When you stop and think about how far Electronics have come it is just mind boggling. I was talking with my good friend Doug Vahrenberg and he asked me to do this article. He gave me some great photos of the old units of yesteryear which I have included. What in the world did we do before we had fishfinders like we have today? The Corps of Engineers started damming up large rivers creating "structure", but how did you find it out in the middle of the lake? I wanted to pass along this story Vahrenberg told me. "When I was displaying the old Humminbird graphs at a Sports show a man came up to me and told me how they found structure. They would drag an old window weight on a rope. When it would get slack in the line it was either a point or a hump. That's how they found structure in a lake. They said the slacker the line or farther it dragged behind the boat the shallower the hump. They said it made the difference as they were the first to fish offshore structure." Think how many hours or more like days, it took to learn the bottom with a window weight and string!
And talk about a state of the art bass boat; check out the picture of Doug Vahrenberg's restored 1967 Skeeter. That was the Cadillac of fishing boats at the time! The first real fish finders were available as "you build it" kits made by Heath. People like Tom Mann started putting the kits together and selling them. That was the beginning of Humminbird back in the early '70's. Then there was the "Little Green Box" created by Daryl Lowrance. From there the technology just took off.
There was the Humminbird Super 30 and Super 60 Flashers and Lowrance flashers. I have to smile when I think about talking with a 20 something angler at the Bassmaster classic a couple of years ago. I was showing some of the old timers the new Flasher Screen available on the Humminbird 700 units. The young angler stopped and asked "What is that! Some kind of barometer?" He had no idea what a "Flasher" was. I know several anglers that still use Super 60 flashers on their new Boats. They will tell you it doesn't lie and if you can read it you know exactly what your fishing. I never could read them that well but sure caught a lot of jigging fish using one. Watching those little red lines and then seeing one move up to your bait was pretty exciting.
After the flashers the industry was revolutionized by the introduction of the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD,LCR). It drew a picture of the bottom and showed fish. The Humminbird LCR400 ID even showed the fish in red. How could it get any better! Well, it did. Next thing you know Paper Graphs are introduced. Wow! That's got to be the ultimate in fishfinders right? Nope, still not there. Technology again took off with companies going with High Definition Sonar units with hundreds of pixels to show amazing details. The sonar displays improved dramatically due to space age technology. Beautiful color units that made monochrome units look pale in contrast. Then size took over. The bigger the better. 5 inch displays, 7 inch displays, 8, then 10 inches. GPS was introduced and made drawing maps and triangulating a fishing spot a thing of the past. You could sit in your living room and mark waypoints on a map, download them to your unit and go straight to the spot on the water without ever searching for it.
Just when everyone was content with all of this technology, Humminbird introduces Side Imaging with the amazing 987 unit. I can still remember getting one of the first pilot units and going out on Lake Eufaula. I literally could not believe what I was seeing! A tree looked just like a tree, not a group of lines on a sonar screen. Rocks and roadbeds all looked just like they were supposed to. It was just hard to believe the things you could see with Side Imaging. You could see up to 400 feet of the lake bottom at one time and mark waypoints that were 200 feet away! Make snapshots and recordings to save and study. AI Lowrance product manager told me about their first encounter with Side Imaging. "We went to an old pipe line under the lake. When we went over it my boss said, "Holy #@$!& I can see the bolts!"So, one would think we've seen it all. Not hardly. If you can dream it these guys at Humminbird and Lowrance can make it happen. It's all about making it affordable for the angler.
There' s incredible things on the drawing board as we speak.
JohnsonFishingTeam.com Pro Staff
Editors note: A special thanks goes out to Doug Vahrenberg for his assistants with the article and suppling the photos. For more information on Vehrenberg check out his website at www.dougvahrenberg.com
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