For my style of in­shore fish­ing, in my coastal Ge­or­gia lo­ca­tion and for my 22-foot bay boat, I need some spe­cific sonar ca­pa­bil­i­ties. I want to see what’s to ei­ther side of my boat, and I want to see sub­tle depth tran­si­tions in shal­low wa­ter, with­out sur­face clut­ter.

An­a­lyz­ing how I fish helps me un­der­stand what I need elec­tron­i­cally. To help other an­glers, I’ve asked pros and ex­perts who use a va­ri­ety of sonar gear in vastly dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments to of­fer sug­ges­tions re­gard­ing what units and fea­tures are op­ti­mal for dif­fer­ent kinds of fish­ing.


Fu­runo pro staffer Capt. Sean Gill, of Sa­van­nah, fishes many of the same coastal Ge­or­gia lo­ca­tions as I do, though he also works off­shore wa­ters. “I use the bot­tom-dis­cern­ing tech­nol­ogy in my Fu­runo TZ­touch2 mul­ti­func­tion dis­play all the time. For ex­am­ple, grouper like a hard, rocky bot­tom with ledges and cracks and crevices; snap­per like a more-open sea fan/sponge area with sand and gravel. The bot­tom-dis­cern­ing tech­nol­ogy shows you the dif­fer­ent types of sub­strate, mak­ing you more ef­fec­tive in your ap­proach.”

Fu­runo’s new DFF3D multi­beam sonar (an add-on mod­ule with 3D) has also changed the way an­glers see the ocean floor. “Now I can map out struc­ture like never be­fore,” Gill says. “A great ex­am­ple here is co­bia fish­ing. The co­bia are lo­cated at dif­fer­ent cur­rent breaks on struc­ture through­out the tide, so it’s para­mount to un­der­stand how ev­ery­thing is ori­ented on the bot­tom. Us­ing this tech­nol­ogy, you can lit­er­ally see all the fea­tures of the struc­ture and how the fish are ly­ing, thus mak­ing you more ef­fec­tive in set­ting up a drift or al­low­ing you to an­chor more ef­fi­ciently.”

David Dunn, Garmin’s di­rec­tor of marine sales, rec­om­mends the GPSMAP 7612xsv with built-in chirp sonar, ClearVü and SideVü scan­ning sonar paired with a GT51 trans­ducer (avail­able in tran­som mount and through-hull) — ca­pa­ble of de­tect­ing ClearVü tar­gets up to 300 feet and SideVü 600 feet to each side, “so an­glers can find wrecks with­out as many passes. Once they get an­chored, they can use chirp to see be­low the boat,” he says.

Hum­min­bird pro Capt. Phillip Wilds, of Panama City, Flor­ida, rec­om­mends a Solix Chirp Mega SI sonar with an Air­mar B175H trans­ducer. “This is the best high-range chirp setup for 300 feet or less. It is ca­pa­ble of chirp­ing at fre­quen­cies from 130 to 210 kHz.”

Wilds likes to split-screen his Solix dis­play: One half of the screen shows a zoomed-in view of the bot­tom; the other half shows sur­face to bot­tom. He turns up the sen­si­tiv­ity as high as pos­si­ble with­out get­ting too much clut­ter, and leaves the gain on max mode. “The tar­get sep­a­ra­tion is magnificent, and those fre­quen­cies work great in that depth of wa­ter.

“In depths less than 120 feet, I use the Mega down imag­ing and Mega side imag­ing. This works ex­cep­tion­ally well for large struc­tures with a lot of bot­tom re­lief. When you’re able to use the Mega down imag­ing, you can eas­ily iden­tify one species from an­other.”

Capt. Tom Pi­tasi, a Ray­ma­rine pro am­bas­sador and guide out of Waterford, Con­necti­cut, says Ray­ma­rine’s sonar sys­tems with chirp DownVi­sion are a great choice. “The con­i­cal high chirp shows you the fish, and the chirp DownVi­sion is a great tool for lo­cat­ing the struc­ture,” he says. Chirp DownVi­sion sonar is built into eS Se­ries MFDs and CP100 sonar mod­ules; the lat­ter can con­nect to any of Ray­ma­rine’s cur­rent MFDs.”

