with Tommy Sanders

Q: Has anything really changed in bass fishing in the past 50 years?

- Phil O'Brien, Oak Ridge, TN

A: New Bass Fishing Technology

Photo of a bass boat

Let’s quickly review the things that haven’t changed in the sport of bass fishing over the last half century: 


That’s it, and I’m not so sure that the fish haven’t slipped some changes in on me as well.

But everything else has changed, and in this sport, unlike football or basketball, the changes have all been about advances in technology.

I think about the guys, 50 years ago, who went out on the water in a V-bottom boat with a 20-horse engine.  If they were serious, they’d have the latest glass rod with a nice reel.  Maybe some of them had a bit of that new monofilament line, but most likely some braided Dacron.

If they wanted to know what the terrain was like under the water, they might be lucky enough to have a contour paper map but most likely studied the bank for clues. To find depths, they could measure their line as it came up from the bottom. 

To quietly troll was often a matter of deftly feathering a boat paddle in one hand and casting with the other.  And if they wanted to stop and thoroughly work over a spot, they could drop an anchor tied to a rope or use the rope to tie off to a tree. 

If they caught them well one day in deep water, they could eyeball the spot and try to triangulate a position or just improvise some kind of buoy marker and hope it was still there the next day.

Today I stand on the dock at a Bassmaster Elite series event and see the 21-foot boats that can handle just about any kind of water and make 300-mile round trips in a fishing day, courtesy of 225-horsepower engines.

Strapped to the decks and below decks are a couple dozen rods constructed of the lightest and strongest composite materials that the late space program was able to develop.  The line is similarly strong, light, invisible and nearly indestructible, thanks to the same technology.

The boat paddle is gone, replaced by a 36-volt trolling motor.  The anchoring is instantaneous as poles drop into the water at the push of a button.  And if the water is too deep, then that sweet trolling motor has GPS programmed into it that can hold you on a spot, come wind or current.

Depth, water temperature, presence of baitfish and big fish, and underwater structure you get with a quick glance at an oversized LED screen.  No more triangulating, either –  the guys on this dock all have hundreds of waypoints punched into their GPS system.

It’s just another planet from 50 years ago.

But, you say, these are all just mechanical gizmos that are no substitute for experience. There’s space-age technology now, for sure, but it’s the space between the ears that’s most important.

Well, we’ve got an app for that, too.  At the fingertips of everyone who has ever thought about getting better at fishing is the most incredible treasure trove of tips, techniques, fishing reports, tournament statistics, videos, satellite mapping, message boards and everything else the almighty internets can provide.

It’s breathtaking, this leap forward.  But believe it or not, while all this technology has made everyone better, it hasn’t made everyone great.  The fact of the matter is that on the Bassmaster Elite series, there’s one guy who has won 20 events, while for the rest of the field the average number of tournaments won probably has a decimal point in front of it.

Strange to say it, but it’s kind of comforting to know that despite all the technology, a strong work ethic and a good bit of God-given talent still count for something. 

Previous Articles by Tommy Sanders

Q: What is the best tactic for fishing in the spring?

A: Sight fishing is the battle of the brains

Xray image of a human head

This is the time of the year when we celebrate the opportunity to catch spawning fish. It’s an important time for bass anglers — a limited, once-a-year opportunity. In fact, I think most bass fishermen should trade in one of their holidays from other times of the year and celebrate Spawning Day in spring or late winter, as the case may be. That would be well worth giving up a Labor Day or Presidents Day or even a Valentine’s Day if you can swing it.Read More

Q: Hey Q and A, why can't I take a banana with me when I'm fishing?

A. You said the word banana. I’m throwing you out of the magazine because you are an obvious bringer of bad luck.

Photo of bananas

Here’s why:  200 years ago, sea captains in the tropics would occasionally bring crates of bananas on board to supplement the ship’s food supplies.  These crates would harbor the occasional snake or spider.  When the captain found a snake in his chest of drawers or a spider in his drawers, there would be hell to pay.  No more bananas on the boat. And that’s the origin of the famous banana superstition. Read More

We Lost A Lot: Remembering Jose Wejebe

Photo of Jose Wejebe

The human mind will go through some incredible contortions when it’s confronted with something it cannot and does not want to come to terms with.

It will grasp for things like disbelief, denial, and the hope that somehow what’s happening is all a bad dream from which you will soon awaken. That’s the way it felt for all of us who knew the one and only Jose Wejebe. That’s the way it still feels, a few weeks into the aftermath of his passing. We lost a lot.

We met Jose 20 years ago at an event called the S.L.A.M. tournament in Key West, Fla., a celebrity event that paired famous sports and media figures with a local saltwater guide to make up a two-person team..Read More