Aqua-Vu: The Original Underwater Camera

The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.
- Jacques Cousteau

For centuries, anglers and adventurers alike have pondered the fascinating realm below the surface—that vast aquatic expanse enveloping almost three-fourths of planet Earth.

In early efforts to observe the depths, famed underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau invented the "aqualung"—the first apparatus that made sub-surface exploration possible—in 1943. Yet, while scuba gear allowed adventurous individuals to swim with the fish, the rest of the world remained largely in the dark about the creatures dwelling below.

Leave it to anglers, folks who virtually live on the water, to conceive an idea and a device that facilitated underwater observation without actually getting wet!

In an interesting twist of technology, the original "Aqua-Vu" actually came about before the invention of the video camera itself. In 1975, Al and Ron Lindner wrote about their vision for an “Underwater Observation Tower” in the very first issue of In-Fisherman magazine. Although the physics of water displacement and the immense physical size of such a structure rendered the idea unrealistic, the tantalizing prospect of viewing fish in their natural environment endured.

Initially assigned to build the tower was Jeff Zernov, an expert in marine electronics and video technology. Working with angling industry experts such as the Lindners and Ted Capra, Zernov invented the first Aqua-Vu Underwater Viewing System in 1997.

Bulky, awkward and inconvenient by today’s standards, the original Aqua-Vu systems contained a small black and white CRT monitor housed within an elongated, conical “sunshield.” The entire contents of the first Aqua-Vu—camera, cable, monitor and battery—all fit into the confines of a large tackle box.

And yet, the learning, exhilaration and educational value of glimpsing into the previously unknown depths was undeniable. Anglers who recognized the advantage of witnessing the real-life details of the underwater world started catching more and larger fish. Competitive anglers began winning tournaments. The rewards of using an Aqua-Vu were self-evident: improved interpretation of sonar, discovery of fish hidden in vegetation, brush and other cover, and an ability to reveal fish species where sonar could not. Ultimately, the visual confirmation provided by an Aqua-Vu helped anglers match lure selection to the underwater environment. The real-life visual imprint left Aqua-Vu underwater imagery even boosted fishing confidence.

Early-adopters of Aqua-Vu technology consisted primarily of tournament bass anglers. Tournament pros such as the legendary Roland Martin, Ted Capra and Great Lakes icon Joe Balog all employed Aqua-Vu cameras to unearth big bass on key spots during tournament prefishing. As word of Aqua-Vu spread across the pro angling community, its advantages caught fire within the ice fishing realm. Among the first to recognize Aqua-Vu’s value in frozen-water fishing were Dave Genz and Brian Brosdahl, two of the most illustrious ice anglers of all time.

Interestingly, in recent years, a trend toward underwater viewing has been re-ignited by open-water bass, walleye and crappie anglers, both in recreational and tournament settings. Leading the current charge are elite anglers such as Bassmaster Classic Champion Ott DeFoe, Jeff “Gussy” Gustafson and longtime Aqua-Vu fans Kim Stricker, Brian Brosdahl and Dr. Bruce Samson.

The growth among boat-bound anglers coincides with the introduction of the Multi-Vu Underwater Camera Adaptor System, which connects an Aqua-Vu camera to a sonar unit. Further, new Aqua-Vu HDi Series Systems can be gimbal-mounted in your boat and powered by an on-board 12-volt system—the ultimate in underwater viewing convenience.

In the decades since the original underwater cameras arrived on the scene, Aqua-Vu has pioneered every major and minor technological enhancement in the category. Well over a dozen design patents in submersible video, camera housing (XD Series), underwater lighting and cable management technology— among other innovations—make Aqua-Vu the undisputed leader in the category. And beyond the patents are countless complementary accessories and behind-the-scenes advances in underwater viewing technology—each one adding to the convenience and fascination of sub-surface discovery.

Many of the most important innovations in underwater viewing have been cultivated by parent company, Outdoors Insight, which acquired Aqua-Vu in 2009. Located in the heart of Minnesota’s Lake Country, Outdoors Insight has developed the first boat-mountable, high-definition underwater viewing systems (HDi Series) and the original self-contained, hand-held underwater fishing camera (Micro® Series). New sonar- and TV-compatible underwater cameras have also been developed by Aqua-Vu’s progressive product engineers. Indeed, a glimpse toward the future hints at the most exciting Aqua-Vu innovations yet...

But the real question remains: What underwater discoveries will you make?

Aqua-Vu Patents:

Video Display/Cord Dispenser - Patent #0529,884
Video Fish Camera - Patent #0513,029
Underwater Viewing Camera - Patent #0489,387
Viewing Monitor - Patent #0488,826
Submersible Video Viewing System - Patent #6,476,853
Submersible Video Viewing System - Patent#6,262,761
Underwater Viewing Monitor Housing - Patent #0439,589
Underwater Viewing Monitor - Patent #0438,881
Underwater Viewing Monitor Housing - Patent #0429,744
Submersible Video Viewing System - Patent #6,097,424
Underwater Camera Assembly – Patent #0054598
Micro Revolution Spool – Patent #D832,084

About Aqua-Vu

The Original Underwater Viewing System, Aqua-Vu is manufactured by Outdoors Insight, Inc., and has led the underwater camera category in design, innovation and quality since 1997. The Central Minnesota based company builds many popular outdoors products, including Aqua-Vu Underwater Viewing Systems and the iBall Trailer Hitch Camera.