Is Garmin Panoptix the Future of Fishing Sonar?

“I’m very competitive,” Fred Roumbanis says. “It’s in the blood.”

The Bassmaster Elite and FLW Tour angler is in the midst of another story. It’s a skill that “Boom Boom” is as adept at as catching bass, which makes sense really—fishing and stories have gone together seemingly since the dawn of time, and Fred Roumbanis tells some of the best.

This one—like the time he decided to sleep in a boat overnight and woke up to a disgruntled, machete-wielding maniac—is pretty fascinating. But it’s not about life-threatening encounters in the dark (we’ll get to the end of that one in a minute); it’s about discovering the future of marine electronics.

“One day,” he starts. “I’m at Kentucky Lake and while I’m fussin’ with my gear, Scott Martin is over by his boat building a squirrel trap for my son, Jackson. Scott had done really well in the tourney, and we started talking. That’s when Scott showed me his new Garmin electronics. I was really impressed. I had never really looked at a Garmin unit before. Later, I told my father-in-law about how impressive the Garmin units were. He’s a retired engineer from one of their competitors, so his reaction really surprised me. He said Garmin was the future, that I should look into them. So I did.”

A couple of months after Boom Boom’s first encounter with Garmin, I catch up with him on another Tennessee River impoundment. This time, Roumbanis is at Guntersville testing out the company’s new Panoptix sonar.

That’s the future his father-in-law was talking about. Under a rainy Alabama sky, Roumbanis likes what he sees.

Panoptix is true, real-time sonar that shows anglers exactly what is going on in front or below their boat: not what happened a few seconds ago, what’s happening right now. With Panoptix, an angler can spot cover, let’s say a stump, see a bass lurking around its base and watch his jig as it approaches, thumps and bounces over the stump. If the bass strikes, Panoptix shows the battle.

That technology has already led to some amazing screen shots on Garmin’s Flickr page, and it’s what Roumbanis is at Guntersville to figure out.

Here’s the deal:

If you watched the video, you can see the future. And you can see that Garmin is making a serious play to grab marketshare in the fishing industry. In addition to Panoptix (which Garmin says has over 100 sonar sensors, compared to one or two sensors in most sonar units), the company has signed a small army of pro anglers to test the technology.

Roumbanis is one of those pros. Others include Scott Martin, who dragged Roumbanis into this, Brent Chapman, Jason Christie, Greg Hackney and legendary fishing icon Bill Dance.

What are those pros saying?

“It brings a whole new dimension to fishing,” says Roumbanis. “There is nothing else like Panoptix sonar on the water. It’s absolutely amazing. Panoptix LiveVü is like live, video 2D sonar. You can actually watch fish chase your lure. It’s crazy. And Panoptix RealVü 3D shows you fish across the entire playing field at various depths.”

Chapman says Panoptix is a game changer. “With traditional sonar, you’re going along and you’re looking at what’s under the boat…what you’ve basically gone over the top of. With Panoptix, you’re looking out the front of the boat and seeing fish in real time, and you can literally tell if they are moving left or right.”

As for Dance, the industry icon says Panoptix is revolutionary. “I’ve seen crankbaits being worked. When you see it, it’s there happening right now. The ability to see all around the boat in real time is an amazing thing. It’s something that fishermen have never had the ability to see.”

Roumbanis combines Panoptix with a few other Garmin products, namely SideVü and DownVü, in his quest for another big bass story. “SideVü is perfect for scouting,” he says, nothing that he often uses it at speeds over 10 mph with no problems. DownVü, on the other hand, shows him photographic images of structure and fish under the boat. But the real kicker is Panoptix.

Garmin will be the first to admit that they’re late to the fishing sonar game, but with a technology like Panoptix and some of the world’s best mapping in their toolbox, Garmin is poised to play a major role in sonar’s future. It’s a story that Fred “Boom Boom” Roumbanis is happy to tell.

As for the machete-wielding maniac? He’d locked his keys in his vehicle. “I don’t know why he thought he needed the machete,” Boom Boom recounts. “But we used it to break the window out of his truck.”