BassTronics Pro-Guide

BassTronics Pro-Guide circa 1983.

Here’s a good one for you. I was scanning through a 1983 Western Bass magazine the other day and came across this little diddy. The BassTronics Pro-Guide. Just enter the daily conditions into the unit and it’ll tell you what Roland and Bill would use if they were on your lake.

The Pro-Guide would consider weather conditions like wind, sun and rain along with moon phase, water clarity and even cover or structure. Enter the data in the unit and it’d not only give you the lure they’d use but the color, size and retrieve they’d use with it.

It’d be a pretty amazing tool if it worked but even if it did work, wouldn’t it take the fun out of fshing? I mean, my enjoyment out of fishing comes from figuring the puzzle out on my own – not having someone tell me the answers.

The other thing that gets me about this “tool” is how could it differentiate between a western reservoir and an eastern natural lake? What about the pressure of the lake? In fact, how did it know anything about the lake you were plying? Yeah, people can get caught in ruts and only fish “what every one else does” but what if the lake you were fishing was only 20 feet deep and this thing told you to concentrate on ledges in 35 feet based on the time of year and weather?  Makes you think, huh?

Well, obviously the anglers didn’t think too highly of it because it wasn’t around long enough to even get a slight coating of dust on it. I also wonder if the “answers” it gave tied to any of Roland and Bill’s sponsors? Naw…… they wouldn’t do that.

  • Chad Keogh

    Nowadays they would just create an app…

  • Ah, ‘Basstronics’, which also appeared in BASSMaster magazines from the 80’s and promoted as the greatest thing since sliced bread in bass fishing success at the time. Keep in mind that artificial intelligence (AI) was a hot and emerging topic back then. It was basically a simple input database about the size of a paper graph that mounted in your boat and required ‘conditional’ inputs on your part, and would then spit out the color, type, size and retrieve of lure Bill and Roland would use in that fishing situation. Like all the knowledge of two of bass fishings greatest minds in a box at your disposal. And of course it didn’t catch on. And that’s because you can’t cram fishing variables into a cut and dried computer program and get catch results above anything that you couldn’t get with some reading and study or record keeping on your own.

    It comes down to a nearly unlimited number of variables and a subsequent nearly unlimited number of resulting outcomes. In the engineering and modeling world it is known as ‘degrees of freedom’. Terry could probably expound greatly on the topic. Basically put, the more degrees of freedom your system has and the better it can explain the past, the worse it will be for predicting the future, and the future is what we are always striving for in bass fishing. The fish you have yet to catch is always in the future.

    And this was the beauty with Rick Clunn’s ‘Seasonal Patterns’ approach, or In-Fisherman’s ‘F+L+P=S’ formula. They defined a simple yet critical few parameters (low degrees of freedom) to be combined/applied with plenty of room for experience and intuition, stuff that no computer program or ‘app’ has been made to duplicate yet in the bass fishing world.

    • Brian I figured you might hit on DOF. LOL. Sorry folks that’s an engineering joke.

  • Harold Sharp

    BassTronics reminds me of another great invention someone brought to B.A.S.S. several years ago, it was a temp gauge that would pinpoint bass so you would know where to fish. I remember going to the lake with someone to demonstrate how great it was, he suggested that I find a good point to check to see if there were Bass on it. So I took him to one that was always pretty good, we pulled up on the point and he started undoing the equipment and hooking up everything, then he dropped something in the water and took reading from it as he lowered it to the bottom. After about 15 minutes checking everything he said, “there’s no bass here”.
    I said, “I could have told you that with 3 cast of a white spinnerbait in about 45 seconds”. We packed up his gear and left.

    • Lol Harold! That’s classic!

  • rich

    All of these things drive me nuts. Color C Lector, PH Monitor, Oxyprobe, etc. I don’t even pay much attention to the surface temp except when it’s between 65 and 40 in either direction.

    • So true Rich. Unfortunately people are too used to the easy button. As long as there are folks like that these things will continue to he made and marketed.

  • Bruce Stafford

    Just stumbled on this web sit and thought I’d comment. Designing the proguide was one of the funist things I have ever done. That it did not sell was basically a matter of overpricing. The fact that it had concept deficiencies as noted above was not a factor in my mind. I remember sitting in on the marketing meeting with those in charge and hearing the comment about pricing – “Whatev the market will bear.” I remember gritting my teeth when I heard the final price. No worry, I got paid pretty good for that particular consulting job. In 1983 or so (Damn, it’s been 30 years ago) I was approached by some friends who owned a small-job engineering development firm. They asked me to implement the pro guide paper concept in then available microelectronic hardware. They had been appeoached by a private party who apparently knew the pros who endorsed the final device. Anyway, a currently available Intel processor (Z80 to be exact), some EEPROM, and a few other descrete components were all I needed to implement the basic scheme which went like this. The core of the process was a matrix of variables such as wind, water temp (taken from a probe in the water if connected), structure, etc. The variables were put into a hash table and user input, via silk screened push buttons was used to arrive at a set of numbers which indexed into the table. The table also contained the recommended lure, retreive speed, etc. Pretty slick. The final answer appeared on a alpha display and additional info flashed on blinking leds. All of this was done in Intel assembler and was damed tricky to get into the available memory space. As I recall I had just a few bytes of memory left to spare. Code was very compact and anytime I had to perform a computation or operation more than twice it bacame a candidate for a subroutine. I remember not long after the proguide hit the market someone had already reverse engineered the device and code. I forsaw this and built in a message that came up on the screen that only I knew about. It involved hitting a special sequence of keys. I even designed and build a hand held version where all info was input with a single button and all output appeared on the alpha screen. I still have that and pull it out occasionally for fun. All in all it was a great project. Too bad the powers that be thought they would a killing off it. All they did was kill it before its time.

    • Hey Bruce! That was an awesome story on the advent of the Pro Guide! Thanks for sharing. Too bad it didn’t catch on more and the company picked too high a price point. Amazing you did all that with so little.