|Dylan Hays recalls the best fishing day he ever experienced on the little backyard pond of his youth. “Growing up, I remember fishing that tiny pond just about every day,” says Hays, who currently sits near the top of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit leaderboard. “The most bass I ever caught out of it was three in one day. Eventually, we had to drain the whole thing for maintenance. Didn’t take too long to realize there were only three bass living in the entire pond.”|
From that day forward, Hays became hooked on bass and learning all about their aquatic environs. At age twelve, he started fishing local night tournaments in Arkansas. He went on to compete on his collegiate team at the University of Central Arkansas and from there, fished on the Phoenix Bass Fishing League and Toyota and Costa Series before entering the FLW/Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit in 2017.
|New Aqua-Vu pro Dylan Hays sits near the top of the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Angler of the Year race. (Photo by Major League Fishing)|
|Recently, to slake his thirst for underwater knowledge, the Hot Springs, Arkansas bass pro and guide inked a promotional deal with Aqua-Vu Underwater Cameras. “Actually, a year before I even spoke with the folks at Aqua-Vu about a sponsorship, I bought an HD10i Pro camera for scouting,” admits Hays, who guides on Lake Ouachita when he’s not fishing competitively.|
“I had wanted to try an Aqua-Vu on Ouachita and a lot of the lakes in the south for a long time. Other than during spring when the water’s super dirty, you can see up to 20 feet in a lot of these lakes. Perfect for prefishing with a camera— checking brushpiles or just to see what species of fish is down there.”
Hays says he finally pulled the trigger and bought an Aqua-Vu last July, having watched other anglers use one at a Great Lakes FLW tournament. “I wanted to have an Aqua-Vu on board for Sturgeon Bay last year,” he recalls. “Knew there would be times I’d have trouble distinguishing between walleye, drum and smallmouth bass, because they can look so similar on sonar.
“The camera keeps you from parking on the wrong species and eventually, it actually improves your ability to interpret sonar signals, whether you’re looking at fish, brush or vegetation. Honestly, the Aqua-Vu has proven to be one of the coolest fishing purchases I’ve ever made, and to now work with them, that’s pretty exciting stuff. The camera is going to play huge in my tournament season and for guiding.”
Beginning several years ago, since joining forces with Bassmaster Elite Series champion Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson and MLF/Bass Pro Tour angler Ott DeFoe, Aqua-Vu cameras started to emerge from secret prefishing tool no one talked about to a bonafide piece of fish-finding electronics. In 2021, Aqua-Vu signed three new pro bass anglers, including Hays, Grae Buck and Josh Douglas.
|Aqua-Vu HD10i Pro|
|“Dylan Hays approached us last year about buying an Aqua-Vu camera for his tournament prefishing, well before we ever talked about a sponsorship,” notes Aqua-Vu president Kolt Ringer. “He’s an up-and-coming angler on the tour and an expert with his electronics. We’re really excited to tap Dylan’s knowledge of angling technology and to learn more about the underwater habits of bass in southern reservoirs.”|
Among the more interesting revelations regarding an Aqua-Vu and fish response, says Hays, has been to watch big smallmouth bass swim over and inspect the lens. “It’s been pretty cool to put the camera down there and have smallmouths from 20 yards away swim over and check you out,” observes Hays. “You realize the Aqua-Vu can actually be a fish attractor as well as a ‘finder, and leaving the optics in an area for a minute or so will draw any bass in the neighborhood to your location—you might not otherwise know they’re around.
|“Another great use for the Aqua-Vu is to slowly troll or drift along and examine grass edges with the lens,” adds Hays. “Fish in vegetation are notoriously difficult to distinguish on sonar. But the camera picks them out like sitting ducks. I can also see the types of grass, whether it’s standing up and healthy or lying flat. Next to scuba diving, this is the coolest way to see what’s really happening down below.”|
Mounted beside his sonar units, Hays’ Aqua-Vu HD10i Pro features a 10-inch sun-viewable LCD. The camera module includes a separate base unit with 125-feet of camera cable and a convenient docking station, which fits neatly into boat storage when not in use. “Having the camera screen mounted right beside my sonar and GPS units is hugely helpful in interpreting sonar and dropping waypoints on fish concentrations or other sweet spots.”
This season, Hays is also excited about attaching his Aqua-Vu camera to a telescopic pole via the quick-connect XD™ Pole Cam accessory. “Can’t wait to drop the pole-cam beneath boat docks. On Ouachita, we’ve got a huge network of marina docks and houseboats that hold loads of bass throughout the year. But they really only hold on certain docks or areas, so the camera will be an awesome way to find and pinpoint ‘em.”
With upcoming tour stops at Lake Eufaula, Alabama and the St. Lawrence River, Hays and other anglers will be deploying their underwater eyes with increasing frequency. As Hays says, “Why burn your fish in prefishing, when you can find ‘em and save your casts for tournament day?”