Lowrance's new "BR24" sounds like a code name for a secret weapon, and it could possibly turn out to be just that for a handful of Bassmaster Classic anglers.
"This could be a game changer," said Skeet Reese, who joins Terry Butcher, Edwin Evers and Gary Klein as competitors who will be running the "Broadband Radar" on their boats during Classic week.
BR24 is a navigational safety tool to help anglers avoid collisions, allowing them to detect other boats, oil rig platforms, stumps and any other water hazards ahead of them. The hazards are displayed in an overlay on the angler's GPS mapping chart plotter.
It will mark the first time that radar has appeared in a B.A.S.S. event, potentially providing yet another bass boat innovation debuted in a Bassmaster event.
The Classic advantage?
"It gives me eyes in the dark and in the fog," explains Reese. "I can spot a buoy in the water three-quarters of a mile ahead and pick up birds sitting on the water 100 feet away."
That will be huge on the Louisiana Delta, where experts predict fog to be a factor during Classic week. If confronted with poor visibility and bad weather while making two-hour runs through a maze of canals, backwaters and channels, radar will save the anglers time.
For example, Reese says that instead of idling through blinding fog, he can run on plane and see where he's going with less concern of hitting something.
"If we get fog, a lot of guys may not be able to get to their spots or back to the weigh-in on time," says Reese. "No matter what conditions I face, I know I can get to my fish and back on time."
The BR24 is a smaller and different version than traditional radar frequently mounted on offshore boats. It employs a new generation of radar technology introduced by Navico, Lowrance's parent company, last year.
It weighs 16.31 pounds, measures 11 by 19 inches, and can be mounted on a boat pedestal on the rear casting deck. And, unlike traditional radar, the BR24 emits 1/10th the radiation of a mobile phone and has lower power draw.
"It's huggable without concern of it frying your brain," says one Lowrance observer.
The radar's range depends upon how high the unit is mounted in the boat. When mounted on a traditional bass boat pedestal above the outboard and console the range is estimated to be about two miles.
"It's a new piece of technology that will take bass fishing to a new level," said Reese, who has spent time on California waters learning the new equipment. "This will flat out save us time on long runs."
Lowrance product manager Lucas Steward tested a BR24 on his 19-foot Ranger 198VX, last summer.
"What's cool about this compared to other units is you can see everything in the water within 8 or 9 feet of the boat," he notes. "With most radar units, you can't see objects within 50 to 100 feet."
The BR24 has a single cable to plug into Lowrance HDS sonar/GPS units or it can be networked with an Ethernet cable.
Retail price is $1,699, but Lowrance will offer a $500 rebate beginning Feb. 14. For more information, visit www.lowrance.com.