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               Spring 2006 Feature Article

Visit the NEW Walleye Tackle

Scorpion Stinger Spoons

Lake Erie Fishing Maps

The Official
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NEW Walleye Coolie Can/Bottle
Beverage Holders



The Big Picture
by Ron Anlauf

One of the biggest breakthroughs in modern walleye fishing has been the introduction of highly detailed contour maps. The new maps have revealed a wealth of information including some of the secret hot spots that only a handfull of anglers knew  about, that is until now. Now you can see the spots; the breaks, the sunken humps, the inside turns, etc., and all of it with eye  opening detail. Even anglers quite familiar with a particular body of water can learn something new from a high definition map,  especially when it comes to larger bodies of water.

The key to getting the most out of what's available now is learning to actually read the maps and is an important element of successful walleye angling. Even if it's right in front of you in brilliant living color it really won't help unless you know what to look for. Proficient map readers can take a look at a map and quickly narrow down the potential hangouts which allows themto spend more time fishing in areas that have a high chance of producing. Spending more time in likely areas is a matter of efficiency and is the key to getting the most out of a situation.

Finding likely looking areas requires more than a simple once over look at a map, as there are other factors that must be first considered. Factors like seasonal movements and water clarity can have a major effect on walleye location and must be take into consideration when trying to put it all together. Seasonal movements include a shallow, to deep, to shallow migration that spans the open water season. That progression may be altered by other factors like dark or dirty water which might completely eliminate the deep water option. Dark or dirty water can keep walleyes shallow all season long and greatly reduce the number of deeper options, and potential holding areas. On the other hand while dark water can reduce the deep water options, it may also increase the number of shallow water areas that could be holding fish.

After you’ve determined seasonal and clarity conditions you can then take a look at a map and try to find areas that might fit the bill. If you’re looking for early season hot spots try to locate shallower bars, reefs, and maybe even flats. A flat will look like a widening of contour lines where there's no change in depth. A bar or reef will look like a flat surrounded by contour lines that pull in tight to each other. If we're already into the summer period look for deeper structure like underwater points and humps and if we're heading into the fall you may need to find a combination of the two.

A contour line is simply a constant depth reading that can reveal the presence of structure, or the lack thereof. Following a contour line will also reveal the shape and characteristics of the bottom and give you a rather rough picture of what’s down below. Contour lines that pull tight together indicate a fast change in depth while wider lines suggest more of a slope, or slow drop. The absence of a contour line indicates a constant depth or flat. Fast drops are usually associated with a hard bottom while slower drops may or may not indicate a softer bottom.

As good as the new maps can be there still may be something too small to be included and it might take a little investigation to find it's whereabouts. Omitted secondary structure has a good chance of being a top producer simply because it will probably receive less pressure than the more obvious. A clue to finding overlooked secondary structure may be hidden in a tiny variation in a contour line. Follow out the lines and look for a slight turn out or in, and keep it in your memory bank untilyou can take a look for yourself with a graph or depth finder.

When working from a map on a new lake it would be a good idea to first get familiar with the major and more obvious structure before looking for the secondary spots. By working over the major areas first you can get an idea of how and where fish are relating to it and will give you an idea of what to look for in a secondary spot.

Finding structure by way of a contour map alone takes a lot of effort and can be especially trying when you get miles offshore.  Shoreline structure is a whole lot easier to locate as you can key off of major points, public accesses, roads etc. Once you move away from shore you’ll have to utilize a combination of those same landmarks and combine it with your depthfinder.  The quickest way to finding offshore structure includes the use of a Global Positioning System that will display the high definition maps, like the Humminbird 937C. The 937C is a color graph/GPS plotter combination that has a wide screen with more than enough room to display both the plotter and the graph at the same time. The combination allows you to see exactly where you are on the plotter while looking for fish, bait, weeds, etc.on the graph. What you'll find if you're using accurate maps like the Navionics Hot Maps is that struture is where it's supposed to be, and changes in depth occur right where the map indicates it. If it all sounds complicated it really isn't. The Navionics maps are pre-loaded on a chip that is simply plugged into the unit and then displayed on the plotter. From there it's up to you. See you on the water.