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I grew up tossing topwater plugs and crankbaits to hungry largemouth bass on Virginia’s Chickahominy River in the mid-1980s. It was well before the high-end sonar units modern anglers have come to know and love really started to catch on. Although fish-finding technology was available in the age of big hair, MTV, and Pac-Man, it wasn’t financially accessible for the average angler. Successful fishing back then involved a lot of instinct, some serious trial and error, and a lot of luck.
Times have changed. Now, even regular Joe weekend anglers can run the kind of technology I only dreamed of decades ago as I paddled that flat-bottom boat through hyacinth-choked creeks, my 80s hair billowing in the breeze. And although I still believe fishing involves plenty of luck and instinct, a dash of technology isn’t such a bad thing. Especially when it helps you catch more fish.
Earlier this month, Berkley Fishing hosted a science symposium at the Space Center Houston. At the conference, Berkley scientists and the product development team unveiled an exciting new lineup of baits optimized for forward-facing sonar (FFS), also known as live sonar.
As one of the symposium participants, I got to see the baits in action and even had a chance to get out on the water, wet a line, and see how they work in conjunction with FFS.
How the Forward-Facing Sonar Baits Work
The strides made in sonar technology in the past 15 years are staggering. Gone are the days of black-and-white hyper-pixelated two-dimensional images. Today, you can run faster, smarter, and more detailed technology on the console of a bass boat than what was crammed into the entire Apollo 11 Mission Control Room (which is entirely understandable since astronauts have yet to find evidence of bass on the moon).
Unlike traditional sonar—which only displays what has already passed under the transducer—forward-facing sonar allows anglers to see fish in incredible detail in real time. You can thus better understand how fish react to your baits and adjust the action, speed, and depth accordingly. Most importantly, you can keep those baits in the strike zone.
“We’ve known that forward-facing sonar was coming and have spent the past few years learning about the trend in anticipation of it catching on,” Berkley’s Chief Brand and Product Officer, Jon Schlosser, said. “Its impact on how anglers are approaching fisheries is advancing each day, and we at Berkley have made a conscious effort to take on the responsibility of providing those anglers with the best baits possible to interact with fish on forward-facing sonar.”
Berkley used their “science-based approach to bait development” to perfect what they call “some truly special baits that are proven to catch more fish.” The three baits—the Krej, Finisher, and PowerBait Power Switch—are revolutionary both in their design and in how they allow anglers to manipulate their baits in never-before-done ways.
While it is exciting to see both your bait and the fish’s response to it conveniently displayed together on a computer screen, these baits work like magic even if you haven’t invested major cash in a fancy, state-of-the-art sonar array. Berkley has figured out the science of driving fish psycho—high-res touchscreen display not required.
Testing the Baits on the Water
After Berkley unveiled the new baits, gave us the sales pitch, and laid out all the relevant specs, we finally saw the baits in action. It started in the company’s impressive traveling bass tank, where Berkeley designers displayed the action and versatility. And while the pros have had time to master the baits, the retrieves will be familiar to most experienced anglers. There shouldn’t be much of a learning curve.
Then, we hit the water to test the new baits with FFS technology. Unfortunately, the fishing conditions were less than ideal. We fished the day after a cold front ripped through east Texas. With plummeting temps, winds gusting above 45 mph, and an overnight rain that turned rushing water to pea soup, it wasn’t the type of day I would have normally ventured out on the water. I was honestly rethinking my “there are no bad days fishing” motto.
But we made it work. Between gusts of wind, I could cast the baits and watch them in action in surprising detail on the boat’s sonar screens. We even managed to coax a few strikes and landed a few respectable fish despite the terrible fishing conditions. I can’t wait to get these things in the water on a “good” day.
If you want to snag one (or more) of the FFS baits for your next fishing trip, there are three styles—and a dizzying array of colors and sizes—to choose from. Spoiler: Of the new collection, the PowerBait Power Switch is by far my favorite.
