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November 09, 2011

Using Underwater Lights

New gear opens up the science of fishing lights

What I’ve found as helpful as the lights’ performance is their relatively diminutive size, which provides a lot of latitude with where to mount them. For example, I have four pairs of model SCM-10V2 neatly arranged on the transom of my Mako 284, shooting outward for a bright and powerful throw. This model measures 10 inches in width, 214 inches in height and half an inch in thickness. The company’s smallest model, the SCM-4, measures 534 inches wide, 234 inches high and a half-inch thick. Given their sharp-looking 316 stainless-steel frames, the units appear more like a standard feature of the boat — right from the factory — rather than an aftermarket option. With most boats sporting aluminum towers, rails or trim, they blend right in.

These lights were developed by Brian Rogers, an electrical and optical engineer, and Jeff Pound, a military-electronics design engineer, hence their toughness in a salt environment and when coupled with trailer boats.

The Shadow-Casters come in great white, aqua green, Bimini blue, ultra blue and cool red. Current draw is 1.4 amps at 12 volts, and the lights generate over 2,000 lumens. For mounting, they require just two screws and a small hole for the submersible-grade cable. The units have internal thermal-throttling circuitry, which keeps them from getting too hot should they be left on when the boat is out of the water. Additionally, they include robust internal transient-surge protection, which protects the microprocessor-controlled switching power supply from dirty marine electrical systems.

Brand-new this November is the Color Caster model, which includes 10 LEDs, with each LED capable of changing to one of four colors. The light is controlled by one switch, quickly cycling power to rotate the color. One mode fades the lights through all four colors, whereas another mode fades between just blue and white (the company’s two most popular). Best yet, these new lights fit in the same footprint as the current ones for easy upgrades. Pricing had yet to be set at press time.

Bouncer’s Three Most Important Tips When Using Fishing Lights

1. When fishing a portable light in water to 40 or 50 feet deep, attach a float to the light to keep it near the surface. Also set it a few feet away from the boat to keep the light from rocking with the boat, which could diminish its uniform throw of light.

2. Fish the edges of the light, where it reaches toward the bottom, and also the perimeters of the lighted area.

3. Attach one or two Strip-Teaser strands on a short tether to the power cord close to a portable fishing light, which will mimic baitfish flashing near the light. This will attract more baitfish and, in turn, game fish.

To Strobe or Not to Strobe?

Strobing, incidentally, is becoming more popular with fishing lights, as the pulsing and flashing has proven advantageous in attracting fish. Could it be that the illusion is perceived as the reflection of baitfish, or is it simply that constant flashing catches the attention of fish? Either way, it works.

Strobing can involve a quick, repetitive cycle, which could be perceived by game fish as frantic baitfish, or a more spaced-out cycle, which predator fish could perceive as calm schooling fish unaware of its presence. Then add in the various colors to strobe with, and you get an idea just how fine-tuned an illusion you can create.

Expect to see this feature become even more commonplace in the near future.

Color Versus Color,Portable Versus In-Hull

The most productive fishing-light color remains a matter of opinion, although blue has become very popular of late. Capt. Bouncer Smith has spent a ton of nights swordfishing and baitfishing in the waters off South Florida and, as always, has his opinion. “We’ve been fishing the green Hydro Glow light for a long, long time and catching a lot of fish with it,” says Smith. “I later changed to a blue one because fish can see the blue from a greater distance than the green. Well, we caught a lot of fish with the blue light, but I can’t say it was drastically different over what we caught using the green light. But what I did notice is that the green light drew things closer to it, and with the blue light we rarely saw things close to the boat. They seemed to stay farther back. So green is better for bringing fish closer to the boat, in my opinion.”

As far as portable fish lights versus in-hull lights, that’s largely an issue of what you’re fishing for and where, how often you fish in darkness, how cool you want your boat to look and, of course, budget. Smith reports that with his Hydro Glow, he sees all the way around his boat, from transom to bow. He is currently using blue lights affixed to the underside of his engine bracket and aimed straight down. “These transom lights are more limited in the area they service and don’t illuminate the water like the Hydro Glow does,” says Smith.
Based on Smith’s findings, it stands to reason that gaining a strong broadcast from in-hull lights boils down to the number of lights you can afford to install and the position of these lights. Some of the best-arranged in-hull fish lights shoot not only directly out from the transom but also downward from underneath the hull. However, some ultra-bright LED hull lights shooting directly out from the back of the transom with multiple units cover both distance and depth.