Whenever I get downwind of a product involving electronics and computers combined with fishing, my ears stand up straight and I take notice. I will come straight out and say this is the future of fishing. To find out what ‘this’ is just keep on reading. When we need to gain that added edge for an upcoming fishing trip checking up on the latest fishing reports at HSO comes first and then many of us hit the “Big Box” outdoors and sporting goods retail stores. You may have noticed that some things are and have been changing. What used to be displayed next to Lindy Little Joe spinner rigs might require a little more needed knowledge than when it comes to tying a Uni or Polymer knot. Mapping, data, tracking, logging and GPS computer software programs have taken the place where handwritten logs, generals, moon phase charts and fishing maps had once been displayed. “Sign of the times” is what most will say and those who say this are much indeed correct. Many of these new products being displayed have written claims on their packaging of pro-quality results for the cost of a good meal and a fun night out on the town. One question I am sure most are asking themselves is “can these techy products really improve your fishing trip?” I personally have had my doubts and this has to do with a couple of programs I have had experience with over the past years. I have almost found it easier to just go back to the manual way with handwritten logs and mentally backing up my fishing related data. I have started to just pass up these PC & Mac compatible miracles on a disk if I happen to pass one by the outdoor or sporting goods scene. “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” pretty much sums up my reasons as to why.
Besides fishing & hunting, one of my other hobbies I find pleasure in is testing and reviewing various software programs. Anything and everything is my motto and always looking for that new program which makes life that much easier. When I was asked to review some “new” cutting edge fishing software I have to admit I was skeptical. When this large envelope arrived, I had almost forgotten about my agreement. Upon opening the packaging those skeptical thoughts were felt once again. I asked myself ‘how could a PC software program help in anyway when it came to my fishing?’ The only way I could find out was to put the disk in my laptop D: drive and load it up. Here is a review from my experience:
The software on deck: Contour Elite by Strategic Fishing Systems with the Minnesota HD Lake edition.
First thing I would like to mention is that I assume someone did put some time & effort into this. Strategic Fishing Systems choice of labeling for the Contour Elite disk made me take notice when most time all I notice is if the disk is facing the right direction. It features an eye stunning image of a walleye swimming with a soothing aqua colored background. I thought it was unique and figured it was worth mentioning. Even with advancements, any program that does provide a unique and needed functional task is going to be heavy. Heavy as in meaning large in file size and long install time. Contour Elite is no exception in this category. When fully installed with the Minnesota mapping pack, the disk space Contour Elite stakes claim on is around the 5 gigabytes mark and this does not even include one saved file. The install is lengthy and even with a mean, clean and lean processing machine it was a hit install and walk away situation. This will depend on your PC, but mine took around the 10 minute mark. Another good point to stress is the system requirements. You will want to make sure your system can operate and handle all the features of Contour Elite. Storage/disk space, processing speed, video card, graphics card and so on will come into play. Verify your PC can meet the basic requirements prior to the install. If not, you either have to be ready to upgrade or this software might not be right for your situation. If your PC has a worn sticker on it that says “Windows 95”, if you were to even get it to load up it will most likely crash your PC. If you have upgraded yourself into the world of XP then chances are you will be good to go. PC software on DVD format. Recommended system requirements:
“2 GHz processor, 1GB Ram, 1GB free hard drive space, Windows XP or greater.”
Strategic Fishing Systems offers four editions of Contour Elite. The one I am working with currently is the Minnesota edition. The other options are The Dakotas, Wisconsin and Woods/Rainy. These are sold as separate programs which are not included in the Minnesota edition. If you are looking to go beyond the boundaries of some of Minnesota’s great fishing lakes you will have to purchase the additional editions to gain access to these areas.
Here is a breakdown between the editions:
Contour Elite for Minnesota:
Revolutionary lake planning software with 3D explorer, integration with handheld or boat-mounted GPS, real time GPS tracking, fish species search, advanced custom search, fishing log and more. Includes 226 HD LakeMaster lakes located in the state of Minnesota.
Contour Elite for Wisconsin:
Revolutionary lake planning software with 3D explorer, integration with handheld or boat-mounted GPS, real time GPS tracking, fish species search, advanced custom search, fishing log and more. Includes 137 HD LakeMaster lakes located in the state of Wisconsin.
