Category Archives: Fishing Tackle

Rods and reels to live bait

Bass Boats Have Come A Long Way In 44 Years

My first bass boat was a 1974 17-foot Arrowglass with a 70 horsepower two stroke Evinrude motor, foot controlled 12 volt trolling motor with about 40 pounds of thrust and a Lowrance flasher depthfinder on the console. It would run about 35 miles per hour top speed. It had an Anchormate on both ends, a winch that raised and lowered a ten-pound mushroom shaped anchor. There was on car battery that cranked the boat and ran everything on it.

The trailer was a single axle one with 12-inch tires. I carried a paper lake map with me that showed the basic outline of the lake. I did order a contour map of Clarks Hill, a 52-page book with pages two feet square, that showed depth contours in five-foot intervals. I put sections of it on the wall in my lake trailer.

The Arrowglass had a live well of sorts, that would fill about four inches deep with water to keep fish alive, but it did not work very well. The boat was top of the line at the time, and cost just under half my annual teacher’s salary when bought new.

When I joined the Sportsman Club that April I had the second biggest motor in the club, there was one 100 horsepower, and the second longest boat. Most boats were 14-foot Sing Fishers with 40 horsepower motors and stick steering.

Now I have a top of the line 2016 20-foot Skeeter with a 250 horsepower four stroke motor that will fly down the lake at over 75 miles per hour if I get in a hurry. The trolling motor is a foot controlled 36-volt 112 pound thrust one that will zip the boat along on high and hold it in any wind as long as the waves are not so high they lift the front of the boat get the motor out of the water. It requires four big deep cycle batteries to run everything.

There are two live wells that hold about 20 gallons of water. Pumps pull water from the lake to fill them and constantly put in fresh water. Other pumps recirculate the water, keeping it oxygenated, and with the pull of a valve will pump the water out of them to drain then faster than just opening the plug, which can be done remotely.

On the back are two Power Pole shallow water anchors. With a push of a button I can extend or retract poles that go down eight feet deep to hold the boat in one place. There are two Humminbird Helix 10 depthfinders on the front and two more on the console, each with 10-inch screens. The trailer is a dual axle with 14-inch tires. It cost almost 20 times as much as my first boat, even though I bought it used. Although my salary had gone up a bit before I retired, the used boat cost almost a full year’s pay.

The change in deptfinders is unreal. My old Lowrance had a light that spun around a dial marked in depth numbers and flashed when its sonar pulse hit something. Thats why they were called “flashers.” The bottom showed as a constant bright line and anything above the bottom, like a fish or brush, flashed at its depth.

My Helix 10s are like TV screens. Just the electronics on my new boat sell for more than three times the total cost of my first boat. They are networked together and can be divided into windows and all four will show everything that shows up on any of them. A GPS map shows bottom contours of the lake with great detail and I can highlight a depth.

If I want to fish from 5 to 10 feet deep I can highlight it in red and keep my boat just outside it to fish that depth consistently. I can also see shallow spots to avoid as I run down the lake and put in waypoints to exactly mark a brush pile or anything else I want to go back to.

The depthfinder part is an LCD that shows a moving picture of whatever is below the boat, in color. It will show in detail brush, stumps and fish. The down and side scan paint a picture that looks like a photo, with brush, stumps and rocks looking just like they would look if you were able to see them. Fish show up as small white dots.

Even more amazing on the front is a 360 Scan transducer. The image it produces looks like a radar screen with a line going around a circle picture. It scans all around the boat, showing rocks, brush and fish ahead, to the sides and even behind the boat. I have mine set on 60 feet, so I see everything within that distance of the boat.

My first boat was a tri hull that was stable while fishing but pounded through waves and jarred you if the water was rough. My new boat is stable while fishing but will cut through two to three-foot waves with little bouncing. It is three feet longer and much heavier, which helps a lot.

Do I need all the stuff I now have? No. Do I like having it? Yes. Do all the advancements help me catch more fish? Maybe. After all the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

Fishing Lake Seminole with Buddha Baits

On Wednesday, January 31, I went to Lake Seminole and met Jason Smith to get information for the March Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News Map of the Month articles. Since Seminole is a border lake with parts of it in both Georgia and Alabama the article runs in both states.

