Thursday, May 23, 2024

Fish with the Confidence of a “Local” Humminbird® SmartStrike™ Helps Anglers Find & Pattern Fish Faster


Fish with the Confidence of a “Local”

Humminbird® SmartStrike™ Helps Anglers Find & Pattern Fish Faster


Long before web-based fishing forums and social media – finding the best fishing intel was still about networking. Used to be that one of the best ways to learn a new lake was to do a little digging around bait shops, greasy spoons and bars. Armed with nothing more than a little humility and a firm handshake, the end result was often a lake map scribbled on a bar napkin and a new fishing buddy. Shut off the power to Facebook and this is still a great way to learn to waters.

But, there are also a host of other tools available to today’s angler that can minimize the amount of time needed to find and pattern fish.

Bass pro Doug Vahrenberg demonstrates the big payoff of running Humminbird SmartStrike on his ONIX unit

One of the newest and most powerful is Humminbird’s SmartStrike, an SD card-based software program designed for use on Humminbird ONIX and ION fish finders.

In a nutshell, SmartStrike allows you to harness LakeMaster map data and an extensive onboard database to pattern fish. Based on search parameters like fish species, season, time of day, and weather conditions, SmartStrike highlights areas of the lake map where your target species may be located, minimizing wasted casts. It’s like having your own personal local fishing guide with decades of experience.

Build detailed searches by selecting your desired search criteria. Or searches can be fast and easy: Simply click on any location on the water, select Find Similar Areas, and millions of data points are searched to return other areas like the one you selected. The SmartStrike engine searches depth ranges, aspect, type of structure, proximity to major types of lake structure, and more to quickly reveal your results.

Since we all wish we had more time on the water, a product like SmartStrike that promises to put anglers on fish faster should be looked at very seriously. For pros, the ability to fish a like local can mean big payouts. The rest of us? More fun on the water with family and friends – priceless.

Missouri-based bass pro Doug Vahrenberg is one angler who’s currently put SmartStrike into his fish-finding routine.

“Multi-day tournaments come down to finding the right pattern,” says Vahrenberg.

Vahrenberg illustrates his point with a conversation he had with bass legend Rick Clunn about the difference between one-day vs multi-day bass tournaments. Clunn broke down the role of luck from 80% in a one-day tournament, 60% in a two-day tournament and down to 30% by day three. Basically, that multi-day tournaments take more skill than luck – or one big fish. The winner is typically the angler who can uncover the most consistent pattern. Of course, that starts with location. And one hopes that what emerges is a big fish pattern.

“For me, SmartStrike becomes that tool to hedge the bets in my favor. It’s a great search tool to use before I even get to the tournament. I turn on the unit at home, go in and select the conditions I think we’ll be facing and it quickly highlights areas where those seasonal bass patterns may come into play,” says Vahrenberg.

He says there’s “not much of a learning curve” with SmartStrike. “I was really surprised by how simple it is to use, whether you use the touch screen or buttons on your ONIX. It’s intuitive and fast.”

Case Study #1: Lake of the Ozarks

One of Vahrenberg’s first experiences with the power of SmartStrike happened last summer on Lake of the Ozarks.

“One of the things I look for during summer are ledges along river banks or near creek mouths – typical channel swings close to the bank. But sometimes bass want the steeper banks, because they offer more comfort than a sloping bank. A bass can move up to feed and then slide back deeper to rest and metabolize that food without losing a ton of energy. With SmartStrike you can actually dial in gradual vs steep breaks. Again, saves me a ton of time.”

Although Vahrenberg had a good idea there would be fish located on this specific type of structure and depth contour, SmartStrike quickly reinforced his plan.

“But SmartStrike is a lot faster than I am at finding specific locations. I would have spent hours studying the map and dropping waypoints. Its search algorithms label spots in no time flat. Then, if I catch a fish on a specific spot, I can enter in the criteria for that spot, and it will find me every other spot on the lake just like it. You can build and test a pattern pretty fast!”

Case Study #2: Table Rock Lake

“I was getting ready for a tournament this spring on Table Rock. I knew going in that we were looking at pre-spawn/spawn conditions. I ran SmartStrike and it highlighted ledges, points, and coves in the back of bays. And it was right on. That time of year bass will transition from the points and spawn in the back of those pockets. It showed that clearly.”

But Vahrenberg doesn’t just run to the recommended spots and start casting. He’ll first investigate the SmartStrike-recommended locations with Side Imaging.

“Not every one of the spots held fish, but some of them did. What it does is give you a fast and efficient way to start building a pattern. No wasted casting. It’ll tell me some places to go look at, then I’ll use my Side Imaging to validate if those are places where the fish are.”

Case Study #3: Truman Lake

“It was the June 1 on Truman Lake, fish had spawned and I hadn’t fished there for a long time. I saw the bream moving in and started throwing a square bill. Using SmartStrike, I could find where the flat met the channel swing. I found similar areas and every spot where there was a flat and a channel swing off the bank I caught fish. And good fish in the 4 – 7 pound range.”

The proof’s in the pudding. Vahrenberg’s experience with SmartStrike that day on Truman put him on more and better fish than a local expert.

See the arrow? One of many fish-holding spots SmartStrike predicted on Truman Lake — also exactly the spot where Vahrenberg caught the bass in the photo at the top of this story.

“That same day a buddy who lives on the lake only caught a couple. I caught 15 to 20, even though I was basically fishing the lake fresh. The deal was the females were post-spawn, but were up on the flats eating bream before moving out on the main lake. And SmartStrike showed all those spots. This bite only lasts a couple days, but I got on it. It’s a cool deal on Truman but will happen across the country.”

One Step Ahead of the Weather

Another key benefit of SmartStrike is the ability to model various weather scenarios, giving you a flexible game plan when it comes time for your fishing trip or tournament.

“You might be thinking pre-spawn going into a tournament and find that they’re post-spawn. With a few button clicks you can have a new game plan in no time flat. Or I can model for changing weather conditions at home or in real time. That’s powerful.”



Similarly, SmartStrike allows you to search specific depth ranges, too, like shallow, mid-depth or deep areas.


“If I’m struggling I’ll punch in different criteria and see what SmartStrike recommends. That, plus my knowledge, plus Side Imaging, 360 Imaging … It’s just another tool in the toolbox to help you find the best locations.”


Vahrenberg says another powerful feature is SmartStrike’s ability to Find Similar Areas.

“Structure is a major deal in the Bass Opens. We think more about structure on deeper impoundments or river systems but even on shallow-water reservoirs, there’s still structure bass relate to. Might be only a foot drop or a specific aspect of a creek channel. Like channel swings early in the year. From pre- through post spawn they’re super critical. With SmartStrike you can run these scenarios and pre-fish the spots fast.”


Lastly, Vahrenberg says it’s amazing what SmartStrike reveals even when you’re the local and fishing waters you’ve fished for decades.


“It’s mind-opening what happens when you run SmartStrike on lakes you know. I guarantee you’ll discover new spots that you’ve overlooked.”




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