Contour Elite for the Dakotas:
Revolutionary lake planning software with 3D explorer, integration with smartphone, handheld or boat-mounted GPS, real time GPS tracking, fish species search, advanced custom search, fishing log and more. Includes 15 HD LakeMaster lakes located in North and South Dakota.
Contour Elite for Woods / Rainy
Revolutionary lake planning software with 3D explorer, integration with smartphone, hand held or boat-mounted GPS, real time GPS tracking, fish species search, advanced custom search, fishing log and more. Includes HD LakeMaster lakes for Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake, Rainy River, and Kabetogama (750,000 surveyed acres).
The above will give you a reason as to why the install takes up the space and has the install time that it does. The amount and quality of data in these editions is huge and explains the storage usage and install time. Once the install process is complete the program will start automatically. The first menu you will encounter is the list of lakes your edition comes with. Scroll down the list and choose which lake you would like to view. If your system (PC) meets the required specs as listed above and is performing as it should, Contour Elite will operate very smoothly.
Once you’re into the program you will see all the controls and features on the left and the above tool bars. At first glance the program will look intimidating, but after a deep breather and a quick review, Contour Elite is a very simple program to use and navigate. The tool and feature links are labeled and named accordingly with the thought of novice users. The best to describe it is it has the look and feel of a CAD program, but designed to make things simple for the novice user.
When you pull up your first lake you will notice Contour Elite lives up to its name. The dramatic contouring is top notch and this is what’s needed to find the spot within a spot.
Within two clicks of a lamb’s tail, the mid-lake hump shown above becomes a nicely rendered 3D view which you can quickly zoom in and out along with full rotation.
After a quick review of Contour Elite’s tool bars and features, you will easily learn how to locate, break down, create a target area and define your target spot(s) or your target trolling path(s). Also Strategic Fishing Systems has built in a fish search feature which highlights target areas in red on map of your lake and the outcome is based on your manual input when filling out the menu prompts. Time of year, weather and even time of day are processed with Strategic Fishing systems data base to give you target areas to approach. It even displays a suggestions box with tips and tactics based on the data you entered and for your particular lake. The tips and info is pretty basic for the frequent fisherman, but for those who are just getting into fishing and even those with experience approaching a new lake this info can give good insight with your approach.
Once again with a couple clicks made you are viewing all this in a 3 dimensional display. I love good 3D and Contour Elite has what I love.
All this while the program accurately keeps track of precise data & GPS coordinates. This is key because what does having all this lake data while in the comfort of your home do for you when you are on the lake fishing? Contour Elite goes a step further than other programs and allows you extract and input your home based strategic assault right into your mounted or handheld GPS unit.
(Insert PDF GPS Compatible here)
I could go on and on about the cool features of Contour Elite. When I add up my experience with Contour Elite I have to give it 5 stars. Much of my 5 star rating is focused back to the team over at Strategic Fishing Systems. Their support has been top notch from the start and to put out a software program of this caliber and having it operate smoothly on the first version means they have spent some time in the “geek” room. This does translate itself back to the end user fisherman so Contour Elite can be used for the purpose it was created for and not time spent figuring how to get it to work. The only issue I have seen so far with Contour Elite was an installation issue which was on my end and not the result of Contour Elite.
If you are serious about your fishing and want to take it to the next level, Contour Elite is a must. As this program grows it will become a Pros advantage for the average fisherman. I will eagerly await the next release form Strategic Fishing Systems and what it will hold when trying to out “trump” todays Contour Elite.
Too many to list. Read above.
Cons (but more of a wish list):
*Adding to and editing your target points and lines while in 3D view. Maybe impossible right now but would very cool to drop a point when looking at a structures contouring.
*Initial installs length and file size. I have used some CAD 3D programs that I believe have installed on a 1/3 less level in this area. This may have something to do with the HD mapping and use of 3D on an object the size of lake? If you have a laptop built even three years ago, use it as a primary PC with other programs and software, you might have to sacrifice some files and programs or just upgrade.
* I thought the HD quality could use a little tweaking. The zoom in are rough. Not so much on the 2D but really shows in the 3D. Still HD, but something I noticed. The features of Contour Elite outweigh my observation and HD does apply to more than 1080i.