Bass Beware

Modern technology gives competitive anglers the winning edge.

John Felsher June 9, 2011

It’s no secret that technology is changing the way we find and catch fish. From high-definition sonar systems to the latest rod and reel technology, the advancements available to eager anglers are truly astounding. Thanks in part to the modernization of essential tackle and accessories, fish really have nowhere to hide. More so than any other group, competitive bass anglers are at the forefront of angling technology. With so much at stake, innovative manufacturers work hard to provide professional fishermen a competitive edge.

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Professional bass fishermen are some of the most well-equipped anglers on Earth. Photo: Adventure Advertising

However, none of this technology is useful without a quality platform. Determined anglers can catch bass from just about anything that floats, but when one mentions “bass boat” they are typically referring to a high-performance modified V hull around 20 feet. These super sleek crafts feature large fore and aft casting decks designed to accommodate two tournament competitors, a powerful outboard engine and a bow-mounted trolling motor. Those competing for 1st Place want all the speed and horsepower they can get in an effort to beat the competition to the best spots. Today’s high-performance bass boats even utilize “hot foot” accelerator pedals like those found in automobiles.

While weekend warriors rely on single display units to get connected, bass masters utilize multiple displays mounted both in the bow and cockpit for unprecedented situational awareness above and below the surface.

A good bass boat also features plenty of storage room for ample rods and tackle. Usually, rod lockers run along either side of the boat and may hold upwards of 15 to 20 rods. A large storage area under the front deck holds various tackle boxes, safety equipment and other important items. Two aerated livewells—one for each angler—keep the catch healthy so they can be released after the weigh-in. For trolling motors, seasoned competitors prefer foot controls so they can guide the boat without interrupting their casting. Some use remote control devices, while others utilize GPS guided trolling motors that automatically track a designated course or steer in a given heading.

With technology unimaginable just a short time ago, modern bass boats offer an unrivaled advantage. Today, anglers use once top-secret technology formerly only available to highly trained military experts. While bass anglers began using radar only recently, they’ve used sonar technology for decades. Early units could only flash the approximate water depth, but systems today combine radar imagery with GPS mapping, 24/7 weather broadcasts, and a myriad of other beneficial features.

Arguably the greatest innovation is the implementation of high-definition side and downward looking sonar, giving anglers the ability to see considerable detail. Although no sonar unit can yet determine specific species, anglers can reasonably guess the identity of the fish on the screen by how it looks and acts. “With structure scanning technology, I can see humps, sunken objects, rockpiles, all kinds of stuff, even while running,” says Shaw Grigsby, a professional angler from Gainesville, FL, and host of One More Cast.

“With the sonar unit I use, I can see cracks in rockpiles. I can pick out minute underwater grass beds, which is especially important in Florida. In some places, grass comes up just a few inches off the bottom. Bass love it and I can see it on the sonar,” added Grigsby.

While weekend warriors rely on single display units to get connected, bass masters utilize multiple displays mounted both in the bow and cockpit for unprecedented situational awareness above and below the surface. Redundancy provides the most data without sacrificing detail.

After finding fish, anglers need to position their boats to catch them. With a Power-Pole or Minn Kota Talon, bass anglers can anchor in the right spot with the simple push of a button. These stealthy shallow water anchoring systems lower a spike that enables anglers to hold tight in depths up to eight feet. Shallow water anchoring devices enable anglers to thoroughly fish an area without using a trolling motor. In shallow, crystal clear water, a whirling trolling motor prop can spook tournament winning bass. In addition, wind can make holding a boat in position with a trolling motor extremely difficult. “When I’m fishing a windy bank I head downwind, drop the poles, and let the wind blow me into position to pick apart structure,” Grigsby explains.

All these devices require electrical battery power. And while many boats come equipped with built-in chargers, they only work with AC power on shore. However, options do exist. “Stay’N’Charge is an onboard charging system that accepts electrical input from the outboard motor and distributes that power to the battery system,” explains David Piasecki, the company’s South Florida pro staff director. “Stay’N’Charge senses what batteries need what charge and the relative amp load. It provides energy to where it’s needed most until the entire system is fully charged.”

Equipped with features and technology recently only imagined, modern bass boats are dream machines that will continue to evolve. However one thing will never change—tournament winning anglers will always have to put the right bait in the right place at the right time.

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