You don’t need forward-facing sonar

Greg Hackney

There’s been a lot of chatter — borderline hysteria — in social media and in chat rooms about forward-facing sonar.

Here’s the deal: It’s a tool and a good one. You will learn things about bass that you never knew because you can see them in places that were never considered, learn how they feed and how they react to your baits.

But frankly, you don’t need it to catch numbers of quality fish while your buddies are out there wandering around staring at a screen.

It has changed fishing. That’s what technological advancements do. Anytime something gets good and popular, everybody rushes out to do it.

But like technological advancements before it, the fact remains the fish seem to stay ahead of us at every step.

The new sonar has created fishing pressure on those fish, and eventually they will adjust. I’ve seen it happen over the years – whatever advantage we may gain we eventually lose over time.

I’m a Lowrance guy with the Active Target Forward Facing Sonar. As great as it is, I never turned it on through the first six Bassmaster Elites this year, and I still finished 20th in the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of Year standings.

The reason is I spent my practice learning the structure and how the fish were setting up. My eyes and experience worked best for me in those situations.

I did use it a lot the final three tournaments of the year — Lake St. Clair, Lake Champlain and St. Lawrence River. It was a blast and caught me a lot of fish. It is a valuable tool when fishing for those northern smallmouth.

Yet, I believe we are seeing forward-facing sonar the best it will ever become. As more people get it and use it, the fish won’t be as aggressive as they were early on.

That’s why I tell young guys who see forward-facing sonar as the future of bass angling to also learn how to fish without it.

The bass we’ve caught on structure and cover for years are still there. In fact, with so many anglers out in the middle of the lake scoping, there is less pressure on those areas that everyone used to fish.

When we were at Lake Champlain, there were miles and miles of weed beds and quality structure — places that once served as hotspots — being ignored.

Let’s be clear, I’m not against forward-facing sonar. The technology is here to stay and can be a valuable tool, but finding and catching bass the traditional way is and will remain the foundation of becoming a great angler.

Years ago, I learned to catch fish out of a johnboat with a set of oars. I guarantee you I can go back to those days and not only catch fish, but more fish because of the knowledge I gained.

So, don’t let being without the technology test your mental toughness. You have to resist worrying about anglers who have it and the fact you don’t. Continue to learn and explore bass fishing fundamentals in those areas of the lake being ignored. You’re going to catch good fish, and if and when you get the new sonar, you’ll be a much better angler than those who strictly rely upon the technology.