The Controversy of Forward-Facing Sonar Continues

By Steve Graf

Technology is awesome today as cell phones, smart TVs and computers are just a few of the things where technology has advanced into mind blowing devices.  We have instant access to an information highway that mankind has never seen before. We can play video games on our cell phones and compete against individuals around the globe. No longer do we have to wait until the 6:00 news to get the weather forecast or to hear the latest trades our favorite sports teams have made. Information today is instantaneous!

Today we’ll look at the latest technology that has affected the fishing world and what some anglers are calling a controversial topic; forward facing sonar. What is forward facing sonar? It’s a sonar unit that allows you to see fish swimming up to 100 feet away in real time. These sonars reveal extreme details as you watch fish swim up and actually eat the bait you’re throwing. Basically, it’s a real time fishing video game!

So many anglers were against it and a lot were excited to have it. Opinions varied even among the top-level professional anglers when it first came on the scene. It was not well received by many tournament anglers as they felt it made fishing too easy and any angler could now start winning tournaments. Skills and instincts were no longer enough to win an event, but If you could read and understand what your screen was showing, you had a distinct advantage over other anglers.

The younger generation of anglers today, has adapted very quickly to this new technology. Today’s youth have grown up with cell phones an iPad or computers and are not intimidated by technology like so many older anglers who learn to fish by instinct or what they’ve learned over many years of fishing. But here’s the problem with technology. These new sonar units by Garmin, Lowrance, and Hummingbird are great but like all technology can go on the blink occasionally. The older generation anglers have an advantage when this happens as the younger anglers of today don’t have the instincts or the experience to fall back on.

Watching some of today’s top professional anglers, not all are fans of the forward-facing sonar. Anglers like Elite Series Pro John Cox (a shallow water angler) don’t even own one of these types of units because they’re not very effective in shallow water conditions of five feet or less. The general conscience by tournament anglers across the country is that if you don’t have forward-facing sonar, you can’t compete or win a tournament. This is not true as some of the best fishing pros today don’t use them, and many anglers are having tremendous success without it.  

So don’t feel like you must go out and spend $5000 for one of these high-tech sonar units. While they’re great if you know how to use and read one, it’s not the end all be-all answer for winning tournaments or catching fish. Time of year is also a factor when these forward-facing sonar units are more effective. Some anglers that I compete against are still winning and do not have one of these expensive sonar units. They are like any other tool in your fishing arsenal, it’s just a tool that’s only as good as the person using it.

Till next time, good luck, good fishing, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen and good protective outerwear when spending the day on a lake.