Rediscover Your Favorite Waterway With Electronics And Discipline

by: Mark Martin

As the United States’ economy falters, spending what little extra money you have to travel off to far-away yet-to-be-discovered-by-you waters may not be in the plans in the near future. Money’s tight and the gas, lodging, and food during an extravagant trip could break one’s bank in no time flat if they weren’t careful. As a professional walleye tournament that travels literally thousands of miles a month to fish, I understand. But luckily for us Midwesterners, we have exceptional fisheries close to home – waterways too numerous to count, all with an abundance of different fish species. I realize you may have fished many of these lakes, rivers, and reservoirs close to your home often and know the ins and outs of where just about every fish swims. But this summer, I challenge you to rediscover your favorite waterway, especially the ones you fish most often.

Chances are, because you go back to the same areas you found when you first started fishing there, you’ve missed out on some other fine spots. Admittedly, I’m guilty as charged. 

THOUGHT PROCESS

What got me thinking about rediscovering my own well-know water is an up-and-coming trip I’m taking to Michigan’s Waiska Bay, on the headwaters of the Saint Marys River. This relatively shallow bay has little development, with the Bay Mills Casino and Resort, located on its western shoreline, the largest complex. It’s been years since I have fished this bay of Lake Superior, yet remember quite well the lay of the bottom here. I caught walleye in some very key locations, and of course will check those spots out again. But technology has changed greatly since the last time I was there. As I do today, I had Lowrance sonar on the dash and on the bow of my Lund boat, but no GPS, and no Navionics mapping programs to lead the way and to help me find more key locations to fish. And although the sonar of the time was top-notch, there’s little comparison to the technology offered by today’s electronics. 


SONAR/GPS/MAPPING
 

I’m looking forward to this trip because I now have the electronics to find more walleye lairs on Waiska then ever. These days I have a Lowrance HDS-8 all-in-one sonar/GPS on both the bow and dash of my boat to lead me to new haunts here. On the sonar side of things, the HDS-8 has 600 X 800 display resolution (notice I’m not talking pixels here, but resolution) with 16-bit color Super VGA SolarMAX PLUS TFT display. This means the definition of the “picture” is extremely advanced, and it’s easier then ever to define fish from forage, even when tight to bottom. Also, the screen’s very easy to see in the brightest sunlight. On the GPS and mapping end, Lowrance’s new high definition systems, especially when coupled with a Navionics chip, shows you in amazing detail exactly where you are, and, in the highest detail, the lay of the bottom, with either the classic hydrographic map and/or three-dimensional views of the bottom. Besides common hydrographic maps, Navionics’ Platinum chips have 3D views with satellite overlays and photos of major ports, and high-definition satellite overlays that will show you the bottom in conjunction with the hydrographic mapping. This means even the tiniest hump or hole is easy to find on the GPS—places that would have been missed otherwise. What dose all this mean to you when fishing your favorite waterway? Because today’s electronics have such high detail, you’ll be able to find new places to fish because you’ll see in greater detail how breaklines, drop-offs, and flats lie. And you’ll discover why you’ve been catching fish in an area (say, you find you’ve been fishing an underwater point for years and didn’t know it because it was undetectable on vintage mapping and sonar) and can find other spots with similar features that hold fish, as well. 


WHAT A SIGHT 

Another electric device I like to use to rediscover my favorite waterways is my MotorGuide PTSv 109 bow-mount trolling motor. When searching out shallow water, I’ll deploy the MotorGuide and lean back in the butt seat of my Lund, and while donning a pair of quality polarized sunglasses, cruse the shoreline on calm days to spot structure and even fish. When I see anything of interest, I’ll program a waypoint into my bow-mounted HDS-8 and come back later and fish. 

DISCIPLINE PAYS 
By far the hardest part of rediscovering a waterway you know so well is having the discipline to forgo fishing the spots you already are acquainted with and, instead, try other areas. I’ve learned this discipline well because I have fished so many professional tournaments. It’s easy to find fish in well known areas, which my partners and I do when pre-fishing tournaments, but because we take lots of time to explore and find new spots, we’ve prevailed with many top-10 finishes and several wins. But finding those out-of-the-way places didn’t come easy. There were several fishless days, most lasting from sun-up to sun-down, without as much as getting a hit. On the other hand, we found some amazing places to catch fish that others didn’t, and all because we took the time to explore. 
 
IN THE END 
If you want to become a better anger, then by all means utilize your electronics and take the time to explore new water, even on the lakes, rivers, and reservoirs you fish often.

Watch your sonar and GPS intently for any change in bottom, and, if you don’t have one, purchase a new Navionics mapping chip. A mapping program will help you understand the lay of the bottom greatly, and, help you find more places to catch fish. And deploy an electric trolling motor, whether a bow-mount like mine or a tiller-mounted model, and put it in gear and cruse the shallows and look of structure and fish. You’ll be surprised at what you find. And most of all, take the time to try new spots. It’s paid off for me, and I know it will for you, too. Mark Martin (markmartins.net) is a walleye tournament pro and fishing school instructor who lives in SW Lower Michigan. 

 

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