Forward-Facing Sonar….Is It Ethical?

Since the first-time man ever wet a hook, he has always looked for an advantage, a way to figure out the best way to catch fish. Bass anglers especially have been obsessed with trying to find and locate bass in all kinds of water clarity. But today, anglers have access to fish finding instruments that can read the date on a dime in 30 feet of water. I really believe you could navigate to Mars with the electronics anglers have on their boats today. Tournament anglers are spending $15,000 on their fish finding units for the sole purpose of catching bass. Not all tournament anglers can afford this, and it’s created a major advantage for those who can. It’s a case of the haves vs. the have nots. Tournaments are being won on a weekly basis with these forward-facing sonars. Due to these advancements, it’s no longer a level playing field. Which brings up the question…. Is it ethical? Have we made bass and crappie fishing too easy? Will this come back to bite anglers after a few years of using these high advanced fish locating devices?

To understand how far sonars have come, let’s first go back to the late 1960’s with an instrument known as a flasher. This device was what started the electronics revolution. It was a round digital sonar that registered the depth and showed anything between the bottom and the surface with a red flashing line. Just like any electronic device that’s new, these were not cheap and only anglers with deep pockets could afford one of these.

Then came the paper graph. Now this was truly cutting-edge technology that came out in the early 70’s. This unit would print out a paper copy of the contour of the bottom and show fish suspended and even along the bottom. You could see stumps, trees, and underwater grass. It was a true mapping of the entire water column. Anglers would take these printed copies and keep them on file for use in future events.

During the 1980’s, sonar became the craze of the fishing world as companies like Humminbird unleashed their LCR (Liquid Crystal Recorder) which was so advanced it was scary. This revolutionized the marine industry with its detailed structure, zoom capability, sensitivity control, high speed tracking, waterproofness, and a screen you could actually see in the bright sunlight, which was a big problem for earlier sonars.

Now fast forward to today with what Garmin calls “Livescope” and Lowrance calls “Active Target Live.” Garmin was the first to come out with this new forward-facing sonar. A unit that allows you to see fish up to 60 or 70 feet in front of your boat live and in real time. Now THIS is a game changer!!! Anglers now cannot only see fish swimming, but when they bite the lure. It’s basically a video game on the front of your boat!!! If you do not have this level of electronics on your boat today, you’re probably fishing for 2nd place.

But this level of technology has raised questions and has become a hot topic for anglers across America. Some want it banned and think it should not be allowed in tournament competition. They think it gives anglers an unfair advantage. But they would be wrong. No matter what device is ever invented, there’s been nothing that will make fish bite a lure. Even looking at fish on a screen does not guarantee success. Anglers still must figure out a way to trigger fish into biting. But forward-facing sonar does help to locate fish a lot quicker and it allows anglers to zero in on larger fish.

From an angler’s perspective, forward facing sonar (Garmin’s Live Scope) just might be the greatest invention the fishing industry has ever seen. Once again, from the first-time man has ever wet a hook, he has always looked for a way to make it easier to find and catch fish. This will never change and when it comes to technology, there is no telling what lies ahead with regards to the fishing industry. Till next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to set the hook!

Steve Graf
Daiwa/SPRO Pro Staffer


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