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Old 07-25-2008, 04:18 AM
nite toller nite toller is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Upper Midwest
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Default LakeMaster Newspaper Review

High-tech solution to anglers' rocky times
DENNIS ANDERSON, Star Tribune

BAUDETTE, MINN. - In any of the bait shops in this town, or those up the road, on Wheeler's Point, the item in greatest demand might not be minnows, leeches or 'crawlers, important as those are to have while on Lake of the Woods.

Instead, in this digital age, a tiny disc is perhaps the item most sought after by anglers as they prepare for a day on a lake notorious for its lower-unit-eating rock piles and other obstructions lying just below the surface.

The disc is produced by LakeMaster of Little Falls, Minn., and when inserted in a GPS made by Lowrance, Garmin or certain other marine electronics manufacturers, it produces a wealth of information. (Humminbird uses a competing product, Navionics.)

Not least where rocks lurk.

And walleyes.

This last information, of course, isn't guaranteed to be accurate. More specifically regarding fish locations, by showing depth contours of lake bottoms so accurately, the LakeMaster disc (www.lakemap.com) displays likely places where walleyes and other fish might be.

Earlier this week, I stopped at three bait shops in and near Baudette before I found a Lake of the Woods disc for my GPS. "Just sold my last one,'' was the refrain from clerks behind the counters at the first two shops.

Fortunately, the owner of the third shop said, "Just got some more in.''

For which I was grateful.

My plan was to cross the big lake in my boat, running from Baudette to the Northwest Angle, a distance of 40 miles, give or take. En route, I wanted to follow the shortest route. I wanted to stay out of Canadian waters. And I wanted to avoid underwater problems, rock or otherwise.

So I forked over $99 for the LakeMaster disc, and was happy to do it.

"Those guys are up here mapping all the time,'' the fellow who sold me the disc said. "Last summer a friend of mine was watching their survey boat. It stayed on its course, ran into an underwater rock pile, took another course and ran into another rock pile. They didn't seem to care.''

Actually, they do, said Mike Wood, president and CEO of LakeMaster ProMaps. But sometimes lost outboard-motor lower units are a cost of doing business, particularly while mapping the bottom of Lake of the Woods.

"I can't tell you how many props we've wrecked,'' he said.

LakeMaster's Lake of the Woods disc (which also features a hydrographic map of Rainy Lake) is a work in progress. All of the U.S. side of the lake has been mapped. Now the company is working near Sioux Narrows, on the Canadian side, with plans to expand farther north, to Kenora, Ontario.

As new mapping information is gained, the company's discs are updated.

"We also have discs for Minnesota lakes, Wisconsin and Michigan lakes, and we'll soon be releasing a Dakota disc,'' Wood said.

Lake mapping information is available from a variety of government sources. But most of that information, Wood said, was gained from sonar surveys taken through ice at an average of five to 10 soundings per acre.

"We take anywhere from 100 to 500 or even 1,000 soundings per acre,'' he said. "The difference between our lake-bottom information and the government's is night and day.''

All of which comes at a cost. This summer, Wood has as many as 12 survey boats on lakes throughout the Midwest. For particularly tricky waters, he uses a hover craft that travels about 1 foot above the lake surface.

Data from computers on the survey boats is later converted into the hydrographic maps that appear on the company's discs.

Raising the digital ante still further, LakeMaster also offers software for laptops and other personal computers that allows anglers to record previous fishing spots on specific lakes, the number and size of fish caught, and other information. The same maps allow anglers to pre-select likely fishing haunts, mark them on their PC's digital maps and transfer the information to their boat GPS units.

"That way they can go directly to the spots where they've caught fish before, or where they think fish might be,'' Wood said.

The other day when I dropped my boat into Lake of the Woods and set out for the Northwest Angle, I was just happy to have the lake's bottom contours pop up on my GPS screen.

The wind was brisk and the big lake choppy. But I set a course north by northwest and followed it, watching my progress on the screen, and successfully avoiding underwater obstructions.

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  #2  
Old 07-25-2008, 08:09 AM
VernH
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To bad he doesn't know the difference between a disc and a memory card....

When a "expert" makes such an error, I always wonder if I can trust anything else he/she writes.
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