A Graph Feel-Good

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I wanted to make some discussion about graphs. “Electronics” is a huge topic in the current fast moving fishing industry, and many folks simply become overwhelmed by all of the gadgetry. People often tell me how they just bought a graph, but now don’t now how to read it, much less navigate through the instrument’s charts and menus and settings.
My big tip to you is begin with the basics. Think practicality. I’ve been a full time guide for 22 years now, and I find myself using a fraction of the options my graphs give me. Very rarely do I wish I knew more about the graphs I use. I’m a basic guy so all I really want is a good clear depth reading and clean picture. That’s it. The only real trend I’ve followed with my electronics is that I’ve been buying large screened graphs the past few seasons.
If I’m not taking advantage of a bunch of functions why get a big graph at all? To be honest, bigger screens like 9 and 10 inch screens are easy too see. Also, the processors in large units are powerful and fast. I like to have my information coming to me quickly. Also, larger screens break into several different sub-screens if you ask them to—other wise called “split-screens.” I like my graph to show a GPS screen and a sonar screen at the same time. Somewhere on the face of the graph, I need for the water temp, depth, and boat speed to show nicely. That’s it, in a nutshell.
When I was searching my archives for a good image for the purposes of this article, I actually selected a shot from a smaller graph. For a lot of years, I simply used 5 inch screens because they did anything and everything I wanted them to do. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve moved into larger graphs now because they’re easy to see and they’re fast (and they’ve also become more affordable). Anyway, the photo for this article is taken from a 5 inch graph screen. I liked this photo because it has many elements that folks struggle with when they view graphs.
What’s all that stuff? In the upper left hand corner is the depth—nice and BIG—it’s important. The number under the depth is the temp. On the far bottom left of screen is the speed (sorry it doesn’t show well). The white part of the image is “water” and the dark black “bumpy” area is the bottom. Why is it rough or bumpy? It’s a question I get VERY often (and the main reason I chose this shot). When the boat goes up and down the sonar signal simply keeps “signaling” and the screen continues to draw and display a one dimensional image. When the boat goes up, it will draw an incline, and when the boat goes down, it draws a decline. Ultimately, when you’re sitting in waves, your graphing looks rhythmically bumpy—so the “bumpiness” is only the bottom and not fish. The “heavier” black lines suspended off the bottom, on the left and middle section of the screen, are fish. They are dark/intense because they are large and dense objects. I know they are fish because they are separate from the bottom. The lines on the right side of the screen are weeds. Notice how they “stack.” There seems to be some minor separation between each line, but they are faint lines unlike the fish which were more apparent/dark and thick. Also, notice the bottom directly beneath the weeds—it’s faded because it is a mat of weeds. It’s not hard bottom like it is on the left side of the image. I also know these are weeds because they stack vertically and create a “tall” shape. This is exactly the type of situation you need to be very careful of. Don’t think that everything you read on your finder is a fish. The suspended dotty globs in mid-water column are schools of bait. All of the lines that represent fish and weeds and bait in the image are wavy for the same reason the bottom is—it’s wavy and that’s how a graph records when it’s going up and down. If you never see a bumpy bottom on your graph, you probably don’t boat in the waves.
Get to know the graph that you own—old or new, big or small. Make sure you get to understand it’s basic functions and know how to read and interpret the images on the screen. If you buy new graphs every year like I do or want to upgrade to a larger unit this season, don’t be overwhelmed by all of the options they come with. I think it’s OK to get the newest fastest models and not use everything they are callable of. The most important thing to remember is to know your basic fishing needs (from the graph) and then simply continue to grow with the graph and it’s new functions in time. Good luck on the lakes this spring and enjoy getting to know your electronics. By Ross Hagemeister, meisterguideservice.com

Early Season Panfishing

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Take a look at the photo of my daughter.  We were fishing a back bay of a lake about 2 weeks after the ice came off.  Notice the bare trees and dead cattails in the back ground.  Also, notice the depth setting on Mae’s bobber–it’s not very deep.  This is the time of the spring that I get excited about, because the panfish are no longer glued to shore.  In fact, in this case, the fish had retracted away from the shore line and were blending in with submerged weeds in about 3-5 feet of water.  There were fish closer to the shoreline, but the larger sunfish and crappie were about 20-30 feet out from shore.  When the fish are further away from the bank, they don’t scare as easily when you’re fishing for them and they don’t bolt every time a one or two day cold snap comes through the area.  I love taking the kids fishing in back bays.  It’s easy to duck out of the wind and stay warm which makes it easy for the kids to cast.  One thing to keep in mind when you’re using bobbers,  especially when you have kids along, is to be sure that they keep the line 90% tight.  If there is a large “balloon” of line between the bobber and fishing rod–it’s impossible to set the hook when the bobber goes down.  I always have my kids and fishing guests, reel a few times immediately after they cast out and the bobber hits the water–it draws the line tight so they can get a hook set when they get bit.   Good luck fishing the warming back waters this week–it’s going to be getting good!  Fish Good. By Ross Hagemeister

Early Ice Out–Nice

I love early ice out.  I love seeing the water in motion after watching it stand idol for 4 months.  Also, seeing lakes in their pre busy-summer state is very peaceful.  There’s no noise or commotion and the shoreline is in pure form–it’s not dotted docks and lifts and pontoons and jet skies and gadgets.   Also,  I think shorter winters are good for me now (I must be getting old).  My ice fishing service is cool and good and I’m good at it and my guests have a nice time, but it’s not open water guiding.  Open water guiding is who I am.  After 22 years of it, it’s what I am.  I’m not really sure who else to be on the water?  The 2017 will be my 22nd season–already.  It seems like I was just starting, and just learning how to guide.  Now I have folks calling me and telling me they can’t make it anymore; that we’ve been fishing together for 20 years and they have finally gotten to old to get here–or are dying or are dead.  Those are sad phone conversations, and it’s been happening often the past couple of years.  They are usually older guys and they cry when they tell me they can’t make it anymore–they love it here.  These are ends to eras–mine and theirs.  Time flies.

Any way, I’m looking forward to getting the 2017 year rolling.  I ordered my new Lund Boat and Mercury Motor, and am looking forward to being sponsored by Berkley this season.  My favorite fishing rod as a kid was a Berkley Lighting Rod.  I still have it–in my fishing archives.  Skip forward to present. . . . and my favorite fishing rod is the Berkley Heritage series.  I love those rods.  The Heritage is priced right and have a great feel and are strong and sensitive.  The 6′ Med Light spinning is super versatile.  I use them for walleye, small mouth bass, crappie and sunfish.  They are great rods.  Anyway, I’ve loved Berkley gear and line and lures and rods forever, and now I get to be a part of it–it’s awesome and I’m grateful.

For fishing this spring, it’ll be an extended panfishing season.  Sunfish and crappie will be entering the shallows soon and good fishing will soon follow.  Get your boats ready.  Make sure your batteries are good (make sure they hold a charge), and get your rods and reels ready with some new Trilene line—it’s fishing time.  Fish Good, By Ross Hagemeister, Meister Guide Service.