November 23, 2020
While new sonar technology elevates our understanding of the aquatic world, an increasing number of anglers, including top professional bass anglers, use underwater cameras to discover the “lay of the land,” and to verify fish species.
Bassmaster Elite Series angler Cory Johnston uses an Aqua-Vu HD10i Pro camera to understand the underwater terrain. “On the St. Lawrence River, for example, sonar doesn’t always mark bass on drop-offs, which are key spots against which bass can push bait,” he says. “These river bass are tight to the bottom. The HD10i Pro has on-screen water temperature and depth, and with the XD Trolling Fin and an extra weight, you can get down to depth and get a stable picture of what’s happening.”
Ott DeFoe, 2019 Bassmaster Classic Champ, agrees with Johnston. “Those fish on the St. Lawrence sit so tight to the rocks, and even with my modern Humminbird graphs, I’m not always able to pick them out. It’s why I always deploy an Aqua-Vu in places like this, where the camera shows the fish clear as day. This gives me the confidence to stay and fish. At my last event there, the Aqua-Vu was responsible for helping me boat several 3- and 4-pound smallmouths.”
During the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series event on the St. Lawrence, Jeff Gustafson also relied on his high-definition Aqua-Vu camera to unlock potential smallmouth bass goldmines. “What worked best for me was to drop the camera and drift through potential river runs,” he says. “The St. Lawrence has heavy current with large aimless stretches. Every once in a while, you’d spot two or three smallmouths, often 20 to 30 feet in front of the lens. There were plenty of walleyes and drum down there, too, so the camera prevented me from wasting time fishing for the wrong species.
“The smallmouths often held around little clusters of rock, a sand patch, or a few rocks or a boulder. As I drifted, I dropped a waypoint each time I spotted a few smallmouths. Then, I went back, drifted through each waypoint—mostly in 22 to 45 feet of water—and caught ‘em.”
A month later, Gustafson earned $25,000 and second place at the Bassmaster Elite at Cayuga Lake, New York. Again, his underwater camera proved to be a key fish-finding tool, even while most anglers focused on shallower cover. “On the last day of practice, I figured out that if I found a single offshore log or rock in about 25 feet of water, there was a good chance a big bass was living there. I drove around and found and logged each little piece of cover with side imaging, and then dropped the camera to confirm bass presence. Then, I dropped a 3/4-ounce football jig with a Z-Man Turbo CrawZ or a Ned-rigged Hula StickZ and caught big largemouths and smallmouths. I didn’t catch a ton of fish, but the Aqua-Vu definitely helped put me on the right ones.”
He also praises the camera’s usefulness on lakes with invasive species. “At places like Kentucky Lake, we used to mark fish on our graphs and you could just about guarantee they were bass,” he says. “Now, the lake is infested with Asian carp. You mark a lot of fish that look just like bass on sonar, and you can waste tons of time casting to fish that are actually carp. The camera has now become standard equipment in most of the places we fish, from Canada to Kentucky Lake and all these other places where mussels have cleared the water.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, real-time video confirming your quarry and details of its behavior and environment is priceless.
*In-Fisherman Field Editor Cory Schmidt contributes to all In-Fisherman publications, often on topics dealing with applications of technological innovations to fishing.