A quick story about why maps are so important.

A few years back I meet a fisherman and we quickly became friends. After fishing a few tournaments and doing fairly well, he surprised me with his fishing abilities. Sometimes we fished water I knew and other times we fished water he knew. Most of the time we did fairly well. Of course we were on our home waters. Unlike him, I had been all over the state fishing different lakes and had become forced to learn maps.

One day he asked, "Lets fish that big tournament next weekend. It is on a new lake and will be fun." I said, "OK, lets get together tonight and talk about what we are going to do.." I am here to tell you I received the strangest look from him that I have ever seen. .

We meet as planned. I had composed a topographical on which I had marked some interesting areas. Would you believe his actual words were, "I donít do maps." I tried all night to get him to study the map with me but he refused. After a while I had to ask, "How did you locate all those good fishing areas?" He said, "Well, Bobby and I found these spots last year and Tim and I found that really good one this spring." I just sat back and began to think that someone had found those fish either by accident or with a map and then just passed the information down the line. I knew this because I too had received information and passed it down the line.

Passing information is a good system and works well, especially in draw tournaments. If your partners or friends are "on" fish you have it made, but how do you find your own fish?

I will probably tell far too many stories in this book but I have learned very much and I hope to pass some on to you. I was fishing a state championship in 1991. I had not done very well during the first day of competition, only catching four keepers. I became determined not to have a repeat the second day so I went to my motel room and went to work. I took out my map and studied that thing for hours and found what I thought to be the best looking area on the lake. This built my confidence and I was ready for the next day.

The tournament blasted off and I headed for my new-found spot. As I got close, I found some really bad news. There was someone sitting right on it. However, I soon became very pleased to find out that the fisherman on my spot was the first day leader, and soon to be the winner. That means I did pick the best spot on the lake. I had to move on because he was not going anywhere. I still only caught four keepers again that day. I did not mind at all because my year ended with great joy in my map reading abilities. I can not stress enough the importance of your map. It is the only tool that will work just as hard as you do.

Before we get into reading your maps, lets talk about where to get them and some helpful tips. Most tackle stores carry maps for the lakes close to that store. However, you must determine which is the best map to use. Go to some lengths to find the best map you can.

I am going to tell you another quick story, sorry! I had a tournament on the Alabama River, I called information and found some telephone numbers for the local tackle stores. I quickly found a map and asked them to mail it to me. Mind you, this is six months before the tournament date. I like my study time.

The map arrived after a few days, bringing disappointment. The map had blue for water and green for land, no help. After determining the controller of the lake, in this case the Army Corps of Engineers, I called them. The gentleman I spoke with said that the only map he knew of was an aerial map. I said send it.

Better than the first map but I was still not happy. I could see some grass and a few sand bars but I wanted more input. Trying to be as polite as possible, I contacted that same gentleman. I told him thanks for the map. Then I mentioned he could call me collect if he found out about any more maps. Boom! Two days later, he called. He said he didnít know if it would help but he gave me a phone number of another division. After contacting them, I had the most detailed, up-to-date contour map you have ever seen. It covered over 150 miles of the Alabama River and even part of the Coosa River. As it turned out, I spent less money on the maps than I did on phone calls to find them. My point is: find you a map, the best you can find. Study the maps on the following pages. The first map, is designed to show you fish locations and structures found on most maps. The next two maps are to help you better understand contour lines.

Some Quick Mapping tips:

1. Obtain more that one copy, if possible.

2. Laminate the original map.

3. Experiment enlarging the map with a coping machine or scanner.

4. Darken the lines with a fine marker to enlarging even more.

5. Taking time to color in the different depths will help you see it and better understand it.

6. Always obtain maps of water you know even if you will never fish there again. This will allow you to see why you caught fish in Timís hole.

7. While fishing, mark everything you find on your map. A stump row may not be on a particular map.

8. Use your map to eavesdrop on why a hole is always being fished. Not to take their hole but to learn why it is so good.

9. Keep your map out at all times while fishing.

10. Make it a point to find and fish one new area every time you go to the water

11. Maps are even helpful to bank anglers, in knowing which bank to try.

             12. Do some research to find the best map you can.