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Tech Toys 2020: Leading-Edge Sportfishing Trends & Innovations

seakeeper on boat

The reach of technological innovation continues to influence the sportfishing industry in ways once unimaginable. Any advantage a captain can achieve toward his quest and target game fish should not be overlooked. And if that edge also ensures a clear sense of safety, then so be it no matter the price tag or difficulty in acquisition. Being up to date with the latest technology also means being on the bite. Amid the many innovations propelling offshore anglers to truly impressive feats, sleek sportfish yachts are likely the single greatest influence enabling anglers to scour distant waters previously unrealizable. And youd be hard pressed to find a new build without plans for a gyro stabilizer. Seakeeper ( anti-roll gyros exemplify state-of-the-art technology, gauging sea conditions and reacting immediately. For once, a gyro stabilizer puts an end to the balancing act we have grown accustomed to over the years.

The best part is that it works not only in any sea condition, but also at any speed. The device comprises a computer-controlled flywheel that spins at high speeds with remarkable precision. The flywheel rests in a self-contained vacuum, delivering optimal results and requiring minimal power. A positive side effect to this popular option is that many production builders have been forced to redesign their vessel structural characteristics to accommodate the market widespread desire to cruise and fish in comfort. This means strengthening key areas in the hull and deck. Builders have also enlarged deck hatches to improve access for routine maintenance or refit.
Electric fishing reels have been around for a long time. Keen inventors originally modified traditional fishing reels with aftermarket motors to help improve efficiency through increased retrieval speeds. They were archaic but effective. Fortunately, there are now several respected manufacturers dedicated to the development of electric reels that can serve many purposes. These modern marvels have evolved from basic single speed units to infinitely variable speed capabilities, all without sacrificing load capacity. Lindgren-Pitman new SV series reels available in 12- and 24-volt ( provide enhanced pulling power with variable speed adjustability and a level wind with line counter. LP has continuously refined what very well could be the best electric fishing reel, judged by its popularity in the cockpit of game boats around the world. Enabling anglers to multitask like never before, electric kite reels truly are a difference maker. While these compact workhorses are fully capable of light duty deep dropping, they strategically enhance kite fishing efforts by allowing anglers to retrieve kites faster than ever. In this venue, Hooker Electric ( stands alone with the fastest electric reels on the market. Their Shimano Tiagra 30 model is capable of retrieving at speeds of 1,000-feet per min applying 40 pounds of drag. Be careful or you might fold the kite spars! Electrics are also popular for use as dedicated teaser reels, often located over the captain head allowing the lines to be threaded to the outriggers with relative ease. No longer a repurposed reel, these are specific for teaser operation as demonstrated by products such as the Elec-Tra-Mate ( or Miya Epoch ( overhead systems for managing both surface teasers and dredges.

A compact unit comprising watermaker and freshwater purifier, the XZ Series is incredibly convenient. Photo courtesy Dometic

The watermaker market has become heavily saturated with products and therefore allowed for more competition and innovation that ultimately benefits all owners of these systems. The newest modular systems are smaller, faster, often automatic and produce cleaner water than ever before. The real gem in this segment is the freshwater reverse osmosis (RO) watermakers, popularized by the Dometic ( Spot Zero brand. This is a system that has brought nearly perfect water onboard our vessels for washing, bathing and drinking without the worry of possible contamination. Whether you are using dock water or RO water, it could very well be impure with over 100 parts per million (PPM) of total dissolved solids (TDS). EPA drinking water standards allow a maximum of 500 PPM and often RO seawater measures in the 100 PPM range. City dock water typically scores in the 200 PPM range and the solids in TDS are often naturally occurring minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides and sulfates.
hooker electric reel and rod

For kite fishing enthusiasts, there no tool more beneficial than a Hooker Electric reel.

The new SeaXchange + Spot Zero XZ is a combination series for boaters in need of a compact, integrated system for creating truly spot-free water anywhere in the world. Such a powerful system can process chlorinated water, something a traditional watermaker cannot do, and remove about 98 percent of the minerals, resulting in clean water with less than 20 PPM of TDS.
If youve never used a Spot Zero, then you may be wondering why this is such a big deal. Most sportfish boats install these systems to assist in keeping the exterior finish in pristine condition. When water evaporates it leaves behind minerals that stick to the finish”commonly known as water spots. Without minerals in the water, or very few, evaporation doesnt leave spots and the tedious chamois drying of exterior surfaces is greatly reduced.

