by Ron Presley
It’s just like mowing your lawn.
The Lowrance unit on his Ranger Boat helped Tim Blackley find this nice Reelfoot crappie. Finding the drops holds the key to catching the crappie.
Electronics for crappie anglers has come a long way in the past few years. Each new generation of electronics has something new to offer that helps anglers catch more fish.
One of the latest advances that will help crappie anglers catch more fish is in-depth mapping. The new electronics can start with a standard contour map. But with a few passes over your favorite fishing hole, you have developed a new detailed map.
Bill Carson, Field Marking Manager for Humminbird described the ease of creating new charts. “On the Humminbird product line you have the opportunity to create in-depth charts by several different methods. It depends on the unit group that you are using to create those charts.”
Humminbird considers their core product line to be all the units from the 1100 series down to Helix V. “In our core products you can create a chart by simply sticking in a memory card,” explained Carson. “The Helix 5 and 7 requires an SD card or a micro SD card. In the 800, 900, 1100 series you just stick in a regular SD card.”
“Next, turn on the record function,” continued Carson. “You record the bottom by running the boat over the desired area. It is much like you were cutting your lawn. Then you put the card in your computer and utilize Autochart or Autochart Pro to import the recorded data. Using your computer you can transfer the new map data to a Zero Line Map Card available from Humminbird. Now you have a detailed map of your fishing hole, which can be used on the unit you recorded it on.”
The Zero Line Card provides a chart for where the water meets the shore and provides the starting point for creating accurate and detailed maps even where contour charts didn’t exist before.
Spider rigging the contour lines with Muddy Water Baits helped Billy Don Surface find this nice Florida black crappie.
If anglers step up to the ONIX and HELIX 9, 10 and 12 Series, they have the ability to create a chart live as they drive the boat over targeted water. “You are doing the same thing as before,” explained Carson. “Drive the boat in a pattern that simulates mowing your lawn without missing any grass. The difference is, you can see the amount of coverage as you create the chart right there in front of your eyes.”
The process creates an instant chart, but it does have limits. “You do have a cap on it,” continued Carson. “That cap is 8 hours of recording. If you want to do more than 8 hours you can pop in a Zero Line SD card, which comes with AutoChart Live, and record up to 17 years of data. If you choose, you never have to upload the data for all to see.”
One step above AutoChart Live is AutoChart Pro. “Using AutoChart Pro anglers have the ability to refine the bottom composition,” coached Carson. “By that I mean hardness. It is going to show you how hard the bottom is. So if you get into an area that is a muscle bed, shell bed, oyster bed, rock, or other hard bottom, it is going to show a really strong return and you can mark the edges of that structure while you are looking at it on AutoChart Pro.”
These products are also compatible with Internet applications. “Using MapQuest anglers are able to see structure from a satellite view,” explained Carson. “They can mark the appropriate waypoints on their charts. For example, suppose you were running through a grassy area where there is just a little canal that will allow you to go from point A to point B. It’s like a little secret path through the woods, through a little creek or slough to get into another area.”
“Using MapQuest allows the user to drop waypoints on the chart to guide them through. Another example would be a shallow sandbar. The bar will show up on the satellite view and you have the ability to mark the edges of the bar. You can even mark a track through a big marina. The next time you go through there you know exactly where to go, no guessing.”
B’n’M Poles pro staffer Tim Blackley uses advanced mapping on his home waters of Realfoot Lake in Tennessee. He has watched the progression of sonar capabilities over the years. “The first sonar I used was a flasher type sonar,” revealed Blackley. “Compared to what’s out there today it was like being back in dinosaur days. Those old units would pick up a signal between the surface and bottom that might be a fish.”
Back in the day, Blackley also used the paper graphs. “The first good sonar I had was a Lowrance with a paper feed that showed something that looks like the bottom of the lake and maybe some fish. It was very crude imaging by today’s standard. We used the 2d sonar back then to find drop offs and structure that might hold fish. It was very hard to read and understand.”
This screen shot from a Humminbird unit shows the results of creating a new map with new contour lines. Driving the boat over an area, just like you were mowing your lawn, creates a new and more detailed contour map.
Today’s sonar units reveal much more detail and custom mapping tells all. “Now we know exactly what we are looking at,” said Blackley. “We can tell if it is stumps, brush, or stake beds and know how many fish are in it. We use Lowrance Downscan and Sidescan technology to view the bottom of the lake. It is almost like having a camera looking at the bottom.”
Coupled with down and side imaging, the new mapping technology plays a key roll in catching crappie every time Blackley goes fishing. “I use Lowrance HDS with Insight Genesis Maps and also run mapping by Navionics Platinum Lakes Card. They help me navigate a new lake and find certain areas of the lake for the season that I’m fishing.”
Insight Genesis software allows Blackley to make custom one-foot contour maps of un-mapped bodies of water. “I will know where the lake changes depth, or where a creek channel or a river channel is. Just a small depth change can be a big factor in catching crappie on different lakes.”
“Sometimes contour lines play a major role in catching crappie and sometimes they don’t,” explained Blackley. “Kentucky Lake for example, which I fish a lot, the depths changes but more of a gradual slope than Reelfoot. The Kentucky Lake crappie often relate to a drop.”
Blackley gives the example of a flat that may be eight feet deep with a sharp drop to 22 feet. “On your mapping GPS the drop shows up as contour lines and crappie often relate or live on the drops. Finding the drops holds the key to catching the crappie. Without a good mapping unit or a good set of maps it could be a slow day on the water.”
Tim Blackley is sponsored by B’n’M Poles, Strike King, Ranger Boats, Mercury Abernathy Harley Davidson, Driftmaster Rod Holders, Vicious Fishing, Simms and Power-Pole.
Crappie Spider rigging the contour lines with Muddy Water Baits helped Billy Don Surface find this nice Florida black crappie.