unobstructed 360 degrees around the boat. It can "see" out to 150 feet in all directions. Once again, you can see and fish structure targets ahead of the boat without needing to get any closer to them than casting distance. The transducer can be lowered using a button on top of its carrier housing or it can be controlled directly from your fishfinder. It's not just for still fishing; it can be used at boat speeds up to 7 m.p.h.
The underwater view is presented much like a radar view. Weeds, fish, baitfish, cover and structure are shown inside a circle with your boat in its center. You can look at the entire circular picture and zoom in on specific areas for better detail, or you can break the circle into pie-slice sections and show just what is ahead, behind or to either side of your boat. All the details on the screen are GPS-referenced, and you can move a cursor to anything you see and save it as a waypoint.
Four sonar speeds and eight color palettes let you fine tune the feature for best performance under varying light and water conditions and different boat speeds. Single screen pictures or sonar videos can be recorded. MSRP for 360 Imaging modules will be $1,999, and you can expect them to be available later this summer. For more information, visit http://www.humminbird.com/.