The Smartphone Fisherman


Blake Tollefson shares some tips on using mobile apps to increase fishing success.

Love it or hate it, the smartphone is arguably one of the greatest tools ever invented. Along with the smartphone comes an endless list of applications that were designed to make users’ lives easier. The smartphone has altered the ways in which we—as fishermen—plan a trip, and ultimately can help you become more successful on the water. The following list of “apps,” sorted into a handful of different categories, are ones that I find useful for fishing.

Weather apps

  • The Weather Channel

Daily and hourly details regarding wind speed and direction, temperature and precipitation make this a great tool for planning time on the water. Other features include sunrise and sunset times, as well as weather radar. also offers a Premium Subscription which includes enhanced weather information and radar capabilities.

Cost: FREE ($29.99/year for Premium Subscription)

  • Weather Underground (Wunderground)

Wunderground is also an excellent weather app, and a prime contender when it comes to top free weather applications. It offers the same features as most weather applications, including wind speed and direction, temperature and precipitation—but it also includes 24-Hour precipitation estimates, as well as barometric pressure readings and trends.

Cost: FREE ($19.99/year for Premium Subscription)

  • Barometer

Barometric pressure is one of the leading influencers on fishing success and levels of fish activity, making it an important detail to know when spending time on the water. Most smartphones have a built-in sensor for reading current air pressure. The Barometer app provides real-time data related to barometric pressure and elevation and allows users to track trends over a period of time.

Cost: FREE (In-App Purchases Available)

Mapping apps

  • ActiveCaptain by Garmin

If you own a Garmin fish finder, this is one must-have application. ActiveCaptain allows users to wirelessly pair their mobile device with their Garmin fish finder. Any waypoints marked on the unit or mobile device will be wirelessly shared with the other. Lake maps are also available through the application, which come free of charge if the user owns a compatible Garmin device. They can also be purchased for a fee if the user doesn’t own a Garmin device. The maps feature depth highlight capabilities, and users have access to Garmin’s QuickDraw Community which houses lake maps built by other Garmin users. Garmin’s maps can be downloaded for offline use, so you don’t need to have service to use the app. ActiveCaptain also helps users wirelessly update their chart plotters. This is an excellent tool for planning an upcoming trip, accessing maps on the go or marking your favorite fishing spot.

Cost: FREE ($149.99 one-time fee provides access to all lake maps for the entire United States)

  • FishSmart by Humminbird

Similarly to ActiveCaptain, FishSmart allows users to wirelessly connect their Humminbird chart plotter to their mobile device. The app features include access to more than 2,200 HD LakeMaster Maps, which can be purchased on an individual lake basis. Lake map prices range on a per lake basis. Humminbird users can also download the latest update and push them wirelessly to their unit. As a Humminbird owner, this application is definitely an app a user shouldn’t pass up. It’s a perfect utility for accessing your Humminbird data on the go.

You can be among the first to get the latest info on where to go, what to use and how to use it!

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Cost: FREE (Individual lake maps range in price from $9.99 to $19.99)

  • Navionics

When it comes to mapping applications, Navionics is by far the most used and well known. For the nominal price of $14.99, users have access to Navionics’ full catalog of USA lake maps (Canadian maps can also be purchased for an additional fee). Track your location, mark waypoints and follow tracks. Navionics maps allow for depth shading as well, so you can pinpoint those high-percentage areas of the lake. The maps can also be downloaded for offline use, in case you get in areas that have sketchy cell phone service. Navionics features “Plotter Sync” which allows Humminbird, Raymarine, Lowrance and others to transfer routes, waypoints and more. The app also features compatibility with Garmin’s ActiveCaptain Community. If you’re on a budget, or don’t own one of the above-named devices, this is a necessity for your time on the water. At the present time, there isn’t another mapping app that packs this much punch at this price point.

Cost: $14.99 for USA maps, or $21.99 for USA & Canada maps

Other apps

  • Fishing Knots

As fishermen, we work with a number of different lines and lures. Knowing which knot to tie in which situation is critical to success. Tying the wrong knot can lead to less-than-ideal results. The Fishing Knots apps provides how-to videos and images of approximately 70 different knots you can use on the ice. This free app is a particularly handy tool for learning new knots and perfecting those ones you may have forgotten.

Cost: FREE

  • FishDonkey

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning one of the hottest new fishing related apps. FishDonkey allows users to participate in online fishing tournaments from anywhere in the world. Set up your own tournament to compete with your friends or take on the likes of fishing celebrities as they work to defeat anyone who’s willing to accept the challenge.

Cost: FREE

A successful day on water starts with preparation at home, as well as having the right tools at your ready. Smartphones have certainly changed the ways we plan for a trip and how we decide where to fish. They definitely aren’t going anywhere, so use them to your advantage to find and catch more fish. There’s a plethora of tools available at your fingertips.


Keep up to date on the latest gear that will help improve your fishing experience. Subscribe to MidWest Outdoors on our website.