1973 Sentry Oxygen Meter ad.

Lately we have presented several failed electronic gadgets designed, manufactured and sold to the bass fishing public here on the Bass Fishing Archives. Some examples are the Depth Talker, the BassTronics Pro-Guide and numerous other Popeil-esque catastrophes over the years. Not to disappoint you, here’s another, the Oxygen Meter Fail.

Although oxygen is a necessity of life and low oxygen levels will make fish die, the advent of the portable oxygen meter for bass fishing use never really got off the ground. It wasn’t that the science wasn’t there – it was – it was due to several problems the scientists peddling the thing didn’t consider.

First, and the most scientific reason why it failed, was due to the fact that meters of this type need to be regularly calibrated or they lose their accuracy and effectiveness. I’ve worked around and with O2 meters for my job going on 35 years now. The ones I’ve used require daily calibration or they begin to give erroneous results. We’ve tried to use the “needs-no-calibration” models – they still pop up in the catalogs on occasion – but they never give accurate results over a period of more than a week. And this is in a pristine laboratory environment.

With that said, let’s look at the environment an angler would have the instrument in. A boat on rough water banging around in a compartment that might have an anchor, can of oil and don’t forget the Vienna sausages. Not that hard to figure out what’s going to lose that battle.

The second problem with the O2 meter, and this has more to do with human psychology than physics, is this. The average angler doesn’t want to take the time to unravel the cord, drop the detector down 20 feet, wait for the reading to stabilize, note the oxygen level, wind the cord back up, put the thing away and then start fishing. It’s the same reason you haven’t heard much of the Color-C-Lector since its debut in the mid-80s. I will give credit where do, though as the Color-C-Lector opened our eyes to not-found-in-nature colors that work.

Anyway, it’s not that bass anglers are lazy, it’s just that they don’t like wasting their time doing anything but casting, hoping to get a tug on the other end of the line. Most of them can figure out in a decent matter of time when the fish are eating in a certain area.

A good example of this is a conversation I had with Harold Sharp, years ago. He told me of a time he was fishing on some lake with another guy who’d just bought a pH meter. The guy stopped the boat and started messing with his meter. Harold, on the back deck, made three or four quick casts with a spinnerbait and got a fish, while this guy was tangled in his meter.

Harold’s words to the guy were something like, “My spinnerbait is much better at determining if the fish are going to bite than that meter of yours.”

Another Sentry Oxygen Meter ad from 1973.

What got me thinking of this whole subject was an article written in the November/December 1973 issue of Bassmaster Magazine. In that article, the author talked about the importance of fishing in areas that had ample oxygen (between 8 and 13 ppm – parts per million) and to fish an oxygen structure pattern. The way you’d do this was as follows and is paraphrased.

Go to a bunch of different areas of the lake, monitor the oxygen levels, note the areas that have the highest maximum oxygen and then go back and fish those areas. It was said the survey should only take 20 to 30 minutes. Seems like 20 or 30 minutes I could have been casting or paying attention to what was happening on the surface. What if you were fishing a 4-hour jackpot tournament? Thirty minutes is a lot of time wasted to run around and take readings. And while you’re taking those readings, your competition is filling the box with bass.

The other problem I had with this takes us back to the meter itself. What if the meter is badly out of calibration and won’t register a reading above 8 ppm? Do you believe the unit, pack up your tackle and go home?

Another concept talked about in the article was that baitfish only go where the oxygen is. Makes sense to me. So why not use your depthfinder (chart) and look for what depth the bait is at? Why not look for active birds on the surface or bank?

Below is a gallery of pictures taken from the November/December 1973 issue of Bassmaster Magazine and the article mentioned above. Take a few minutes to read the article and see for yourself if you agree with the author and the concept. It’s a fun look back in time. The Ouachita ad is a bonus for you Old Boat Ads fans.