EDWIN EVERS: What's all the fuss about forward-facing sonar? - Major League Fishing

EDWIN EVERS: What’s all the fuss about forward-facing sonar?

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Forward-facing sonar is at the center of the hottest debates in bass fishing. But should it be? Photo by Phoenix Moore. Angler: Edwin Evers.
January 23, 2024 • Edwin Evers • Bass Pro Tour

When I see people arguing about something, I can usually understand both sides, but lately I’ve seen some debates that truly mystify me.

Forward-facing sonar is one of them.

On one side, it seems there are a lot of anglers who absolutely love forward-facing sonar. It makes up a huge part of their fishing approach, and some might have a hard time catching fish without the technology.

On the other side are the anglers who believe forward-facing sonar is at the core of all that may be wrong in our sport. They believe it’s too much technology, too far from the basics of what most of us fell in love with when we got started in the sport — the mystery of what goes on under the water’s surface and how fish react to our baits and presentations.

The first group embraces forward-facing sonar. The second group would like to see it banned.

The first group looks to the future of fishing technology, and they’re excited. The second group sees nothing but dark clouds and a loss of tradition.

To me, it’s just not that polarizing. What’s all the fuss?

I look at forward-facing sonar as another tool in my toolbox, another weapon in an angler’s arsenal that I can pull out when the situation calls for it and that I can put away when it’s not right for the situation.

Does forward-facing sonar help me catch bass? Absolutely! But has forward-facing sonar also hurt me in some tournaments? Again, yes.

A couple of years ago, I was competing at REDCREST and doing well. I went into the final round in a great position to win that championship for a second time. In the early rounds, I caught a lot of fish using Lowrance ActiveTarget live sonar. It had been essential to my success.

Unfortunately, I made a serious error with that technology. I relied on it too much. I let it distract me from better opportunities. I kept looking at the fish on that screen, thinking I could catch them, when I should have realized that conditions had changed, that those fish were not reacting positively to my presentations and that I needed to do something different.

The best quality fish and the most active fish had moved to the banks, where forward-facing sonar is not as powerful a tool. I missed that because I couldn’t put the technology down and fish by my instincts and experience.

Instead of winning, I fell out of contention. It was an expensive lesson for me, and one I won’t forget anytime soon.

For Edwin Evers – as it should be for everyone, he cautions – FFS is just another tool to be used in the right situations. Photo by Josh Gassman

If you’re looking for a non-technology analogy, think about sight-fishing. Have you ever spotted a big fish on a bed and then spent way too much time trying to get her to bite? You keep throwing to the fish and throwing to the fish, but it either ignores your baits or swims away.

Instead of looking for other bass that might bite, you look at the size of the bass you found and think of how catching her would change your day or tournament. Instead of moving on, you waste precious minutes or even hours on that one fish.

I’ve made that mistake with bedding fish, and I’ve done it with fish I’ve seen on forward-facing sonar.

I’m also becoming aware that fish react to the signals — the sonar pulses — from forward-facing sonar, and it definitely impacts their attitude and catchability. There are a couple of small, private lakes near my home in Oklahoma that I like to fish when I need some bass for photos or videos, or when I want to test a new bait.

These lakes don’t get much pressure. The bass there don’t see a lot of lures, and few boats have access. Nevertheless, when I “shine” that sonar signal on those bass — even from a hundred feet away — they move to get out of the signal. I see the same thing on public waters, and I expect to see it more and more as the technology becomes more widespread.

The bass is an amazing creature that’s been around a long time. It adapts to changing conditions, and it will adapt to thrive even in the age of forward-facing sonar.

I don’t care how good you may think an angler is with forward-facing sonar. He or she cannot catch every fish they see on it.

In my opinion, forward-facing sonar is a great thing, and it’s something I want and need on my boat, but it’s not the only thing or the most important thing. It’s a tool, and having the right perspective makes it even more effective.