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Ed. Note: This article appears in the April issue of Angler magazine. In an effort to allow readers to view the screen shots in color as they would appear on a computer screen, we have included the article online as a Web Exclusive. We hope you enjoy this online content provided as a companion to Angler magazine.
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To understand the latest developments in electronic charts for use on an SKA boat, you have to remember the small amount of data that used to be on one chart cartridge, and you have to remember the time that it took to “re-draw” the chart every time you panned off the side of the displayed image or clicked on the zoom button.

Right up to now, you had to manually plot a lot of waypoints and notes for wrecks, holes and hot spots that were not on the charts. Many spots had never been surveyed, the amount of memory in the chip limited the detail that could be shown, and the cost has always been a problem.

NAVIONICS

Starting this Spring, Navionics has totally updated their “Fish’n Chip” database to include depth contours that are spaced as close as one foot apart. The surveys that the data is built on are far more complete in shallow water (meaning shallower than the commercial ship database that the government would have provided for navigation and the data that most charts are based on until the chart companies do their own updates.) Even marshes are mapped, so you can chase bait coming out of the shallows, too, or cast for bonefish on the back side, etc.

I hope you understand what I mean by such tightly spaced contour lines. The lines have to be close to get shapes to “pop” out at you when you look at the screen. They also have to be close in the water in the southeastern waters of the US. In Maine, rocks and canyons range up and down by many feet, but down here only a couple feet of ledge is a great spot for fish to hang around out of the current and light.

The all-new Fish’n Chip cartridges are so full of data and so particularly designed for fishing that they are sold separately from the navigation charts. Separate chips are required for the Gulf of Mexico area and east coast of the US. There is also a Fish’n Chip for the Great Lakes.

Besides the great shallow-water resolution, the charts show very high-resolution detail of the offshore canyons up north. For SKA members in the Southeastern US, there are wrecks, rocks, ledges and holes which are marked or obvious with the one-foot contour turned on. You can widen the spacing of the contour lines for clarity around navigation aids, as before.

GARMIN

Starting with their bigger, networked 6000 and 7000 series of screens, Garmin is introducing G Motion this year. The computer processor is much faster and buffers are used to give you seamless panning and zooming plus high picture resolution. Garmin includes charts with the plotter software, including satellite imagery and 3-D perspectives above and below the water.

For planning or reviewing your day of fishing, Garmin has also introduced HomePort, a PC application that you can have for only $29. You use all types of Garmin BlueCharts, and data is moved from your boat to your PC on typical data cards (SD or microSD).

If you are planning navigation routes, Garmin has a unique feature called Auto Guidance. Derived from their car navigation software, this Garmin Auto Guidance will analyze charted depths, obstructions and waterways to plot a course to a destination. It will take you around shallows and objects, no matter how many turns it may have to introduce to the straight line you ask for between two points.

Garmin has fishing data, too, with the most fishing data on the premium BlueChart G2 Vision cards.

FURUNO

Furuno is expanding the amount of data you can see and expanding the choice in chart cards. Since introducing their very fast NavNet 3D screens, the chart databases have been updated gradually to a point where users are now quite pleased. These charts are uniquely based on NOAA raster and vector charts.

This year, Furuno announced that cards can be used from C-Map by Jeppesen. You may prefer C-Map because you own some old cartridges that you want to trade in for upgrade to match your new plotter, or you may simply like the tons of photos or other features. Either way, it’s nice to have the freedom of choice.

Furuno’s website has updates for your MaxSea3D chart data. It’s easier than you would expect to get the latest detail available downloaded onto a cartridge that you insert into a NavNet3D display.

RAYMARINE

Raymarine has used exclusively Navionics for some time with their well-known C- and E-Series screens. For 2010, they have also begun to integrate the internal software required if you want to use a C-Map by Jeppesen chart cartridge.

As the new Raymarine screens have taken on a wider aspect ratio, I think the primary advantage is when you are in split-screen mode. The two halves of the screen, side by side, are closer to being squares. That provides you with a nice look at the area around your boat, or under it.

PROFINDER

With all this electronic charting, the tournament winners still need information about where the fish are biting. Through SKA, you can get your ProChip card that will load hot fishing spots into almost any plotter software. More than half of SKA’s top ten use ProFinder.

ProFinder information is based on actual history of fish catches, theory of fishing and common sense.

For up-to-the-minute information on what’s feeding where, Roffer’s or even the local newspaper and radio reports can often send you to the big king’s dining spot of the day. Since kingfish do move around, you need the latest information about what is feeding and what they are feeding on.

As with anything in these days of data and computer processing, you have a lot of information available in very quick formats. You owe it to yourself to take advantage of it. Get the data, plan, pre-fish, record, review, learn and do better in an organized and logical process. Then hope for luck, too.





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