Serious anglers are getting antsy for open water and in the meantime they are swarming boat shows and swooning over new products, including the latest in electronics.
It seems that names like Humminbird and Lowrance have become the most spoken brand names, but to be sure, there are other, however less visible, products as well.
A few decades ago, fishing electronics consisted of some very simple applications of basis sonar signals recorded as flashes on a circular face, and following that, came paper charts that rolled across a flat, glass covered surface that we now recognize as a screen.
The paper was scratched as it rolled by with a wire stylus, resulting in a shaded line indicating the bottom surface of the lake. With careful tuning, an angler could also see arches, or scratches indicating fish. Paper graphs became the rage but for sure, they had their problems.
Now fast forward to the powerful electronics available today and just like smart phones have swallowed their ancestral dial phones, so have modern fishing electronics replaced anything so primitive as mentioned above.
Current depth finders (some under-educated fishermen call them fish finders) can not only read the distance between a boat and the bottom — they can provide vivid images of the underwater structure in all directions, communicate information to other boating aids such as electric trolling motors, auto-steering gadgets, and, well, the list goes on.
Add to that, whatever modern depth finders can do today, and it’s only a fraction of what they will be able to do in a couple years. Manufactures call new editions and models Gen-2 or Gen-3, clever sub-titles indicating new and more powerful developments in the same box.
It is truly remarkable and so are smart phone, which are now nothing short of pocket lap-tops.
Shoppers hungry for new fishing electronics should do some serious homework and talk to knowledgeable dealers keeping in mind that all the new electronics are indeed remarkable but not all are able to communicate with other gadgets in the same boat.
For instance, a full-featured Humminbird depth finder will communicate with a Minn Kota trolling motor while Lowrance talks turkey with Motor Guide.
Who cares? The guy who wants to program his brand new depth finder to record and then steer a route by digitally communicating with his trolling motor cares — or should. Shoppers will hear the term “iPilot Link,” which means the ability of one electronic unit to talk to another as in following a charted route.
This stuff is awesome — and complicated, but doable for most of us.
The latest “digital cartography” product announced by Humminbird is a selection of 1,300 lake maps that can be downloaded one lake at a time to a SD card instead of purchasing a regional digital map.
These individual maps are HD of course. I fully expect a group to fund raise and protest these electronic advancements on behalf of fish everywhere.
Fortunately for the fish, there are still plenty of hard-core anglers, like myself, who barely have mastery of the on-off switch, let alone downloads and inter-unit communications. But just as fortunately for the manufactures of fishing electronics, there are lots more “digitally adept” anglers who want more and better — and they are getting it.
The annual appearance of Michigan-based Lance Valentine, the well-spoken and widely travelled guru of marine electronics, will be part of a multi-day fishing school set for Ravenna Marine’s classroom. Pre-registration is a must.
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