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Roll over Ole Evinrude
By Bill Leonard
EDITOR'S NOTE: Bill Leonard is a professional walleye fisherman from Estherville, Iowa. He is a ??-time championship qualifier on the Professional Walleye Trail, RCL and Masters Walleye Circuits. He is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Mercury Motors, Berkley, Motorguide and Off-Shore planer boards. Leonard's work can be found at several fishing-related web sites and in several fishing publications.

Who ever said that you can't teach an old dog new tricks? Today's angler has learned plenty of them over the last 25 years, and there will no doubt be many, many more to come. Some of the most intelligent people in the world enjoy the sport of fishing (scientists, biologists, presidents ...) It's only natural that they have applied some of their knowledge and ingenuity to one of the country's favorite outdoor pasttimes. Modern anglers have more efficient, effective, accurate and versatile tools at their disposal than ever before. Those willing to accept these changes in their fishing world are reaping the benefits with more consistent catches and more quality fish. I'm one old cowboy who has been riding the angling range for a long time. It's hard to believe how much has changed when I hit the water in pursuit of walleyes and other favorite fish species. I probably scoffed at the first few changes 25 years ago, but then I never thought bottled water would become a multi-million dollar industry, either. Who needed console steering and flashy fiberglass boats? My old dented aluminum tiller boats got me where I needed to go. Who would spend $100 on a graphite fishing rod when the old $25 fiberglass models caught plenty of fish? How could anyone abandon live bait in favor of soft plastics? Back in the day Ö I never imagined I'd be driving a 620 Ranger at 55 mph in all kinds of water conditions and riding high and dry on shock-absorbing seats. I grew up in the days of aluminum boats that rattled your teeth, adjusted your spine and left you soaking wet in rough water. The rivets were always loose, so we wore boots in cold weather to keep our feet dry and we were often nauseous after a day of fishing in a cloud of exhaust smoke and fumes. Power tilt and trim? The only power back then was supplied by whomever was driving the boat. I remember when the first electric trolling motors hit the market. They were transom-mount models, and weíd lug an extra battery to the boat, which would keep them going for five or six hours if it wasnít too windy. Bow-mounts followed shortly thereafter and were a blessing as our boats grew larger and heavier. Still, they didnít always go where you pointed them. If you took your foot off the pedal for just a few seconds to land a fish or deal with a snag, you were likely to be out of control. These days, Iím hooked on a 36-volt PinPoint bow-mount model manufactured by Motorguide. Not only does it run all day in almost any conditions, but it has an electronic "brain." I input the depth I want to run and it makes adjustments on its own to follow the contour and remain on course. Another of my favorite advances in angling technology involves our ability to see whatís going on under the water. I remember the days when we would find our favorite rockpile by lining up the bow of the boat with the silo on the south shore of the lake with the motor in line with the second red farmhouse on the north shore. Then, we dropped down a long cord with a heavy weight to find exactly the right depth and bottom composition. Lowrance revolutionized fishing with the Green Box. It eliminated most of the guesswork once we reached the area we wanted to fish. Since then, sonar units have become so sophisticated and detailed that we can tell the size of the fish below us, the presence of even the smallest baitfish and even the different temperature layers in the water column. Top end models paint this picture in vivid color and many are combination sonar-global positioning units. GPS is another major advancement that takes us to the exact locations we want to fish, gives us the ability to map trolling routes around irregular structure and helps us navigate in the fog and in the dark. The map chips we can insert in many of todayís GPS units add incredible detail, showing everything from contours to weeds, reefs, humps and boat launches. Many anglers have been known to pull over while trying to find their way to a boat ramp or a certain street so they can pinpoint the location on their GPS. Underwater cameras offer an even better picture of whatís going on beneath the surface.

Bill Leonard the author with a fine walleye What only a diver could know for certain before can now be determined by sending down the camera element of an Aqua-Vu. I can watch some of the most entertaining and educational video there is from the comfort of my Ranger. Planer boards are another innovation that has changed the way we fish. Off-Shore boards have expanded my trolling applications and presentations ten-fold. I can fish multiple depths on the same breakline or vary the depth of my lures over open water by getting them out away from the boat and apart from each other. I can target shallow-water fish that might be spooked by the noise of my boat by sending my boards over that water with my Ranger safely out of range. Speaking of trolling, Iíve come to rely on the Precision Trolling handbook to give me accurate running depths of various crankbaits with various line lengths. Line-counter reels and color-coded lead core line make it a simple task to get all my lures running at the same depth. Mother Nature hasnít done much to make leeches, crawlers, shiners, chubs or minnows any better today than theyíve been for years. On the other hand, however, science has given us more reasons than ever to limit our use of live bait.

Why torture your fingers fishing around in an icy minnow bucket in April when there are lifelike soft plastic substitutes that work as well, and even better in some situations. Berkleyís scented Power Baits and new Gulp! products have reduced my use of live bait by at least 50 percent. They look like the real thing, smell like the real thing and although I canít speak from personal experience, they must taste like the real thing judging by the way fish react to them. Whatís more, they last longer than live bait in adverse weather, when the situation calls for casting to the fish and when pesky bait thieves like perch, bluegill, small bass or small walleyes are in the area. Back in my youth, there wasnít much of a choice when it came to fishing line. It was monofilament, period. I used to complain that I couldnít see my clear mono when I was jigging. Then Berkley came up with Solar, a bright green, low-stretch mono that was ideal for stained water conditions. From there, Berkley has taken fishing line to a level I never would have imagined with its Fireline and Vanish Transition, which absorbs light and glows above the water, but disappears under the surface. Never again will I be able to complain about not having the right line for whatever conditions or structure Iím fishing. Sometimes, I feel like todayís anglers have a dangerous advantage with all the advancements that have made our angling efforts easier and more productive. Then I have one of those inevitable days when all the high-tech equipment in the world doesnít help me boat a fish. Still, more anglers are able to catch more fish than ever. Itís up to us as anglers to help manage the resource by taking only what we can use, using what we take and releasing the female fish that are in the prime of their reproductive lives. Personally, Iím enjoying the comforts provided to todayís angler. The good old days are the here and now. I canít wait to see what the industry comes up with next

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