Monday, May 14, 2007

Boys Toys - II

Humminbird Smartcast RF-30

Any fisherman should be able to read the water, to recognize high probability fish holding areas. I am the most competent fisherman with the least talent I know. Everything I know I learned from Bill Dance and Roland Martin … TV shows. I rarely get skunked, but have no explanation for why or how something worked; I will never be a Kevin Van Dam, with his freight car of spinnerbaits and knowing everyone of them and which to use. But sometimes in bank fishing, I would like a bit more of an edge; I would like a fish finder.

And that has been the problem: a fish finder for people who do not spend time in boats. Now Humminbird has tackled the issue with a crankbait-sized, shock-green, submarine-shaped, sonar device that attaches to a swivel snap at the end of the line – just like a lure -- and a wrist watch receiver, with a one-inch LCD screen. Another irresistible idea for the Y-chromosome-challenged. Having received a bit of a windfall, I felt I could spring for the internet purchase at $50.

After a few false starts (returned twice for malfunctioning, a brand new but dead battery), I have been amused at the results. At first, I found it showed a number of false positives, fish where there were no fish. I know because I cast to the spot each time and didn’t catch any …

The transmitter cleverly includes another hole at the bottom to which one can attach a drop line, effectively letting the device act as a bobber as well.

Now, mid-May, it is spawn season, and blue gills and bass are very hard to entice to come out and play, but crappie and sunfish are available, as are the smaller (9-11”) bass. I let the little device that had been beeping non-stop over blue gill beds with nary a bite, just sit in one place, while I continued to fan cast with my fly rod. When the watch beeped and showed one fish – not the usual 3-5, I figured it was either a bass or a turtle – which the finder seems to confuse with fish. So I picked up the spinning rod and cast over the top of the bobber and sure enough, a 12” bass hit. I started to warm to the little device.

Two days later, I added a hook to the bobber end. I needed proof that what it was telling my watch was actually underneath it. The first day was a disaster, using a multi-hook leader that seemed to catch on everything except fish. The next day I added a gold Trout Magnet mealworm with just a nibble of Fishbites bloodworm surrogate. Now the curious thing was that fish would take the bait, but not show up as existing on the little screen. If the device showed one fish, I would guess it was either a turtle or bass, and pick up my baitcast rod; if a bunch of small fish, or the watch beeped incessantly, I would pick up the fly rod. Once it actually worked: I caught a small sunfish on the fly rod after the bobber indicated life below. The rest of the time, I caught all the other (half-dozen) large sunfish on the fish finder. A perverse turn on technology: yes, it was in fact, finding fish, but was telling me about it, by sinking below the surface – not beeping on the watch.

Will I continue to use it? Yes, after spawn, I will try it in all the usual places. The one drawback is that it requires a minimum of two feet to operate, and most of my bass, sunfish, and blue gills are in eighteen inches of water no more than eight feet from the bank, and I can see that far with my B.A.S.S. Polarized X-ray vision sunglasses. Stay tuned for another month …

Best little $50 bobber I ever bought!

It has been 2-3 days now that I have been using the Smartcast primarily as a bobber. I can’t say why it has been so successful – perhaps the sonar sounds like bait or the signal is affected by the curvature and magnetic field of the earth … I have now been catching more fish (ok, sunfish) with it than all my other rods combined (I travel with at least three).

July 23, 2007

Oh, no, not again …

Seems the sonar is on the fritz again. Sent it back and seemingly came back in worse shape than I sent it. Fourth time lucky? So far it seems to be working …

The spring was the most awesome bass fishing I have ever had, but then after almost two months of travel, absolutely nothing. Was doing better on the fly rod (ok, 6-8” bass). Talking it up with other fishermen, there does seem to be some drop offs, which I cannot see from the bank, but should be able to find with the bobber; so I began using it strictly as a depth finder. I hope it is right, because I see a steep decline, but no drop off, no thermocline, to speak of.

So I have gone back to fishing the banks, all of which are less than two feet deep. The returns to Humminbird have been annoying, but they have come back in a timely fashion, so I have to say the service is ok. For now, with the water levels so low, will put it aside and wait for September …

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