When Google Earth Doesn’t Work

We’ve spent a lot of time on GOA looking at all of the ways to utilize Google Earth, and while it is a great tool, it isn’t a cure-all.  It is just one tool you want to have in the tool belt.  So it’s time to start looking at some of those other tools – Beginning with Side Imaging (Side Scan).  Depending on your experience and the brand/type of sonar/GPS units you are running, some of the terminology will differ.  For purposes of simplicity, I’ll just refer to it as “side imaging”.  For the record, I am using Humminbird units, but you can do all of the same things and utilize the same concepts and boat positioning tricks with any of the side scanning/looking/imaging units out there.

The Basics

So let’s start with some basics.  First of all, we are all newcomers to this technology.  We are all still involved in a pretty steep learning curve, so there are no “experts” when it comes to this.  Second, we all under-utilize the technology.  Even if you have units capable of doing the job, we tend to forget to use them or would rather just go fishing.

What’s Down There?

The obvious benefits to side imaging is that we no longer have to guess as to what’s under the water.  It will take some time to get used to viewing things, but like a good ink blot picture, in time you won’t be able to see things like you used to.

There are a few specific rock piles outside of Caseys Pond on the Columbia River that it took me years to locate and start to understand.  I had located 3 of them and they were key, secret little spots I utilized from March through November.  I drug some Caroling rigs across them, tried to line up with something on the bank and a specific depth of water.  When I got my first GPS unit, I created a waypoint that was somewhere close to the rock pile.  That process of discovery and refinement took place over 10 or 11 years.  When I got my first side imaging unit, I located 3 more rock piles along the same stretch in about 15 minutes.

Turns out there were more rock piles down there than I realized – but less than I had imagined.

A Slow Learner

So, I had discovered 6 rock piles along this stretch – now what?  Well my obvious first response was to “mark them”, put a waypoint on them so I could locate them easier and fish them.  Pretty straight forward and for the next year or two that’s pretty much how I did it.  Caught more and bigger fish off of these than I ever had before.  Looking back on it, I was doing it about 30% right.

I slowly began to understand that I needed to use waypoints not as way to accumulate and locating good fishing spots but to use them as boat positioning locations and to create a plan on angles of attack depending on the other condition on the water (current, sun, wind, other boats, etc.).  There were certain scenarios where the current was a certain way, the wind was blowing from a certain direction or there was other boats close to or drifting by the rock piles.  Sometimes, in a tournament situation, I wanted to fish the rock pile without letting anybody know I was fishing a rock pile.  I know, I’m gonna have to explain myself on that one.  In due time.

I imagined I was destined to find some of these like this rock pile that was shaped like an “H”. When your last name starts with an H, it seems like fate. Depending on what part of any given pool of the Columbia your are on, rock piles can be pretty rare.

2 steps forward, 3 steps back

My first year (or two) after getting side imaging, I became a worse fisherman.  I went crazy on locating stuff.  I can tell you where lots of cool stuff is – rock piles, old foundations, road beds, sunken boats, pipelines.  Turns out the fish didn’t always care.  Or when they did, they weren’t interested in eating.

So I want to share some of my experiences with this new technology and maybe save some fishing lives.  You see, I have a theory that quite a few “ex” bass fisherman got burned on the new technology.  They spend a bunch of money on it, only to find they did worse, or convinced themselves that you just can’t teach an old dog new tricks and moved on to other types of fishing or hobbies that were less challenging or more suited to their “age”.  Maybe there are a few of you in that position now.  Side Imaging, “Spot Lock”, GPS, Google Earth, Ethernet, Bluetooth, Map Cards…its enough to make some guys want to jump.  Well I’d like to try to talk you off the “ledge”.  Stay tuned.

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