The anatomy of a topographical map


Most Deer and Turkey hunters use maps for one purpose and that is to navigate from place to place. The truth is a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) map is much more than a navigation or survival tool, it’s an awesome scouting tool as well. In recent years, the hand held Global Positioning Systems or GPS have gained in popularity with the outdoor public. The downfall of this electronic wonder is it WILL fail sooner or later. The batteries will die, the canopy won’t let you get a good satellite signal or any of several reasons it just won’t work. A map won’t fail, it does not require batteries, clear view of the sky, or a master’s degree to operate. My first GPS unit is at the bottom of the Ohio River for one of those very reasons. If you own a GPS unit and don’t or can’t use topographic maps you are only getting about half of the usefulness out of your unit’s functionality.

The bottom line is if you want to take your hunting to the next level you have to learn to not only read a map but use that same map to make the most of your scouting time. Many miles of unproductive hunting or scouting can be eliminated if, you can apply both what you see on the ground and your knowledge of game, to a topographic map. A perfect example would be a funnel or travel corridor. Most big game hunters can readily identify these two things on the ground but by having the skills to also find them on a map BEFORE you go into a given area can be the difference between a successful hunt and a nice walk.

Now if you can master map reading, and manage to figure out a GPS user’s manual, you’re not only a blooming genius but, you can take your hunting knowledge, your map/GPS skills and combine them to help make you a more effective hunter. I have taken one of my leases and marked all the rubs and scrapes with my GPS for five years, I then download topographic map of the lease. Every year I add to that map. Now I have five years of comprehensive data on one map. Once you do this you will gain a new understanding if how deer travel patterns are directly linked to the terrain in each area. A map is, simply stated, a graphic representation of the earth, drawn to scale on a plane surface. Before you can really understand a map, you must first understand the information contained both on the map itself and the information in the margins of that map. In the margins, you will find the following information.

SHEET NAME – The sheet name is found in the top center part of the map margin, it tells you the maps name. Generally, the name is derived from the largest or most prominent feature on the map.

SCALE – The scale can be found in both the upper left and bottom center margins. The scale will tell you the ratio of map distance to the corresponding ground distance. A map with a 1:25000 scale means that one unit of measurement on the map equals 25000 of the same measurement on the ground.

ADJOINING SHEET DIAGRAM – This can be found on the lower left margin and tells you what maps join to the top, bottom, left and right of your current map.

BAR SCALES – The Bar scales can be found in the center of the lower margin and are rulers used to convert map distance to ground distance.

CONTOUR INTERVAL – The contour interval is below the bar scales and tells you the vertical distance between contour lines.

LEGEND – The Legend is usually in the lower left margin. It contains symbols used to depict prominent features on the map you using. Please note that all map legends are not the same, so never assume you know what a symbol is without first checking the legend.

Once you understand the information contained in a map margin you can then get down to the information on the map itself. Next are the colors you will see on a topographic map. There are numerous colors used but here are the basics and what they represent.

BLACK – The color black indicates man made features such as roads, buildings and surveyed elevations.

RED-BROWN – This is the color is used for relief features such as contour lines.

BLUE – The color blue is used to show water like in lakes, streams, rivers or swamps.

GREEN – Green depicts vegetation such as forests, orchards, or vineyards.

Percy Priest Crappie Report 4/20/16



The crappie bite on priest has been on fire the past few weeks. Lots of fish are shallow, in the stake beds. Others have spawned and moved back out into deeper water. Dont restrict yourself to one tactic. The fish are moving around and both trolling and casting are working equally well.

Guntersville Crappie Report 4/4/16


We took our annual week long trip to Guntersville lake again this year but, we were not there for the big bass.  We were there for some of the best crappie fishing the south has to offer. Water temps were in the high 60’s and the fish had began to move shallow.

We used Kalins triple threat jigs and has no problems catching limits each day. The keys were slow presentations and finding wood cover.


The fish were concentrated around wood cover that had easy access to deep water.






Guntersville Road Trip


I hit the road to the Big G this weekend, an annual pilgrimage my bunch makes every year about this time. We keep the campers down here from about February to late April.  It’s a lot of fishing, cooking, and just forgetting we live in the real world.

Most anglers will think about world class bass fishing when you mention Guntersville but, this lake has so much more to offer than just bass. Now don’t get me wrong the bass fishing can be life altering, I have seen grown men reduced to a 12 year old when the frog bite is on, but the bass fishing is not the only reason to make the trek to the Big G.

The lake also is a phenomenal crappie fishing destination. It’s as good as or better than most lakes and in the spring it’s off the chain. A good starting place is one of the many bridges and cause ways on the lake, there are literally dozens. The second best starting point is the marinas. We have had many camp dinners caught within a mile of the campers.


Crappie tactics are not complicated down here. Troll until you locate a good school and then set on them with jigs or minnows. Most spring days you won’t look long for crappies as there are plenty of creek channels and blown down trees that will always hold fish. If you stay in the marina there will always be fish around the docks. You do not hear about the crappie fishing much due to the lakes reputation as a big bass factory.

Another good reason to fish the lake is the abundance of trophy catfish, especially Blue Catfish! Most anglers find cut bait and chicken breasts on large circle hooks very productive. Looks for deep holes on the main channel. If you not using a guide for catfish this lake has a large learning curve since it’s so massive. Most of our trophy cats have come within a mile of the wheeler lake dam.

