Welcome to the world of “Smart” devices. Almost every person that you talk to in a day is operating some sort of smart device: smart phone, smart watch, smart TV, even smart cars. With all of these newly emerging technologies on the market, why are we stilling using the same old fishing gear? The technology that is on the market right now can make your current boat a smart boat. With devices that you carry on you today (phones, tablets, etc.) you can effectively operate your boat with user-friendly, smart devices all in conjunction with one another. This article will serve as your how-to guide for making your boat a “Smart Boat.”
Boat control is one of the most tedious parts of fishing. Almost every angler knows the struggle of trying to keep a straight line using a trolling motor with a foot pedal. No matter how hard you try, you are always looking up at the motor to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. When an adjustment is needed you end up in the tedious zigzag (left, right, left, left, right…) of adjusting your path which just tangles lines and makes landing a fish nearly impossible.
The ProNav Angler is a GPS autopilot for trolling motors that takes all the pain out of boat control. Using a simple Bluetooth connection, ProNav allows anglers to operate their trolling motors all from a smart phone or tablet. Setting routes, creating a heading lock (compass or GPS), anchoring, or even manual controls are all features that ProNav offers in a robust smart autopilot. Setting slow casting routes, having a controlled drift, anchoring on your favorite location, or just using the manual controls are all things that the ProNav Angler allows you to do to optimize your fishing experience. ProNav also allows users to keep their foot pedal for quick adjustments without having to pull a phone out. Most of you are probably thinking, “well that’s great but what happens when I don’t have cell service?”. The ProNav Angler allows you to download maps for offline use which means you can operate the ProNav with no cellular service or in airplane mode. The ProNav Angler takes the hassle out of boat control so that you can focus on fishing.
GPS Navigation and Marine Charts
One of the lowest cost and most useful smart tools to make its way to the boating and fishing applications is mobile GPS navigation and high quality marine charts displayed right on your mobile device. Marine cartography companies such as Navionics have invested in digitizing their map data and providing it to their customers in the form of a mobile application for an affordable annual subscription. This has largely replaced the need for purchasing maps on an expensive SD card that can only be rendered on a compatible chartplotter display.
When fishing requires that you move around the boat, it’s not always possible to keep your eyes on your sonar. Sure, you could mount multiple sonar units around your fishing boat, but that can be extremely costly for any boat owner. With sonar units running upwards of $1,500, having one sonar device that is accessible from anywhere on the boat for a fraction of the cost makes a lot of sense. There are many different options for smart, portable sonar units–some come in the form of a permanently installed transducer, some are castable, and there are even trolling specific sonar units that connect to your phone so that you can see what is happening at your lures.
Vexilar Sonar Phone – With a two-year warranty and an easy to install design, the Sonar Phone is a great addition to any fishing vessel. It allows you to have all the imagery of what lies beneath you all in the palm of your hand, displayed on your smartphone or tablet screen. This device connects to your phone through its own WiFi source, ensuring a strong connection at all times, even off grid.
Raymarine Wi-Fish – The Raymarine Wi-Fish is another sonar unit that streams to your phone or tablet through a mobile app. The Wi-Fish features the ability to connect and share with friends, along with the ability to rewind and capture sonar images to share online. With Navionics boating maps integrated, users can create their own sonar logs which can create your own bathymetric chart even on uncharted waters. The Wi-Fish features CHIRP DownVision™ and allows users to have photo-like imagery in up to 600ft of water.
Deeper Smart Sonar – The Deeper Smart Sonar is a versatile fish finder that is castable. It allows anglers to get the sonar further away from the boat to the area that they are casting to. Ideal for shore fishermen, the Deeper Sonar also has a universal mounting bracket which gives it the ability to be attached to a boat. This sonar is ideal for someone who wants to use multiple fishing styles. From a boat, to the shore, to the kayak, Deeper gives users the ability to have sonar stream directly to their phone through an ultra-fast WiFi connection.
There are many more options available on the market, with different product offerings from the brands listed above as well as others like Lowrance. These systems are all fully capable of turning your ordinary fishing boat into a smart boat.
The world around us is driven by statistics and nearly every angler tracks statistics whether they know it or not. Think about it, how many times have you checked the weather to predict if it would be a successful fishing day. Do you actually know if the weather correlated to your success? Which conditions produced the most fish? Now you can track all this information and more with smart fishing devices.
Anglr Tracker – This is a device that connects to your fishing pole to track your data and send it to your smart phone. The device will automatically track your casts and sense when you have a fish on, when the fish is landed simply press a button to record the landed catch. The data will sync to a map to show you where to start fishing the next time you hit the water, helping you become a more efficient angler.
ConnectScale – ConnectScale is a Bluetooth enabled scale that connects to a mobile app on your smart phone or tablet. This scale will send the weight of your catch directly to the app where you can then record location and water temperature along with a whole list of other statistics. You can then take a picture with your catch and share it with your friends, because who doesn’t like to brag a little right?
Charging Devices and Cases
All these different phone-based devices are great, but what happens when your phone battery isn’t reliable? There are some great options for portable chargers available, if you’re feeling green you can even resort to solar chargers. For around $20 you can have a charger that will keep your phone running all day long!
Along with good portable charging solutions, numerous companies have brought to market ruggedized cases to protect your mobile devices against the elements. Brands such as Pelican, LifeProof, and OtterBox manufacture waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, “lifeproof” cases that will give you extra peace of mind bringing your mobile devices on the water. Most of these cases can also be paired with a floating lanyard to provide additional insurance against possible accidents.
The beauty of using your mobile device as a display for your fishing electronics is that it is portable, fits in your pocket, and is “connected” in a manner that makes it easy to access, record, save, and share fishing data. However, there are times when it makes sense to fix the locations of your display on the boat for easy viewing and secure cradling. Companies such as RAM Mounts specialize in mounting systems that keep your electronics secure.
Who doesn’t want a little competition in their life? As fishermen we are naturally a little competitive. You are always pushing to catch the biggest fish, trying to show your fishing buddies who the best angler in the group is. There are some great fishing applications on the market that will allow for mobile tournaments to take place. One of the up and coming tournament apps is Fish Donkey. Fish Donkey allows anglers to create and compete in tournaments year-round. These tournaments require you to take a photo of your fish with a measurement, upload a photo holding the fish, and submit to the tournament lead. The app then stores your catch data so that you can look back and reminisce about all those trophy fish you reeled in. At the end of tournaments, you may be able to receive prizes and payouts (depending on the tournament), but you will always get the ultimate prize of bragging rights over your friends.
Why Should You Add Smart Devices?
Having wireless devices that connect to your phone or tablet gives you the ultimate versatility on the water. With the ability to have all your information in one device, you can easily move between apps so that you don’t have to keep running around the boat. This also eliminates the need of having a unique dedicated display for all of the various sensors, transducers, and electronics that you rely on. Smart devices are generally cost effective and can save you large sums of money as you don’t need to invest in hard wired devices for your fishing boat. Smart fishing is the way the fishing industry is moving, so why not get in front of the movement now.
Let us know what you think below! Do you think “smart” fishing boats are the future? What Bluetooth options do you have on your boat?