Outdoor Journal: Electronics add to enjoyment

Ten or fifteen years ago, the average weekend angler’s equipment consisted of a few rods and reels a
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Ten or fifteen years ago, the average weekend angler’s equipment consisted of a few rods and reels and a tackle box with assorted lures.

But technology, as it has in just about every facet of our lives, continues to deliver new and improved accessories. Today’s fisherman now enjoys increased success and enjoyment on the water, thanks in large part to electronic innovations.

Here are a few items that can make you a first-rate “electronic angler,” with or without your own boat.

TROLLING MOTOR

The introduction of the electric trolling motor stands as perhaps the biggest technological advancement in fishing history because it allows ang­lers both hands-free operation and stealth when moving their boat. And unless you enjoy rowing and sculling your boat around the weed edges or trolling a crankbait or spinner and a worm down a channel break for walleye, it is also a back saver.

But it’s not a new introduction, by any means.

Minn Kota made the first in 1934, but like all electronic devices, generations of development and refinement have brought us to today’s version — a state-of-the-art beauty.

The true hands-free version for maneuvering in, out and along weed edges, first introduced in 1961, whereby the operator could control both speed and direction through a foot control pedal, was the SilverTrol electric motor. Both these versions have been dramat­ically improved and are still offered today in a wide variety of models.

But which one is best for you?

To determine your need, here are a few questions you should ask yourself:

u How heavy and how long is your boat?

u What are the fishing conditions you encounter most often?

u Are you a fair-weather angler or do you fish in adverse con­ditions, such as high winds and rough water?

Your answers will help identify the right electric motor power for you. Power in the case of an electric motor is calculated in pounds of thrust or the amount of strength needed to move through the water without difficulty.

Following is a guideline to the pounds of thrust recommended for the boat length under normal fishing conditions. If you fish in adverse conditions, move up at least one more level (strength). Also, because a wooden or fiberglass boat is heavier than an aluminum boat, I recommend moving up to the next level.

For boats 12-13 feet in length, I recommend 30-pound thrust; 14 feet, 32 pounds; 15, 36; 16, 40; 17, 50; 18, 55; 19, 65; 20-21, 74; and 22, 101.

Although this is a good guideline, many veteran anglers will tell you, always buy more thrust than you need; it’s not always needed, but it’s nice to have when it is. And we all know on the water, winds and waves can materialize very quickly.

Generally, only one 12-volt battery is needed for up to 55-pound thrust trolling motors. For addition­al thrust, they require 24 volts (two batteries) or 36 volts (three batteries). Most of today’s modern

20-plus-foot bass boats have 36-volt systems that can generate up to 109 pounds of thrust.

If you don’t have a trolling motor now and rely on either oars or just drifting with the wind, make it easy on yourself and invest in an electric trolling motor.

Ever break down while on the water? Wouldn’t it have been nice if you had an electric trolling motor to get you back to the ramp? Kind of like having a spare tire.

Those who do not own a boat, but on occasion rent a rowboat, a trolling motor will make your life a lot easier also. The ideal trolling motor for the renting boater would be a hand-controlled 35- to 40-pound thrust 12-volt system.

One thought on buying deep-

cycle marine batteries: Buy quality to ensure receiving maximum power and longevity.

FISH FINDer

In 1906, Lewis Nixon invented the first sonar-type device, but it wasn’t until Carl Lowrance introduced his “Little Green Box” sonar unit that anglers took note of how it could help them locate fish. Since then, other manufacturers have introduced fish/depth-finding devices, and each year, they continue to improve. No, they will not guarantee catching fish, but they’ll show you the fish, and help find the structures that often harbor them.

Through a series of diving expeditions he made in inland lakes, Lowrance determined that 90 percent of the fish are in 10 percent of the water. Therefore, knowing where to look can save a considerable amount of time.

As most anglers know, fresh­water game fish relate to specific types of structures, and much of it is beneath the water. Visible weed edges are easy to find and fish for bass, but some of the very best largemouth bass fishing is on deep- water structure. Sunken weedbeds, rock piles, ledges and even sunken trees can, and usually do, hold the bigger bass. You cannot locate these areas without a depth/fish- finder.

When fishing on new bodies of water, lake/river maps are quite helpful, but with a good electronic depth/fish-finder, you’ll be able to find these areas much quicker upon returning.

And how about those suspended fish? How do you find them? Without a depth/fish-finder, it’s hit-and-miss. And this applies to the game fish as well as many of the panfish.

Crappies and perches are two good examples of panfish that, during the summer especially, can be found suspended in deep water. The same goes for walleyes that so often suspend off of breaks that drop into a channel. Slow-trolling these areas, watching your depth/fish-finder, will show where they are and how deep, which allows putting that Junebug spinner and juicy nightcrawler right in front of their noses.

The beauty of today’s electronic depth/fish-finders is that good ones are available for probably less than cost of a good rod and reel. The most basic unit will show depth, bottom contour, structure and fish, and that’s what you’re out there for.

There is also a portable depth/fish-finder for anglers that rent boats. The N.C. Sports Fish Seeker is small enough to fit in a tackle box. Powered by four AAA batteries and accurate from two to 328 feet, its non-glare liquid-crystal display screen will show big/small fish, grass and contours on the bottom, and it has an audible fish alarm.

The unit, which fits in the palm of your hand, is water-resistant, has a removable transducer float which allows dropping the transducer over the side of a boat, throwing it from shore or just lowering it to the water

surface next to a fishing pier. In ad­dition, you can set the sensitivity gauge to show only big fish and their depth on the screen. Suggested retail price for the Fish Seeker is $79.95. For further details go to www.ngcsports.com/gear and click on “fishing.”

GPS

Anglers who spend more than average time on the water quite

often use a global positioning system on their boats. This unit complements your depth/fishing-finder, and that’s why most manufacturers offer combined units.

When you find that little weed-covered hump that rises quickly from 35 to eight feet, you’ll want to remember exactly where it is. You can use shoreline references and triangulate the spot, but when you return, it’s going to take a little time to locate it again.

When you mark the spot with the GPS unit, you can go right to it every time — at night, in heavy rain or even in fog. If you’re a serious angler, these units are worth the added expense, and today’s handheld GPS units are as low as $99.

WEATHER RADIO

Bad weather on the water can

often develop quickly, and when it does, it can be very unpleasant and dangerous. It’s happened to me too many times, and I’ll soon be adding a weather radio to my boat.

Last month, I was bass fishing on the Great Sacandaga with a friend who had just added a Hummingbird VHF 255SW radio to his boat. We knew bad weather with thunderstorms and heavy winds were expected, and by keeping the

radio on, we were able to track the storm’s location and get off the

water before it hit.

He told me that his Hummingbird has 10 channels, with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather alert, class D digital selective calling with full 25-watt transmitting power and a submersible design. His cost for this unit was $150, and he said there is also a five-watt hand-held, the Hummingbird VHF55, that sells for $90. You can check them out at www.humminbird.com.

If you want to maximize your angling enjoyment, all of these electronics will help you do it.

Categories: Sports

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