Marine Electronics - When is Enough - Enough?

Cabin 14


One of the great things about having your own website, or blog, is that you have a forum, or soap box from which to inflict your views and opinions on others.

Not only that, it can serve as a pressure release valve in the event there is something you simply want to get off your chest.

On both this site, and Great Bear Lake Outdoors – - we do our best to come up with commentaries, stories and product reviews that are interesting, informative, and in the case of our product reviews, we strive to ensure that they are balanced, and based on sound research and field testing.

While the story that follows is, in a general way about marine electronics, it’s not a product review but rather a commentary, or editorial on many of the more recent technological advancements in this area.

Truth be told, I decided to climb up onto my soapbox and get a little something off my chest, and it goes something like this.

Marine electronics, not unlike smart phones, tablets and computers are changing with mind numbing speed. So much so, that it’s no longer an overstatement to say that by the time you bring your purchase home from the store, it’s well on its way to becoming obsolete.

Competition in the “techno gadget” sector is fierce, and manufacturers are tripping over one another to develop and release products that are smaller, lighter, faster and so jammed packed with features, that before you get through the tutorials, you are being bombarded with a steady stream of soft wear updates and enhancements. 

So have you checked out the world of marine electronics lately?

And by marine electronics, what I am referring to for the purpose of this little rant, are sonars, GPS, underwater video cameras, a gizmo that recommends lure colour, and just when I thought I had seen everything, the crème de la crème, an electronic feeding simulator.

First off, a word about sonars.

Sonars are now available with huge HD screens, featuring among other things, touchscreen control and Ethernet networking – with price tags to match. You can easily spend $4000 on some units once you add on a few “upgrades,” although you would like to think that with a base price of over $3 grand, “upgrades” would not be necessary.

Others have wireless connectivity, so that by downloading the appropriate app., you can remotely view and control your unit on a smart phone or tablet. Now, if you're sitting in your boat, presumably within easy reach of the sonar, or anywhere other than your boat for that matter, why on earth do you need remote operating and viewing capability? But having said that, if you are a tournament fisherman, perhaps this app. will allow you to hack into your competitors sonar. Now doesn't that open up some interesting possibilities?

Some of the newer models not only scan below the boat, but for an additional $2000, you can scan in a 360 degree arc around your boat, meaning that if you happen to be a fish, you can swim, but you can’t hide!

If your unit has a built in GPS you can now view maps in 3D, while others are compatible with broadband radar, satellite radio, can monitor your engine systems, and have video cable inputs.

There are even some that give you the option of watching up to four separate screens at once – now if they could only come up with a TV that could do that.

At this point I’ll bet you’re either wondering if they will accept your car as a down payment for a new unit, and/or drooling at the prospect of getting your hands on some of this state of the art technology.

So to spare you any further anxiety for the time being, lets move on to underwater video cameras  - or as some call it - “Fish TV.”

Can someone please tell me what possible practical use an underwater video camera is to the average fisherman?

Really - give me a break. Unless you are in crystal clear water, with plenty of ambient light, the only way you are going to see anything is if the fish comes up and presses its scaly little nose right up against the lens.

If you look at the picture on the screen closely, the fish probably has a big grin on it’s face, because it knows without a doubt that P.T. Barnum was bang on when he quipped that there is a sucker born every minute.

Next on my list is a device featuring a colour chart that looks like something you would find either in a paint store, or at the makeup counter.

It comes with a probe, that once lowered into the water, transmits a signal to a small hand held unit which then makes recommendations as to what the most effective colour(s) lure is likely to be under the current conditions.

But don’t forget,  if light and/or wind conditions change before you tie on the right colour lure – better get that probe back into the water a-sap to see if the recommendation has changed.

On the other hand, there are probably some fish that will not bite, regardless of what the unit says should be effective, because it’s just not in their colour wheel.

As noted earlier, just when I thought I had seen everything, someone came up with of all things, an electronic feeding simulator.

I am assuming the logic behind this is that once the real fish think some of their buddies may be getting a jump on the buffet table, they probably figure it’s best to start chowing down before everything is gone.

Therefore, if you would like to ring the dinner bell by using any one of 6 pre-programed simulated feeding sounds; all you need do is shell out something in the neighbourhood of $400.

Because the sounds are broadcast under water, and therefor can presumably only be heard by the fish, there is no way I’m going to spend over $400 for something that I can’t listen to as well. 

To be fair, some of the new technology that has come along over the past couple of years is certainly very useful and well worth the investment. For example, technlogically advanced and reliable GPS and chart plotters, together with detailed map cartridges make it much easier for fisherman to navigate to their destination and return home safely.

Another bit of useful and practical technology is the Minn Kota iPilot*, and their latest upgrade to this system – the iPilot Link. Seeing what you believe to be a fish, or a bunch of fish is one thing, but what this system does unlike any other, is keep you on the fish once you find them, and THAT my friends is the real key to success.

But for the most part, unless you are a professional fisherman, and need what you believe to be that extra edge to make a living, I really wonder what the point is.

Are we really that desperate to catch fish?

If anything, the more we become reliant on the technology, and not our skills, instincts and experience, the poorer fisherman we will become, which at the end of the day will translate into catching fewer, not more fish. 

Therefore, unless you fish for a living, or simply have to have the most technologically advance stuff out there, before you hand over $4 grand for that big screen, HD sonar, ask yourself if the $99 unit will do the job for you – or better still – on your next outing, leave everything at home except the gadgetry you’ll need to ensure your safety is not compromised – and then do it the “old fashion” way, by talking to people who know the water, and letting your experience, eyes and gut tell you where the fish are.

One thing I firmly believe is that there is a great deal more to recreational fishing than simply catching a few fish. It’s about spending quality time with family and friends, relaxing, having fun, and simply enjoying being “out there.”

What it’s not about is spending all of your time adjusting, fiddling with, and otherwise staring a bunch of screens that are constantly bombarding you with more information than you can ever hope to effectively process – time enough for that once you’re back at work.

But then again, that’s just my opinion… 

*For a comprehensive review of the Minn Kota iPilot, see "Minn Kota iPilot – Gadget or Godsend" – under the product reviews section of this site.

Last modified onTuesday, 17 March 2015 12:33
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