The all-new GX100NX antenna takes full advantage of Inmarsat high-speed satellite constellation. Photo courtesy Intellian

Many crews have found other benefits in the interior, such as cleaner shower heads and faucets, better ice from ice makers, and easier to clean glass in the bathrooms. It would be hard to skip over the technology benefits of NMEA 2000. This communications standard was originally designed as a way to share critical navigation data among same or different brands of electronics. This protocol has developed into so much more than just serving navigational needs and there are now many NMEA 2000 products that can connect and interface with our traditional navigation suites, refocusing them as a whole boat monitoring and control system. Over the years, manufacturers have developed NMEA 2000 networkable products such as lights, stereos, bilge and livewell pumps, tank levels sensors, VHF radios, depth and temperature transducers, monitoring systems and more using the increasingly popular digital switching.
It also produces greater target resolution than low frequency. Regardless if you favor Garmin, Furuno, Simrad, Raymarine or Lowrance, achieving superior performance with any sonar system starts with transducer selection. AIRMAR ( leads the way in transducer technology, offering nearly 30 options of in-hull, thru-hull, tilted element and transom-mount transducer units. When it comes to sonar, the type with a retractable in-hull transducer, Furuno ( omni sonar and Koden ( broadband searchlight sonar are incredibly advantageous. While not exactly new, it seems that all-seeing sonar with real-time ability is the latest must-have for tournament teams looking to gain an edge over their competition. This could be just a blip in the pent-up demand for such systems or possibly a trend that will see many boatbuilders incorporating sonar tube options in all boats and new systems introduced at all price points. Need to stay connected with family, friends and emergency services when venturing beyond cell phone range? Communication is undoubtedly a cornerstone of modern global society and it plays a particularly important role in the maritime world. With a number of powerful satellite communication systems now available for traveling anglers, there no reason not to call home and check in. Im particularly fond of the Garmin ( inReach mini. For a small monthly fee and a reasonably priced handheld device, you can have texting coverage around the world with no roaming charges or hidden fees. Once reserved for commercial maritime interests, advanced communication equipment has become standard on sportfish yachts and super-sized center consoles. In November of 2019, Inmarsat (, a leader in global, mobile satellite communications launched the fifth and newest satellite in the Global Xpress fleet, delivering high-speed broadband services to mariners around the world. If you are the owner of a center console in South Florida, then you already know about satellite theft tracking”you cant get insurance on a boat with multiple outboards without one of these systems. GOST ( is a leader in remote vessel monitoring and tracking and has raised the bar for all other ventures in this marketplace with realtime updates including unauthorized entry/motion, battery voltage, bilge status, temperature and vessel location and much more.
furuno sonar

Furuno CSH8LMK2 leaves little to be desired. Photo courtesy Furuno

The ability to remotely trigger an alarm or control cabin and cockpit lights, air conditioning and battery switches from a smartphone or computer provides peace of mind that simply unmatched. Without sufficient light, everything appears different at night. One of the best ways to enhance nighttime awareness is with a FLIR thermal camera ( Available in handheld and fixed mount systems with pan/tilt and active gyro-stabilization, these devices allow users to view navigation hazards, landmarks and vessels more clearly and from farther away than ever before, even under moonless skies. These innovative optics take the guesswork out of navigating at night with state-of-the-art thermal imaging networked through your multifunction display. Nite Track ( is another option, but rather than thermal imaging it relies on the latest in charged coupled device technology and also incorporates an infrared illuminator to improve sensitivity. Even with modern technology, becoming a successful fisherman requires much more than sophisticated equipment. The fundamentals are still essential and knowing how to adapt to constantly changing environments is something that no tech toy can replace. While these innovations may be debated, reordered and argued, we are fortunate that the manufacturers and inventors within our industry continue to provide us with the best tools to enhance our fishing and boating exploits. Hats off and a big thank you to all who manufacture, sell, install and service the marine industry. Captain Steve Katz is the owner of Steve Marine Service Inc in Ocean City, Maryland. He is the Vice Chairman of Board of Directors for National Marine Electronics Association and holds ABYC Master Technician certification, NMEA AMEI and NMEA2000 certificates. This is in addition to extensive factory training from many manufacturers. To contact Steve, email [email protected]