By now, we’ve all read the news reports about Tucker Smith and Logan Parks, the standout college bass anglers who recently took down the biggest prize in team bass tournament history, winning a million dollars at the US Open Team Championship on Table Rock lake. Many of us also learned the influence played by Smith’s mentor, Aaron Martens, and how a fateful group of diving birds led the team to their last-minute victory. It’s a compelling tale, for sure.

But just as important is the backstory; how these two young anglers happened to be at the perfect place in history to completely change their lives, with no apparent pre-planning. And how a hotly contested new technology in bass fishing was responsible for so much of it.

Let’s go back to the beginning of this unique relationship. Logan Parks is an Auburn, Alabama boy. He went to Auburn High, and with the help of Auburn University Fishing Team Director Darrel High, established the school’s first bass fishing team. Parks quickly reached national success at the high school fishing level. Team meetings featured notable Auburn University anglers like Jordan Lee and Steve Kennedy.

Following graduation, Parks naturally progressed to Auburn University and never let off the gas, winning the Major League Fishing College National Championship and crowding the leaderboard of nearly every other major tournament.

In the meantime, Tucker Smith was annihilating the competition in the world of high school fishing. Qualifying for three consecutive National Championships, Smith won all three times. When it came time to choose a college, Smith considered several, with numerous scholarship opportunities.

“I was talking to Logan through social media,” Smith mentioned. “I met him when I toured the campus at Auburn, and he basically recruited me. I agreed to go (to Auburn), but only if I got to fish with Logan.”

Imagine that. What would you feel, as a parent, or a sibling or a friend, if a young man you were close with was basing his entire collegiate future on a fishing partner? What if I told you he’d win a half million dollars his sophomore year?

So Smith and Parks team up, with immediate success in the college ranks, winning the Bassmaster Team of the Year in 2021. From there, it’s natural to think that their sights would be set on the lucrative US Open event. But that wasn’t the case.

“We didn’t even know about it, really,” Parks said. “It was just a whim.”

Smith’s father had notified the team of a last-chance qualifier being held at Bull Shoals Lake. To make it in time, Smith and Parks drove through the night from a college event held the preceding day in South Carolina. With only one day of practice, the Auburn duo placed high enough at Bull Shoals to qualify for the Table Rock finale, where the rest is history.

It was over in a flash. One minute, the team is at Lake Wylie, living the college fishing life. A week later, they’re in every press release in fishing, walking away with life-changing money and a boat and truck apiece.

Which brings up a very interesting angle. How did they do it? Why didn’t a more experienced, knowledgeable, practiced team prevail?

What this win presents is an example of a completely changed strategy of tournament bass fishing, and one which will now be commonplace.

What I’m speaking about, of course, is the use of forward-looking sonar to both locate and catch bass. In each event – the Bull Shoals qualifier and the Table Rock Championship – Parks and Smith utilized Garmin’s Panoptix technology to succeed. The sonar was used to scrutinize bait balls and determine the presence of feeding bass, even during a micro-shortened practice period lasting less than a single day, on massive bodies of water, where the team had zero relevant experience. Immediately, productive areas could be recognized.

The team concluded that fall fishing presents bass chasing baitfish, wherever that bait may be. In the case of the Table Rock event, many times, productive areas featured water depths exceeding 100 feet.

“Forty feet now feels shallow after fishing that week,” Smith concluded.

A few more interesting aspects the team revealed: “We’ve used forward-facing sonar for a couple years now, so yeah, we do it a decent bit.”

“At Table Rock, there was never really anybody around us.”

“We were fishing new fish every day. The fishing never got any tougher (as the event wore on).”

Remember, this was one of the largest tournaments in history, featuring 350 boats that were allowed to practice for nearly a week before the event began. No one around? All new fish?

What we see here is an example of a new breed of anglers. Anglers uninterested in fishing any other way than what is likely to yield the biggest bag, and unwavered by the thought of fishing in no-man’s land.

Hats off to Parks and Smith. They’re outstanding examples of a new generation of anglers simply moving past the notion that open-water bass present a unique set of challenges. Sure, that notion may have once been accurate. But not anymore.

As I’ve mentioned throughout the recent inception of forward-facing sonar, this technology will completely change competitive bass fishing forever. Those unwilling to learn to use this technology will frequently have no ability to compete.

However, for those who embrace the change, bringing with them an open mind and skill set similar to our Auburn icons, the sky’s the limit.

(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.)