Every morning I awake to the sound of my coffee machine brewing a fresh pot of joe. Like clockwork I roll out of bed, pour a fresh cup and off to the lake I go.
This daily habit got me thinking. If I'm self-programmed to respond and react to the sound of fresh coffee being brewed, will lethargic bass become active off the sounds of other bass feeding?
This very question got me looking into the effectiveness of the feeding emulator known as the HydroWave. As a professional bass fisherman, I'm always looking for ways to up my game and give me that needed edge over my competition. The HydroWave is an electronic devise that omits prerecorded sounds of feeding bass underwater and as their slogan reads, creates a feeding frenzy.
Despite powerhouse bass anglers such as Kevin Van Dam, Jeff Kriet and Gene Eisenmann proudly sporting them, I still found myself a bit skeptical on the whole idea. Even when Paul Elias caught that mega sack every day of competition on a very tough fall bite at Alabama's Lake Guntersville, I still wasn't quick to chalk that win up to much more than a great presentation on a few great areas. It wasn't until looking into the actual physical science behind HydroWave that I started to believe in the product.
Tactile Sound Transmission (TST) is the primary output of the HydroWave's speaker system and uses finely tuned amplifiers to deliver the sound. Tactile sound is much different than ordinary sounds because it delivers a noise that you can actually feel. As described on HydroWave’s website, if you have earplugs in you will not be able to hear a sub-woofer but you will be able to feel it. Fish hear on that same frequency, the same frequency and sound produced by the HydroWave.
To continue to break it down one step further, HydroWave incorporates both Lateral Reactive Technology (LRT) as well as Vibration Reactive Technology (VRT) to elicit predatory feeding responses.
LRT is a vibration wave technology that operates at a frequency level that stimulates a predatory response through a fish's lateral line. The lateral line is naturally tuned to detect low frequency vibrations created by small prey such as shad, herring, bluegills and crayfish. The LRT of the HydroWave, produces these exact vibrations and creates a natural predatory response.
VRT is a vibration wave that operates at a frequency that stimulates a predatory response from the fish through their inner ear. It's well known that a fish's ear is nothing like a humans, a fish's ear consists of dense bones under the skin that detect and translate vibrations. This vibration detection is so accurate that a bass is able to differentiate between vibrations of various preys. This explains how a fish can be so visually impaired but still be able to feed and know what it's feeding on before it attacks it.
Alright, enough with the science mumbo jumbo, let's take it to the water. After looking into the hype that is the HydroWave, I decided to borrow a buddy’s unit for a Bassmaster Open event on Lake Lewisville, in north Texas. I used much of my practice time playing with the different settings and options trying to quickly familiarize myself with the contraption. For those of you who don't know, the Lewisville Open broke a record for the toughest tournament in B.A.S.S. history with only 3 anglers catching a limit in technically 4 days of competition. My first realization of the potential of the HydroWave actually came as a surprise. While struggling to find more than a bite or two in the first couple days of practice I decided I better start probing a bit of deep water. I recall idling out of a creek and as I was idling out through the mouth over the creek channel I noticed my Lowrance unit "light up" with what looked like bass and enormous schools of shad on the bottom in 20 feet.
I quickly got on the deck of my Ranger and started making casts with heavy spinnerbaits, a deep running Biovex crankbait, and an Outkast football jig. After a solid 25 casts with not a bite and zero activity around me, I remembered I had the HydroWave on my deck. I turned it on and within a minute fish started blowing up all around me. Unfortunately for me they were not largemouth they were stripers that had started blowing up on shad. I had literally sat there for 15 minutes with not a ripple on the water and less than a minute after turning on the HydroWave all pandemonium broke out around me and in that moment my confidence quickly started growing.
My next tournament was just a couple weeks ago on legendary Table Rock Lake. In practice I had found a couple fairly deep rock piles that were the size of my boat and sat on the ends of some long tapered points in 35 feet of water which I located by slowly scanning the points with my Lowrance StructureScan. On my very first cast I caught a 4 pound smallmouth on a 3/4 oz. Outkast Touch Down Jig. The fish instantly coughed up crayfish all over my boat so I saw no need to make another cast, I knew what they were eating and where, so I saved a waypoint and left.