Jason lives in Albany and fishes Seminole often. He is owner of Buddha Baits and makes and sells fishing tackle. He makes jigs, spinnerbaits, and worms, and also makes rods. He will start selling a line of reels this year and also has a branded fishing line.

Jason fished a local pot tournament on the Seminole Winter Trail at Seminole a couple of weeks ago and weighed in five bass weighing 24 pounds and did not get a check! Seminole has been on fire for big bass this winter, with five pounders common and many bigger fish.

Seminole is different from any lake in our area. It is very shallow, with miles of grass beds, sand bars and stump fields. The dam in in Florida on the Apalachicola River, just past the junction of the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers. It is so far south that bass often bed there in January, much sooner than lakes around here.

We started as the sun rose, fishing a deep creek channel bend. The cold winter has kept the bass deeper this year, but they are full of eggs and ready to move up and spawn. This creek bend was just off a point that leads back into a spawning flat, a classic setup for pre-spawn bass.

Jason caught a five pound plus largemouth on his Inseine Jig and I missed a bite on my jig. (note – I landed a 4.85 pound largemouth on one of Jason’s spinnerbaits at Lanier in my next club tournament) With a big bass in the livewell for pictures, we started running around the lake, marking spots for the March map and fishing some of them. It was still a few weeks early for the bass to be on these spawning areas, but they were nearby, and we caught several on grassbeds out from the spots we marked.

It was a cold day, especially when fishing in the wind or running down the lake at 60 mph. But sitting in the sun after the wind died was very warm. Warmer weather over the next few weeks will warm the water and move the bass to the places we marked.

Seminole is about four hours from Griffin, but the roads are good, with four lane most of the way. Bainbridge has good motels and restaurants. I stayed at the Days Inn and was impressed with the friendliness of the staff and how helpful they were, filling every request I made quickly and efficiently.

Plan a trip there in the next couple of months and you may catch a limit of five-pound bass, or one so big you want to have it mounted. Just be considerate of other fishermen.

What Is the Most Important Improvement In

Bass fishing equipment has made unreal advancements in my lifetime. When my uncles took me fishing in my preteen years we went in wooden jon boats, usually homemade, and paddled them around ponds and backwaters of Clarks Hill. Fishing was always close to where we put in, paddling very far was too hard.

My job was to scull the boat, working the paddle quietly without taking it out of the water, while my one of my uncles fished from the front of the boat. Maneuvering around was difficult and we fished slowly. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I got to make a few casts with my trusty Mitchell 300 spinning reel while my uncle paddled.

Line was a black braid that broke all to easily, or the new-fangled monofilament line that was stiff, weak and hard to tie. Lures were wooden, hand painted creations like Jitterbugs, Hula Poppers or Lazy Ikes. Sometimes we fished a Crème “rubber” worm with a two or three hook harness and a small spinner up front. They came in two colors, black or red.

We used the paddle for a depthfinder and usually fished water where it would touch the bottom. Fish were kept on stringers, either metal chains with clips or cords with a ring at one end and a metal shaft on the other. All fish were kept to eat.

Now bass boats fly over the water at amazing speeds while electronics show depth, water temperature and exactly what is under and out to the side of the boat, like looking at a picture. Rods and reels are light and trouble free and line comes in so many choices it gets confusing.

You need only to walk into Berry’s Sporting Goods to see the vast array of shapes, color and sizes of plastic worms and huge numbers of hard baits that will run from the top down to more than 30 feet. And they come in colors that look exactly like bait.

Bass are put in live wells with pumps that keep fresh water circulating to keep the fish alive, and almost all are released. Pictures are taken with cell phones to share with hundreds of people on social media. And you can win money in tournaments.

But what is the most important advancement for actual fishing. There are discussions of this in magazines and on-line. People have varying ideas but to me, without a doubt, the most important improvement is the foot-controlled trolling motor on the front of the boat.

You can sit or stand on the front of the boat and, with practice, move the boat precisely, without even thinking about what you are doing, while casting. You can go into tight places quietly and cast to spots that would be inaccessible without the trolling motor.

