I carried some of fishing’s newest, high-tech innovations to the water.
Ed Hope had loaned me two of his Pole Tap Smart Rods, which can alert anglers to biting fish via a microchip that triggers lights and beeping when the rod flexes or is jolted.
Also along were my usual giant heapings of bad angling luck, the reason friends call me “The Fishing Magician” for an ability to make all things piscine disappear.
So I headed to a series of private lakes and ponds Erin and Andy Fanter lease west of Kingman.
The fishing is good there, so I figured I’d get ample opportunity to test the warning systems.
That’s what I get for figuring.
The Fanters were casting for, and catching, crappie and bass when I arrived.
That wasn’t an option for me.
The Smart Rod’s trigger system isn’t designed for the movement casting and retrieving requires.
Hope said they can be used for trolling if set on the least sensitive of the rod’s three settings. I planned to cast out some bait, put the rods in holders and wait for the music and light show.
So I rigged a spinning rod/reel combo with stinky cut shad and cast it out, hoping to hook a quick channel cat.
I placed the rod and pushed the button that sets the switch.
It was supposed to whirl, flash and beep to let me know all was ready. Hope later identified the problem as a software glitch.
I rigged the other combo and cast it, too.
The red button was pushed to set the rod, which sang and flashed to show all was ready.
And then the waiting began.
Unfortunately, no rod is smart enough to make fish bite.
The Fanters were catching bass and crappie in a nice south breeze when I’d arrived.
By the time I had lines in the water, the wind was from the east, when the old adage says “the fish bite the least.”
A half-hour passed, and I occasionally tapped the tip of the working rod. Every time, the beeper beeped and the lights flashed.
Finally, a three-pound catfish struck hard — but on the rod deadened by the software problem. Another half-hour passed with no action.
Figuring worms gave me a better chance for bass and wipers, I opened a foam container I’d purchased a few hours earlier and found more of the legendary “Michael’s Magic” when it comes to fishing.
At the store I’d lifted the lid of the box of two dozen, poked a worm and it wiggled.
I should have checked the other 23.
A hook with the live and one dead worm was rigged below a bobber and cast out so the breeze could drag it across the pond. Time was also dragging.
I sat beside the working rod and pushed the red button to put the alarm through its paces, trying all three sensitivity settings to see how much movement was needed.
Back and forth, I set the beeper so it would sound or remain silent. I tapped the rod after every adjustment to see how things were working.
A half-minute after I’d finished fiddling, the lights flashed.
I looked up and saw the rod’s tip bowed and bouncing. It was a channel cat of about a pound. Not a major catch, but enough to show the Smart Rod might have some brains.
After a few photos, I grabbed the gear and headed to where the Fanters were fishing on a dock.
I cast the line rigged with limp worms, placed the rod in a holder and set the alarm.
Of course I was at the opposite end of the dock, deep in conversation with the Fanters, when the Smart Rod started screaming, and I saw it was bowed deeply.
I grabbed the rod probably a second or two before it was wrenched from the holder, and had time to feel a heavy fish make a few hard tugs before it wrapped itself into a submerged brushpile and escaped.
That certainly wasn’t the rod’s fault, and it may have saved itself from a trip into the drink.
So my take on the new technology?
It probably won’t rank up there with the invention of the Zebco 33 or monofilament line in terms of impact on angling, but the rods are fun, functional and will have their place in fishing.
Rods are expected to cost $40-$50 when they hit stores, possibly by summer.
I’ll probably buy one. If Mr. Hope can make a rod smart enough to teach me to pay better attention, and pick my days better, I’d probably buy two.