While there are many critics of forward-facing live sonar, the technology is undoubtedly here to stay. Berkley Fishing’s latest lure offerings solidify that. Its new lures are versatile and hang in the strike zone on a forward-facing sonar (FFS) screen for a long time. Berkley wants anglers to manipulate the presentation in real time based on what’s being shown on screen.
Considering that, it’s hard to classify some of these lures into the usual categories. I heard a Berkley representative say one lure may be an entirely new technique. He might be right.
In short: The Berkley Finisher, Power Switch, and Krej are all interesting designs. It is not just for those with the disposable income for FFS technology, either. Read on for my thoughts from a brief on-the-water test with these lures.
Berkley FFS Lures Review
Testing the New Berkley FFS Lures
What Is Forward-Facing Sonar?
Forward-facing live sonar is a new form of sight fishing through technology. The transducer shoots a narrow cone ahead of the boat, returning real-time images under the water. Anglers can see baitfish and predatory fish moving in real time.
Like an ice fishing flasher, anglers can also see their lure, the fish, and reactions to their lure. Every fishing electronics company built a version after Garmin pioneered the technology. Some professional anglers on the tournament circuit call it “video game fishing” because their eyes rarely leave the screen.
Berkley’s new lures take advantage of FFS technology in several ways. First, these lures can be fished at literally any depth. That lets the angler drop the lure on the fish every time.
Secondly, each lure’s action is versatile, allowing the angler to tweak the presentation to the fish’s preferences. Finally, the lures tend to hover or hang up consistently in one area. This helps the angler keep the lure in front of the fish’s face longer than a standard lure.
We spent a couple of hours on the water down in Texas with these lures and a Garmin FFS unit. Unfortunately, high winds and 55-degree temperatures in early January didn’t exactly translate to some great fishing success. The fish just weren’t in feeding mode during our demo.
However, I did get a good sense of how each lure casts and shows up on forward-facing sonar. I also got to see the different actions firsthand.
They also showed us the action in a cast tank. So, I got to see exactly how each offering darts, dives, and wobbles. Each looked extremely promising for bass and walleye fishing, regardless of location.
I only caught one fish during the test. It was a small freshwater drum on the Finisher. This wasn’t the species we were targeting. However, I’ll take it on a day when conditions are terrible. And I was on the boat with pro walleye angler John Hoyer. Thus, I can now technically say I’ve outfished a professional angler. Hey, I’ll take the small victories any way I can get them.
It was only appropriate that I was on the boat with Hoyer because he helped design the Power Switch. It looks like a standard pre-rigged swimbait. All the weight is forward in the head. The horizontal tail is slightly more subtle than some of Berkley’s similar offerings.
This thing casts like a dream, though. I love the precision and accuracy offered here. Hoyer marked several fish on sonar, and I had no issue presenting the lure in their faces.
The Power Switch sinks fast and is also easy to keep in the fish’s face for an extended period. Given the accuracy in casting, the smaller sizes should be ideal for crappie dock shooting, too.
The Power Switch erratically darted whenever I gave it a sharp, powerful snap of the rod. Twitching causes it to quiver. The lure can also swim or hover quite effectively. It also has an excellent action when jigged vertically.
I would say the Switch is the most standard of Berkley’s new offerings. It will find a lot of crossover appeal with ice fishermen and Damiki rig enthusiasts. It should be dynamite for suspended bass, especially in the winter months.
It’s difficult for me to classify the Finisher into any one category. Berkley has baked the DNA of traditional jerkbaits, glide baits, and jigging raps into one package. The resulting hard bait has an auspicious and versatile action.
Most impressive here is the lateral action. It darts side to side 1 to 2 feet on each rod twitch. Again, this is another lure that will likely find a dual purpose in ice fishing.
Additionally, the flat bottom causes it to shimmy and flash on the fall. It’s pretty impressive that there’s simply no wasted motion here. The Finisher is constantly moving like a wounded baitfish regardless of where the angler is on the retrieve.
While using FFS, the Finisher hangs in the strike zone nicely, mainly because I found it would glide backward slightly on a slack line. This action allowed me to drop it right in the fish’s face. Berkley also demonstrated that this bait can be strolled or worked like a standard jerkbait. I noticed there’s a nice subtle wobble to it on a more standard retrieve.
The presentation can be as erratic or subtle as needed. I think the Finisher will be the most popular of these three offerings — and not just with anglers who own an expensive FFS unit, either. I’m most looking forward to working the Finisher vertically. I like to do a little bridge hopping in the summer months. The Finisher will be ideal for jigging the deep holes under river bridges in my area.Check Price at Cabela’s
The Krej will raise a few eyebrows in the fishing world this year. If you didn’t catch on, the name is “jerk” spelled backward. Had it come from any other company, I might have passed this kind of design off as a gimmick. However, I’ve been to Berkley’s factory and its extensive Spirit Lake, Iowa, testing facility. I know it’s not just marketing buzz when the company says this lure was in development for 2 years.
While fishing it, I found that, like the Finisher, there’s zero wasted motion here. It sinks fast and has a flat bottom. That part of the design delivers constant shivering, shuddering, and twitching action.
Even when the line is slack, this lure also slides backward on a slack line, allowing it to slide into cover or a fish’s face. It was effortless to keep an eye on it with FFS.
However, the thing that sets this lure apart is the surging action. I’ve seen plenty of injured baitfish fleeing bass before. Most injured baitfish tend to break for the surface, where most get eaten. The Krej does a fantastic job of imitating that behavior.
That’s thanks to the upside-down lip, which Berkley calls “ascending lip tech.” Whatever they call it, this thing jumps up the water column fast. The lakes I fish here in southwestern Michigan are shallow and weedy. I finally have a jerkbait I can fish in them because it’s so easy to keep it above the grass.Check Price at Cabela’s
Are the New Berkley FFS Lures Worth It?
Yes. Although I only caught one small drum, I’ve been fishing long enough to know three winners when I see them. Berkley’s marketing emphasis on FFS might cause some average anglers to ignore them at first, though.
I can’t blame them for that, considering the costs of the tech. A brand-new FFS rig can easily cost $1,000-5,000, depending on accessories and setup. However, you don’t need an expensive fish finder to use these lures. The action of each lure is excellent. I think bank fishermen will also find a place for these in their tackle bags.
I would like to see a few more size options for the Krej. At launch, Berkley is only offering a 4-inch, 100mm size. I suspect Berkley will add to the lineup later, though. That’s my only real complaint about the launch offerings for these lures.
The bottom line is these three new lures will prove versatile beyond just the latest sonar technology. I’m looking forward to the end of the winter and the chance to use them again.