Obviously, qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic is a big deal. No doubt, the event is the highlight of the fishing season for anyone lucky enough to fish it. I was extra fortunate this year with my qualification because Humminbird rewarded those of us on their pro staff with the first prototypes of their MEGA Live forward-facing sonar just before the event.
It had been a long time coming for Humminbird. Over the past couple of seasons, much of the Bassmaster Elite Series field had forward-facing sonar on their boats. We’ve seen anglers use this technology to win tournaments and catch fish that would not be have catchable without it.
To be honest, after seeing the effectiveness of this new technology for myself, I probably would have gone out and bought a unit from another brand a couple of years ago had I known how effective it really is. Humminbird has been one of my longest supporters, and the folks that I get to work with there are truly good friends. So I waited, and it all worked out.
While the Classic turned out to be predominantly a shallow water event, I can tell you that the rest of the season I used MEGA Live to put a lot of fish in the boat. At the last couple of Elite events in New York, I had a pair of good finishes. At least half of the fish I caught at both Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River I would not have caught without seeing them out in front of the boat first.
Since I got home from New York in July, I have fished nearly a dozen tournaments around home, and the same can be said for those events. I love to fish shallow for smallmouth, but I did less of it this year than in the past because I simply had so much fun getting offshore and finding untouched fish to catch with MEGA Live.
For those of you who haven’t been in the boat with forward-facing sonar yet, it is a game changer. This is by far the greatest advancement in technology for fishing from a boat that we have ever seen — no question about it. I love to fish offshore and fish deeper water; it’s part of my style. So this forward-facing sonar really complements the way that I like to fish.
I have been asked about it a bunch over the past few months, and the best analogy I can give is fishing without it would be like ice fishing without a flasher. Everybody up north who ice fishes knows what I mean. For everybody that doesn’t live in the ice belt, to put it simply, I would rather sit at home and watch The Bachelor with my wife than go fishing without it. It’s that effective and a huge part of my program now.
Now I can “shine” the sonar on structure in any direction around my boat and see if there are fish anywhere in the water column. I can see the boulders that typically hold a smallmouth, I can see brush piles and logs clearly and learn if there are fish around them. I can watch my bait throughout the retrieve and see how fish react to it. Sometimes they see my bait, laser beam to it and bite. Other times they are lazy and uninterested, so I know I probably have to show them something different. It is incredible.
Do you need forward-facing technology to get out there and catch a few fish? Absolutely not. But if you are fishing tournaments or guiding, where you are making a chunk of your living from the boat, this is mandatory equipment and a wise investment. I hate that there is so much expense in fishing today — from boats to tackle and electronics — but we have equipment to use that is so good in every category. Altogether, the technology we have available today is fun to use and makes our experience on the water better, if you like to find and catch more fish.
MEGA Live is going to be available on Gen. 4 Helix units as well as Solix units. It is simply a transducer that you plug into the head units and there is a power connection. It’s easy to install and then get out there and use. As far as the settings go, I have been running my MEGA Live in forward mode with the transducer at the 40 degree angle most of the time. It’s a good angle for looking out in front of the boat as well as for fishing vertically under the boat. You get a much wider area that you can see beneath the boat than with traditional sonar.
If you are fishing shallow water and doing more casting, you can move the transducer to 60 degrees to follow your bait during the retrieve. There are multiple options to play with here in regards to transducer position. Finally, I like to run the forward range manually at around 75 feet and the down range in a manual mode where I move it around so that I’m filling up the screen with as much of the water column as I can. It’s simple and quick to do this with one tap on the menu button.
I can’t wait to get the 2022 Elite Series season rolling and put my MEGA Live sonar to good use!