Today’s technology and boat control

The new Bassmaster Elite rule change that prohibits competitors from getting any “information” about a body of water after the schedule is announced has leveled the playing field.

That means Elite pros must come up with a four-day game plan based on our individual findings during 2½ days of pre-tournament practice. I love that because it puts the onus on individual competitors to develop a successful strategy while on the water.

It also means we have to make the most of practice and be more efficient during competition. Today’s technological improvements (electronics, trolling motors, and shallow water anchors) have certainly enhanced that.

This is my first year of fishing with all of that technology networked through my Humminbird electronics. The new “One Boat Network system” has really made a difference in my efficiency level during practice and competition.

I have options: I can operate my Minn Kota Ultrex Trolling Motor and Talons through the electronics, or run the trolling motor through a hand-held remote, or I can operate each item manually as we have in the past.

Boat position is such a critical issue – more than most anglers realize. I thought I was pretty good at it before, but my new equipment makes me even more proficient with lining up and holding in position to get the casting angles I need.

I can hold a position by putting down my Talons or using the Spot-Lock feature on the Minn Kota Ultrex I-Link trolling motor. Once engaged, Spot-Lock will hold me on a spot electronically regardless of wind or current.

Or, say for example, I want to fish a different waypoint nearby but need to change baits, I can program the Ultrex through my Humminbird graph to take me there while I sit down to re-rig.

Or, if I want to retrace my path over a productive breakline, I can program my trolling motor (through my electronics) to do it for me without having to physically control the boat with the pedal.

That saves a lot of time and is a huge difference maker.

The value of these features became more apparent when I watched my two sons operate my boat in extreme wind and rough water. Those conditions previously required a lot of experience to manage a boat, and although the boys are less experienced, they made the transition quickly.

Most of the tour lakes we fish get a ton of fishing pressure. Boat control – as well as getting the right casting angle and holding it there so you can make repetitive casts – is extremely important to maximize your fish-catching opportunities.

When we competed on the Sabine River in Orange, Tex., I was fishing creek mouths where the casting angle in the current was absolutely critical. I was making repetitive casts to a spot no bigger than a 36-inch square. With my Talons deployed or my Ultrex Spot-Lock engaged, I could position the boat perfectly and hold there. The fish were heavily pressured, but those repetitive casts would trigger strikes much like we do when aggravating bedding bass into biting.

Modern mapping is equally critical. Once I got dialed in on the pattern at Grand Lake, I could run anywhere on the lake, look at my Lakemaster HD map and locate the exact structure I wanted. When I stopped on a spot, I could focus on the fishing and use my equipment to hold me on that spot.

This technology isn’t just for pro style anglers, either. I’ve found it reduces, if not eliminates, the learning curve for novice anglers.

During a Michigan College Bass Tour, several of the aluminum, homemade bass boats and 20-year old bass boats in the event were equipped with Ultrex
Trolling Motors. On the Elite Series, more than 90 of the 110 rigs are running Ultrex with Spot-Lock.

That should tell you something.

Granted, replacing your existing equipment requires an investment. On the other hand, it will make you more efficient at putting more fish in the boat and provides a more enjoyable day on the water.

It’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.