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Can You Win Without It?

 Well, the latest question from bass fishermen has been, “Can you win a bass tournament without forward-facing sonar on your boat?” The answer you get will depend on who you ask. So many of today’s young anglers (ages 18-30) will say that if you’re not using it, then you’re probably fishing for a second. But some older anglers, who fish off of instincts and experience, are proving that you can win without it.

Nothing has had a bigger impact on the sport of tournament bass fishing in the last 20 years than this new forward-facing sonar that first hit the market from Garmin Electronics. Then Hummingbird and Lowrance followed with their own version, and all were considered very good units. But like any other sonar unit, there was a learning curve. Once anglers figured out what they were looking at and how to fine tune each unit, that’s when it became super popular and highly effective.

Some anglers did not bat an eye at spending $5000 for one of these high-grade sonar units that showed you actual live time imaging of fish swimming around a boat dock or a brush pile in 25 feet of water. These units allowed you to make a cast and see your bait in real time as fish approached and struck whatever bait you were throwing. It has evolved into a video game allowing the younger generation of anglers to adapt quickly.

Professional angler, Elite Series Pro John Cox, who does not own a one of these high dollar units, says that for a shallow water angler that fishes in water less than five feet, it does not really serve a purpose. Therefore, John and a few other top shallow water pros have decided that it’s not worth the investment.

As someone who has interviewed other top anglers, both professional and amateur, not all of them own a forward-facing sonar. It’s still a matter of personal choice as to whether you want to make the investment or not. But one thing all anglers will agree on is that you don’t have to own one to be successful or to win a bass tournament. It’s just another tool an angler may choose if they so desire or can afford one.

One group that may have benefited more from forward-facing sonar than bass fishermen are professional guides and crappie anglers. For a guide, this unit has been heaven sent as it has allowed many of them to find and catch fish on days when the fishing is tough. As an outstanding guide on Lake Fork, Johnny Guice says that the unit has helped him find crappie when the bass isn’t biting, therefore, saving a trip and making customers very happy. Guides will tell you that most customers don’t care what they catch, they just want to catch fish.

So, to answer the question about forward-facing sonar and can you win a tournament without it? The answer is yes; it’s simply another tool that is only as good as its user. Till next time, good luck, good fishing, and don’t forget to set the hook or wear your sunscreen.  

Steve Graf

Angler’s Perspective