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.