Electronic Angling: Going wireless with fishing innovations

June 2016 Feature

I consider myself a fairly savvy angler, but when it comes to electronics—fishing or otherwise—I’m a card-carrying Luddite. Just ask my wife or kid, who program everything from the TV remote and garage door opener to my cell phone so that I can blunder through using them. When it comes to wiring, I get the basics but when my electronics-savvy boat-rigging buddies start to recite the amps/wattage/voltage-mantra, my eyes glaze over like a walleye.

That’s why my ears perk up whenever I hear the word “wireless,” especially when the term is associated with boating or fishing electronics. As a pontoon boat owner, I appreciate the relative ease with which my favorite boat type can be wired; eliminating some wires completely makes even more sense. Not having to directly connect accessories saves time and effort during rigging and fishing, while keeping decks and dashes clear of cables and connections.   

Several wireless innovations for anglers have been introduced recently. A few of my favorites have been around for a while, and include the wireless remote features offered by my pontoon’s bow-mounted trolling motor, a Terrova model MinnKota. I can sit back in the shade of my Bimini top and control the boat’s speed and direction with the push of my thumb on a device I wear on a watchband. That frees up the busy bow area for my anglers, who sit up front and cast or troll with plenty of elbow room as I sit (or even recline on a lounge seat) well out of the way and the fray.     

Future Install

This season I plan to upgrade those wireless functions by installing an iPilot Link between the Terrova and my Humminbird fish finder. The GPS-enabled HD-level unit is programmed to work with LakeMaster chart cards to allow me to, among other functions I’ll need my wife or teenager to help program, select a depth contour and set the Terrova to remain over same. That means I can mark fish with the Humminbird, determine the depth at which they are feeding, and program my motor to keep the boat—and therefore our fishing lines—over that key depth. I will be able to use it as a wireless anchor to remain over a particular honey hole, or as an auto-pilot for trolling while keeping the boat over that targeted depth contour while moving—and fishing—down the lake. Talk about freeing up your hands for fishing! I’ll be covering that project in depth (pun intended) in a future issue.

Solid Connections

Meanwhile, those new wireless accessories I referenced include a way to remotely control fish finders themselves. Using a dongle (AS RC1), you can make a Humminbird unit Bluetooth wireless capable. You just plug the dongle into the unit and pair it with a Humminbird Bluetooth remote for wireless remote control of its functions, including marking waypoints on the fly, zooming in and out, sonar sensitivity adjustment and toggling through your favorite custom views.  Each RC1 key has a short press and long press function, enabling you to customize the remote's capabilities. For example, a long press of the “Mark” button can be programmed to power your unit on or off, deploy a 360 imaging transducer or even create an i-Pilot Link Spot-Link. Everything's visible and controllable from anywhere on the boat, so you don't have to stop fishing to control your Humminbird.

The new tech includes a remarkable portable fish finder that I actually got to test over the winter, in the frigid confines of an ice fishing shanty. It actually forced me to learn how to use my new Smartphone, for when it applies to fishing I find I can apply myself to some electronic education. The Deeper Fish Finder, which is about the size of a racquetball, acts as a transducer as it floats on the water’s surface and actually sends a wireless signal to your cell phone or tablet (compatible with 6000+ iOS and Android devices). When programmed with the proper Deeper app (free from The App Store or Google Play), the phone acts as the display unit of a fish-finder, complete with readouts that include traditional LCD panning as well as a flasher mode—the latter preferred by many ice anglers.   

A dual frequency feature allows excellent observation of underwater features at depths from 1.5 to 130 feet in 90 kHz (55 degree) and 290 kHz (15 degree) radius. The wide beam provides an ample search area for fish, baitfish and structure; the narrow beam gives high accuracy returns of fish, structure, detail and bottom profile. 

An optional clamp is available to attach the Deeper unit to a boat’s transom, swim platform, boarding ladder or transducer bracket. What’s more, the Deeper unit is small (2.22 inches in diameter) and light enough (.22 pounds) to be attached to your fishing line and cast over areas that you can’t—or don’t want to—access with your boat. It uses Bluetooth technology to transfer sonar readings to your Smartphone or tablet from up to 150 feet away, a connection that enables lower battery consumption and no cellular data is required, so you can use an Internet connection on your Smartphone or tablet while fishing.

You can even use the Deeper mobile app to take pictures of your catch and share them with your friends anywhere in the world on Facebook, Twitter and Gmail+. But that’s pushing my envelope.

If you use downriggers, you’ll want to check out Fish Hawk Electronics’ new wireless unit. Fish Hawk modules beam depth, speed and temperature information from the downrigger ball to a transducer on the boat, and the new Bluetooth-enabled model allows that data to go straight to your cell phone or tablet, sans wires.
($799; www.fishhawkelectronics.com

Vexilar’s FishPhone system turns your Smartphone or tablet into a wireless monitor for the dedicated underwater camera. Using Wi-Fi signal technology to create its own hotspot that reaches out 100 feet in all directions, you can share the video signal with friends or keep it totally secure, and you don’t need cell phone coverage to use it. A free software app is downloaded from the App store and works with both Android and IOS systems.
($270; www.vexilar.com)

The wireless Deeper Fishfinder can be attached to your fishing line or to your boat to send water depth, temperature, structure and fish-finding data wirelessly to your Smartphone or tablet. ($299; www.buydeeper.com)

An AS RC1 Bluetooth dongle allows Humminbird users to control fish finders from an enabled Smartphone or tablet. ($120; www.humminbird.com)

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