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Choosing between handheld or fixed GPS unit
By Barry Featheringill


Have you ever stopped to notice how many posts there are on the internet discussion boards about choosing the right GPS. Even though not everybodyís needs with regards to a GPS unit are the same and the manufacturers keep come out with more and better units.

I have been recently considering adding a fixed GPS unit to my boat and got to thinking about some of the advantages and disadvantages of such a purchase. Iím sure that the things I have come up will not be the same for all but maybe I can provide some food for thought.

Most GPS units give you certain fundamental parameters for navigation and in most cases an electronically created map with a mapping unit. Most certainly there will be increases in capability, better screens and more data storage capacity. Much of the basic functioning will remain.

With a handheld unit you are able to take it in the boat with you as well as in your vehicle. The handheld unit makes it possible to take with you when you are fishing in friend or partnerís boat. This makes it so if you find a new spot then both of you can mark the spot. Of course you want to be sure that it is OK with the other person.

With a fixed mounted GPS the portability is not there, but you also always have it with you in the boat. A few times I have gotten to the lake and realized that I forgot to get my GPS off the desk.

The fixed mount GPS has one very huge advantage in that the screen is much larger. Many of the fixed mounted units use a memory card that can have waypoints, tracks, and routes on it for a particular lake. This would reduce the number of not relevant data that is for another lake.

Some other advantages of a fixed GPS are when you leave take off late due to fog delay and all of a sudden run into a fog bank on your way to first spot. With the fixed GPS unit that you can monitor easily and a track marked to the spot you will still be able to get to the spot. Although you would probably have to drop down from top speed you would still be able to find your first spot.  The fixed GPS being easier to see while navigating is good to be able to get back to the ramp on an unfamiliar lake or when you are out at night.

Along with choosing a fixed GPS unit comes the decision as to whether to have separate units for depth finder and GPS or a combination unit. This is an issue of cost as well as what your personal requirements for the use of GPS.

The handheld GPS makes it so you are not limited to marking waypoints while in the boat. If you are driving around and see a place that looks interesting you can mark it and come back to it later when you are out on the lake. You can also mark a boat ramp while riding around the lake or while on the water that might be a better place to put in at. Some of the big name pros have even taken to chartering a plane to fly over the lake

When navigating with GPS be sure to remember that it does not show you other boats that may be out there on the lake. Always be safe out on the water running at a slower speed for safety is better than any accident with another boat or floating object.