New technologies make tournament fishing more efficient

Keith Combs

There’s been a lot of debate lately about the role of technology in fishing and where we should draw boundaries and limits. I’m not going to wade into that pool today, but I’m sure that none of us are completely anti-technology.

With that in mind, I want to highlight some of the recent innovations that make me a more efficient tournament angler without changing the competitive playing field. None of these are things that will make or break an angler, but they will make time on the water easier, more efficient and more enjoyable.

The first one is something that I was skeptical about at first, but it’s proven to be a huge time-saver. We have fewer issues on our boats than at any time in the past, but if you fish long enough some mechanical gremlin will pop up. If it happens at the wrong time, or in the wrong place, it can cost you valuable time or even money.

That’s why I’ve become a huge fan of the Ranger RIDE system on my Ranger 520R. It places all of my controls on one digital screen. If anything as small as a blown fuse goes out, I can quickly identify the problem and fix it rather than just floating in the middle of the lake going through a checklist and wasting valuable time.

Another under-the-radar change is the new Quest, Minn Kota’s first brushless trolling motor. The previous version of the Ultrex was an excellent piece of equipment, but this one is quieter, faster and more efficient. We all know how important it is to be stealthy, but it’s also critical to be able to fish longer days. With this trolling motor, I feel like I can stay out 30% longer with no loss in power. They beefed it up to be more durable and added a lift assist function to make it easier on your back.

The Quest works perfectly with Minn Kota’s One Boat Network. Not only does integrating all of my equipment make life on the water more efficient, but as with the RIDE system, in the rare instance something is not working properly I can diagnose it easily. More time on the water … less time wasted.

My Lithium Pro batteries are also part of that system. One 36-volt battery that weighs about 40 pounds has taken the place of three AGMs that weighed about 90 pounds each. Also, they’re NMEA 2000 compliant, so I can know my true voltage and lifespan at any given time. Combined with the relatively new Yamaha SHO charging system, I’ve yet to experience any loss in power. That gives me the confidence to run further and fish harder.

Finally, I know electronics are where much of today’s current debate is focused, but in terms of pure imagery, what we have today is light years beyond what we had just a few years back. My Humminbird Apex console units undeniably provide the best side-imaging pictures I’ve ever seen. I can graph places I’ve fished for years and learn new details.

In fact, I went back to the place where I won an Open on Rayburn just a few years back and now I understand it even better – and that’s because the detail allows me to see every last pebble on the bottom. Combined with the newest Lakemaster chip, the Lakemaster VX, I can find subtle things that other people overlook.

Again, none of these things will fundamentally change the way I fish, but each one gives me a little bit more confidence and a little bit more efficiency on the water. As the competition gets tougher and tougher every year, there’s no room for mistakes. You have to make use of every moment on the water and catch every ounce of bass that you can, and these tools help me in that pursuit.