BU instructor Mark Davis on Paper Maps
Whenever anyone asks Mark Davis why he spends so much time studying "old fashioned" paper maps instead of relying more on the newer GPS/sonar "map chips" in his boat electronics, the Yamaha Pro tells the story of his 1995 Bassmaster Classic® victory.
"Before the Classic® there on High Rock Lake, I spread a paper map of the lake on the kitchen table and marked different places I thought would produce bass in August," remembers Davis. "Later when I fished at one particular spot I'd marked during practice I didn't catch anything, but on the last day of the Classic® I was looking at my map again and saw it, so I went there another time, and that's where I caught the fish that won the tournament for me."
Davis isn't alone in his preference for studying paper maps, but he feels many of today's less experienced anglers don't recognize a paper map's value in helping organize their overall approach to even a single day on the water.
"Paper maps show the entire lake at once," emphasizes the Yamaha Pro, "and provide a clear overall image of the type of water you'll be fishing. For example, if it's early summer after the spawning season, bass may be located off deeper points or near the mouths of larger tributary creeks. One quick glance at the map will show you both the points and creeks that might hold those bass from one end of the lake to the other.
"Good paper maps will also show you depth contours so you can quickly see how fast those post-spawn points drop into deeper water. More importantly, a paper map shows you these in relation to other features around them, such as flats and channels and even certain types of cover. When I find something like this, I mark it on the map with a pen so I can see it immediately, and by the time I'm through studying my map, I usually have more than a dozen places marked."
As soon as he launches, Davis begins using his electronic maps to locate the specific places he's marked on his paper map. Often, he's holding the paper map in one hand while watching his GPS map as he idles slowly over a spot. By marking different places he can not only form a definite plan of how and where to start a fishing day, but also immediately eliminate a lot of probable unproductive areas.
"Some of the new GPS electronic map chips you can purchase have detailed maps of dozens of lakes and reservoirs," the Yamaha pro continues, "and they're excellent fishing aids because of the detail they provide. We all use them, which is why so many of the pros tend to find the same schools of fish during tournament practice.
"What I like about the paper maps, however, is how quickly I can identify and find similar places if I find bass in one particular spot, even while I'm sitting still on the water. Again, the paper map eliminates a lot of searching because I can see the entire lake at once. Every evening after my day of fishing, I spread out my paper map again and look for even more comparisons like this."
At the same time, if Davis is not happy with how his fishing day went and needs to change his approach, he can look at the overall lake map to plan those changes. He writes a lot of notes on his maps, too, describing exactly what he found on the water, or how he fished a certain area he'd marked.
Those notes often come in handy a year or two later, since tournaments are frequently conducted on the same bodies of water season after season. Davis has literally hundreds of paper lake maps he's collected and used through his pro career, and his earlier notes remind him of specific cover, depths, casting angles, and lures.
"That's exactly what I had written on my Classic® map of High Rock Lake," smiles the Yamaha pro. "We didn't have such good GPS electronic maps then, so I had marked the locations of specific pieces of cover and nearby depth changes and knew exactly which type of crankbait I needed and where to cast it."