The 2011 Bassmaster Classic on the Louisiana Delta exemplifies how far we've come with technological advances in our boating equipment.
The use of sophisticated gadgetry not only came into play for Classic contenders, it had a hand in many of them doing well.
For example, Lowrance's BR24 broadband radar made its debut at the Classic and enabled several pros making long runs to Venice to get there safely and faster than those without it.
Of course, that radar information was overlaid on detailed GPS/mapping sonar graphs that guided pros to their hot spots in the complex series of Delta backwaters.
Humminbird's Side Imaging and Lowrance's StructureScan were instrumental in Kevin VanDam and Brandon Palaniuk finding bass-holding stumps.
And the Power-Pole, which has become a staple on pros' boats since it debuted at a Classic a few years ago, proved invaluable for the top finishers working a shallow stumpy flat in the Tank Pond of Lake Cataouatche.
Here's how the equipment was used:
BR24 Broadband Radar
Fog was a big problem at this year's Classic, especially for those anglers running two hours to the bass-rich Venice area. The tournament was delayed for a couple of hours the first two days, which cut into the pros' fishing time.
However, those with radar could negotiate the soupy stuff safer and a little faster. Many shared stories of how the radar prevented them from running into other vessels on the water.
Lowrance is the only company with technology that allows radar to be used safely at head level and is working diligently to create a unit and mounting apparatus that takes up less space on a boat.
"It opened our eyes to the advantages of this technology," said Texan Gary Klein. "We can see where we're going after dark, and if there is fog on practice days, we won't be forced to sit on shore waiting for it to lift."
Bass were holding tight to stumps, but because the water was dirty, it was difficult to see them. VanDam used his Humminbird Side Imaging to locate stumps away from the boat to help him make more efficient casts.
Federation Nation qualifier Brandon Palaniuk used his Lowrance StructureScan to locate stumps in practice. He then "saved" them as waypoints on his graph. Many of those waypoints produced key fish to lift the rookie to a fourth-place finish.
Whenever VanDam and others located a stump, they lowered their Power-Poles into the bottom to hold boats in position so they could make repetitive casts and trigger the non-aggressive bass into striking. The Poles were especially advantageous the last day when the wind picked up and made boat positioning difficult.
Of course, we'd be remiss to not point out refinements in the performance of the boats and outboards themselves. Twenty years ago, anglers wouldn't consider making 100-mile runs, yet half the Classic field did it with ease.
Our equipment just keeps getting better, adding to the enjoyment and safety of spending a day on the water.