The New Berkley Fishing Forward-Facing Sonar Baits
- Size: 100 mm
- Weight: 1/2 oz
- Colors: Blue Vapor, Stealth Shad, Stealth Minnow, Wakasagi, Chrome, OG Blue, Table Rock, Hankie Pankie, Nebu, Stunna Shad
- Price: $14.99
The Berkley Krej is a unique bait with a backward bill to match its backward name (“Krej” is jerk spelled in reverse).
Yes, this is a funny-looking bait with a funny-sounding name. But will it catch fish? Absolutely.
Unlike conventional jerkbaits, the Krej’s upturned lip allows it to work its way upwards in the water column, imitating the natural fleeing motion of a baitfish trying to escape a predatory strike. The bait also shimmies on the fall like an injured minnow falling backward toward the big fish chasing it.
It’s incredibly versatile—you can fish it sub-surface or topwater. And because there is action on both the ascent and the backslide, anglers can maximize the time the Krej stays in the strike zone.
According to Berkley, it took over two years to perfect the Krej, integrating bait fish movements along with predator-induced reactions like darting and erratic behavior.
- Size: 5, 7, and 9 cm
- Weight: 1/3, 1/2, and 3/4 oz
- Colors: Chrome Red Perch, Wakasagi, Blue Smelt, Bad Anaconda, Black Gold, Black Silver, Chrome, Chrome Perch, Crazy Steel, French Pearl, Gold Chrome, MF Firetiger, Nebu, OG Blue, Perch, Pink Pearl, Prime Time, Purple Slime, Stealth Shad, Sunset 84
- Price: $8.99 – $10.99
The Berkley Finisher is a hard, hovering bait that offers dynamic movement without a fin due to its flattened belly and forward-heavy design. This powerhouse bait darts, flashes, and swims with tail amplitude like a live minnow, and a skilled angler can aim the bait anywhere in the water column. It can even hover over structure and will move laterally with minimal retrieve. subtle wrist snaps for medium glide.
You can fish this thing like a modern style, fin-less glide bait for walleye, or like a jerkbait for bass. Subtle wrist snaps will have the Finisher swimming with a medium glide, while longer and harder strokes give a darting and gliding action. By varying the presentation, the Finisher can dominate the entire water column vertically, laterally, backward, and forward.
Personally, I like this one as a jerkbait, and as such it has some serious potential for saltwater as well as fresh. A simple, idiot-proof jerk-and-pause retrieve should drive inshore trout, drum, bluefish, and Spanish mackerel absolutely crazy.
Berkley PowerBait Power Switch
- Size: 1.75, 2.5, 3, 3.5, 4.25, and 5 in
- Weight: 1/16, 1/4, 3/8, 5/8, 1, and 1 5/8 oz
- Colors: Clown, Firetiger, Green Pumpkin, HD Blacknose Shiner, HD Purple Wizard, HD Pink, Wizard, Wonderbread, HD Blue Wizard, HD Red Belly Goby, HD Stealth Minnow, HD White, Wizard, HD Yellow Perch, Lemon Head Glow, Silver Bullet
- Price: $9.99
This is my favorite of Berkley’s three new baits. It is denser than it looks, so it casts like a dream, and it’s easy to work in the water. I’ll be cleaning out some space in my freshwater tackle box for a bunch of these bad boys.
Although the Power Switch was engineered to allow anglers to quickly and effectively interact with fish on forward-facing sonar, this versatile bait has tons to offer anyone looking to hook panfish, bass, crappie, striper, walleye, pike, or pretty much anything else that has scales and swims in the water.
With a traditional baitfish profile and a weight-forward design, the Power Switch casts with pinpoint precision and falls fast to quickly get you into the strike zone. Anglers can work it along the bottom, jigged vertically, snapped mid-water, or hovered in the strike zone. Snap it, rip it, twitch it, drag it, yo-yo it, or work it with a straight retrieve. The possibilities are endless.
The Power Switch is also packed with Berkley’s potent PowerBait flavor, which means fish are more likely to take the bite and hold on, so you can set the hook on every strike.
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