Some say electronics are ruining the sport. Vintage sonar flashers showing blips and flashes didn’t find fish. You still had to catch them. Side-imaging electronics enables anglers to get an underwater picture, covering a hundred feet to either side of the boat, marking objects before picking up a rod, but you still had to catch them. 360º electronics showed targets, but you still had to catch them. Today’s bass boats look like NASA mission control centers with six 14” screens.
Despite enhancements from Humminbird, Lowrance, and Garmin, the sport of bass fishing remained compelling. Casting skills, lure choices, and mental and physical determination still contributed to tournament wins. Pros used technology and these devices remained relatively affordable for the average Joe or Jill, but they still had to catch them.
The latest innovation has taken fishing by storm, as bigger fish and more of them are being hunted down by tech-savvy anglers. Forward facing sonar (FFS) allows anglers to look around, and taunt fish into biting with drop shots. It doesn’t take expensive gear, nor does it require accurate casting skills. A weight, a hook, and a small worm just lowered to fish will put them into the boat. Prior to FFS, these fish were only occasionally found and caught by the most astute and studious anglers. Studying maps and spending hours driving around is being replaced by FFS raising the expectation of every cast, replacing fishing with catching.
For tech-savvy participants, the learning curve is shorter than time-on-the-water casting and outsmarting prey with loaded tackle boxes. Mastering FFS removes the guesswork and brings home the prize. Anglers don’t look past their screens as they fish from their video gaming seats. Head down, watching their lure as fish come to it, the video game begins until they bite. Recent pro events demonstrate the success, but it’s not good TV. Wrap-ups and articles detail screen settings instead of secret lures. Top level pros must have these $3-5000 units to stay competitive. Even small club tournament anglers are coming up with the cash to keep up with their competition.
Tournament angling has dramatically changed in just a couple of years. Will FFS level the playing field? Or just level the field? Eliminating skills that took decades to develop opens the door for techno-anglers. Fish can run, but with FFS, there’s no place to hide. Those best with technology are winning. Will asterisks be placed next to FFS victories?
Forward Facing Sonar will determine whether competitive bass fishing is considered a sport or a game. The Anti-FFS movement is growing rapidly claiming it undermines everything about what real bass fishing is, casting, reading water, and making decisions. Many call it spotlighting for bass. But it’s sticking around as there’s a lot more money in electronics than in a rubber worm. FFS is creating a new technology dependent generation. FFS might encourage video gamers to get out of their parent’s basement, but would Opie go to the pond with Andy without Forward Facing Sonar?
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & freelance writer. Potomac River reports: www,nationalbass.com. YouTube video channel NationalBassGuide.