It’s impossible to mention Guntersville and not talk about the bass fishing. It’s as advertised most weeks! In the spring large swim baits, spinnerbaits, and shallow diving crankbaits are going to be your go to starting point. If you fish the many bridges a jig and trailer combo is a high producer. The Storm 360 search bait has been a great choice so far this year.

From Chapel Hill it’s less than 2 hours to the Goose Pond Boat Ramp so there is no real reason not to come fish this jewel of the south. If you’re a camper there are several good options in the area. Goose Pond is not the cheapest but it had the best amenities. Second would be the Guntersville state park.

Troy Basso is a freelance writer and fishing guide from Tennessee. He can be reached through his website at .


The Obey River: Our overlooked tailwater.


hatAt one time years ago the Tennessee State Rainbow and Brown Trout were caught out of the Obey river near Celina Tennessee. Today the Obey still fishes very well although there are better places to catch record-breaking trout. However, there are few places you can catch the sheer numbers of trout that come out of the river every day. The obey river tail water, where it flows out of Dale hollow, is a mere seven in a half miles long. It flows into the Cumberland River around Celina Tennessee. It is one of the rivers that get’s restocked with trout twelve months a year. Its close proximity to the Dale Hollow National fish hatchery is the primary reason for this. It’s primarily stocked with rainbows but the locals tell of some monster browns being caught in a regular basis. The River has good access in comparison to some of our other tail waters. There is great bank access for the first two miles of river and good access at all three boat ramps. Another things is this river is deeper than your average tail water and can be difficult, but not impossible, to wade in places, especially the last three miles or so. Floating the Obey is not only a great way to see one of the most scenic rivers in Tennessee but gives you access to the entire river as well as parts of the Cumberland River as well.

If you’re like myself and live a pretty good drive from this river the campground at the Dale Hollow dam is actually very nice. There is electricity and water at most sites, two large shower houses, and the local police patrol it. The cost is twenty bucks per night and since your camping right on the water it’s well worth the money.


The Obey is much like other tailwaters in that the same Lures and presentations generally work. Rooster Tails in Black/Olive/White all work very well. Jigs under a small float are also deadly, specifically the trout magnet jigs in Olive and Pink. Live bait also works quite well here as the hatchery releases fish weekly into the river. If you’re a fly fisherman this is a great river for zebra midges and prince nymphs. These should be in larger sizes 14-18 as these fish are not as pressured as our more popular tailwaters. If you’re interested in Stripers and white bass the confluence of the Obey and Cumberland rivers is only 7 river miles from the Dam.

Troy Basso is a freelance writer and fishing guide from Chapel Hill Tennessee. He can be reached through his website and blog at .


Chasing Late Winter/ Early Spring Crappie


dsc_0006By the time temperatures outside reach the mid-fifties most anglers are looking to get out on the water. This time of the year the crappie fishing is getting heated up and the fish are very willing to eat, if you can find them.

They are not ready to spawn, but they have vacated their deeper water winter holding areas. So where does that leave the aspiring crappie angler? Well it leaves us catching just as many fish as we will during the spawn.

The key to late winter/early spring crappie fishing is to be versatile and mobile. Move from creek to creek until you locate a school of active fish. Deeper fish are still not as active but the crappie you see schooled up over deep water at about 10-12 feet are going to be thee schools you want to target.


This time of year, the fish are in transition areas. All that means is they are somewhere between their deep-water haunts and the spring spawning flats. The good news is they are never far from the spawning flats.

Something as simple as a creek channel with a little deeper water will hold fish. Pay close attention to the inside of those creek channel turns all year but, especially in the springtime.


Although the old standard minnow and bobber will always catch fish, this time of year a moving presentation is more productive.

Curly tailed grubs, small soft plastic shad imitations and paddle tail grubs are going to catch your dinner this time of year. Productive colors are going to be gray, pearl, chartreuse, and black/Pink. My personal go to soft plastic is the Kalins Triple Threat Grub, simply put it’s the most durable grub I have ever found.


Trolling is the most effective method, as you can cover more water and locate feeding fishing in an efficient manner. Spider rigging also works well, but in this time of transition, I want to be able to move around until I find aggressive fish.

The best speeds for trolling this time of year have been around .8 MPH. This will allow your jigs to get down to where the fish will be holding. My bread and butter jig head is an 1/8 ounce, but I never leave the house without some 1/16th ounce heads in case the fish are suspended over deep the channel; rather than near the bottom.

Water Temperature

Even though the weatherman says it’s going to be 60+ all week you must pay attention to the water temperature. Crappie will go on the move when the lakes start getting to 50 degrees and higher.

Once we get a week or more of warm water temperatures the fish go into the pre-spawn feeding mode. When mother nature hits us with a cold front and the lakes drop below fifty, the normally active fish will move back out to deeper water.

Once the water hits 60 look for the white crappie to move in shallow and spawn. Black Crappie will follow at around 67 degrees.

Percy Priest Report 2/19/17



Wow was Sunday a beautiful day on the lake. The fish were more than cooperative as well. Seemed like every boat I saw was setting in shallow water drowning minnows and catching the occasional small fish. Even though it felt like spring, its not spring yet folks. The fish were staged in 7-10 feet of water in preparation for the spawn. We found them related to ledges off the major spawning flats and they were hungry.

Water temp was holding at 50 and the water was slightly stained. It was a “John Deere Green” colored jig that got it done.

This time of year you have to use your electronics to find the fish then adjust your presentation to catch them.