GPS takes fishing capabilities to new level

Fishing is a sport that can be done at any age. It’s not hard to learn how to fish, it just takes a little time and practice.

Technology and ability work together to make the experience successful and enjoyable. An angler can enjoy the sport for the peace it provides or the challenge to land a trophy catch.

Tim Legg of Cambridge, Ohio, is an amateur angler who has spent countless hours fishing on several bodies of water.

Legg has developed his sense of fishing using a variety of rods, reels and baits during recreational and tournament scenarios. He says, “knowledge of equipment is vital to success on the water.

“Knowing how to apply the technology is the most difficult task in fishing.”

Legg suggests anglers experiment with a spinning rod. It allows an angler to cover lots of water with minimal effort. A variety of baiting techniques or “rigs” can be used to attract bites for different species of fish.

Depending on several factors – not excluding water temperature, bottom cover and time of season-knowledge of baits is key. Legg says, “live bait is the best way to catch fish, because you cannot copy mother nature.” Several companies make artifical baits to look, move and smell like the real thing and knowing the proper way to rig a bait is critical to catching fish.

Two basic styles Legg described are a Texas and Carolina rig. The Texas rig is the way to present a worm both horizontally along the bottom if a bullet sinker is added or horizontally toward the top if rigged weightless. It also can be fished vertically with a heavy bullet sinker in applications like flipping, pitching and punching. It’s the best way to present a soft plastic bait in heavy cover. It keeps the hook covered. It works in grass, rocks, brush, timber and manmade structures. Anglers will stick a tooth pick or other keeper into the eyelet of the hook to lock the plastics in place on the hook. The more plastics tear from fighting fish, the less weedless the rig will become. So if you feel like you’re starting to snag more, it’s time for a new plastic. The Carolina rig is made to separate the worm from the weight so that the worm has a more natural horizontal freedom of movement. As you pull the weight along the bottom the worm will dance and dart and suspend momentarily behind the weight. This rig is weedless but it allows one to fish a worm faster through a larger horizontal area like a ledge, a flat, a weedline, shallow weed beds. It’s not particulary good around because it tends to hang a lot if you use a 1/2- to 1-ounce weight. It’s a great way to feel the bottom with a heavier weight and find things like isolated stumps or clumps of weed. One can fish it fast, but as a general rule, you want to keep the weight in constant contact with the bottom. Anglers need to pull it a foot at a time with a side sweep of your rod; then take up the slack and do it again.

Other equipment to try are flipping sticks and casting rods. Flipping sticks are used for close order fishing or drop shotting to closed-in fixtures. Casting rods are technique specific and difficult to control. This method calls for hours of practice to achieve the required result.

Legg is a fisherman who manufactures his own baits. He constructs jigs with varying colors, hook styles and weights based on the area and cover structure. Legg says, “the best teacher for anglers is experience.”

An angler who took his interest to new heights is pro bass fisherman Michael Iaconelli. He was the 2003 Bassmaster Classic champion, as well as the 2006 Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year and has accumulated more than $2 million in professional fishing. Iaconelli says, “bass fishing is a puzzle. It’s constantly changing and never the same twice. It’s a Rubik’s Cube; you solve one side and then another. You don’t always figure out the entire thing, but it’s motivating to keep trying.”

He said the best innovation in fishing technology over the past 50 years is the development of sonar units and state-of-the-art electronics. The best of these is GPS technology.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a navigational system that can pinpoint your position anywhere on the globe and has added another technological dimension to fishing. GPS was conceived in the 1970s, and is controlled by the United States Department of Defense. Although GPS initially was envisioned for military use, the government realized early on there would be numerous civilian applications as well.

The benefits of sonar for fishermen are the ability to determine depth, bottom construction, the presence of structure, bottom contour, and the presence of fish or bait fish. These give anglers a virtual underwater picture of the water they are fishing. GPS has further revolutionized modern angling by allowing fishermen to precisely pinpoint productive spots and mark them for future reference. GPS also enables anglers to use lake contour maps to pre-mark potential spots and then navigate to these precise locations once on the water.

The first feature available to anglers is the marking of WayPoints. A WayPoint simply is a GPS marker to identify a specific location, and once marked, will record the precise location on the internal GPS map. MapSource is a computer program that allows the transfer of data between the computer and GPS unit. Anglers will have access to a contour map program to upload to their GPS for each lake in the United States. This program allows anglers to view the lake contours the night before fishing to determine potential hot spots and mark them so they can navigate to these locations once they are on the water.

A WayPoint marker allows anglers to record the spot they caught a fish for future reference. WayPoint markers also can be used to identify underwater structures such as stumps, brush piles, or contour features they want to mark.

The second GPS feature for anglers is Tracking. When Tracking is enabled on the GPS unit, a continuous track line will be drawn on the lake map. This feature not only allows the angler to keep track of navigation, but also is a useful tool when one is fishing an unfamiliar lake. One can go anywhere on the lake and not worry about getting lost; one can simply follow the track on the GPS back to the starting point. Anglers can upload all of the day’s data from the GPS to a computer and save it as a trip log.

WayPoints and Tracks thus have a permanent record of where fish are caught, including the precise time and coordinates for future reference. MapSource allows the angler to attach a picture to specific WayPoints for additional reference.

Anglers will learn about the lake and compare trip logs over a period of time. Patterns begin to emerge that will enable them to better predict future hot spots.

The key to using this technology falls back to the ability to use the information correctly.

Fishing is a relaxing sport for all to enjoy, but one that few ever master.