This week finds us with the first news of a deliberate crackdown on forward-facing sonar.

The annual “Fishing for Kids” tournament on Toledo Bend, hosted by Despino's Tire Service and drawing over 230 boats in 2023, has announced the technology will not be allowed during competition in the 2024 event. Tournament organizers made the decision based on what they believe is best for the “coming future of our tournament,” growth and fundraising being the event’s primary goal.

Undoubtedly, anglers on both sides of the argument will express their feelings. I predict 90 percent will applaud the move.

In today’s world of competitive angling, most participants would rather do without forward-facing sonar (FFS) but find its use necessary to compete. It’s no different, really, than choosing a high-performance boat equipped with a 250-horsepower outboard. We’ve seen exceptions. But, for the most part, a fast boat is simply necessary to compete on the national circuits. Time is money.

And, as we’ve seen time and again, it’s nearly impossible to compete in big-money tournaments without FFS. But, unlike the major tournament trails that rely on relationships with equipment brands for sponsorships, open events can make their own rules without implications. It’s a pattern I think we’ll see repeat itself. Will it ever trickle down?

I, for one, hope so. Not because I’m for or against forward-facing sonar on a personal level. As I’ve said before, I’ve got no skin in the game. If I want to go bass fishing this afternoon in a jonboat with a push pole, I’ll go.

In fact, I’ve resisted covering the topic recently. It’s overdone. Yet, despite routinely searching for issues affecting professional bass fishing other than FFS, the subject still tops the chart each week with readers.

My main concern focuses on the sport. As one of the few journalists covering tournament fishing without pressure from the top, I can express the views that many bass fishing fans share. The most recent trends in technology are directly impacting both competitor and fan appeal.

We’ve seen a monumental change in the sport. Evidently, it’s a change that the organizers of the Fishing for Kids event don’t view as positive.

Does FFS run competitors, and customers, away? Possibly. But will outlawing the gear have its own negative impact?

With such a decision and debate, we could likely learn from the examples of other professional sports – those that are more recognizable to American culture than our beloved bass fishing.

All have strict rules on equipment. From the grooves on golf clubs to the engines in stock cars, the wood in a baseball bat, to the soles of basketball shoes. All are regulated, tested and enforced.

The idea behind these regulatory measures is two-fold. One, they maintain fairness across the playing field. But secondly – and just as importantly – these mandates discourage the sport from becoming something it was not originally intended to be.

How this is defined is open for debate. However, if you went to the decision-making body at NASCAR with an idea for jet-engine stock cars, I doubt they’d bite.

More closely, the same could be said for allowing aluminum bats in Major League Baseball. Proponents would argue that such a change would increase home runs by leaps and bounds. Add excitement to the game. But maybe baseball games weren’t supposed to have final scores of 50-49.

Perhaps professional golfers don’t need to hit the ball 500 yards to get me interested.

All the major sports – every one – have decided on and adopted rules to keep the sport within the intentions of the game. Such creates both integrity and a way to measure success across generations of athletes.

Bass fishing started out this way, to some degree. Regulations on rod lengths, horsepower maximums, bait types and boat sizes were quickly adapted to keep things uniform and fair. A few were modified, others dropped entirely.

And, not long ago, we witnessed a bold move with the banning of umbrella rigs in many major bass tournaments. Intentions here, I was told, were to discourage the lures from decimating the tackle industry. Besides, pro events where all the competitors did the same thing would be boring to watch. Something they weren’t intended to be. The future of our game was at stake.

Somehow, the concept was ignored when the monster known as forward-facing sonar gobbled up the industry.

As the first conservative steps are taken to reign in the beast, it will be interesting to see who rallies in support, and who turns a blind eye.

(Joe Balog is the often-outspoken owner of Millennium Promotions, Inc., an agency operating in the fishing and hunting industries. A former Bassmaster Open and EverStart Championship winner, he's best known for his big-water innovations and hardcore fishing style. He's a popular seminar speaker, product designer and author, and is considered one of the most influential smallmouth fishermen of modern times.)