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The Geospatial Advantage

Recent advancements with Virtual Globe software and geospatial mapping are having a profound effect on the bass fishing world. Never before have anglers had access to the depth of information provided by the tools we outline in this production video. You'll learn the latest techniques for lake and river analysis, as well as the many hidden features that offer powerful data for bass fishermen.

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I heard someone ask a touring pro one time, you know, what do you do before you get out on the lake.. how do you prepare? How are you able to go out onto a body of water that is thousands of acres, and be able to find those few spots that hold heavy concentrations of fish? Well the Pro was pretty quick with his answer, he told the guy.... I study maps.. He said, "if there are 3 different maps for that lake, I want all 3".

There's a saying in the bass fishing world, when it comes to dissecting a bass fishery, it's not about finding the good water, it's about eliminating the bad. Standard map study can help you do just that by giving you a detailed overview of the entire lake. But for this video, I'm going to assume that most every one of you has done map study to prepare for a day's fishing. What I'm going to show you is a unique set of tools, not papers, that will give you an unparalleled look at your body of water. I feel confident that many of the tools and hidden features within these tools will be completely new to you, and I'm excited to share with you what I've learned about them and how they've impacted my success. So... let's get started.

All the tools I'm going to share with you are either software applications you will need to have installed or web applications you can view online through your browser. They are completely free, and along the way I will provide the URL's to the websites where you can download and/or access the tools and features.

We've also created a page at that provides all the downloads and links to what we show, so feel free to watch this video without interruption then afterwards visit that page for an overview of this video with all the related links.

The first thing I want to talk about is Virtual Globe software. Many of you are already very familiar with this category of software, having used the most notable virtual globe application, Google Earth. If you are familiar with Google Earth and have used it many times, GOOD... because I don't want to spend time giving a tutorial on what it is and how to navigate within it. That's not what this video is. I want to get right to the good stuff that's relevant to anglers using this software.

But don't worry if all this stuff is brand new to you, you will be able to quickly pickup on how it works and at the end, we'll provide some resources for learning more about using these applications. And shortly in this video, we're going to also be covering some very interesting features in other applications provided by NASA, GeoGarage, Microsoft and more. You will quickly realize that no one program gives you what you want, but by combining all the available tools and being able to make sense of them, you have access to powerful information that will allow you to become a better fisherman.
Let's kick things off by diving into Google Earth.

First things first, if you don't have Google earth, simply go to Google and type in "Google Earth". Click on the first listing and see this blue button here, just click that and download Earth to your desktop. Close your browsers and run the installer. After installation you can launch directly into Google earth.

And here we are at the, what's commonly termed, blue marble. At this point we can venture to any part of the globe through either keyboard or mouse. The navigation functions within Google Earth are outstanding, but like I said, I'm not going to cover navigation, I want to get right to the stuff that's related to bass fishing. We'll provide some resources at the end that do a great job explaining how to use the mouse and keyboard to navigate quickly inside this software.

Before we begin, I'm going to want you to do a couple things so that both you and I are in sync. Google earth by default has a lot of stuff turned on that isn't relevant to us at this moment and it's only going to clutter the screen and slow things down. So for now, I want you to just collapse the search panel, and turn off or uncheck a couple things in the layers panel. You want to uncheck pretty much everything except for borders and labels, which I pretty much leave on all the time, and terrain, which I leave on most of the time as well. Everything else you can turn off for now.

So just to give you an example of how you can perform some basic fishing reconnaissance, let's zoom into a spot on the Potomac River in Maryland named Piscataway Creek. I already have this spot cued up here in my Places panel.

Okay... so here we are at Piscataway Creek on the Potomac River. You'll notice that there is a marina right here, that is Fort Washington Marina, a place I have been launching from for many years, so I am very familiar with these waters.

You can see, as I move around the creek here, how detailed the satellite imagery is even at low altitudes. Let's zoom back out so we can see the creek in its entirety again.

Immediately you can see that Google Earth's imagery tells a story about this creek. Because this is a tidal river, current flow is very evident in these pictures.

You can see that some of the water looks very muddy and some of the water is green, which represents clearer water. Now as an example, I know from my experience that Potomac River bass can shut down pretty hard when the river muddies up from recent heavy rains, and when that happens, the key is to search the river to find those areas that still have some clear water that bass can ambush prey in.

Now if I'm going fishing on a day where I know the river just muddied up, I can use Google Earth beforehand to find definitive areas where the water will be clearer because of tidal flow and bottom contours.

Because this is a tidal river, things can be drastically different depending on which tide we're looking at, so first thing I need to do is determine, by looking at this imagery, if the tide is incoming or outgoing at this very moment. At first glance it's difficult to tell, but there are a few giveaways that tell me the tide is outgoing in these satellite images.

Take a look at the eastern end of this cove. You'll see that the outgoing tidal flow is hitting that small secondary point head on and the silt is being swept out and over it, telling me the current is going from right to left... and outgoing tide.

If you take a look at the back of Piscataway Creek, you'll also notice a small feeder creek that is dumping fresh, clear water into the muddy backwaters of the main creek. We can be reasonably confident that this too points to an outgoing tide.

So knowing what we know now about this creek, just from a few quick observations, I now have some clues to where I can find some clearer water in this creek if I'm going to be fishing it in potentially muddy conditions.

So let's say I plan on flipping the pilings and docks at Ft. Washington Marina. Using Google Earth, I can see that there will very likely be clearer water around the middle boat slips on each pier.