What do you think the most important of all those changes over the past 60 years?

How Many Guns Should I Be Allowed To Own?

“Why was the Las Vegas shooter allowed to have 48 guns? No one should be allowed to have 48 of anything,” so spoke either a main stream media talking head or a comedian. I often can not tell the difference. He went on to say, “If you have 48 cats you are called a ‘crazy cat woman.’

That was just a small example of the unhinged comments from liberals demanding control over the rest of us based on their prejudices. As is often said, and demonstrated, it is not about guns, it is about control.

Do you own 48 of anything? Should you be controlled and should the government confiscate anything the liberals do not want you to own?

I am not sure exactly sure how many guns I own, I have not counted lately. I may have more than 48 and I definitely have thousands of rounds of ammo for them. Not a single one of them has ever hurt anyone and never will, unless I am threatened. It is not up to comedians, actors, talking heads or politicians, all with armed security, to tell me how many I can own.

Two very liberal politicians actually told the truth, a real surprise. California Senator Diane Feinstein, who wants to ban all guns, admitted no gun control law could have affected the Las Vegas shooting, then called for more gun control laws in response to that shooting. That is the definition of illogical.

California Representative (see a pattern here) Nancy Pelosi, in response to a question about people’s fear that any new law would be a “slippery slope” toward a total gun ban, responded “I hope so.”

What ever happened to “Saturday Night Specials?” Just a few years ago gun banners were claiming that outlawing inexpensive revolvers, so called “Saturday Night Specials,” would solve gun crime. Now their mantra is “semiautomatic” or “bump stock.” They will use anything to try to get their control over those of us who disagree with their agenda. They use any crisis or tragedy to try to control the rest of us.

Arms are the only physical thing citizens are guaranteed a right to own in the constitution. But folks like movie producer Michael Moore want to take the 2nd Amendment out of the constitution. It inhibits their ability to control the rest of us.

If laws kept people from getting things, we would have no cocaine, meth or heroin problem. To see how effective gun laws are, read any crime report. It is illegal for felons to have a gun, but almost every arrest record says, “also charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.”

Laws do not control criminals, only us law abiding citizens.

What Are Wind Knots and How Can I Stop Them?

A Cure for Wind Knots
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

Microwave guides have been around for a few years but somehow I never got around to buying a rod built with them, even though I was a friend of Doug Hannon, the inventor. Doug, gone much too soon, is remembered as “The Bass Professor”, a name I saddled him with in a story in Outdoor Life Magazine nearly four decades ago. He came up with the weedless trolling motor prop, the Wave Spin reel and many other patented angling inventions.

The Microwave system includes a unique “guide within a guide” that funnels the broad loops from the spinning reel spool down to a small passage which Hannon said was key not only to casting distance, but also to reducing the “wind knots” that are a frequent problem in some open-faced spinning setups.

Don Morse, head rod builder for American Tackle, which sells the Microwave guides, is one of their chief advocates. It should be noted that American Tackle sells a wide variety of premium guides, so Morse has no particular ax to grind in pushing Microwaves.

“Line comes off a spinning reel in these huge loops on a cast, and those loops, we can see in high speed video, remain in the line and drag across the lower guides well up the rod on a conventional spinning rod,” says Morse. “The high-speed video shows that with the Microwave system, all that looping comes out on the first guide, and the line runs straight through the other guides and out the tip-top from there. It cuts drag, it cuts vibration, and it really makes for a much smoother, more accurate cast.”

Another consideration is the reduction of wind-knots, which under some conditions can drive anglers nuts. Particularly when throwing jerkbaits and topwaters, the constant slacking and then jerking of rod and line create an ideal situation for loops to form around the guides. Wind knots form when an extra loop of line comes off the lip of the spool ahead of the running line.

If the Microwave guide system can eliminate these knots, that alone would make them worth using on specialty rods dedicated to jerkbait and topwater fishing, for those anglers who prefer spinning gear to baitcasting.

I had an opportunity to test one of these rods recently, with 9 of the Microwave guides mounted on a 7’2″ Bushido Warrior graphite blank in medium power, medium-fast tip. I put in a couple of four-hour mornings working over the bass at Lake Guntersville, in northeast Alabama, with this rod mounted with a Shimano Symetre in the 2500 size loaded with 10-pound-test Power Pro, throwing an assortment of topwaters and jerkbaits between a half ounce and 3/4 ounce.

