You know it's down there. You've seen it jump and felt it nudge your line. But you can't get it to strike at your bait. What's that darn fish up to? Wouldn't it be great if you could drop a waterproof video camera overboard and find out? Well, you can.
Just plug in your Aqua-Vu Video System and watch as it transmits a signal from as deep as 50 feet to a monitor aboard ship. With this $749 system, you can "watch your lure and see how to alter your jigging action so that it attracts a fish's interest," says Steve Quinn, editor of In-Fisherman magazine. Underwater video is only one of many new kinds of high-tech tackle. Fresh- and salt-water anglers can now turn to an array of electronics, space-age materials, precision manufacturing, and satellites to gain an edge (table).
Technology is certainly helpful in finding where the fish are running. Today's sonar systems, known as fish finders, are no longer the crude devices of five years ago that routinely mistook trash for fish. Newer versions by such makers as Lowrance, Eagle, and Humminbird paint a detailed picture of schools in motion on high-definition screens.
If you want to mark a hot fishing spot, lock it into a global positioning system. Available in handheld and boat-mounted models, these gadgets use satellite signals to plot your coordinates anywhere on earth. "They are incredibly useful in foggy conditions or if you just have a really bad sense of direction," says Quinn. Some positioning systems, such as Lowrance's GlobalMap, work with mapping software to show your movements in relation to marinas, buoys, and shorelines. They'll even direct you to underwater wrecks and reefs where fish are likely to congregate.
No matter what high-tech gadgetry you pack in your tackle box, you're still going to need a rod. The latest ones, whether intended for fly or conventional fishing, are made of lightweight, high-density graphite and resins that are virtually indestructible. Indeed, Fenwick's new Techna AV rod is made of graphite mixed with the same polymer used in bulletproof vests. The rods give you an easy, crisp cast and strong resistance against flailing fish. Rods that run the line through the shaft rather than leads on the bottom represent another advance. The design eliminates the stress points, tangles, and wind interference inherent in bottom-mounted guides. Models include Cabela's Depthmaster Linear ($60) and Daiwa's Interline ($75-$130).
In the reel world, high-end rods from such makers as Abu Garcia and Shimano are crafted out of single blocks of aircraft-grade aluminum with corrosion-resistant titanium and brass inner workings. Cranks (on fly, casting, and spinning reels) turn with astonishing ease even when you've hooked a 100-pound thrasher. If you want to know how far you've cast your line and how deep it has sunk, some reels feature digital line counters with built-in timers that tell how long you've been fishing at a particular depth.
Incredibly lifelike lures, adorned with iridescent paint and holograms, make it more likely fish will bite. Pradco's new Swim'n Image lures actually twitch and dive in the water like three-inch threadfin shad (the equivalent of a chocolate chip cookie to a largemouth bass). Fish experts at Pure Fishing in Spirit Lake, Iowa, have infused rubber worms and other creepy-crawlies with flavors fish can't resist. "We've come up with species-specific seasonings," says John Prochnow, a chemist and product-development manager at Pure Fishing. Sold as Berkley PowerBait and Sqwormers, the formulations appeal to trout, redfish, walleye, and snook. And once you get home, be sure to take advantage of technology in another way--by posting your fish story on the Net.