Whether you like them or not, forward-facing sonar beams are here to stay in fishing.
In 35 years of professional fishing, I’ve never seen anything shake up the fishing world like this new live beaming technology. Obviously, the forward-facing arms race is in full swing among manufacturers right now. It seems every week new improvements in “looking forward” are unveiled.
We’ve become so consumed with these new beams that we have overlooked the fact that they’re still totally dependent on the trolling motor for function. No matter how good the sonar signals get, the trolling motor and the transducer are essentially joined at the hip – we’ve been beholden to our trolling motor pedal to give the beam direction. The trolling motor pedal is now currently serving two masters: the direction your boat needs to go and the direction your sonar beam needs to go. Many times, these are two different directions.
Pros have adapted to this with some fancy footwork by using their trolling motor pedal to manage both goals simultaneously. But it can be very tedious; turning the pedal to peep at your target, then turning it back to correct your boat’s course – over and over again. This is especially tricky in Spot-Lock mode, when your trolling motor automatically takes over the directional control to keep you in position based on wind and current.
You may use your pedal to scan around and see a sonar target, but when you hit Spot-Lock to hold position, the target is lost. It’s a bit like herding cats to get the wind, current, the boat and the target lined up correctly to use Spot-Lock on the target.
For those who are familiar with this forward-facing sonar frustration, I have great news. Humminbird and Minn Kota have resolved these control issues with a new product called MEGA Live TargetLock. Essentially, TargetLock is a harness that attaches to and pairs only with an Ultrex trolling motor and features a separate remote-controlled shaft for the MEGA Live transducer.
The brilliance of this device is now the MEGA Live transducer is no longer a prisoner of the trolling motor for its direction. Instead, the transducer is on its own independent, controllable shaft. Now the trolling motor can go one direction while you look around in any direction with the MEGA Live beam. But here’s the best part of this new arrangement; if you see cover with your MEGA Live in any direction, you simply press the TargetLock button on the remote and “lock” the live beam on that specific target to keep it lit up on your unit. Given that, it’s finally possible to find a brushpile, rock, shell bar or even a school of fish on the MEGA Live, TargetLock on that and then hit Spot-Lock on the trolling motor. At that point, the trolling motor is free to move any way it needs to hold the boat’s position and the transducer stays locked on the target of interest no matter how your boat rotates around into current or wind.
To see all this work together and the efficiency it adds to the live beaming game is truly impressive.
I’ve been using TargetLock on my boat for over a month now in secrecy and it’s stunning how precisely it locks onto whatever I’m looking at. Now there’s no more trying to keep the beam pointed at the cover with the trolling motor pedal, or losing your target because the boat drifted, or constantly going back and forth with the pedal to find it. One press of the TargetLock button and that piece of standing timber with suspended fish in it stays on your screen for as long as you want to stay there.
Having the trolling motor direction independent of the MEGA Live beam direction is freeing to me, so I like to operate in that mode. But, for those guys who are accustomed to scanning side-to-side while running the trolling motor, don’t worry, Humminbird has you covered. They included a mode called “Minn Kota Steer” that syncs the independent MEGA Live beam direction to mirror the trolling motor direction so you can go back to beaming with your trolling motor pedal if you prefer. Also new with this system is MEGA Live Sweep, which automatically sweeps the beam back and forth – 60 degrees right, 60 degrees left – for a 120-degree view of what’s in front of the boat as you troll forward.
As for controlling the TargetLock independently, you can either use a wireless foot pedal (included with the unit) mounted to the deck or a remote-control key fob, which is optional. You can also control the TargetLock with the Humminbird unit itself.
As for MEGA 360, there’s an optional mount available for a MEGA 360 transducer as well so hardcore sonar fanatics can run MEGA 360 and MEGA Live side-by-side, literally shining the “flashlight” beam through the “landscape” image provided by MEGA 360.
MEGA LIVE TargetLock is a huge step in creating a true One-Boat Network where anglers have the freedom to operate certain technologies independently of each other or control all of them simultaneously.
In the time I’ve used mine, I’m amazed at how much more efficient TargetLock has made the forward-facing sonar game. Also, this new product is available for purchase right now. This is not something that has been launched and now won’t be available for another six months. MEGA Live TargetLock units are on the shelves right now.
If you want a closer look at just how effective TargetLock is, take a look at this video of Carl Jocumsen and I using it at Lake Chickamauga.