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GPS units have revolutionized fishing

Let's talk about GPS. For some of you reading this, our discussion here will seem very elementary and familiar. For others that are just learning how to use GPS, I am hoping this can help clear up and simplify this wonderful resource tool for fisherman.

Remember how confusing it was for you when you first started to learn about and use GPS? It is like learning another language.  A few key terms and phrases can help understand about this amazing technology.

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. The information sent to GPS units is space based and come to us from satellites. The system is based on location using latitude and longitude. Latitude is the horizontal lines that are either north or south of the equator and longitude is the vertical lines east or west of the prime meridian. They are measured in degrees, minutes, and seconds from the equator and prime meridian. Every location in the world now has an address. The address is called a coordinate. A coordinate is the intersection of latitude and longitude based on the degrees north/south and east/west.

Our area is north latitude and west longitude. The modern GPS units can save locations based on these coordinates. These saved locations are called "waypoints." This is how you save locations you have found fish or structure. It is like leaving an electronic boey marker on the water that nobody else can see. With GPS you can return to these locations with tremendous accuracy.

Getting from one location to another is called navigation. Some units will provide several different ways to navigate from you current position to where you would like to go. You will develop a favorite navigation style that fits your orientation as you use and practice with your GPS navigation unit.

The GPS units will also leave a line as you travel. This is called a plotter trail. This memory trail is like leaving electronic bread crumbs so you can follow your way back. With most units you can also save trails as a way of being able to repeat a trolling pass or going on a "milk run" of your favorite spots.

You can also leave electronic markers called "icons." They come as a menu of different symbols. As you familiarize yourself with these symbols you will see how they can start to be helpful in marking locations, hazards, or various other locations that help you with navigation or location. I use icons to mark general locations, and waypoints to mark "spot on the spot" locations. I also use icons to help me identify the difference between summertime and wintertime locations. You will find and develop your own system as you continue to grow with your GPS experience.

The last few years, a huge addition to the GPS has been the lake maps that can be added to units that accept SD cards. There are two primary mapping chips available at this time. One is from Navionics, and the other is from Lakemaster. They make these chips for multiple states, so even if you are traveling out of state to fish you can get lake maps for your GPS for that area.

GPS has revolutionized fishing. It has made anyone that learns how to use GPS a better and more efficient angler. One downside is, there are no more secret spots.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)