Ray­ma­rine also of­fers sev­eral mod­els in its new Axiom line with this ca­pa­bil­ity. The deluxe Axiom RV fea­tures chirp DownVi­sion, chirp SideVi­sion, con­i­cal high chirp and RealVi­sion 3D. For the bud­get-minded an­gler, Ray­ma­rine also of­fers Axiom 7 DV mod­els that have chirp DownVi­sion and con­i­cal high chirp only.

Capt. Greg Ek­lund uses a Sim­rad NSS evo3 dis­play on his 48-foot char­ter boat out of Is­lam­orada, Flor­ida. “We do a lot of bot­tom­fish­ing be­tween 75 and 300 feet. When choos­ing a trans­ducer, it was im­por­tant that it be ver­sa­tile and also max­i­mize the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of my echo sounder. The Air­mar R509LHW is a per­fect fit.

“It’s chirp-en­abled and can also broad­cast on sin­gle fre­quen­cies

be­tween 28 and 60 kHz, on the low side, and be­tween 150 to 250 kHz, on the high end. It also has an ul­tra­w­ide cone that pro­duces a 9- to 23-de­gree beam on low and a 25-de­gree beam for the high fre­quen­cies. This al­lows me to cover more of the wa­ter col­umn.”

Ek­lund paired the trans­ducer with Sim­rad’s new S5100 net­work sounder. The mul­ti­ple-chan­nel ca­pa­bil­ity al­lows him to use the chirp mode and a sin­gle fre­quency at the same time to get the best pos­si­ble in­for­ma­tion. “For ex­am­ple, as I get to an area in less than 300 feet that I want to fish, I set my evo3 screen to dis­play two pan­els,” he says. “In the first, I show a sin­gle fre­quency, such as 200 kHz. In the se­cond, I use the high-chirp func­tion. I use the cur­sor on the evo3 and high­light the ex­act spot I want to fish, and cre­ate a way­point.”


“When trolling, I set up one of my evo3s to just sup­ply me with in­for­ma­tion about what is in the wa­ter un­der my boat,” Ek­lund says. “I like to look at the up­per 300 feet of the wa­ter col­umn us­ing a sin­gle fre­quency of 200 kHz. The wide an­gle of the trans­ducer at 200 kHz, cou­pled with the de­tail of the S5100, al­lows me to get the max­i­mum amount of cov­er­age and in­for­ma­tion about the bait and tar­get species.

“I am also able to run a low-chirp scan on a sep­a­rate panel. This al­lows me to see the en­tire wa­ter col­umn.”

Ray­ma­rine’s Pi­tasi sug­gests the com­pany’s brand-new Axiom Pro dis­plays. “The Axiom Pro builds on the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Axiom. The Axiom Pro units are Hy­bridTouch mul­ti­func­tion dis­plays with built-in RealVi­sion 3D sonar, plus a built-in 1 kW chirp off­shore sonar.

“Axiom Pro is the most pow­er­ful MFD we’ve ever of­fered, with fast quad-core pro­cess­ing, ul­tr­a­clear IPS dis­plays and the choice of 9-, 12or 16-inch screens. Axiom Pro also comes with dual trans­ducer con­nec­tions: Con­nect a RealVi­sion 3D RV100 tran­som mount or an RV200 or RV300 se­ries through-hull trans­ducer to one port, and con­nect an Air­mar chirp trans­ducer to the se­cond port.

“Cur­rent aSeries, eS Se­ries and Axiom sys­tems can add some ex­tra off­shore punch with a CP470 sonar mod­ule. It can be paired with an Air­mar chirp trans­ducer up to 2 kW, to show fish in depths up to 10,000 feet.”


Key West Capt. R.T. Tros­set uses a Lowrance HDS-12 Car­bon with a B260 through-hull trans­ducer and a Struc­tureS­can trans­ducer, paired to a Mo­torGuide Xi5 trolling mo­tor, for tar­get­ing trout and red­fish as well as tar­pon. “When trout- and red­fish­ing, I like the au­topi­lot mode on the mo­tor. I can set up and save trolling-mo­tor routes on my Lowrance screen while fish­ing a flat, and then travel pot­hole to pot­hole. Or, if fish­ing a shore­line, I can fish snag to snag, leav­ing my hands free to change lures or rig other rods.