I know from experience that another very popular and productive spot in Piscataway Creek is the first small cove at the north mouth. You can see that the back part of the cove is staying clearer than the rest of the creek because of its protection from the outgoing mud by this small secondary point. I can see here that there are numerous laydowns and even an interesting piece of cover that looks manmade. Also because the current is being blocked and a mudline is created, it would be worth checking out this point here.

So as you can see, Google Earth can be a very valuable tool for finding potential fishing spots and analyzing the water in various conditions. Let's now take a look at some other useful features in Google Earth for anglers.

Here we are back at Piscataway Creek on the Potomac. One thing I've noticed is that when looking at the water from a direct overhead view, it's hard to visualize what you see here, with what you'll see when you get out on the water.

One thing that can make it easier for you is to look at the water in Google Earth at a more natural perspective. If you have a scroll wheel on your mouse, simply press and hold that scroll wheel down and move your mouse to change your plane of perspective. Looking at the water from a lower vantage point can do wonders for your memory when you're actually on the water trying to match what you are seeing in real life, to what you saw here in Google Earth.

A very helpful feature for anglers inside Google Earth is called "Virtual Touring". If you are going to a explore new bodies of waters or new areas, Virtual Touring will allow you to quickly do a fly-over to get an idea of what things look like, and what visible cover and structure is available. It's the most effective way to explore new areas without having to motor around it for hours on end.

Let's take a Virtual Tour of Piscataway Creek here. You'll need to create what's called a Path by clicking on this button here. Give it a name and one more thing that helps, click the 'Style and Color' Tab and drop the opacity to 30%. Opacity is just another word for transparency.

Now before you click OK, move this window out of the way and start drawing a path around the area you want to tour. With creeks like this, I like to draw the path just inside the shoreline. Just a rough outline will suffice most of the time. Then when you're done, bring that path window back in view and Click OK.

So now we have a path that will allow us to sit back and take a tour of this creek's shoreline. To start the tour, all you do is highlight the Path you just created and click play in the Places panel.

Now here is why this feature is so valuable. First off, it allows you to cover lots of water at a perspective that will make this imagery easy to remember when you're out on the water. Remember, your mind has a hard time matching up imagery that is viewed at totally different perspectives, so you'll find that by looking at the water from a lower vantage point, it will give you a greater level of familiarity with your surroundings when you're out on the water.

Also as we go around, you can see cover and structure quite easily. You can make notes about laydowns and other wood cover, and structure such as points, mudlines, and so one. It's really like doing a fly-over in a plane. To stop the tour simply hit the stop button in your Places panel.

Now I should mention that when you hit play, your altitude and field of perspective may be different than what you are seeing here on mine. In fact, it probably will be.

So what you'll need to do is setup an altitude and a camera angle for your virtual tours that you think gives you the greatest vision. You do that by going to 'Tools'->'Options...', then click on the Touring Tab, and you'll need to set your touring and camera settings in here. You can get the same settings as me by just copying these values into yours.

Before we move on to some of the hidden goodies and add-on features with Google Earth, I really want to stress the importance of being able to look at things from more natural perspectives. You need to get out of the habit of viewing everything from directly overhead, your mind won't be able to sync it up with what you see out on the water.

I'm going to keep using Piscataway Creek as our example because I want you to get a feel for how different things look viewed from different angles.

Real quick, let me just show you what I will do to look at a particular shoreline I want to check out. Let's take this first cove here. Just take a moment to watch how I might look around.

We're going to come back to Google Earth in a bit, but we've covered it enough now to see that it has some major advantages. But, it does have some drawbacks. Google Earth is nothing more really than photos. It's satellite imagery.

As anglers, we're used to topographic charts showing contour lines. Contour maps are pretty simplistic, but it does give us a much more informed look at the lake bottom. So is there a way to get the best of both worlds? Can we get topographic contour maps in addition to the stunning satellite imagery? The answer is yes. Here are the best methods to view contour charts in virtual globe software.

So how can we get all these same features and functionality out of Google Earth, but instead of using satellite imagery, use topographic maps instead. To do this you need to download an add-on, so open up your browser and go to The Global Biodiversity Information Facility offers something called a KML file that overlays USGS topo charts on Google Earth. A KML file is basically just a data file that Google Earth can read.

You need to download the one for the United States, it's the second link here. And it will ask you whether you want to save it or open it, it might say run instead of open. If you have Google Earth, just click run or open.

When you open the KML file, it will open Google Earth and add a new section to your Places Panel under 'Temporary Places'. You need to move that from your 'Temporary Places' to 'My Places'. So drag it up to 'My Places'. This way it saves this KML data so you won't need to redownload it again. It will stay in Google Earth for your use.

Also, expand this new data section and click on the 'Arial Photography' subset. Press Delete on your keyboard and delete it. You don't need that part of it. One more thing, rename the parent file to something more familiar by right clicking on the parent and choosing 'Properties', then give it the name, "USGS Topos".

Now to turn on the topographic map overlay, simply checkmark the data entry in the places panel. As you can see, this overlays an incredibly detailed contour map over the Potomac River, right here in Google Earth. In fact, this contour map is better than any paper map I've ever found for the Potomac, so I'm sure there are a lot of Potomac River anglers right now with open mouths. You can see it is an extremely accurate overlay by clicking turning this layer on and off in the places panel.

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