I got a wind knot on maybe the third cast of the first morning, realized I had too much line on the spool, cut off about 50 feet, and then went on to never see another wind knot in the two mornings of casting and jerking. I don’t normally get many wind knots because of habits I’ve had beaten into me by a lot of good anglers, including closing the bail manually, but I do get some–the Microwave guide setup appeared to be an improvement over the conventional rod I had been using for this duty. The casts were smooth and accurate, and the guides do a good job of bringing out the power of the blank in fighting fish. They’re also light enough to make a nice balance with the 2500-size reel on a Fuji handle.

The guide set is fairly pricey, $49.95 for 8 microguides, the Microwave main “funnel” guide and the tip top. This is in line with top-quality Fuji and other premium guides, but it definitely adds to the price of the finished rod. You generally won’t see Microwave guides on value-priced tackle–they’re usually coupled with top-shelf blank and handle. To learn more about these guides, visit

Waterproof Spinning Reels

Waterproof Spinning Reels Promise Long Life
By Frank Sargeant
from The Fishing Wire

For anglers who wade or fish from kayaks, in particular, the affordable new Tsunami Shield spinning reel is likely to become a favorite primarily because it’s engineered with a series of 10 seals that the manufacturer says will make the interior parts permanently waterproof so long as the seals are intact.

As all who wade-fish or cast the surf regularly are aware, there’s no way a reel is not going to get dunked occasionally. Fresh water does minimal harm if it’s not loaded with mud and if allowed to dry out, but a saltwater soaking, even once, assures big trouble if the reel is not completely disassembled and re-lubed. Simply rinsing won’t do it. If internal corrosion gets started, the reel’s days are numbered.

Tackle used in kayaks, which sits just inches above the water, is also subject to a whole lot of water exposure.

Those who fish spinning tackle offshore also run into this problem. Reels used in open water boats are unlikely to get fully submerged, but they may get hit with heavy salt spray all the way out and all the way back–few center console boats really keep the spray out of the cockpit on a hard run upwind on a bumpy day. The sealing system should give the Shield reels a huge advantage in all these situations if it works as advertised.

The screws are all secured with LocTite, which assures that they stay put through a lot of hard use and vibration in the boat. (To remove the side plates for annual cleaning, a special tool is required–it’s provided in the box.)

There are some other reels that also are designated waterproof but they are very expensive, including the Shimano Stella, which goes for almost $800(!) and several from Van Staal, starting at $450. Daiwa’s Saltiga line, similarly pricey, advertises sealed bearings, rather than sealing the entire reel. The Tsunami Shield, a made-in-China reel, obviously lacks some of the features of these high-end reels, but it’s a whole lot more affordable, with the 3000 and 4000 sizes $99.99, the 5000 and 6000 $109.99. Whether you could take the Tsunami with you to swim a bait out through the surf, as some have done with the Van Staal models, remains to be seen, but for the difference in price they are definitely worth a try.

They’re built to handle some serious drag, as well, with up to 20 pounds of pressure in the 3000 and 4000 sizes, which makes the reels good for bass fishing in heavy weeds and for handling reef species around cover. For those who take on big-running fish like bonefish and permit on the flats or kings offshore, the drag is butter smooth and starts without any tendency to stick, even at heavier settings.

They have five bearings, compared to nine in a $389.95 Shimano Sustain 3000, but they’re very smooth in operation and the all-aluminum frame should keep everything well aligned and functioning right for years. They are somewhat heavier than some more expensive models, at 9.5 ounces for the 3000 model, compared to 8.3 ounces for the Sustain 3000, a minimal difference but perhaps a point to consider for all-day anglers. For details on the Shield, see

Building Tree Houses – Growing Up Wild In Georgia

Do kids still build tree houses? That was always a favorite summer activity of mine. From the one in the pecan tree in my front yard to the ones we built down in the woods, they ranged from simple platforms ten feet high to complex ones so far up we put side boards on it to keep from falling out.