“An­other fea­ture is be­ing able to op­er­ate my trolling mo­tor and Power Pole from the unit. When fish­ing tar­pon, the Struc­tureS­can gives me a great side view of fish. It tells me the dis­tance the fish are from the boat, how many, and on which side the fish are lo­cated. I’ve thrown baits to Struc­tureS­can-marked tar­pon, and caught quite a few. When the fish are not rolling, mark­ing them gives me con­fi­dence to keep fish­ing in that area. You know they’re tar­pon be­cause they ac­tu­ally look like tar­pon on the screen.”

Garmin’s Dunn sug­gests a GPSMAP 942xs with Panop­tix PS22-TR and GT22HW trans­duc­ers. The Panop­tix al­lows an an­gler to look all around his or her boat and be­low it — in real time — to see fish with­out spook­ing them.


For true deep­wa­ter pen­e­tra­tion, most pros and ex­perts rec­om­mend

higher-power chirp-sonar mod­ules, such as Garmin’s GSD26, Ray­ma­rine’s CP570 and Sim­rad’s new S5100. These units, cou­pled with Air­mar’s pow­er­ful chirp trans­duc­ers — es­pe­cially the wide-an­gle op­tions — can al­low an­glers to see tar­gets more than 10,000 feet down.

For fish­ing weed lines and kelp pad­dies, Ray­ma­rine sug­gests the Axiom Pro, which has a new fea­ture de­but­ing at press time called RealVi­sion 3D with GPS track­ing (also planned for Axiom units). “As you cir­cle the weed line, or make passes along its edge, the sys­tem au­to­mat­i­cally con­structs a very de­tailed 3D model of the wa­ter col­umn, weeds and bot­tom struc­ture,” Pi­tasi says. “Ad­ja­cent lines are au­to­mat­i­cally at­tached to one an­other, and the 3D model is fully dy­namic on the Axiom or Axiom Pro MFD. You can sim­ply touch the model to freely pan or tilt it for view­ing from any an­gle. A dou­ble-fin­ger sweep lets you fly across the model, and a pinch will zoom the model in or out.”

Side-view­ing mod­ules and built-ins, such as Ray­ma­rine’s chirp CP200 and RealVi­sion 3D, Hum­min­bird’s Mega side imag­ing, Garmin’s SideVü, Fu­runo’s DFF3D and Sim­rad’s Struc­tureS­can 3D, give weed-line and kelp an­glers a chance to look just be­neath the float­ing de­bris — in most cases, in a 3D-type con­fig­u­ra­tion.

Re­gard­less of your fish­ing style and lo­ca­tion, to­day’s marine elec­tron­ics of­fer ever-im­prov­ing fish-de­tec­tion op­tions. Sure, these com­pa­nies still have some lower-priced old-school units that give you a crisp view of the bot­tom along with wa­ter tem­per­a­ture and other ba­sics. But what’s this brave new world with­out great tech­nol­ogy?

Twin Garmin dis­plays give any cap­tain mul­ti­ple op­tions for view­ing the bot­tom, in­clud­ing chirp sonar, ClearVü and SideVü scan­ning sonar.

Fu­runo’s new DFF3D multi­beam sonar helps Capt. Sean Gill map out struc­ture to bet­ter tar­get species such as co­bia, which ori­ent dif­fer­ently on each tide.

Garmin’s 7612xsv, us­ing a down-look­ing beam, side-look­ing beam and chirp, helps an­glers lo­cate struc­ture quickly with­out as many passes.

Capt. Greg Ek­lund pairs his Sim­rad NSS evo3 dis­play with the com­pany’s new S5100 net­work sounder with mul­ti­ple-chan­nel ca­pa­bil­ity.

Ray­ma­rine’s new Axiom Pro fea­tures quad-core pro­cess­ing, an IPS screen and 1 kW chirp sonar. It comes in 9-, 12- and 16-inch sizes.

Garmin’s GSD26, Ray­ma­rine’s CP570 and Sim­rad’s S5100 are all black-box mod­ules that de­liver pow­er­ful chirp-sonar op­tions.

Hum­min­bird’s Mega side imag­ing can be used in­shore or off­shore to gather de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about what lies to ei­ther side of the ves­sel.

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