Open Your Eyes and See What’s Really Down There …
By Mark Lassagne
Have you ever bought something and then wondered how you ever got along without them?
A few years back, I installed Power Poles thinking these are cool, but now after using them I will never have a boat without them.
Underwater cameras have been around for a while now but it seems there’s a lot of bass anglers haven’t embraced them like the ice anglers do and you might wonder do I need one or is it just a cool thing to have.
About 15 years ago, I purchased my first Aqua-Vu a somewhat cumbersome piece of equipment. It had a battery, case, monitor, camera and long cord. Equipped with a hood because the sunlight would washout the screen – it was like looking down a tube to the underwater world. Unless you had two people in the boat, it was difficult to look down the tube and maneuver the boat at the same time. None the less, it opened my eyes to a new world.
FIRST REAL EXPERIENCE
I remember fishing Frazier Point at Clear Lake in Calif and after fishing the entire point for 30 minutes or so without a bite, I lowered the camera and to my surprise I saw a school of five-pound plus bass swimming around without a care. After seeing this, I backed off and tried again to catch them, this time with confidence they were there but still no luck. However, I learned a valuable lesson.
These fish were there, they are living there. It just wasn’t time for them to feed. Armed with this knowledge, I’ve returned to the spot many times over the years and caught several great fish. If I didn’t lower the Aqua-Vu camera down, I wouldn’t have known for sure those fish were there or had the confidence to fish it.
THINGS HAVE CHANGED
Move to the present day. Now I use a standalone camera, either the Micro 5.0 Pro or the new AV722. Previously I had Garmin 7600’s hooked directly to my Aqua-Vu (AV Multi-Vu) Garmin (7612) (12” graph), no more tilting the screen to get the right angle or looking down a tube, just flip a switch, lower the camera and get a look at what’s below.
With the camera hooked to my depth finder, I can compare what I’m seeing on the graph and what I’m seeing on the camera in real time.
You’ll be amazed at how different things look. For example, you might think you see a giant school of bait in 50ft of water just to find out its debris suspended in the thermocline or you’ll see fish only to find out they are carp and not bass. An underwater camera might sound like a fun toy, but in reality, it’s a valuable tool.
Here are some ways the camera has helped me over the last year.
Lake Mead, using my graph, I could tell there was a good amount of grass in 15 -20 ft. deep but it was hard to determine just what the grass looked like. Was it thick, sparse, it was difficult to tell how tall it was but after lowering the camera down I could tell the grass was between a one foot and two-foot-tall with areas where it was thick and others where it was sparse. Then once in 12 ft. or so, there was no grass.
The bite was tough during this time and a finesse presentation was the best way to catch these bass’. So, with the knowledge of the grass height, I adjusted my dropshot rig to about two ft. just above the grass height and fish in the 15 to 20ft range where the grass and the bass were, which helped me land several fish that I would have passed up.
Over the past year, I’ve been eyeing the underwater cover at the Delta learning new places the fish might hang out that otherwise I wouldn’t have found.
A killer new spot in the fall of 2016 I found an underwater car in the middle of a channel with grass growing around it, then mixed in were several large bass. Looking at the depth finder, you couldn’t tell it was a car. It looked like a pile of grass that you would normally pass over.
In a marina, I dropped the camera and went to the middle of the bay where I found sparse, thick weed patches in 12ft of water with good size bass on them.
I call them drains, places where flooded islands drain into a slough, using the camera I’ve found several small places that hold fish, right in the center heading to deep water I’ve found bass mixed with striper, crappies and bluegill all together on small pieces of cover.
Bridges in the Delta, many of the bridges have old cover mixed in where you would never know unless lower a camera.
Driving through Texas on our way to the B.A.S.S. Nationals, we stopped at Lake Amistad. We launched and fished for an hour with no bites, wondering what things looked like as we headed to the bridge–the best-looking bank around and lowered the camera.
With the camera down in 15ft we noticed several smallmouth on the rocky bottom. Being the first time at Amistad, we did not know there were smallmouth. Now we had a clue and started drop shotting, catching several fish.
Heading to a cove, we lowered the camera again and found weeds in 10ft of water with largemouth mixed in where we caught some slow rolling a spinnerbait and dragging a Senko. Again, the camera let us know the real scoop aiding in a few more bass.
January at lake Camanche, we found feeding loners that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Using the camera, we would go along the old mine tailings (river rock piles) and see a lone spotted bass. Once we spotted a bass on the camera, we could toss out and catch that bass. Without the camera, we did not know if there was a school of bass with only one biting or what was actually going on. Armed with the info, we knew to cover water, locating those loner feeding fish and not camp out in a single spot.
Bass fishing is a game of figuring out what the fish are doing and how to catch them using all your resources.
The camera has opened my eyes to a new world, learning new spots, what things look like on the graph vs what they really are, how to rig baits for the terrain and learning how the fish move and locate on different piece of cover.
The Aqua-Vu is one of those things you never knew you really needed until you use it.
If you have an experience with an Aqua-Vu, I’d like to hear about it
Good luck and good fishing.