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More Fishing and Less Drama Please

More Fishing and Less Drama Please

Grandma would say anglers have been acting like old hens as of late. You can’t hardly scroll through social media or browse the web without nearly every post or story being caked in constant drama. In fairness, “Joe Public” shares the blame a touch as well, mainly being that we live in a click-bait world. Don’t click those links for long enough and you won’t see them anymore, I promise. This doesn’t change the current overall mood of fishing right now. The two biggest headlines that are overshadowing everything else in the fishing biz currently are forward-facing sonar and cheating.

Forward-Facing Sonar

A year ago, many anglers might not have known what forward-facing sonar is, now unless you’ve been living off-grid, you have been exposed to it in one way or another. The controversy started when almost every tournament was either being won with this technology, or the top of the standings were full of anglers using it. I’m not known for sitting on the fence on things, but I am conflicted on the big picture of this technology. One of the reasons that the topic is so controversial is it affects the entire fishing industry.

One of the early complaints was that it was too expensive, which is a ridiculous stance in my opinion. First off much like TV sets or even the lithium batteries in our boats, once they sell more units, become more mainstream and competition increases, prices will indeed settle. Even with a $1,000 transducer price tag, I don’t see many people shying away from them if they are trying to win a tournament or just fun fish in their $100K sparkly, decked-out boat. The hard truth is anglers have been putting fancy sonar units on boats and kayaks for a long time, and adding another transducer isn’t going to slow them down.

Another major complaint and topic of online bickering among the pro-fishing fan base is it’s boring to watch anglers stare at a screen. Essentially, this means anglers watch their sonar screen like a video game and use the trolling motor to look for fish, then they cast specifically to that one fish like a human game of Pac-Man. This is obviously a very subjective perspective at the arguing that’s taking place, but the bigger take on TV tournament viewing really only resonates with a very small portion of the angling community, and I feel like it shows a lack of situational awareness. Most people just want to catch more fish.

If I’m being honest, I have some apprehension with the technology. During the last couple of years, the average age of the qualifiers for the big-league bass and walleye tournaments went from an old dad’s club to looking more like a college orientation. While my tournament days are long behind me, it can still even affect a guy like me, as it has changed the lines of entry. In nearly all forms of competitive fishing there is a learning curve that takes a lot of time to develop. The best anglers in the past seem to be so good at decision making and possess an amazing ability to rely on intuition they’ve seem psychic at times. Perhaps its nostalgia, or that it hits close to home, but not having to pay your dues and just rely on straight technology seems questionable at least. This has caused organizations such as a musky trail to ban the sonar, and for various individual tournaments to not allow the technology. Rumor has it the mainstream tournament trails may eventually limiting the number of transducers and the inches of graph anglers can compete with.

It wasn’t that long ago when other fishing technological advancements such as the green box flasher, GPS and mapping, side-scanning sonar and even the Alabama rig were all considered capable of ruining fishing. Time has a way of working things out, and I don’t think that anyone would say that those previously named advancements ruined fishing at all.

While many of my standpoints thus far are subjective, I would argue they are based in real life. After only a couple of days with early versions of forward-facing sonar, I saw things in real time that took me decades to learn. It certainly cuts the learning curve way down.

Anglers are using this technology in situations such as deep-basin crappie fisheries where the fish are easy to catch, but almost impossible to stay on top of. They disappear like ghosts because they roam the open water and can be anywhere from inches below the ice to 40 feet down. Forward-facing sonar allows anglers to scan 100+ feet in any direction and see not only where the fish are, but where they go once spooked. Think of it as an underwater deer drive. The argument in this case isn’t if we should have the technology, but rather how me manage the fishery because of it.

The reality is we have bag limits and laws that are quickly becoming, if not already, out of date due to technology. Much in the same way that bank security must evolve to stay ahead of criminals, we need to consider how this will change our fisheries. The aforementioned crappie systems or other panfish species that have no, or extremely liberal bag limits, are now at risk of severely hurting the population. This same ideology also applies to many other species and specific fisheries as well.




We aren’t going to put the genie back in the bottle, and this technology is going to continue to evolve whether we like it or not. We can, however, be proactive on how we manage our fisheries moving forward with these incoming changes in mind.

Cheating

While cheating in everything from baseball to fishing tournaments is nothing new, it did come to a head roughly a year ago when a walleye club in Ohio made international news. The phrase, “We’ve got weights in fish,” has become a hashtag that everybody understands. I’d argue that the dramatic video of the anglers being caught while living in the social-media driven world contributed to the rise to international exposure. We certainly have had bigger cheating scandals and in much larger circuits though the years. If we are being honest there has been scandals with much bigger names in the fishing game as well. The California Mike Long big-bass hunter cheating scandal</a ranks much higher in my mind.

Many people who have been recently introduced to tournament fishing from these newspaper headlines have no idea that this is really nothing new. A man that held several muskie records that were thought to be unbreakable allegedly confessed on his deathbed that he filled the fish with sand to make them weigh more. Cheaters have used sunken cages filled with fish to win tournaments, and other tactics certainly more ingenious than just placing weights in a fish’s belly. It’s sad, really.

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I think there is the bigger question to be answered: Why are we still dealing with this? When it comes to tournaments the easy answer is money. I would also argue social media seems to provide “15 minutes of fame” or an attempt to gain some level of fishing notoriety or respect, even if fake.

The most comical part of these cheating events is how anglers just don’t seem to learn the lesson. After the two anglers in the Ohio walleye tournament pled guilty to cheating, they lost their boat and ended up with a short prison sentence. You’d think that this would be enough to deter anglers from cheating for at least a short amount of time, but it didn’t. Several other events happened shortly thereafter but didn’t receive the headlines of the original. Just a few weeks ago however, what was to be named a Kansas state-record crappie was disqualified</a after it was discovered that ball bearings had been placed in its stomach. Hard to believe this is still a thing since the walleye scandal is still warm … yet here we are.

Perhaps a quick search through popular movies on Netflix will help explain our infatuation with scandal and controversy. I hate to say it, but as long as the public has interest in shows like the Kardashians and Housewife’s of Timbuktu, we are likely to keep seeing the same types of drama in our fishing posts and stories. The faces, names and topics may change through the years, but I doubt this type of drama or controversy, in some shape or form, will ever stop.

Capt. Ross Robertson

Bigwater Fishing

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