It’s rare that a simple product can make this big of a difference. It really is the best inshore navigation solution.
Navigation, on land and sea, has always been a part of my life.
I have navigated across all kinds of terrain, from the open sea to snow-covered mountains, using simple equipment.
This is one of those stories.
In complete darkness, the noxious vapors and unbearable heat made breathing difficult.
Diesel fumes wafted before venting to atmosphere. My guts felt inertia change direction as the vehicle jerked left, then right and spun in circles.
I knew that if I ever went to Hell, it would be inside this tiny room.
How much longer?
Recalling the route we were taking, my eyes strained to see out the open top and spot a constellation, so I’d know our general heading. All I could do was make a good guess.
I figured we’d have another 30 minutes before we’d get dropped off. I filled my mouth with water from my CamelBak and wiggled to get some space between the skin on my back and my blouse.
Don’t want to get prickly heat.
It was hot. Really hot. That it was July in Iraq was bad enough, but being inside an Amtrac didn’t help either.
My whole team is going to Hell inside this thing. Honestly, we’d be in good company there.
We finally arrived. The back door opened and we filed out, point man first and the ATL taking up “Tail End Charlie”, sweeping the Amtrac with a red lens to ensure we didn’t leave anything.
We were on a mission to kill them.
We were on a mission to kill them.
The only illumination came from the silver light of a waning quarter moon, perfect for a nighttime patrol.
We immediately moved off the road and took a knee one hundred yards from the rumbling transports.
We wanted to use them because the bad guys weren’t associating clumsy assault vehicles with hide sites sprouting from the terrain. If anyone was watching, they’d never assume a handful of gunfighters were left behind.
We waited for the diesel beasts to leave us in the blackness of night.
He studies where we are to go, how we are going to get there and memorizes all of the key details, like distance, pace counts, azimuths and more.
It was his job to get us to where we would spend the next few days camouflaged, waiting for “Haji” to make a move.
Taking out his lensatic compass, he shot an azimuth and began walking.
One by one, team members got up in their order of movement and stepped off. I fell in line with 150lbs of gear shifting on my shoulders.
I knew we had about 3 kilometers to go. The terrain was fairly flat, with some ledges and outcrops we patrolled around, to avoid silhouetting ourselves.
I used my pace count, customized for the amount of gear I was carrying, to see how far we had gone. For every 73 steps I would have walked 100 meters.
Every time I counted to 73, I shifted a bead across a strip of 550 cord on my shoulder strap to denote the distance traveled.
Yes, we had handheld GPS units, but the backlit screen would be a bright signal in the dark, damaging the point man’s natural night vision and possibly compromising our insert.
Mastery of land navigation was in order.
Expertly guiding the team, the point man got us to our objective.
After the team leader confirmed everything, we set up security and broke out the shovels: we had the rest of the night to dig a hole, hide the team inside it and then cover it up to make it appear as if the hole was never dug in the first place.
We took turns digging and pulling security…
Aside from the marsh closest to the marina, I couldn’t tell you where I was exactly or how to get back. That changed as I got older.
Then it changed a lot after I joined the Marines, mastering navigation on the water and on land. After all, it was a basic skill in Amphibious Reconnaissance.
Since the prairie marsh is so flat it is easy to get lost, but also easy to see landmarks from a distance, to include water towers and even well-known buildings in New Orleans. With these I could shoot re-sections across bayous to figure my position.
I kicked it up a notch with Keyhole Markup Language in Google Earth, learning how to create my own routes and upload them to my Garmin 60Cx, an inexpensive hand-held unit. I was always able to get around with this despite the stock maps being complete garbage.
I used different GPS units throughout the years, mostly Lowrance. Again, the stock maps were lacking.
I would have to program my own waypoints and routes to locate my fishing spots and get there. This was time consuming and left me “blind” in the marsh: I only knew what points I had programmed.
As you can imagine, there are few cartographers with the patience, paper and No. 2 pencils to draw every nook and cranny of the Louisiana marsh.
But I never used satellite imagery on my GPS units in my boat. I was really missing out and not taking full advantage of available resources.
It was August of 2016 I attained a Standard Mapping LA-1 E-Card.
This is an SD card, from the inshore mapping authority in Louisiana, designed to cover the entire Louisiana coast.
Since then I have fished marsh from Venice to Lake Charles with it.
This card is designed to work with popular GPS brands, like Lowrance and Simrad. I use mine in a Simrad Go5 XSE.
As you can see, the resolution is sharp and easy to discern all the bodies of water you would ever want to identify in the marsh.
Not really. Popular mapping apps like Google Earth are great for seeing satellite imagery but aren’t fitted for on-the-go navigation in the marsh for the following reasons:
But with Standard Mapping’s LA-1 card, you can see the difference very easily. They are mapping experts who have taken the time to contrast the coloration between land and water.
This chip does not make one a seasoned pro with a single purchase, rather experience still takes the lead and planning is still important for new areas.
While not necessary, creating your own custom GPS routes still makes for convenient navigating and organizing which spots you want to fish. However, I will tell you that the majority of my fishing trips I do not use custom routes.
I really only use custom routes if I am in a completely new area.
It’s not a secret the Louisiana coast is changing. It’s not all land loss, either.
In some places land is building up! This is due to coastal restoration efforts but also to the land-building power of the Mighty Mississippi River.
One day, while exploring Venice for the Louisiana Saltwater Series Championship, I was headed up a bayou north into Pass A Loutre.
As I got closer to what I thought was the river I became perplexed. I didn’t see navigable water, but land!
I came off plane and scratched my head.
What the hell is going on?
It was then I noticed I could go left, even though I could not see where it led me.
So I took that route. I had to go to know!
Turns out the channel was navigable and I was able to get into the river to continue my plan.
Now, it’s important to note that Standard Mapping updates their chips with new satellite imagery and even the older stuff is still good to go for the majority of the Louisiana marsh.
The River Delta is just an easy example of terrain that is always changing.
Here is a great video from Jonathan Howard that really demonstrates the difference between the Lowrance base map and the detail of a Standard Mapping E-Card.
Here is a video from Standard Mapping introducing the E-Card.
And there are directions for installing the LA-1 E-Card.
It’s accuracy and detail enables me to be a phenomenally better angler because I can flawlessly navigate wherever I want, whenever I want.
If there is a shortcut or good-looking pond around the corner I will know because of this card.
You can order yours from Standard Mapping’s website or call them at 985-898-0025. Be sure to tell them the Louisiana Fishing Blog sent you!
Devin is the founder of Louisiana Fishing Blog and enjoys exploring new fishing spots on Louisiana's coast. He prefers using artificial lures and casting tackle, but won't hesitate to break out a popping cork when the time is right.
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