When anglers are faced with thousands of acres of water to search for catfish it can be a bit overwhelming.
I’ve heard the term “searching for a needle in a haystack” many times by some anglers searching for fish.
It doesn’t have to be this difficult and there are certainly times where finding catfish is easier than others.
To be successful locating and catching catfish there’s a variety of tools at your disposal, everything from using the weather patterns and water temperatures to different types of sonar to help you find catfish.
Learning to use topographic maps and GPS in combination with fish finders is also a great tool to help you narrow down areas where you’ll find catfish.
Blue catfish are often called creatures of “edges and ledges”. They love to orient to structure. It gives them a place where they can effortlessly hold up and feed on shad or other baitfish and pick up some easy meals.
Blue catfish also like to use structure like river channels, creek beds, and even submerged roadbeds to move from one place to another. These are often called “underwater highways” by many catfish anglers. Blue cats are known to use these types of structures as they move around a body of water like a highway.
By understanding these blue catfish basics and combining that knowledge with accurate maps you can help fast-track locating blue catfish in many cases.
There are two main options for digital cartography, Navionics, and Lakemaster.
They’re both great products and each has its benefits.
Navionics is far superior showing things like old roadbeds, river channels, and other underwater features beyond the basic structure. When it comes to the basic structure both of the mapping cards have been equal from my experiences.
That being said Lakemaster is the clear winner. If I was only going to have one mapping chip it would be Lakemaster (though I do have both cards and use them both for reasons already mentioned).
Lakemaster is owned by Johnson Outdoors (the same company as Minn Kota and Humminbird). They’ve done a great job integrating the Lakemaster chip with the Humminbird and Minn Kota systems and some of the capabilities are simply mindblowing.
Two of the biggest benefits of the Lakemaster chip are its integration with iPilot Link and the Humminbird AutoChart Live features.
iPilot Link connects the trolling motor and Minn Kota iPilot features to your sonar unit. There’s a laundry list of benefits this technology provides that we’ll cover in the future. For now, we’ll focus on Autochart Live.
Here’s The Video
Humminbird AutoChart Live
When you combine the Lakemaster chip with one of the Humminbird Onix sonar units and begin using AutoChart Live it’s mind blowing.
Here’s Humminbird’s description of AutoChart Live:
Create richly detailed maps of your favorite fishing spots in real time with Humminbird’s patent pending AutoChart Live™, a free feature only available with the ONIX Series. Map the water as you drive the boat, with eight hours of built-in recording time. No added fees. No need to upload your data for the world to see. The future of digital charting has arrived.
What’s this mean?
You get on the water and turn the AutoChart Live function on and it begins recording from the sonar transducer and creating real time maps on your sonar unit.
If you’re fishing a body of water that’s not mapped or has maps that are not completely accurate you can create or update the mapping data for your favorite fishing spots and view them real-time (as well as save them for later).
Shallow water or heavy timber? No problem. Most often shallow water areas and areas with heavy timber are not mapped accurately on mapping cards. This is because of the process used for mapping these areas as well as the time and risk that would be involved with mapping these hazard areas. If you spend a lot of time chasing after shallow water catfish or fishing areas that are heavily timbered mapping these areas can unlock a goldmine of data.
I spent some time mapping some of my favorite fishing areas with AutoChart Live last Fall. I knew there was some inaccurate information on the maps. I wanted the most accurate mapping possible but also wanted to test the AutoChart Live features and see exactly what they’re capable of.
I was blown away by some of the structures I found on my newly updated maps. Some of it was obvious, some of it was subtle but it all made me a more productive fisherman.
I modified my approach to targeting blue catfish in these areas because of the updated mapping and these areas produced some of the best monster blue catfish action of the year as a result.
How Can This Help You Catch More Catfish?
Here’s a quick summary:
- Blue catfish are often called creatures of edges and ledges. They’ll often use an underwater structure like “highways” to move around bodies of water.
- When searching for blue catfish targeting structure can often help you find fish faster. These aren’t the only places you’ll find cats but they’re an excellent place to start.
- Having a good accurate map will help you identify structure and scan these areas for catfish using your sonar unit.
- Autochart Live lets you create maps for bodies of water that aren’t mapped. It also lets you update maps for areas that aren’t mapped completely accurately.
- You can map shallow water areas or timbered areas that aren’t traditionally mapped and find catfish hot spots.
- Updated and accurate maps allow you to find structure you wouldn’t find otherwise. It also allows you to get more accurate representations of structure that’s already mapped. This can often unlock key areas for targeting catfish.
- You can use these updated maps with iPilot Link features to use the “follow the contour” functions for controlled drifting or trolling (this will change the way you fish).
If you’ve already got a good sonar unit then by all means keep using it. If you’re considering buying your first sonar or upgrading your existing equipment then the Lakemaster mapping card and a Humminbird Onix sonar unit are something to consider so you can use the AutoChart Live features.
If you want to get started locating and catching more catfish check out some of the Catfish Edge products. These in-depth guides will help shorten your learning curve and put you on the fast path to success catching more and bigger catfish next time out!