Not so long ago, handheld navigation options centered on the humble but reliable compass, while marking and returning to productive fishing areas often involved the art of triangulation. Such tools and methods still work, but recent decades have yielded a wealth of mapping options that put the power of GPS navigation squarely in the palm of your hand. True, you can find plenty of fixed-mount chartplotters, but handheld options offer ultimate portability, along with the ability to bring your mapping unit on a variety of fishing adventures independently of your boat.
In the past few years, the explosion in smartphone and tablet technology has yielded another alternative—mapping apps that transform a mobile device into a handheld plotter. With a few strokes of the touchscreen, you can download apps that reveal contour lines, plot waypoints, and perform a variety of other mapping functions at a fraction of the cost of a dedicated handheld GPS unit. To be fair, however, dedicated mapping units tend to have better satellite reception, a broader suite of features, and longer battery life than phones or tablets. So, depending on where and how you plan to use the mapping unit, it pays to consider all the factors.
Wireless technology adds even more options to the mix. New WiFi products allow amazing networking between base GPS units, smartphones, and tablets. With so many choices, we decided a whirlwind tour of the handheld GPS navigation scene was in order. Following are top options to ponder in your own personal map quest.
- lowrance.com - Connect a GoFree WIFI-1 module to your HDS Gen2 or Gen2 Touch unit and build your own wireless network, allowing multiple smartphones and tablets to view GPS data and sonar displays. With a touchscreen tablet, you can even control the functions of a Gen2 Touch. A hit on the big-boat bluewater scene, where GoFree allows users to control GPS from a fly bridge or elsewhere on the vessel without buying a second display, it has small-craft applications as well. First off, anglers anywhere in the boat can check out map and sonar information. Besides keeping everyone in the loop on navigation and the underwater scene, it opens the door to taking screen shots and texting them to buddies, or even posting the images on social media venues. Another plus—you can use a tablet to view dashboard mapping and sonar data from bow or stern fishing positions, without shelling out for an additional display.