Original Caption: Don Nichols of La Grange, Ill., runs outboard and checks depth-sounder to study bottom contours of Lake Elizabeth, Wis. May 16, 1965, Chicago Tribune, photo by Tom McNally.

For today’s ‘Friday Finale,’ an ode to days gone past when in 1965, renowned Chicago Tribune outdoor writer Tom McNally penned the following story headline:

“Fishing Now Isn’t Leisurely Pastime of Bygone Days, Science Steps In with Gadgetry of Space Age”

The space age “gadgetry” in this case was a Heathkit depth finder, costing just under $100 at the time, and requiring you to assemble on your own. With all the discussion and criticism I’ve been reading this year about forward-facing sonar and technology in bass fishing in general, I thought this 1965 article was quite timely.

In the article, the Heathkit was being used and demonstrated to McNally by Don Nichols. For those not familiar with Don, he was a commercial airline pilot, close friend of Buck Perry’s, and was the 1962 Illinois State Fishing Champion. That title earned him an all-expense paid trip to the World Series of Sport Fishing event being put on by Hy Peskin, that Terry and I have written about rather frequently.

If you look close at the picture. you’ll see that Don took some cardboard and fashioned a sun screen to better read the flasher dial in bright light. This unit worked similarly to the big commercial unit at the time, the Lowrance Lo-K-Tor, but at a cheaper price point. The technology was a big deal at the time, especially since the units were not all that common among the general angling public.  Showing up to a lake with one of these units would garner a bit of attention. The Heathkit proved instrumental in opening up the world of “structure fishing” to the average angler who couldn’t afford the Lowrance units.

Another piece of related electronic history is Tom Mann, Blake Honeycutt and Hank Dean started Humminbird by souping up a Heathkit with a brighter bulb, insulating the unit from motor interference, and improving the transducer to operate at high speeds.