Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Fresh and Useful Application for iPhone Anglers

In the 80s, we lived in a material world. Now we live in the micro-technical world. It seems more applications hit the market by the hour for our smart phones, PDAs and other micro personal gadgets. While social networking has exploded in the last six months, none of the hot new items have seemed particularly appealing to anglers.

However, I finally found an application for the smart phone specifically geared towards anglers. Navionics has become synonymous with finding fish offshore and improving the overall functionality of the best electronic GPS units. Now they’ve brought their expertise to personal devices with the first mobile application, currently only available for the iPhone, for charting contour maps of your favorite fisheries.

I’ve had time to experiment with and learn the application on the water for about three weeks now. I used it while chasing pros on Kentucky Lake during the Walmart FLW Tour to understand exactly what type of spot or area they were fishing. It gave me a visual cue as to what was beneath the surface as well.

The applications (basically the same maps you buy for your GPS units) are large, some more than 500 MB, and take a few seconds to load initially. But the great thing about the iPhone that some people forget is that no cell signal does NOT mean no GPS signal. I found the application to be very responsive on the water, even in the remote no-cell areas of the lake.
Basically the application offers six functions and some general settings.

GPS is the first function. By pressing this button, you are whisked through your map to your current location – invaluable when running from spot to spot without leaving the iPhone out and active the whole time.

The powerful application next offers a Search function. This function enables you to find specific elements on a map, including your saved favorite fishing spots. Things like marinas, boat dealers, outdoor shops, etc. are searchable. I found that most places I consider a marina are not listed in the search categories. However it was nice to be able to search for one of my saved spots and go right to it on the map.

That brings up the next function – Favorites. This function isn’t listed on the bottom bar, but is probably the most invaluable function of the application. By merely touching a spot on your map, a menu will load that allows you to name and store your fishing location for future use. This is the function most depth finder/GPS units on a boat would call waypoint. However on this application the waypoint function is actually for planning a route on your phone.

But the favorites accept more characters than you’re probably used to with your GPS unit. And the GPS coordinates are easily displayed as well. You even have the option to email your Favorite to your fishing partner if necessary.

One thing I found useful was to come up with a good naming scheme for your favorites. I’ve already got 20 or 30 in my phone and it’s hard to figure out which ones I should use. So I’ve gone back and dated when I found schools on those spots or denoted when I found a big fish on a spot. For example, I might mark a big fish spot with 6LB-0609. If I find multiples I might do Sch-0609a. Something I can search easily by date, whether it was a school, or maybe even by a piece of cover like grassbed, stump, brushpile or some other feature.
Also keep in mind you can only save 99 spots, photos and markers collectively at this time. Hopefully that number will increase, although each map section is its own application so you’ll have 99 with each. But I’ve marked more than 100 beds for a tournament before so more will be necessary for serious anglers.
The next function is Track. This function is similar to a trail so you can follow where you’ve been. I haven’t used this as much because I don’t like to leave my phone out and on while I’m running down the lake.

Following that, the Distance function allows you to plot how far in a straight line it is from your current location to another location. Again I haven’t used this much either as most lakes aren’t shaped in a straight line. But that leads to the final function, WP (or Waypoint).

With WP, anglers can plot the distance and route from one location on a map to another. This can be invaluable, if you want to hit one spot way down the lake and make it back before weigh-in. Figure out how far it is by tracking points along the way that you will take by water. Most people who are familiar with GPS units on their boats will mistake WP for Favorites. WP is a routing function, while Favorites is a fishing spot logging function.

One recent advance with the 2.1 upgrade is a Camera option. Now you can snap a photo at a location from your map program and use it in conjunction with your spots. This could be invaluable if you go to locations and shoot photos of them at low water where you can see the cover and structure. Then come back and fish them later at full pool. You be able to pull the photo up and look at it for reference to remember what is under the water there. Very slick!

The best part of this application is that you can get the maps for $4.99 right now if you hurry. Just go to your Apple iTunes store or your iPhone App Store and search for Navionics. Then download the maps for your area. Simple as that. Other smart phone owners will have to wait for versions to be released for their phone. Navionics website can help with more details (\mobile.asp).

Good Fishing!

Jason Sealock

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