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By : Mark Hicks
Professional bass anglers must take full advantage of the latest advances in fishing sonar and mapping to be competitive. To get an edge, many pros also glean information from apps they have downloaded to a smartphone or computer tablet.
Some of pros even place a computer pad in a waterproof case and mount it next to the graphs on their console.
“I’m a big weather junky,” VanDam said. “My Radar is my favorite weather app. I can zoom in and find exactly when a front or thunderstorm is going to hit my location. That’s good from a fishing and safety standpoint.”
WindAlert, another free app, provides the wind speed and direction wherever you are or anywhere in the country. The slick Live Wind display shows a realistic depiction of the wind’s direction and speed on a map. You can see exactly what the wind is doing at a glace.
Buoycast is a must-have app for anglers who fish the Great Lakes. You often can’t tell how rough the water is well offshore while you are on land. Buoycast lets you access a buoy near the area you wish to fish and find out what the wind direction is there and its speed in knots. It lets you know if the water is too rough for safe boating before you launch.
One of the newer free apps, FishInt combines real time weather and water data, your personal fishing experiences and analytics to help you fish more intelligently. Analytics include the moon phase, biometric pressure and tidal flows on tidal rivers. It automatically captures geographic and climate conditions the moment you log a fish and the bait you used to catch it. The more you log and plot the more useful the app becomes. FishInt is fully integrated with all Strike King baits, and your data is private.
VanDam recommended an app that he developed with Jason Christie and seven other top-level pros, called BassForce. The monthly fee for this app is $4.99 for access to one of the pros or $9.99 for access to all nine pros. You pick one of the pros and enter the weather conditions, water conditions, the type of cover and the amount of fishing pressure. The app then reveals specifically which lures that particular pro would use and how he would fish them in that situation.
“You can go back in time and look at satellite images that were taken 30 years ago,” Upshaw said. “If you find a photo taken when the water is low, it might show stumps or some other cover that’s underwater.”
If the water is ultra-clear, you may even be able to see bass cover beneath the surface. While studying satellite images of pellucid Lake Mead prior to a tournament, Upshaw spotted a sunken sailboat 10 feet deep.
“I caught one of my biggest bags in a tournament off that boat,” he said.
At another tournament on a riverine lake, Google Earth satellite images helped Upshaw navigate safely far upriver and locate hard-to-find entrances into backwater areas. He entered the waypoints shown on Google Earth onto his GPS map.
If he is having trouble accessing Google Earth due to poor reception, Upshaw can often bring up satellite maps via the Apple Maps app on his iPhone.
Different companies, including Navionics, have apps that let you view their contour maps. Since no lake charts are exactly the same, one of them is likely to show more detail on a given body of water than another.
Anglers who fish TVA lakes would be wise to download the free app, TVA Lake Info. It shows the current lake elevation, hydropower generation release schedules and the rate of flow.