Updated: Aug 12
Here’s the scoop on the latest in fishing technologies. Tournament and Commercial fishermen can more afford the tools. The rest rely upon experience.
I like the challenge of figuring out where the fish are, based on my experience. To say the least, the cost of new technologies is out of my world of possibilities and is only available to tournament and commercial fishermen. The rest of us just have to use our wits. Nonetheless, this article is about the future of electronics.
Raymarine recently added its name to the list of top marine electronics manufacturers who have experienced amazing growth in the past couple of years. The company just reported sales are at record levels with sustained increases since the second quarter of 2020.
Garmin reported Q3 2021 total revenue of $1.19 billion, a 7% increase over the prior year quarter. Humminbird is in process of breaking ground for a huge expansion in Eufaula, Alabama. Navico, created through the merger of Simrad Yachting and Lowrance Electronics, was acquired by Brunswick last year and is also swamped with orders. Navico’s revenues totaled approximately $470 million for the trailing 12-month period ended May 31, 2021, per the company.
What’s the cause of this remarkable business boom?
One factor in the buying frenzy is multiple companies perfecting scanning sonar, both side-scan and forward-scan, which has turned much of angling into video game fishing.
Any angler who has the opportunity to fish on a boat equipped with one of the new machines—linked to big-screen Multi-Function Displays (MFD’s) up to 16 inches diagonally—immediately wants one—or two–or even three or four!
Since the new super-machines average somewhere around $5,000 per, including all the necessary transducers and hookups, the electronics companies are understandably having some very, very good years.
The big push has been in tournament bass fishing, of course, because of the sheer number of anglers across the country that participate in everything from local club tournaments to big national competitions where a half-million dollars may be at stake.
The live-scanning systems make it possible for anglers to spot fish that have rarely been located before, to see their lures sinking down in front of the fish, and to note the reaction of the fish to given bait or retrieve style. It’s as if someone suddenly turned on the lights in what has heretofore been a very dark and mysterious room.
For those who fish for cash, it’s like playing poker with a marked deck—they know where the bass are, and those without the electronics do not, with the exception of the brief spring period when the fish are primarily in the shallows to spawn.
It’s an investment serious tournament anglers pretty much have to make, and all of the wanna-be’s would like to if we could just figure out how to skip a year’s worth of truck payments.
The new machines are proving equally successful for those who chase walleyes and Great Lakes salmon and lake trout. Crappie anglers, particularly those who fish in tournaments, are also finding them indispensable.
Saltwater Anglers Score, Too
The boom is not only limited to freshwater angling, though that’s the biggest score because there are so many of us across the nation—around 46 million, well over 10 percent of the population fish each year, according to the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).
Wheelers electronics array hero
Saltwater anglers are also finding fish they’ve never known were there before with the new machines. The new sonars have proven particularly effective for blue water anglers, who now can scope out marlin, sailfish, tuna and swordfish in open water where they might never have imagined there were fish before.
And again, the captains can see just how the fish are responding to a given live bait, rigged bait or artificial lure, and change if the fish don’t respond.
Since blue-water tournaments frequently have hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line, and the boats themselves are likely to cost a million dollars or more, the price of the added electronics is considered a cost of doing business, especially for paid captains.
The machines have also proven a must for those who run charter boats in search of blue water game fish. Where previously anglers might raise a single marlin or two during an 8 to 10 hour trip, they’re now often getting shots at a half-dozen or more, and again it’s largely the result of the new scanning sonars.
If ten years ago you had asked most of these anglers, particularly those fishing fresh water, whether they would ever expect to spend $10,000 or more just for electronics, you would have been laughed at. Now, serious tournament anglers consider that a base package.
There’s no question it’s good for the fishing industry and those of us who work in everything from manufacturing to advertising. It has also created a golden age of fish-catching in both fresh and saltwater as anglers discover and catch fish they never knew were there before.
It may also be creating an age of “haves” and “have-nots” in tournament fishing, but that’s a question for another day.