The house I grew up in had five pecan trees. There was a huge one in from of the house, another big one to one side and a third in the edge of the field past mama’s flower bed. There were two more smaller trees right beside the ditch on Iron Hill Road to the same side as the flower bed.

One of those smaller trees had a big limb about ten feet from the ground that was perfect for the base of a tree house. Boards nailed to the tree trunk provided a ladder for access. Then two by fours nailed to the limb made the base, with braces going back to the trunk below them.

I rebuilt that one several times over my youth as the boards rotted and became unsafe. I spent many summer days sitting in it, cooled by any breeze that filtered through the limbs and shaded by the leaves above me. I felt completely hidden from the world watching the occasional car or truck that passed just a few feet away. And although mama knew where I was, I could not see the house from my platform.

Taking sandwiches and a drink up in the tree to eat made many summer lunches pass quickly. In the fall there were always pecans on the platform for a snack. One special place was a limb knot hole right beside the platform where I often found pecan hulls where a blue jay or wood pecker had stuck a nut in the small hole and used it as a vice to hold its lunch as it pecked away the shell and ate the meat.

The highest tree house we ever built was in a huge pine tree behind Harold’s house. My memory tells me it was way too high but it was probably no more than 30 feet from the ground, still scary enough for a 12-year-old. It was hard work hauling the boards up that high, either pulling them up with a rope or passing them hand over hand between Harold, Hal and me while we perched with one leg hooked over a limb.

The platform on this one was probably 10 feet square, sitting on a big limb parallel to the ground. Another limb below that one that ran up at more of an angle provided a great place for supports so we could build it bigger. It was cross braced and around the edges we had nailed one by eights to provide a small lip.

We actually slept up there in our sleeping bags one time but near the base of it was our camp. We made prefab walls and a roof and struggled to get them the couple of hundred yards to the site. The three sided shed was a great place to store wood for a dry fire starter and some tools we used every time we camped there.

A rock fire pit with a homemade spit, made from two forked limbs and a cross piece with the bark stripped, was used for roasting squirrels and birds. We cooked breakfast in our mess kits on that fire and also put our “camp dinners” on it. Those were the big patty of ground beef topped by potatoes, onions, carrots and butter wrapped in tinfoil.

Other tree houses ranged from not much bigger than what I now put up for a deer stand to platforms we could lay one and stretch out. We never had anything like the fancy prefab “tree” houses on posts you see in yards nowadays. They are often nowhere near a tree, usually put up by the parents, and very complex.

I can’t help but believe kids are missing something by building their own houses down in the woods, all by themselves, with no adult supervision or help, like we did.

Spring Trout Strategies

Surefire Spring Trout Strategies
Tips from trout expert Bernie Keefe that will improve your action anywhere trout are found.
from The Fishing Wire

Late winter is a time of transition for trout and the anglers who pursue them. Admittedly, figuring out productive patterns while shifting from ice fishing to open-water mode can be intimidating, but those who know where and how to tackle spring trout can enjoy some of the year’s best fishing.

“Rainbow trout are a great example,” says veteran trout guide Bernie Keefe. “They’re active, hungry and willing to bite.”

Keefe targets tributaries and lakes in the Colorado high country a short cast west of Denver, but his spring rainbow strategies produce results in systems across the continent.

One part of his game plan hinges on the spring spawning run. “Lake-run rainbows migrate into tributary streams, and resident river fish may also move upstream and even into smaller tributaries,” he explains. “They run up rivers and streams until they find suitable spawning sites, which usually offer the right mix of gravel and riffles.”

Clam Caviar Drop Jig
Keefe doesn’t disturb spawning fish, preferring to let them focus on their efforts to continue the species. Instead, he keys on areas just below spawning sites. “With a good pair of polarized glasses, you can often see the spots where trout have cleaned mud or silt off the gravel for their spawning beds,” he says. “When you spot a bedding area, watch for dark shadows moving around just downstream. These trout are feeding on eggs and ripe for the catching.”

Small, egg-imitating jigs like the Clam Caviar Drop Jig are a top pick for such situations. “Because you’re sight-fishing trout in shallow water, often only 10 feet away from the bank, swinging the bait gently out to the fish with a lob-style cast is key,” he adds.

