Man vs Machine

1997 was an important year in technology.  Gary Kasparov lost to “Deep Blue” in a man vs computer chess match.  It was the first time that a Grand Master Chess Champion had been beaten by a computer.  There was a lot of “this is the beginning of the end” talk.  It was seen to be a turning point when computers had finally done it.  They had finally proved their superiority over man.  Nothing would ever be the same again.  Today, a chess app on your phone can beat the best chess players in the world.

Deep Blue. Today, many simple chess apps on your phone are far more powerful than Deep Blue.

In the world of bass fishing there have been many of these watershed moments, where it seemed as if the latest advent, tool, lure or technology was going to change the nature of the sport forever.  At each turn, the purists cried foul and longed for the good old days when men were men and knew how to catch fish without _(insert the latest thing)__.

These arguments were made after the first trolling motor, fish finder, and “Color-C-Lector” were introduced.  Various lures, (the latest being the often banned “Alabama Rig”) were often the target of much duress and gnashing of the teeth.

Taken as a whole, these tools have changed bass fishing.  The debate still rages over whether or not those changes have been for the better.  My personal opinion is that with each change, there has been an adjustment that is needed by the anglers, glitches, and bugs to overcome by the manufacturers and ethical/moral issues that the new technology presses onto society.  But despite all those issues, nearly every invention and innovation has been an advance.

Obviously, an unfair advantage.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

My experience with each of the technological innovations in bass fishing has been an initial regression of my fishing, followed by a giant progress toward a better outcome (often an unexpected outcome).  So more like one step forward, two steps back…five steps forward down a track I hadn’t seen before.  But only if I stick with it and figure out how to integrate the technology with real-life fishing.  In other words, the technology all by itself, straight out of the box, didn’t improve my fishing.  It was only after I adapted how I thought about fishing off the water and how I adjusted my actual time on the water that I realized any benefits.  I’ll offer some brief examples of what I mean.


I waypointed everything initially.  Every stick, rockpile, beaver hut, and certainly every fish catch.  After all, that was the whole idea, right?  In short order, I had hundreds, no thousands of waypoints that I could no longer remember the significance of.  Many subsequent outings where spent trying to remember why that “blue dot” was there.  Not productive to say the least.  It wasn’t until I started deleting waypoints that things started to click for me.  Now every winter, I go through my collection of waypoints and clean things up.  I like to start each season with a new set up modified waypoints created that winter and only uploaded to the unit as needed.  That forces me to actually work with the information and improve on it every year.


The idea of being able to see everything under the water is a great idea.  The reality, at least with the underwater cameras, is that it is a slow, tedious, frustrating experience, punctuated by finding fish that are often not catchable.  Underwater cameras or viewing devices fit into the category of “do you really want to see what you aren’t catching”?.  At the same time, if you got lucky and stumbled onto the right thing, the underwater camera would make it come together like nothing else could at that time.  So as a search tool, the Aqua-View is not the most efficient thing to use.  But as a way to clarify what it is that is actually down there and as a learning tool, underwater cameras are still worthwhile.

A great idea, but difficult to execute.

Side Imaging

I still remember the level of excitement I had when I got my first side-imaging unit.  I was going to uncover everything and own the river and any lake out there.  But once again, the initial experience was one of frustration.  The biggest thing was that there is a whole lot of nothing out there.  The second part was many of my best fishing spots existed where “nothing” was.  Talking about an unsettling feeling.  Side Imaging took me from “I’m going to find all the good spots” to “maybe a good spot is just random chance”.  It took and is still taking many more years of searching, experimenting and understanding for side imaging to show itself as worth the while.  But it most definitely is worth the while.  It is, in my opinion, the single most important tool to have and now with continuing advances and integrations with trolling motors, it will be THE combination to have.

Side Imaging can help you locate things like odd shaped rock-piles hidden upon miles and miles of sand bottom much more efficiently than regular sonar or an underwater camera could.

Spot Locking

There are two ways to really utilize spot locking.  I’m going to make the hunting analogy again.  In the first scenario, I am out hunting, hiking around and I see the nice buck and set up a temporary stand where I can best shoot from without spooking the buck.  In the second scenario, I set up a stand not being able to see the buck yet but believing based on my scouting and experience that the buck is going to be there.  The stand is set up in such a way that I get the best shot for the conditions at hand.  Both scenarios are helpful.  The second scenario is where the experience is really taken to another level.

Just like all the other examples, spot-lock technology or “smart trolling motors” will not automatically solve the puzzle.  Spot-locking on a location that is not holding fish won’t make you proud you coughed up that kind of money.  But put it together with other tools and a thoughtful plan that is the result of an angler putting in the time then I can testify to the kind of eye-opening experience that awaits you.

Kasparov’s Lesson

In all these instances the “technology” didn’t fix anything magically.  Left all on its own, each technology made me worse for a time.  It wasn’t until I learned to use each properly that I saw the real benefits.  It was the man + technology integration that really made a difference.

The real difficulties lie in our own resistance to or inability to wrap our minds around the rapid changes in technology.  Despite what happened in the chess world in 1997 and has been repeated over and over in nearly all aspects of life ever since, computers haven’t taken over.  It turns out that while computers can outperform a man in nearly every area, nothing is the match for a man + a computer.  That goes for everything from chess to bass fishing.  Twenty years ago, Kasparov’s loss wasn’t really the end of anything (maybe innocence?).  As Kasparov tells it, it was just the beginning…

For more about Kasparov’s epic match, click here.


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