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"Paper Map vs. GPS/Sonar Ė Why choose, use both!"
By: Chad Morgenthaler


In 1995 Lowrance Electronics introduced the GlobalMapģ 2000, the world's first LCD product to offer integrated GPS, mapping and sonar capabilities.   Since 1995 Lowrance Electronics has made great strides to remain on the cutting edge of technology and continues to offer anglers a wide variety of products to choose from.  Boating electronics have certainly come a long way in the last 20 years.  Gone are the days of only using paper topographical maps and tying colored strings onto tree limbs to mark a favorite new hot spot.  Boating electronics revolutionized the fishing industry by allowing anglers to utilize GPS technology, but donít throw out all of your paper maps just yet.  There are reasons why angers should consider using paper topographical maps in conjunction with their GPS and sonar units.

 With todayís advancements in boating electronics there are so many more options available to anglers in the form of GPS mapping systems and sonar technology.    

Back in 1995 when Lowrance Electronics exploded onto the GPS market they created their own mapping system. At first the system was pretty general, so anglers still needed to use paper topographical maps to locate the lakeís contours and to mark ridges, but everything became much easier to find with longitude and latitude coordinates, which are now displayed on GPS units.  Anglers no longer have to rely on a compass and a paper map to find their way, or to even locate a prized piece of structure.  To say the least anglers are spoiled and we have everything literally at our fingertips to quickly and easily find longitude and latitude, navigate safely and find structure.  The best part is all of this can be done in half the time that it once took. 

LCX-26c by Lowrance

Lowrance raised the bar another notch with their inaugurated mapping systems.  If you are fortunate enough to have a Lowrance LCX-26c or a LCX-111c you know how wonderful they are.  With these units all of the maps of the Nationís lakes are stored on the unitís hard drive making accessing the information extremely easy. 

After years of fishing and using both methods Iíve come to the conclusion that itís very beneficial to use and compare the paper topographical map with my GPS map,   rather than relying on just one source to do the whole job.  First and foremost itís important to realize that not all topographical maps are created equal.  In my experience, Iíve found that generic or locally printed maps are usually more accurate and provide more information than the nationally printed maps like Hot Spots.  As a rule of thumb I compare several maps before buying and specifically buy the map with the greatest amount of detail.  

A good topographical map will show creeks, flats, humps and structure.  Sometimes a paper map will also show if a lake has something unique to offer.  For example, northern lakes have crips that smallmouth bass like to use.  These details are sometimes missed by GPS mapping systems. Believe me, itís the little subtle details that if overlooked, could make a huge difference.

Iíve found that itís very beneficial to compare my paper map to my GPS map while Iím on the lake looking for specific pieces of structure.  In addition, I also transfer longitude or latitude coordinates from my GPS unit onto my paper map to study later, or for future reference.  To get a really good understanding about what a specific piece of structure looks like, I read my topographical map while using my sonar.  I boat in really close on the first couple of passes by using the contour lines on my GPS unit.  The technology of my Lowrance units combined with a good topographical map allows for a much better perspective of what lies under the water.

After studying both maps, been on the water and know the lay of the lake, itís time to use a great feature of a GPS mapping system, creating ďway pointsĒ.  Once a key area or piece of structure is found like described above, simply save the location on the GPS system by creating a ďway pointĒ.  These features allow anglers to saving tons of valuable time and easily return at a later date by pin pointing the exact location of key areas.   

Remember, the reason for comparing the two maps is to make sure nothing is overlooked, which is crucial during tournament time.  Taking the time to compare the two maps will provide anglers with a better understanding of the lake as well as a better overall visual layout of the lake.  This is especially beneficial if itís a body of water that youíre not familiar with.  Take the time to use both mapping systems and Iím sure youíll see great results.

A special ďThanksĒ to all of my sponsors: Jasper Engines and Transmissions, Yamaha Motors, Ranger Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Svanda GM Motor Group, Wave Ind., Maxima Line, Kistler Rods, Minn Kota, Plano, Mr. Blitz and Nameoki Village Marine.

Make sure and log onto my web site and signup for my fan club.  E-newsletters are forwarded monthly and one lucky winner each month receives a prize.  Tournament summaries are posted after each tournament and pro tips are updated every two weeks.  Itís a great source of bass fishing information.