To execute such maneuvers, he gears up with a medium-light power, 7-foot, moderately fast action Fenwick HMX spinning rod spooled with 6-pound-test Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon line. “A long rod allows you to swing the jig out for a quiet splashdown just upstream of the fish,” he says. “Let the jig fall to bottom, then, holding the rodtip high, bounce the jig downstream. When the jig stops or you feel a bite, set the hook.”

While the rainbow’s wariness is legendary, Keefe says the smorgasbord of eggs drifting down from the beds often overrides such caution. “There’s so much food coming down to the fish, they get so caught up in feeding you can often catch five or six fish from one spot,” he says.

Keefe also bounces egg-imitating jigs in deeper holes, where trout hold en route to feeding and spawning areas. “Doll flies, tubes and marabou jigs also work in the holes,” he adds. “These resting fish aren’t moving much, so methodically work each hole before pulling the plug on it. The good news is, if you get bit, chances are there’s more than one fish down there.”

To cap off a perfect day on the tributaries, Keefe often heads for the lake in late afternoon. “Whether the ice is off or just starting to pull away from the bank, shorecasting open water off points, along dark shorelines and near incoming streams is a great way to pick up a few more fish before calling it a day,” he says. “Low-light conditions toward evening are great, but the fish may bite all day long if it’s overcast. Small jerkbaits like Berkley Flicker Shads and Flicker Minnows work great.”

Keefe also throws 3- to 4-inch softbaits such as a Berkley Gulp! Jerk Shad or PowerBait Minnow on a 1/8- to 3/8-ounce jig head, directing long casts toward deep water offshore. “Let the jig fall to bottom and swim it back by raising your rodtip, then reeling in slack
as you lower the rod back toward the water,” he says.

Together with the tributary tactics, Keefe’s lakeshore tricks offer the means to enjoy great rainbow trout fishing during the dreaded seasonal transition as winter fades away. Use them to make this your best spring yet.

For more information or to book a trip with Keefe, visit: or call (970) 531-2318.

What Is Kayaking for Fitness?

Kayaking for Fitness
By the West Advisor Staff
from The Fishing Wire

If you have resolved to get into shape in the coming New Year, consider paddling your way to fitness on a kayak. The physical benefits of kayaking include core conditioning, increased aerobic capacity and weight loss. The psychological and social benefits include stress reduction and the enjoyment of making new friends among the world’s growing armada of paddling fanatics. And if you’re an angler, these lightweight, launch-anywhere vessels can open up a whole new world of fishing opportunities.

Core Conditioning

Paddling a kayak helps to strengthen your “core” muscle groups, which are the major muscles of your trunk that move, support and stabilize your spine. The small, but constant muscle movements required to balance in a kayak, along with the rotational movement of paddling work together to build core strength.

With repeated paddling excursions, your core muscle groups will progressively strengthen—along with your abilities as a kayaker. Core conditioning also offers off-the-water benefits. For example, lifting a heavy object, reaching down or reaching up to a shelf all become easier when your core muscle groups are strong.

Aerobic fitness

Paddling against wind and waves is a sure-fire way to “increase the burn”.

The constant exertion required to paddle a kayak increases a paddler’s respiration rate, which over time can help improve the ability of his or her lungs, heart and vascular system to deliver oxygen to muscles via the blood. The benefits of being aerobically fit include improved endurance, decision-making capability, concentration and mental alertness.

Lose weight

Will paddling a kayak help you to lose weight? The answer is yes. According to Men’s Fitness, paddling a kayak burns about 205 calories per hour, depending on conditions. And according to the Mayo Clinic, one pound of body weight equals about 3,500 calories—so provided you adhere to a regular program of paddling exercise and watch your caloric intake, you will slowly but surely burn away those pounds! To increase the burn, paddle against the wind and current.

Stress less

Legions of paddlers have discovered that shoving off in a kayak onto their favorite lake or river is a great way to break with the stress of daily life and enjoy our natural world. Evidence of this can be seen in a random sampling of quotes posted by kayakers at “If in doubt, paddle out”, “A day on the lake restores the soul” and “I don’t need therapy, I just need to go kayaking”.

