I’m 44 years old, and while that makes me something of a veteran on the Bassmaster Elite Series, it doesn’t seem like all that long ago that I first started fishing tournaments. The rods, reels and lines that I used back then seem primitive compared to what we use today, but the biggest change has been electronics.
When I first started competing we just had simple two-dimensional sonar – no mapping, no side-imaging, no down-imaging. Now, most serious anglers have all of those things, and the benefits they provide are significant. It left many of us wondering how much better they could get.
I’m here to tell you that the units we’re using now are substantially better than what we had even a few years ago, and for me that’s because of Humminbird’s 360 Mega imaging.
I first got introduced to the 360 technology in 2013. I took a display unit home from ICAST, put it on my boat, and went on to win the Texas Toyota Bass Classic on Lake Conroe. The huge advantage of looking out in front of the boat was immediately obvious. The addition of the Mega imaging makes it substantially better. You can look all around the boat, and you’ll see every fish, every stump, in amazing detail.
It’s not hard to learn, either. If you’re comfortable using side-imaging, this will be a snap. It’s really as simple as turning it on and setting your range. I usually run it 180 degrees in front of the boat and set my range to about 100 feet, the length of a cast.
The 360 unit paid for itself again in 2017 at Ross Barnett. I had a good first day, but the second day was windy and I was struggling. I went into a protected area just to try to fill out a limit. I’d never been there before, but there was a little sand point that I wanted to fish. As I eased up to it, I clearly saw a bream bed off to the side, in the middle of the cove, and I could see bass hovering around it.
I dropped my Talons, pitched out the Rage Bug that I’d rigged up for some docks, and immediately caught a 3 1/2-pounder. Then I saw another bream bed, made one flip, and caught another one that same size. I would have never known they were there without that technology. I might not have gotten a check that week, either, but I turned a tough day into a Saturday cut and a 28th-place finish. The new technology is so much clearer and so much easier to use that I feel like it’s a no-brainer.
Another piece of equipment that I added this season is the Shimano Metanium MGL baitcasting reel. Like the Mega 360, it’s not inexpensive, but once you get it in your hands you’ll realize what a powerful tool it can be. Previously, your sensitivity was transmitted primarily through your rod and your line, but this reel adds to that sensitivity substantially. With that one-piece magnesium frame, you can put it on a lower-end rod and you’ll still be able to feel a lot. On a high-end rod you’ll be able to easily feel every stump you hit and every soft bite.
In addition to enhanced sensitivity, the Magnumlite spool starts spinning a lot easier than anything else I’ve used, which makes it effortless with both heavy and very light baits. It’s a 150-sized reel, and many reels in that class only do well with the light stuff, but this one is good with a wider range of lure types and sizes.
You just focus on your target and it seems to read your mind. I know that sounds too good to be true, but that’s been my experience. My only problem with it is that I can’t get enough of them for all of the uses where I think it would excel.
I recognize that neither of these technologies or products are inexpensive. I’m fortunate to have access to just about anything I want to use, and I’m not shy about wanting the best of the best. I feel like I was already competing at a high level before they came along, but with their additions I’m already putting more and bigger fish in the boat.