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  • A Deep Dive into Forward Facing Sonar

    Bass Intelligence
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    Forward facing sonar is changing the way we bass fish. This technology has revolutionized the way anglers catch fish. By sending sound waves ahead of your boat from a transducer mounted on your trolling motor shaft, you can identify structure and weeds, as well as see fish. This new technology allows you to fish with more accuracy and confidence.

    Forward facing technology is also becoming an essential tool for serious anglers, offering them insight into what lies ahead and providing the information they need to make informed decisions on where to fish. With forward facing sonar, you can be sure you are in the right spot at the right time and potentially catch more fish.

    But is it a change that is good for tournament bass fishing? Bass anglers have long debated whether or not this technology should be allowed in tournaments. Some argue that it gives an unfair advantage to those who can afford the expensive equipment, while others believe it helps level the playing field for amateur anglers.

    What is Forward Facing Sonar

    Forward facing sonar is a type of sonar system that transmits sound waves ahead of your boat, allowing you to detect the presence of fish and structure. This technology can also be used to measure water depth and bottom composition. It works by sending out high-frequency sound pulses which then bounce off objects in the water and return back to the transducer.

    This data is then processed and displayed on a screen, providing anglers with an image of what lies ahead of them. The technology can be used in both shallow and deep water, which makes it ideal for tournament fishing where you may not have time to explore an area thoroughly.

    Catching Fish with Forward Facing Sonar

    Forward facing sonar can be a valuable tool for tournament anglers, but like any other technology, it should be used with caution and in moderation. By understanding its advantages and pitfalls, anglers can make informed decisions on how to use it to their advantage. With the right approach and effective strategies, forward facing sonar can help anglers better target fish and improve tournament performance.


    1. Helps identify structure and weeds from a distance.

    2. Reveals the presence of fish in the water ahead of your boat.

    3. Provides information on water depth and bottom composition.

    4. Can be used in shallow as well as deep water areas.

    5. Can potentially help tournament anglers improve their performance and catch more fish.


    1. Expensive technology that not everyone can afford.

    2. Can be distracting and lead to missed bites.

    3. Could potentially give an unfair advantage to those who can afford the technology, leading to inequality in tournament fishing.

    4. Could lead to overfishing if used in an irresponsible manner.

    5. Can be difficult to interpret, requiring practice and experience.

    Best Baits to Use with Forward Facing Sonar

    1. Jerkbait

    2. Dropshot

    3. Swimbaits

    While there are other baits that could be used, these are the most popular baits for utilizing forward facing technology for bass fishing.

    Best Forward Facing Sonar for Bass Fishing

    For serious anglers looking to upgrade their bass fishing experience, it’s important to choose the right forward facing sonar system.

    The most popular system among professional anglers include Garmin, Humminbird, and Lowrance. Currently, the most popular Forward Facing Sonar brand is Garmin's Livescope. Garmin was the first to the Forward Facing Sonar market and many anglers currently prefer Garmin over their competition due to the image clarity offered by Garmin. Many anglers even refer to all forward-facing sonar as "Livescope".

    Forward Facing Sonar's Impact on Tournament Fishing

    Currently, there is a lot of debate on this topic. Just watch some YouTube and you can see many strong opinions, but a lot is going on in the world of bass fishing that may be impacting tournaments and fisheries. At the same time that forward facing sonar is gaining in popularity, bass fishing in general is exploding in popularity. Club membership is up, high school and middle school bass fishing is growing exponentially, and bass boat sales have been gang-busters for a few years.

    On some of the more popular bass lakes, it is not uncommon to have 200-300 boat tournaments every other week or so during the spring and fall. This is in addition to club tournaments and your casual fishing. All of these issues have put more pressure on our fisheries for sure. Forward Facing Sonar is only a part of that pressure.

    Forward Facing Sonar technology has definitely opened up deep-water fishing to those who have normally stayed close to the banks, but the question is - has that impacted the fisheries negatively? Currently, there is only conjecture as it appears that most states are not limiting fishing tournaments, and definitely not placing limits on technology. So what are the issues?

    Well, a lot of it is human nature's fight against progress. Many of the anglers who grew up with no technology, or early sonar technology feel that forward facing sonar removes some of the challenge to finding and catching the fish that used to just be a part of the sport. It is definitely changing how anglers approach tournaments, but the question is - is that any different that when side scan or 360 sonar was introduced?

    There is a lot of opinion, but for now... forward facing sonar isn't going anywhere. So, as an angler, you can embrace the technology and learn it (if you can afford it), or you can continue to fight the progress and struggle when other anglers and excelling.

    Final Thoughts

    Forward facing sonar can be a great addition to an angler’s toolbox, but it should be used with as one of the tools in your toolbox. Sonar technology is great for locating and catching fish, but it should not completely replace everything that you have learned in your years of fishing. Sonar should be used to confirm what you are seeing with your own eyes.

    When using sonar, don’t forget the basics - watch the water and look for signs of life - fish, baitfish, and structure. If you are able to combine your own skills with the power of modern forward facing sonar technology, then you will be able to get an edge over the competition that is not taking advantage of these resources. Regardless of what tournament anglers think about the impact of Forward Facing Sonar, it is here to stay. So, embrace it and use it to your advantage.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How much does it cost?

    If you already have a compatible head unit, you can add on forward facing sonar for between $1200 and $2000. This number can go up significantly with different mounting options, networking, or other upgrades. 

    Which is the best brand?

    Well, that really depends on you, the angler. Many of us already use a specific brand of electronics, and unless you are going to use two different brands, you will most likely go with the brand that is installed on your boat. There are those who will install a Garmin Livescope, regardless of what brand they already use on their boat, however this comes a cost. Two different brands require 2 different head units, so to add Garmin Livescope to a boat with Humminbird or Lowrance would mean you have to buy a Garmin head unit in addition to the Livescope system. 

    How far out can you see your jerkbait?

    This depends on the model of your forward facing sonar and its settings. Generally, the further out it can see, the less detail there will be in the images. Many anglers can see their lure at 40-50 feet when jerkbait fishing. This is very dependent on your setup and skill level.

    Does a forward facing sonar transducer have to attach to your trolling motor shaft?

    No, although that is the most popular mounting method. There are turret mounts available, like the Humminbird MegaLive Target lock. This allows your forward facing sonar transducer to operate independently of the trolling motor, which could be useful if your trolling motor has spot lock.

    Can you see bait or only big fish and structure?

    The detail available on these units, especially at closer range can be amazing. You can not only see the bait, but you can even watch the fish chase the bait. Of course you lose detail with distance, but you can still see bait balls at distance.

    Ok, its a game changer for bass fishing, but how about crappie fishing?

    In the past, it took a while to find that "5 gallon bucket" area where the crappie were holding and if they moved, or your boat moved, you had to search again. With this technology, once you have found brush piles holding crappie, it is much easier to target them and even see what lure action triggers bites. 

    But will I catch fish?

    Well that is the question, isn't it? It is not magic. You still have to search for fish, and get a bite. That is where it can still be quite challenging. Its discouraging to see large bass suspending out in front of you, only to throw jerkbaits and have them chase it only to turn away and not bite. So as an angler, the challenge is using technology to learn how to get bit.

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