Electronics on our fishing boats

Whether I’m guiding or out on the tournament trail, I have to catch fish to get paid and avoid having to get a real Monday to Friday gig. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard to stay busy throughout the year but my main sources of income are fishing tournaments and guiding. I must stay on top of the latest technology and trends in fishing equipment if I want to keep up with the competition.

If my Grandpa looked at my boat today, I’m not sure if he would be impressed or disgusted with the electronics and technology that I have on it. I think he would appreciate that this stuff is fun to use and it helps you catch more fish, without a doubt. Can you still catch fish without the latest and greatest technology on your boat, absolutely, but all of the new stuff will improve your odds of success.

The three areas of technology that I think have improved our ability to find and catch fish with enhanced efficiency are trolling motors, mapping and forward facing sonar. All of these have been developed to a new level in recent years to improve our experience on the water.

Jeff Gustafson has fun with the latest in fishing technology when he is on the water.

With trolling motors, we now have foot pedals that offer an array of options to help us navigate, troll at a certain depth and they can use GPS position to hold us in a specific location. The Minn Kota Ultrex motor on my boat not only does all of that, but it’s built with a heavy duty bracket that can withstand a beating in rough water and uses less power than older models. The function that I like the most and that I think has been one of the greatest improvements that I’ve seen in fishing is the Spot-Lock function. Wherever I’m fishing, I can hit a button on my foot pedal and the boat will stay in that spot. So if I’m on top of a school of walleyes, I can stay there. If I’m guiding and want to take a picture of a fish or re-bait a hook, the boat doesn’t drift off the spot, we stay on top of the spot. It really makes life easy.

Mapping has improved greatly on many waterbodies across North America, most notably on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake in our part of the World. We now have really high detail mapping of these waterbodies that not only aids in navigation but also in helping us find the structure that is holding fish. The older maps that we had worked fine for navigation but they lacked the high detail with see today, particularly on the Lakemaster maps that are available for our bigger bodies of water across Sunset Country. These maps also give us the opportunity to shade specific depths where the fish might be found as well as highlight shallow areas, among many other features.

Finally, the newest technology to become popular in recent years is forward facing sonar. All of the popular sonar brands offer it and for anybody that is unfamiliar, we can now mount a transducer on our boat that looks ahead instead of just beneath the boat to show us fish and structure that we are approaching.
The Humminbird Mega Live sonar is what I have been using the past couple of years and it has kind of changed the way that I fish. Instead of having to get on top of fish and drop lures to them, I can now see them on my sonar screen ahead of the boat and cast to them, so I avoid potentially spooking the fish by getting on top of them where they probably know that I’m there. Not only does this help catch more fish but it’s fun to use. I can watch how fish react to my baits and then adjust accordingly. Sometimes I need to give the lure an extra shake or twitch, other times I just need to try a completely different lure. The best analogy that I can give for forward facing sonar is it’s like using a flasher or sonar unit for ice fishing. Once you use it, it’s hard not to want to use it the next time you go fishing.

Again, do you need all of this stuff to get out on the water and catch a few fish, absolutely not, but it will enhance your experience and you’ll have some fun.