Friends and family

Due to the tremendous popularity of kayaking, most areas near the water have some sort of paddling club—so you can get healthy and fit while making new friends. And of course, kayaking is a sport that the whole family can enjoy.

Gear requirements

If you don’t have a kayak already, there are plenty from which to choose. Choices include sit-on-top kayaks, sit-inside kayaks, and inflatable kayaks, each with its own unique set of features. For help in selecting a kayak, see our Kayak Finder. Along with a kayak, you will also need a paddle. For help in selecting a paddle, see Selecting the Right Kayak Paddle.

Besides your kayak, you will also need to gear up for a safe time on the water. First and foremost, you will need a paddlesports life jacket, one that’s designed for paddling and that won’t hinder your paddling range of motion. And if you think you might be paddling out of shouting distance from shore, we suggest you equip yourself with a handheld VHF radio.

For some kayakers, the most difficult part of the sport is raising their kayak on to a vehicle’s kayak rack or carrying the kayak from their car to the beach. The kayak accessories that we offer include special carts and hoisting systems to make loading or manually transporting your kayak easier.

Other items to consider are a small set of pyrotechnic signals (flares) and a basic first aid kit, which should include lip balm and a topically applied sun shield. The first aid kit and other odds and ends should be kept in a dry bag.

For more information on the gear you will need, and/or if you are new to the sport, see our Beginner’s Guide to Kayaking.

Know your limits

If you are new to kayaking, we suggest that you gently ease into the sport, being careful not to exceed your physical limits. If you have a medical condition that might limit your ability to participate in kayaking, check with your doctor. Beyond the exercise and physical conditioning that paddling a kayak affords, the basics can be learned in a day or two. After that, you can continue to improve as you paddle on into the years.

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Advances in Sonar

Advances in Sonar: ‘Instant Fishing Feedback’ with New Garmin Tech
Lake Commandos host Steve Pennaz discusses real-world applications for Garmin Panoptix LiveVü Down

By Steve Pennaz
from The Fishing Wire

When Garmin introduced Panoptix a few years back, I viewed the potential of this new technology through the eyes of both an angler and a television producer.

Garmin calls Panoptix “all-seeing sonar” as it allows you to view what’s below and to the side of the boat in three dimensions and in real time.

What fascinated me about Panoptix was the opportunity to not only locate fish, but actually watch—and digitally capture—their reaction to a presentation like a swimming crankbait, jig or live bait beneath the boat.

For decades, anglers have been using traditional 2D sonar to vertically present baits to fish visible on their sonar screen. The difference is, and it’s huge, Panoptix allows you to do this not only in the vertical water column directly below the boat, but also to the front, side and rear!

I have used both Panoptic Forward and Panoptix Down for the past two years on a variety of waters while targeting largemouth, crappie, walleye, smallmouth and other species.

I’ll focus on Panoptix Down here and save the discussion on Panoptix Forward for a future date.

The Technology

Panoptix starts with Garmin’s Panoptix Down transducer, which delivers three views: LiveVü Down, RealVü 3D Historical and RealVü 3D Down, even when the boat is stationary.

LiveVü Down—Although I’ve been using all three Panoptix down-looking technologies, LiveVü Down is the game-changer I’m using on nearly every single fishing trip.

With a push of a button I can adjust the angle of sonar to look forward or back. This allows me to tweak view for boat movement and desired presentation.

With LiveVü Down I can not only tell when fish are beneath the boat, but how far they are off the bottom and even what side of the boat they are on! The practical value of this is incredible as it allows me to drop or pull baits directly in front of the fish… and then watch their reaction to it in real time.

The video clips provided show actual fish response to presentations as viewed on Panoptix.

RealVü 3D Historical scrolls through data as the boat moves to show a history of the entire water column, from the bottom to the surface and all of the fish in between. Bottom contours and fish pop in vivid color and three dimensions.

3D Historical views are incredibly detailed and I use to gain a true understanding of the structure I am fishing.

RealVü 3D Down digitally scans the area below the boat from front to back and side to side. A full 3D view of the area under the boat is constructed, showing bottom contour changes, fish and structure, even while stationary.

