The other day, Buck The Wonder Dog told me he wanted to do a little fishing.  So we loaded up the boat and headed out to chase down a few stripers.   I knew the general area where I wanted to start trolling, so I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to my chartplotter on the way there.  Instead, we just enjoyed the sunrise and the brisk ride about four miles up the lake.

My Simrad was set to display DownScan full screen, and when we arrived in the vicinity, I switched over to my multi-window view which shows DownScan, SideScan and the chart.   Oops!  No chart chip!   I had removed it a few days earlier to download some screen captures, and forgot to put it back. 

I still had all my waypoints, but I was just looking at the ‘base map’ on the screen.  No contours, no creek channels, navigation aids, etc.   Nevertheless, we fished over several of my favorite marks (I name most of my good waypoints so I can easily see which ones are the ‘go-to’ spots), and caught some nice fish.

When I got back home, I dropped in my chart chip to note exactly where we had been catching fish.   Interestingly, those spots were very close to creek channels, and the convergence of creek channels.    I’ve known those places are usually likely spots for fish, but it became even clearer to me just how important understanding bottom features are to a productive day on the water. 

I’m convinced gamefish … both fresh and salt…use underwater channels, ledges, and other distinctive features as highways and travel routes.   Much the same way that offshore pelagics use currents and water temperature to guide them on their migratory paths each season.  

Once I saw the overlay of my waypoints on the chart, it was eye-opening.   I even scrolled around to other fishy spots on the lake, and the vast majority were either right on top, or very close to, these kinds of features.   I know this may seem quite elementary to a lot of anglers out there, but for me, it was a reminder of the significance of underwater highways.

It also lends some insight on how to fish a body of water for the first time.   Get the chart…either digitally on your electronics…or a paper chart of the area.   Plan out your stops for the day, and make your initial stops at the aforementioned places.   You’ll be pleasantly surprised, just like me, how helpful an underwater roadmap can be to catching more fish.

Tight lines and calm seas.

Capt. Cefus McRae

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