Using GPS Trails for Fishing On June 17, 2013


Technologically, fishing has come a long way. Old-fashioned depth finders have transformed into color screen computers with a multitude of specialized capabilities. GPS technology has been incorporated. Data is transferable between onboard equipment and home computers where mapping programs can be used. The possibilities appear to be endless.

So, why should you be using GPS trails for fishing? That was my question for years of experimenting with the technologies available to learn. Since I am a logical and practical person, I needed good reasons to spend time learning new information. I have found some sound uses for trails and will share them with you in this session.

To understand what you’re looking at when you record a trail, think of an exhaust trail a jet leaves behind in the sky. It marks the direction and path of that plane. You can record your own accurate GPS trails for fishing  and that can be transferred to a friend’s GPS or saved to your computer and used in combination with mapping software such as Fugawi and MapCreate to render the information more useful.

I will be demonstrating on a Lowrance GPS, although other brands have similar options shown. MapCreate comes with your Lowrance GPS. Fugawi is mapping software that you can scan or load maps to. I have loaded aerial photos, topographic maps, and depth contour maps. Both programs are GPS accurate, which means you can transfer GPS accurate data to your GPS.

Example (1) is a Fugawi topographic map of the Missouri River demonstrating a trail transferred from MapCreate. Example (2) is the original trail on MapCreate. I have found it very useful to transfer trails to my Fugawi maps and study where I have traveled and fished. I can also make trails on Fugawi and transfer them to my Lowrance GPS.


In these examples and the one following, I am using trails to navigate through hazardous areas. I can review where I have been and plot a safe path. In example (1) the hazard is underwater trees and the goal is to navigate in the channel between the trees.


In example (3) I have mapped a trail through a shallow area with boulders that has a deeper channel between the boulders.
I navigate slowly through the channel on a sunny windless day and find a safe path. Polarized glasses are recommended to see the boulders. I then put waypoints on the boulders, go back, start a new trail in the trails menu, and record the safe trail through the boulders. If you start a new trail after you have completed the safe trail, you will have saved a permanent short safe trail. You must use common sense when navigating hazardous areas so be careful!


Trails can also be used to understand bottom structures and how things are laid out down there. In Example (4) I can see my path as I study depths. I have a LakeMaster card displaying depth contours. This helps create a 3-dimensional vision of the bottom and assists me using my GPS trails for fishing.



I will now demonstrate how I use and modify trails on my Lowrance GPS. Press MENU twice and Example (5) appears. Most newer Lowrance models have the same keyboard and menus that I use in this demonstration. Select My Trails with the down arrow and press ENTER and example (6) appears.
Now highlight the New Trail by using the right or left arrow and press ENTER to see Example (7). Press exit and a new trail starts. Repeat this process and you will have saved the new trail in your GPS’s memory. Whenever you start a new trail, the old trail is ended and saved into your unit’s memory.


Press the down arrows to highlight a selection and make changes. You can change the name of a trail by pressing ENTER and making the changes. I have changed the color, name, and pattern in Example (8).


Color GPS is great for differentiating trails by color. The yellow pop-up box gives helpful hints for whatever is selected. In this example visible is selected.

The trail preview shows the color and pattern changes. You can make your trails active, inactive, visible or invisible by highlighting the Active or Visible buttons and pressing ENTER. An active trail is adding to the trail as you move. Remember that trails have a limited number of points so that the beginning of the trail disappears as you add new points. My model is factory set at 2000 points and this creates a trail for about a day and a half. I find this setting works very well. This allows me to follow my trail back at the end of my day. It is very important if the sun sets and this is the first time on a lake. It is easy to get lost in the dark on a strange lake. I have had this happen to me and it is not pleasant.


If you uncheck the visible box, that trail will not show up on the plotter screen. This can be useful if you have saved overlapping trails. If you select different colors for trails, they become easily identified. Some pro anglers save a trail each day they study a lake and use a different color for each day. You can also give your day 1 or day 2 trails to your buddy so he knows where you have fished. I can save trolling passes for future use by saving the trail that I made on the trolling pass.


When you make a trail that you want to save, transfer, or use again, you will save it to a MMC/SD card. The trails will appear as in Example (6) on your Lowrance. First keep pressing EXIT until all the menu windows disappear. Press MENU twice, press the down arrow to highlight System Setup, press ENTER and Example (9) appears.
Press the down arrow to highlight Transfer My Data, press ENTER and the Question window appears. Save is highlighted, so press ENTER and Example (10) appears.


Then press the down arrow to highlight the Save Data box, press ENTER and the trails are saved to the MMC/SD card. You can also press the arrow keys to highlight File Name, press ENTER, and press the arrow keys to change the name from “Data”. If you save a lot of trails it doesn’t work to have them all saved as Data. I name them Tree Run, Island, Tom’s Trolling Run, or whatever seems clear to me.

After you have saved the trails to your MMC/SD card you can load them to your computer’s mapping software such as MapCreate or Fugawi or load them to another Lowrance GPS.


Using my Lowrance GPS in these advanced methods gives me a fair advantage in tournaments and fishing with my buddies. Every time you learn a new function of your equipment and the technologies available, you empower yourself to hunt down those fish and outwork your fellow fishermen. This may seem like a lot of work initially, but it’s only the beginning of possibilities for the future. I will use technology to compliment my obsession with having the best bait. This session is only a sample of the power of trails.

For information on Fugawi go to
For further information on Lowrance I have found Lowrance Customer Service (800) 324-1356 very helpful. In my Lowrance Instructional DVD I have information on trails.

Happy Trails to you!

by Bruce Samson under lowrance lowrance gps

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