Value of Real-Time Viewing

I am not new to real-time viewing… it’s been part of the ice fishing scene for a couple decades now. But to have a system that works so well in open-water situations is a major improvement.

One of the biggest revelations with LiveVü Down has been learning about how active fish really are, and how far they will chase a bait.

After decades of watching static, half-moons scroll across a sonar screen, I had the impression fish basically stayed pretty motionless until moving to strike a bait. I was stunned to learn just how active fish often are. Schools seem to be in constant motion, especially if not tied to cover, and I witnessed a variety of species chase my bait 10 feet or even more.

Those that reject my presentation often rise quickly to the bait, then slam to a halt just below it. Some then slowly drift back to the bottom, while others scurry away as if spooked by the lure.

This feedback is valuable as it helps me quickly tweak jig strokes, and other things like speed and color more efficiently than ever before.

By species, here are some of the things I’ve learned.

Walleye Fishing

When it comes to walleye fishing, these machines have really changed the bottom-bouncing and live bait rigging game. When fish are located on the screen it tells you three things: 1) which side of the boat the fish are on; 2) distance of the fish from the boat; and, 3) location of fish relative to bottom.

When I or a fishing partner sees fish on screen while working structure, we say simply “left” or “right,” so we’re presenting two different baits to the fish.

It doesn’t matter if you are a weekend angler or a pro, this information is deadly effective. On numerous occasions I’ve had my fishing partners move their ‘bouncers or live bait rigs from one side of the boat to the other—then quickly hook up on fish.


Another great application for LiveVü Down is targeting suspended crappies or bluegills. Once located, what makes machines like this so powerful is the “instant fishing feedback.”

There is a noticeable difference between this technology and standard 2D sonar, which you quickly realize is slow by comparison and leaves out a lot of vital information.

In LiveVü Down, you actually see a real-time “trail” as the fish moves and reacts to your bait. Schools of crappies do not appear as Christmas tree-like forms; instead, you see each and every fish and can watch their individual movements in real-time.

A lot of times, several fish in the school will come up to your bait at the same time. I’ve always viewed fish as static, because when you go over them with traditional 2D Sonar, they’re always drawn with a half-moon arch. With this unit, I’m seeing fish do things I never imagined them doing. They’re chasing the bait, they’re coming way up… if you do something wrong they spook and slide back down.

By watching the fish react to presentations in real-time, you can tweak jigging cadence, bait style, size, color, depth, etc., as necessary. Sometimes simply changing colors makes a big difference. 


This summer, on a lake I fish often, I located several deep rock piles that often hold large schools of bass, as well as crappie, perch and walleye. On other lakes, I’ve located a bunch of big smallmouth by looking for larger boulders or fish cribs, and then fishing vertically on them.

Panoptix is so sensitive that I can see both my sinker and my bait when dropshotting. I can also tell you that very few things are more exciting than seeing a five-plus-pound smallmouth slide up to your bait, and then watch at least of a portion of the fight on screen as the fish bulldogs against a heavy drag!

I’ve noticed on several occasions that individual members of schools are often very active, while others are less likely to move any distance to take a bait. I’ve also found the “chasers” are typically smaller fish and by getting them to rise to the bait and then dropping it back to the school I catch larger fish on average.

One of the attached video clips shows this.

Parting Thoughts

No matter the species, the ‘instant fishing feedback’ that Garmin Panoptix LiveVü Down provides is a true gamechanger. It allows you to monitor fish response in real-time and quickly respond with changes in presentation. That’s translated to maximizing my time on the water… and a whole lot more fish.

Panoptix Forward and Down are currently compatible with Garmin’s GPSMAP 8000 Series, GPSMAP 7600 Series, GPSMAP 1040xs/840xs, GPSMAP 741xs, and echoMAP CHIRP Series. Each requires you to purchase specific transducer.

About Steve Pennaz

Steve Pennaz is a Hall of Fame angler who excels at finding and catching fish on new waters, a skill developed over 30 years of extensive travel in search of giant fish. His television series, Lake Commandos, Man vs. Lake vs. Man, helps anglers understand the steps to building successful patterns on the water.