Saltwater anglers have access to some truly amazing gear. However, professional bass fishermen are a different breed altogether. With so much on the line, tournament pros like seven-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam, who has earned over $5 million in his illustrious career, utilize the most technologically advanced equipment on earth. They do so in an effort to gain even a tiny competitive advantage over the field, where a fraction of an ounce in a big money bass tournament can make a huge difference.
Kevin zips across lakes in a state-of-the-art bass boat propelled by an advanced Mercury Pro XS high-output outboard engine that’s operated by a hot foot accelerator pedal. His Nitro is also equipped with dual Power-Pole shallow water anchoring devices that give the #1 ranked bass angler in the world the ability to maintain position with nothing more than the push of a button. And when it comes to sophisticated electronics, he certainly has the best! How about detailed Humminbird sonar technology with 360 degree imaging. VanDam can see picture-like images of everything below his boat in every direction, including structure, baitfish and largemouth bass.
Logically, the tactic of artificially producing natural baitfish sounds to attract and entice freshwater game fish makes perfect sense.
Additionally, today’s elite freshwater anglers utilize tackle that is at the forefront of fish catching technology. Technique specific combos featuring high speed reels with aluminum frames and carbon fiber drags matched to feather light composite rods manufactured to exacting standards provide top pros with the perfect combination of backbone and sensitivity. Really, bass don’t stand much of a chance.
If all of that advanced equipment wasn’t enough, it appears the next evolution in the freshwater repertoire comes in the way of underwater sound waves. You read it right—underwater sound waves! For more than two years professional bass fishermen who earn their living on the water have turned to artificially transmitted acoustics to attract bass and turn on the bite. Many leading pros swear by the technology and claim they wouldn’t compete without it. By installing a submersible speaker to the bottom of their trolling motor they, are able to transmit up to 16 naturally recorded sound patterns mimicking real world scenarios including feeding frenzies, fleeing baitfish and panicking bait schools. The adjustable speaker is powered by a compact onboard device called a HydroWave, which is fully customizable based on fishing conditions, water clarity, target species and more. HydroWave also features an SD slot so anglers can input additional sound patterns as they become available.
While you may be skeptical, underwater acoustics are the real deal and HydroWave is leading the revolution. The company was founded in 2010 by a group of professional anglers, scientists and engineers dedicated to reinventing the fish attracting industry. They know freshwater fish produce sounds and vibrations that are both intentional and involuntary. Unintentional sounds are constantly being produced by natural swimming and feeding behaviors. However, freshwater game fish transmit a far greater variety of sounds on purpose to communicate with other fish for mating purposes, scaring intruders away, and alerting other fish of nearby predators. Scientists describe these sounds as grunts, clicks, squeaks, groans, rumbles and drumming. Fish produce these audible vibrations using their teeth, swim bladder or a combination of both.
It is also common knowledge that sounds travel much farther and faster in water than in air—nearly 5,000 feet per second. This speed combined with poor visibility of freshwater venues is the reason largemouth bass are so dependent on sound to locate prey. They hear and sense sound and movement in the water with their lateral line, which is a sensory organ consisting of fluid-filled sacs with hair-like sensory apparatus that are open to the water through a series of pores.
Logically, the tactic of artificially producing natural baitfish sounds to attract and entice freshwater game fish makes perfect sense. The technology has been proven. However, is turning to artificial underwater acoustics to gain a competitive edge simply too much technology? The left side of my brain says, “Why not?” Bass pros are already utilizing advanced equipment and electronic devices everywhere else, so why not transmit sound? The right side of my brain says this sort of voodoo takes the fundamentals out of fishing. No longer does an angler have to focus on finding and fishing specific areas where freshwater game fish stage, feed and flourish. Now all one has to do is stop the boat on the edge of a lake somewhere, turn up the volume and wait for fish to come to them. What’s next?
Obviously, even with transmitted sounds catching fish isn’t that simple, but am I really that far off? Evidently the professional angling community across the country doesn’t think so, as a quick glance at any major bass fishing tournament and you’ll see HydroWave mounted on the bow of at least 90 percent of the leading competitors. Thankfully, this is a conservation oriented fishery that’s all about catch and release. Otherwise, bass populations everywhere would be in grave danger of total extinction!