The boat skidded, popped and careened into a place called the Devil’s Hole. This is a legendary hot spot for chinook on the Niagara River, but it’s no place for the feint of heart. Here, wedged between the fierce Niagara’s boiling rapids in the shadows of two enormous dams, glory can be found—and tragedy can strike.
It’s an apt place, then, for a discussion with Raymarine, the legendary sonar company that has long occupied a place in the hearts of saltwater anglers, but has recently sought a place in the minds of their freshwater brethren. Here, in the Devil’s Hole, I find Larry Rencken, VP of Sales for Raymarine, who’s tasked with ushering the company to freshwater glory.
“For a very long time, Raymarine has been a leader in saltwater,” Rencken says. “But four years ago, we decided to make a serious charge into freshwater, and we led that charge with one product—the Dragonfly.”
There’s a Dragonfly with us in the Devil’s Hole. It’s mounted to the front of Canadian Sportfishing host Italo Labignan’s boat, and the optically-bonded sonar unit is doing an admirable job of holding on for the ride. “It’s a very difficult space,” Rencken says, meaning both the bow of Italo’s boat and the Dragonfly’s market position. “Product life cycles are short, and you have several manufacturers battling it out to get the market’s attention.”
Rencken knows there’s no shortcut to the top here. “The top selling item in freshwater is always going to be roughly around $500, and everyone is putting in more features.” But led by Dragonfly, which retails from $200-$649 for the maxed-out pro version, Raymarine is confident they’ll continue to rise to the front of consumer’s minds. Part of that confidence comes from their units’ build quality—engineers say both Dragonfly and the company’s larger, HybridTouch, systems have the brightest displays in the industry—and some of it comes from Raymarine’s value proposition. They’re serious about giving customers the best value for the best price on the market.
Raymarine Summer Rebates
Right now, Raymarine is offering consumer rebates that give $150 off the price of a 7-inch Dragonfly Pro (MSRP $649) and $100 off of each of the 5-inch Dragonfly Pro models (starting at $549). “The most common thing we hear is that anglers have never seen an image like the one they get off out our products,” Rencken says. And he might be right. Raymarine says Dragonfly is the only product in that price range to offer full spectrum CHIRP sounders. “We use a very low frequency range,” adds Rencken. “That enables us to get really good image quality at higher speeds.”
Downstream from the Devil’s Hole, Italo guides the boat into a drift in a more lazy section of the river. A long cast away lies the Canadian border, but over in America, Rencken and I are focused on a screen. This one’s not on the bow. It’s mounted to the console, and it belongs to a HybridTouch. The HybridTouch is showing something interesting— a mixed school of smallmouth and white bass that have been busy falling victim to a trio of rods that (full disclosure) have been flying from every member of our party since early morning.
On the glowing screen of the HybridTouch, we simultaneously spot what looks to be a pair of smallmouth bass suspended just yards away. With a whir, I’ve got a line in the water and a fish on the line. Sure enough, the scaled specimen on the other end is a good fish, but it’s no smallmouth. It’s an 18.5-inch white bass—long enough to become a New York State, Alberta—depending upon how far that cast was—or IGFA record (because who would record a white bass?).
Naturally, the boat is
abuzz at this marvel of nature mildly amused by the peculiar size of this bycatch. We snap a few photos, measure it with a Mickey Mouse measuring tape and drop the would-be record back into the Niagara’s depths, which just goes to show you—when you enter a new area, you’d better know what you’re dealing with.
Bolstered by an all-new Dragonfly 7 and the growing customer appeal of HybridTouch, Raymarine feels destined for glory. And their success so far has started to turn the heavyweight sonar bout in freshwater into a four-way battle royal.
“We want to create customers that stay for life,” Rencken concludes. “Before Dragonfly, we were missing a lot of customers who got their first impression from another brand and stayed with them.”
Now, they’ve got a fighting chance.