New tools for the tech-savvy angler

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Three batteries are common for the new fishing boats because anglers are relying more on technology for finding fish.

Bigger boats can be better boats — but you might want to make sure the batteries are included.

Joe Bruggenthies of Al's Specialty Marine in north Rochester said it's obvious fishing boats are now bigger and faster. For a top angler, the price tag of a fully-rigged boat might hit $60,000 or more, he said. "That is very popular," he said.

It's like cars, he said. First, you buy the smaller SUV or pickup, but soon you're moving up to something big, with all the bells and whistles.

Indeed, those bells and whistles are becoming a very big deal.

First, boat designers have found ways to use each little nook and cranny to keep more gear but also keep it out of the way, he said. "In the last five to six years, that has been the biggest emphasis," he said.


He showed one boat he was rigging up for a pro angler — it has three 12-volt batteries in the battery well. Anglers once only needed one battery, maybe two, but now many need three, he said.

Besides batteries, an angler might need a good working knowledge of computers, he said, because trolling motors and other equipment is now interfacing with computers.

Another popular item is a depthfinder that communicates with the trolling motor. Humminbird has one called i-Pilot, and it lets anglers stay you in a certain place without having to use the foot pedal or handheld device. For example, if you mark a school of crappies, just click and the trolling motor will keep you on top, using data from the depthfinder, he said.

Another device is improving the system for holding at a certain depth when trolling, he said. You can tell the trolling motor and depthfinder what depth you want, and the boat will keep you at that depth, he said.

Of course, any serious angler needs a side-imaging depth finder that gives a much wider picture of what's down there, he said. But Bruggenthies said that particular technology is a bit trickier to use.

This time of year, he said he's busy with anglers getting ready for open-water fishing. But some were antsy last winter, he said. It's like having two groups.

The first is so tired of winter that they're coming in looking for a new boat or getting their boat fixed up. The second is those who need the sight of green grass, or open water, to get revved up. This year, that group dragged its feet and didn't show up at the usual times. Now, they're coming in, he said.

The good news is, today's boats are much more reliable than those of years past, he said. Owners basically need to check for any leaks. They should also take them for a test ride on Lake Zumbro or the Mississippi River before they head north for Saturday's opener, he said.


Worried about your motor but unable to get on the water for a test run? There is also a device that lets you hook up to a garden hose and run the motor on land without damaging the water pump, he said.

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Joe Bruggenthies stands next to a new Ranger fishing boat that is one of the most popular models he sells at Al's Specialty Marine on the north side of Rochester.

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