More tech tidbits.... 
by Daniel Kiazyk

As Bob Dylan sang some time ago, "The Times They are a Changin'", so it goes with fishing of late. Fishing technology is changing at such a rapid pace that what was new last year has now been surpassed by something only dreamt of in the past. Some ask." So what?" Is this stuff important? Well to be frank some of the changes are so revolutionary that previously tried and true approaches could in my opinion even be reworked or refined to become a whole new way of thinking about a species and/or fishing for that species.

One tiny disclaimer I'll make from the start is that I've fallen victim (as have most in this consumption driven economy) to acquiring stuff that ends up being a fad or even junk. However in the case of the tech listed below I'll suggest that these particular items of tech have had a significant impact upon how I now approach fishing in certain circumstances.

A particular circumstance comes to mind when thinking of how new tech has had an impact upon my personal fishing approach to Fall walleye. Normally I'd wait too long before moving while jigging in the Fall on the Red River. What I mean by this is that walleye on the Red normally follow a rhythm of starting out shallower in the morning than moving deeper throughout the day to deeper haunts only to return to shallower water at the end of the day. So what new tech could assist in determining their movement through the day?

Well, side finder technology can alert you to where the fish might be passing in greater concentrations throughout the day. Just looking at a side scan over the period of time will tell you if the fish have moved shallower or deeper. And so it was last Fall when after having no bites for forty minutes we looked to the side finder to note that the walleye (or other fish in the system for whatever reason) had moved off deeper towards the river`s channel. How did we know they were walleye? Well we didn't…we simply hypothesized and needed to verify that hypothesis with a move….and we weren't disappointed!

If you have side scan capabilities with your sonar you probably have high definition down-imaging as well. So what? How does this capacity create the possibility for more effective angling? Well the best example I can think of relates to a well fished spot on the Red River in the Fall. This spot has some jagged rocks at its northerly extremities that made my older sonar interpret/indicate the structure as being fish – this was not unusual as I had noticed on more than one occasion that when left on when parked in the driveway it would also see fish lol!. In effect the older unit was just picking up the jagged rock edges in that section of the river. Well when I went in there with down imaging I could see very clearly that the structure was anything but fish.

However this technology also provided for some surprises in that same area as well. In that same area where my other sonar unit was being fooled to think there was fish, I found an adjacent deeper area that regularly held a school of walleye that were willing to bite a crankbait trolled through those craggy rocks and off into the deeper area. Sometimes that greater resolution gives you an added edge wherein the past you'd be operating with a guess at best.

Another interesting development that allows for a shift in how you approach a fishery on any given day is Minnkota's new I-Pilot technology. Trying to repeat a trolling route in the past wasn't all that precise a process. In some instances I would have difficulty situating my boat out in Lake Winnipeg's Traverse bay even when using a GPS screen on some of my more advanced sonar units. However, putting in a route into a trolling unit that allows you to guide yourself around an area with a trolling motor positioned with GPS coordinates makes navigating in big water that much easier. Now with the capacity to save at least five routes, the opportunity to repeat those same routes on another occasion is a possibility. In areas with few points of reference a system like the I-Pilot is a definite advantage. I've been known to get lost when it gets foggy or a bit dark (especially when it comes to picking apart an area with some precision). With this new system the chance of missing out on what we now call our "home run troll" is negligible.

Part of the I-Pilot unit that is really unique is the virtual anchor function where with the push of one button the motor holds the boat in one position almost as if it had been anchored… As a guide the virtual anchor can save the day –or at least make the day that much more manageable when I'm trying to help someone and am doing something else like unhooking a fish or taking a photo or video. Multi-tasking guides know what I'm talking about when a whole bunch of factors conspire to make a day really, really tough. Having this technology to stay in a desired/safe place with just the push of a button can be a real game changer.

One tech tidbit I've found to be especially significant for my fishing over the past five years is the map chips that are now being made available to the public. OK, chips have been around for some time now but the newer chips are very easy to update and they are now including a "social" dimension where others have an opportunity to include information that is shared as a part of the update process. Map chips do include more information than ever for some areas of the US….however up here in Canada it'll be some time before the 3D maps will be made available to us.

Perhaps the newest tech that's out there that I'm dreaming of at the moment is the connection that has been made between a sonar unit and a trolling motor. Not that this idea is a new one – remember the PinPoint units of the 90's- but with the newer more powerful sonar units and the mapping tech that we now use this tech option has some particularly intriguing possibilities. Perhaps sometime in the near future I'll be able to report on how this technology works.

Perhaps the only downside to what I've been reporting on here is the capital intensive nature of this new fishing tech. I'm not sure we all need all the stuff that is being generated by this industry that has changed so dramatically over the past 10 years. Where will it stop? No one knows for sure but if the recent changes are any indication there are a lot of positive possibilities that are yet to come!