The first day of the tournament, after spending all morning and early afternoon trying to make something happen shallow, I made my way to my deep rocks and within about 2 to 3 hours I probably caught close to 30 and culled a dozen or so times and put myself in strong contention going into the second day.
Day 2 of competition opened with a day full of extremely high winds and fishing these rock piles efficiently in the middle of the lake was close to impossible. The rocks were so snag filled that I couldn't fish them without breaking off and since the piles were so small, all I was doing was shutting down the school.
A sure thing was turning into a nightmare and my nerves got the best of me so I blew out of there in search of some shallow fish. This was not the best scenario considering I wasted the first few hours and the best morning shallow bite trying to force something to happen out deep. My worst fears became reality when afternoon rolled around and I only had one small keeper in the box, with two hours left before I had to weigh in. I decided I'd leave it all out there on those deep fish. This time though I'd take a different approach, instead of sitting back and trying to fight the wind I'd idle up to the rock pile and jump up on my trolling motor and use my Lowrance HDS 10 Gen-2 to show me a single fish and then try to catch that one fish and just try to put together a limit one bass at a time. The only problem was that I wasn't seeing the bass any more; I knew they had to be there but I couldn't see them. Desperate, I turned on my HydroWave unit and I started seeing fish pop up on my graph and could sit on top of them, flip my 3/4 oz. Outkast Touch Down Jig off the side of the boat and use the wind to drift the bait right past the bass's face and within an hour I filled my limit!
On my ride home to Minnesota, I couldn't help but be disappointed that I didn't put two and two together earlier in the day as I could have easily been right up there in the standings. At the same time, I was so grateful that I did figure it out and was able to prevent a horrible day on the water as well as gain valuable points in the Angler of the Year standings. Even though those bass were on a crayfish bite, the sounds from the HydroWave was just enough to pull them off the rocks by about a foot so I could separate them from the bottom with my Lowrance unit and make fishing those rocks way more efficient without snagging. Like my coffee machine, the HydroWave was just enough to turn those fish from lethargic and sitting on the rocks to active and ready to eat; regardless of what their prey was.
Speaking of Minnesota, anglers from the south regions of the country already understand the importance of the HydroWave as they've been dealing with shad their entire angling lives. Bass anglers from my neck of the woods are slow to connect the dots. For my sake I probably shouldn't be going into this. Like I said before, at the level I fish, I need every advantage a guy can get. Regardless, just because we don't have shad as our main forage here in the upper MidWest, doesn't mean HydroWave's technology isn't just as useful to us, in fact it's better. The prerecorded sounds that the HydroWave omits are actually the sounds of bass actively feeding and the crunching you hear are the shad's swim bladders crunching. The same sounds that are made when bass start putting the smack down on bluegills, it's nature ringing the dinner bell.
The reason I say that we northerners have it better is for the simple reason that not too many savvy bass fishermen have HydroWave’s equipped on their rigs yet in this part of the country. It's totally new to our bass and like with anything else new, bass aren't at all conditioned to it. It's like showing a bass that's never seen an artificial lure in its entire life a spinnerbait for the first time. Game over.
Also, for those that are still wanting more, the rumor is that the powers that be at HydroWave are in the process of developing bluegill and crayfish sounds that will be available as an update to the already existing units. Let me be the first to tell you, if you think largemouth respond well, wait till you see how smallies react.
There's still so much I need to learn with my HydroWave but I'm eagerly learning one bass at a time.
About the Author – Josh Douglas is an active tournament bass fisherman and a full time guide on Minnesota’s Lake Minnetonka. He’s got the Bassmaster Opens, FLW Evertstarts and the NABC Tournament trail slated for the 2012 season with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the tour level as well as competing in both the Forrest Wood Cup and the coveted Bassmaster Classic. When not on the water, Josh enjoys writing about his passion of bass fishing through numerous outlets including his personal website, www.joshdouglasfishing.com.