Underwater camera a game changer for Mich. Division BFL Angler of the Year

By on January 23, 2015
Matt Vermilyea, 2014 BFL Michigan Division Angler of the Year (Courtesy Matt Vermilyea

For bass tournament angler Matt Vermilyea, adding an underwater camera to the usual slew of electronics aboard his boat has changed the way he scouts for fish. The tactic appears to be paying off, as Vermilyea collected the 2014 Angler of the Year trophy in the FLW Bass Fishing League Michigan Division.

“Using that camera and those electronics is part of what made that happen for me,” Vermilyea said. “You can’t be afraid to think outside the box, and using a camera more than most would has definitely been an advantage.”

Vermilyea, an auto mechanic when he’s not fishing, began fishing tournaments about seven years ago, which was also around the same time he picked up his first underwater camera — a black and white unit that he never got into much because “I was one of those guys that just wanted to go fish,” he said.

But as his tournament fishing progressed, he learned that if he wanted to keep up, it was going to take a little more than just fishing. Learning to use an underwater camera — both in practice and on tournament days — has helped him immensely, he said.

Most of that help has come from being able to use his own eyes to answer questions that might come up based on what he sees on traditional electronics like a fish finder or side imaging. When he’s scouting, he can locate fish fairly quickly on his Lowrance HDS unit’s large screen, but the size and species of the fish isn’t always clear. That can be an important distinction on the diverse fishery of his home waters in western Lake Erie, where the marks on the screen could be bass, walleye, or even drum or catfish.

Vermilyea at the 2014 FLW BFL Super Tournament Lake St. Clair (Courtesy Matt Vermilyea)

Vermilyea at the 2014 FLW BFL Super Tournament Lake St. Clair (Courtesy Matt Vermilyea)

“It only takes a couple minutes to drop a camera down, and you get a lot of things answered right away,” Vermilyea said. “If that’s the size you’re looking for and the species you’re looking for, you make the notes for tournament day, and you go back and hope you catch them at the right time when they’re eating and the plan comes together.”

Though some might expect that dropping a camera into a group of fish might spook them, that hasn’t been Vermilyea’s experience. Some fish might initially swim away from the descending foreign object, but they’ll usually come back around to check it out.

“Smallmouth are curious,” he said. “They’ll come over and investigate. They’ll put their faces right up in the camera.”

Except on the muddiest inland lakes, picture quality rarely limits the camera’s usefulness, he said. Even on some of the dirtier water he’s fished in Lake Erie, the camera shows enough to better understand the bottom structure, locate vegetation and identify fish based on theirs silhouettes.

Being able to use a camera as well as other tools and tactics is what separates the guys that are growing in bass fishing and the guys that are just sitting still and not learning, Vermilyea said.

“In order to excel at a sport, you have to be able to use the tools that you’re given,” he said. “As long as cameras are allowed to be used for scouting or during tournaments, I personally always will.”

Top image: Matt Vermilyea, 2014 BFL Michigan Division Angler of the Year (Courtesy Matt Vermilyea)

About Jeff Gillies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *