(Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the 2013 April issue of Bass Fishing magazine. To read more compelling articles from Bass Fishing magazine each month, become an FLW subscriber member. If you'd like to sign up for a digital subscription to access articles online, click here).
When you’re fishing with an old-school bass angler, nothing will sour his face faster than seeing you slip a smartphone out of your pocket to peek at your email. As understandable as that attitude is, no one can rightly deny that today’s phones provide a tremendous amount of useful stuff. Such a device can be as valuable as your graph or a good landing net. In fact, your phone is more like a toolbox than a tool because each app serves a separate function.
Some of the most important websites and phone apps aren’t secrets. They’ve been around for a while. Others aren’t as well known. We’ll consider both as we examine smartphone tools that you want at your immediate disposal at home and on the water.
FLW website, FLW Magazine (digital version) and FLW app
Don’t overlook the obvious. Beyond regularly updated tournament results on the FLW website, the company also offers a digital version of FLW?Bass Fishing magazine and the all-new FLW?Tournament Bass Fishing app.
Many pros begin their tournament research at flwoutdoors.com, where they have access to archived reports from years of tournaments held on the waters they plan to fish or on similar waters at the same time of year, which provide great insights about likely depth ranges, forage, structure and other important considerations.
The app is free for iPhone, iPad and Android. It includes live tournament updates, access to the digital magazine, a Fantasy Fishing team manager function and video tips from tour pros, among other great features. You can find it in the Apple App Store and Google Play.
The digital magazine is available to all FLW members and magazine subscribers at flwoutdoors.com.
Before you can fish, you have to get your boat in the water, which is where the TakeMeFishing.org Boat Ramps app comes into play. Search by zip code, use your phone’s GPS to search nearby, or search out a spot using a map screen and then click to find ramps. That means that if you learn the fish are biting best in the upper part of a particular lake, you can look at the map and see which ramps are closest to that area. It’s free. (takemefishing.org)
Fish Logger app
As the name suggests, the Fish Logger Android app turns a smartphone into a fishing journal and provides easy means to log catches and systematically compile useful data. It taps into the phone’s GPS and other available info, so it already knows stuff like the time, date and weather conditions. Therefore, all you have to do to create a complete journal is to answer a few questions about each catch. The Lite version is free. The Pro version ($4.95) includes moon phases and weather. (logyourcatch.com)
See beneath you: The Marcum Underwater Viewing System
Underwater cameras remain somewhat of a novelty item in the minds of many anglers – especially bass anglers – but don’t sell them short. A Marcum Underwater Viewing System provides clarity, control and adaptability for most conditions. With a camera, you can confirm the kinds of fish you are seeing on your graph, watch reactions of the fish and view how your lures move when you work them different ways. $349.99 to $699.99 (marcumtech.com)
iSolunar hunting and fishing times
Now you can call up a day’s peak feeding time and moon phase information on your iPad or iPhone. Beyond helping you pick the best days and times to be on the water, knowing key feeding times can help you plan a day to be in key areas at the best times, and to understand why a bite might have tapered so you can adjust your strategy for less-active fish. $4.99 (i-solunar.com)
Stream Gauges Map app
Stream flows tell you a tremendous amount about the fish’s likely behavior, especially when you look at current levels in comparison to recent days and to historical norms. Even with lake and reservoir fisheries, tributary levels help you know where fish might be positioned and where to find clear or stained water. The Stream Gauges Map free app takes data for hundreds of streams directly from the U.S. Geological Survey and makes them easy to find. Click on a map and it links to the actual USGS page for detailed information. (gcs-research.com)
Google Earth (desktop and mobile)
Want to find isolated backwaters and watery paths to them, search for bottom changes in a clear lake, or see how weedlines develop through the seasons? Look no further than Google Earth and its satellite imagery. Do your serious scouting at home on the big computer screen, but don’t forget about the free Google Earth app, which allows you an overhead look at the very spot where you’re fishing and can be a great tool for helping you visualize offshore structure in order to fish it effectively. (earth.google.com)
The Weather Channel app
Unlike as in times past, there’s no reason to get caught by surprise in a storm nowadays. If there’s any risk of ugly weather, keep an eye on the radar. Don’t stop with storms, though. Wind strength and direction, air pressure, and the amount of sun beating down all impact the way the fish bite, so watching conditions and anticipating changes can help you plan your day and fish more effectively. Numerous weather apps provide good information, and each has its advocates. The free Weather Channel app is reliable, simple and complete, and it provides one very solid option. (weather.com)
Navionics Marine and Lakes: USA
Get lake mapping on your phone so it’s at your fingertips whether you’re in the front or the back of the boat. This cool mapping app syncs with other devices, allows you to share waypoints and tracks with other users or to view them later on your own computer, and incorporates current information about wind, moon phase, current and such with your location. $14.99 (navionics.com)
Fishidy is a combination of a mobile iPhone app (coming soon to Android models), a bank of how-to fishing resources and a social media community, all based on the common bond of anglers, and powered by the Fishing Hot Spots digital mapping platform. Use Fishidy to track weather trends, search thousands of lake maps, find new fisheries, study lake profiles, create a digital fishing log, connect with other anglers and then follow those friends as they log their trips. Sign up for free, or choose the Premium version for $9.99 a month (six- and 12-month memberships also available), which gets you fishing maps marked with thousands of structures and proven fishing spots, the ability to print maps, and other bonus features. (fishidy.com)
A protective case for your “toolbox”
All the most useful apps or Web addresses in the world won’t do you a bit of good if your smartphone ends up in the drink, or gets bounced around too much in rough weather. Unless it’s protected, that is. Here are a few cases that ensure you’ll stay in touch:
• Cheap, yet functional, the Plano Guide waterproof Stowaway (shown at right) features a Dri-Loc O-ring seal that wards away moisture in any form. The case is big enough to house a phone plus a few other must-haves such as your truck keys. $4.96 at Walmart. (plano.com)
• OtterBox offers a number of cases that fit smartphones of various sizes and configurations, and some of them provide through-the-case functionality. Waterproof and shockproof, they come in a variety of colors, too. The Defender case is available online from Walmart for $29.28. (otterbox.com)
• LifeProof cases provide complete water protection, along with being dustproof and adding shock protection, but they allow for full functionality of current-generation iPhones and iPads. Unlike some cases, they don’t add much bulk in your pocket. $79.99 to $129.99. (lifeproof.com)