In 1957, Lowrance developed the first sonar dedicated to sport fishing. The unit was small, portable and dubbed the Fish Lo-K-Tor or, depending on the year purchased, the Little Red or Little Green Box. These small units changed the face of fishing and when coupled with Buck Perry’s new form of fishing, called structure fishing, anglers could unlock the secrets of their waters in no time.
Unfortunately, the cost of the units was high, even in 1950s and 1960s dollars. For example, the Little Green Box retailed for around $125, which today would be equivalent to roughly $1,200. Hence, not too many anglers were able to afford the new-fangled gear or couldn’t rationalize laying out that much money for a fishing gadget.
Hardcore anglers, such as those who subscribed to Bill Binkelman’s Fishing News, were driven to the technology no matter the cost. It was Binkelman and Buck Perry who should probably be credited with the early sales of the units as one can go back and see numerous articles from 1963 on featuring the use of the sonar.
Then in 1967, the great movement happened. Tournament bass fishing. By 1968, the Bassmaster Trail was in its first year and Bassmaster Magazine was being sent out to the new members of the Bass Anglers Sportsman’s Society. In those magazines were “How To” articles on how to consistently catch bass, many of which touted the depthfinder. Then there were the tournament reports, where a high percentage of events were won fishing deep water offshore utilizing the new technology.
As more and more anglers read reports from the early pros and what made them successful, the weekend angler succumbed and purchased depthfinders for their own fishing. That coupled with a U.S.G.S. topographical map and a little study from Fishing News and Bassmaster Magazine, and the electronics industry was on its way.
After that long lead in, what I have for you today is a look at a 1971 Lowrance Electronics Marine Instruments Catalog. By today’s meter it’s scant. Ten pages including covers. Three gimbal-mounted units and the Fish Lo-K-Tor are the only depthfinders between the covers.
Let’s take a look at all Lowrance had to offer this year.
The LMG-240 was meant to be used on ocean-going vessels. It came equipped with a needle dial and two ranges, 0-40 feet and 0-240 feet. The 0-240 feet range could also be read off the bottom scale to give depths in fathoms. I thought that was pretty ingenious they chose the depth ranges that way.
Other than depth, this meter wasn’t good for much. But if that was all you needed, I’m sure it did its job and did it well. Retail for the units was $159.95
The LFG-320, instead of having a needle dial, was equipped with a flashing light, just like the Fish Lo-K-Tor. It too was meant for ocean or deep lake use as the depth scale of the unit was 0-200 feet with a maximum depth of 300 feet. There wasn’t enough resolution to show a one- or even two-foot drop, something a freshwater bass angler would be interested in. What separated this unit from the LMG-240 was it would show fish suspended, not just the bottom. The unit retailed for $199.95.
The LFG-300 was Lowrance’s solution for the freshwater angler who wanted a permanent depthfinder/fish locator. Built off the insides of the Little Green Box, this unit had a 0–100-foot dial, which gave a higher resolution. The angler was able to read slight depth changes as well as determine bottom composition, locate fish, and find underwater structure and cover. The transducer for this unit and the LFG-320 was a combination transom mount of through-hull mount. Lowrance recommended the through-hull mounting option over the transom mount to avoid interference. The unit retailed for $179.95.
I’m not sure when these gimbal mounted units were originally introduced. The first ads I’ve seen in all the magazines I have, dating back to the early 60s, show these units were available around late 1970 and throughout 1971. If any of you reading this know of earlier ads or product catalogs that say different, please let me know.
Of course, you couldn’t have a complete Lowrance catalog without the Lowrance Fish Lo-K-Tor. Over the years there were several different models produced with upgrades. The model in 1971 was the LFP-300. The unit came with an integral carrying case as well as a portable transducer. I don’t see anywhere in the catalog a portable transducer mount, so I assume it wasn’t offered at this time. I wonder how many households had their brooms rendered useless for the construct of a transducer mount. The unit retailed for $179.95.
The last piece of equipment offered by Lowrance this year was the LTP-100 Temperature/Depth Indicator. A portable unit, it came with a needle dial that registered the water depth and temperature, depending on the setting chosen. It was battery operated, would read depth to 100 feet and had a dual temperature scale. Scanning through the old magazines, you frequently see these on the dashboard or decks of the boats used by the pros of the day.
The Fun of Electronic Fishing
The best deal in the whole catalog was at the end on the inside back cover. An offer for Lowrance’s, “The Fun of Electronic Fishing,” a complete book on how to use electronics to better your angling experience. For $1.00 you could receive a copy of the book, which retailed for $2.00. I own this book and for those who really want to learn electronics, it is still a must read. The technology hasn’t changed one bit, just the way it’s presented to the angler. I’ll put a picture of the book cover in the gallery below.
Another piece of Lowrance memorabilia I have is the Lowrance Fishing Calculator/Sonar Signal Interpretation card. This is a cool little piece of fishing ephemera that I am sure had its own spot in the bottom of many an UMCO 4500UPB tackle box. It’s a quick guide on how to interpret sonar signals as well as a tool to tell the angler what might be biting and where to locate them. I’ll include that in the gallery too.