By Josh Boyd
We live in a society that is transfixed by technology, and its place in our day-to-day life. It appears that there is little today that technology does not play a role in, sometimes for the better, and others for the worse. We often reflect upon the days of old, wondering how it was that we completed a particular task without the assistance of technological advances.
Technology’s broad reach has left no stone unturned, even as it pertains to our outdoor endeavors. Perhaps the best example of this is the use of electronics in fishing and the level at which many anglers rely upon their usage to consistently boat fish.
While fish finders have been around for decades now, recent developments have taken this technology to the next level, and far beyond what would have ever been perceivable twenty years ago.
From a Humble Beginning
Today’s sonar products are all derived from similar origins, much of which can be traced back to the burgeoning tournament bass fishing scene of the 1970s. Anglers began to search for a competitive edge to put more bass in the boat, and rise to consistently top the scales weigh-in after weigh-in.
With time, B.A.S.S. angler Tom Mann began toying with the idea of modifying crude sonar equipment to produce a depth finder that could be used to much success on any body of water. After a period of experimentation, and moderate success at his new endeavor, Mann founded Humminbird, which ultimately produced the first waterproof depth finder, the Super Sixty.
From that very moment, the angling electronics industry was off to the races, with a number of pro anglers jumping on board with Humminbird. As time progressed, so did the technology in which these units were rooted.
The eventual advent of the Humminbird LCR unit in 1984 signaled a new chapter in fishing sonar technology, offering an easy to use interface, and LCD display. Since that time, various other groundbreaking advancements in fishing sonar technology have come forth, with several companies throwing their hat in the ring, all helping to grow the platform exponentially.
Breaking New Ground
Throughout the years, fishing sonar technology has seen continual growth and development, further building upon the primitive units of the 1970s and early 1980s. Developments such as side imaging and integrated GPS capabilities have continually put more power into the hands of anglers. However, few advancements can rival the recent success and acclaim of Livescope technology.
Garmin Panoptix Livescope units are capable of viewing game fish, baitfish, and structure in real-time, allowing anglers an in-depth view of precisely what is happening below the water’s surface. The unit’s real-time viewing capabilities make it entirely possible to watch fish as they swim about, and interact with their surroundings, including your bait.
Livescope accomplishes this feat by sending out numerous, multi-frequency sonar pings simultaneously. This is achieved through the use of three different forward-facing transducer elements, that are all staged at different angles. These signals are returned to the unit’s GLS 10 processor, which weaves these multiple inputs into a singular image, providing a depth of view never before seen.
The advent of Livescope, and other similar product offerings produced by competitors that have recently released their own units, have revolutionized the way many anglers fish, especially those that fish competitively. These anglers can now identify how fish are reacting to stimuli at any given moment and can vary their approach accordingly.
Professional tournament crappie angler David Jones believes that Livescope has completely changed the way many anglers fish, making time on the water far more productive than it was in the days prior to this technology. “You literally see the fish moving around, and literally move your jig up and down, watching the fish bite, catch the fish, and watch the fish come up as you bring them out of the water,” said Jones.
Many anglers at the 2020 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville, in northeast Alabama, also touted Livescope as one of the greatest advancements to ever take place within the realm of fishing. One such angler that believes heavily in the difference that Livescope makes is Hank Cherry, the winner of the 2020 Bassmaster Classic. Cherry says, “I’ve got to have my Garmins and that Livescope because I have gotten to where I can’t fish without it.”
What Does This Mean for the Average Angler?
Although the vast advancements in fishing sonar technology have certainly changed the way that many fish, especially those fishing competitively, there is still absolutely nothing wrong with, nor counterintuitive about fishing without such equipment. Fish today are still the same fish that have been caught by generations with nothing more than a rod, reel, box full of tackle, and wishful thinking.
However, if you currently tournament fish, or are considering doing so, it is worth being aware of the latest advancements in fish finding technology that are making many on the water into more efficient anglers. Successfully fishing tournaments in the modern era is becoming far more difficult in the absence of such technical insight. Those that seek to stay competitive might find themselves being forced to upgrade their equipment, even though doing so does not come cheap.
In any event, electronics of almost every nature have a history of reduced pricing with time. Much like DVD players and flat-screen televisions, it is probably safe to say that such products will become far more of a bargain after the initial market buzz falls by the wayside. When this occurs, it is highly likely that such equipment will come as an affordable option to the bulk of anglers, allowing all to experience these technological advancements for what they are.
What Does the Future Hold?
Although fishing sonar technology does not currently seem like it could improve past its current state, in many ways, chances are good that the next breakthrough is right around the corner. Just as Tom Mann could have never foreseen what products like his Humminbird Super Sixty would become today, it is nearly impossible to grasp where this field will be in the not-so-distant future.