Just be­cause your boat might be a bay or flats skiff, or even a kayak, does not mean you must miss out on the lat­est tech­nol­ogy. In fact, some of the most in­no­va­tive marine-elec­tron­ics prod­ucts to­day fit the small-boat mar­ket al­most ex­clu­sively.

For in­stance, Garmin de­signed its new Panop­tix LiveS­cope, the first-ever real-time scan­ning sonar, for nearshore coastal mar­kets. The sys­tem de­liv­ers a vide­o­like view of what’s be­neath the boat that is so clear an­glers can iden­tify in­di­vid­ual fish species.

To pro­vide small-boat an­glers ad­vice on choos­ing in­shore elec­tron­ics, I asked ex­perts which prod­uct types should top the pri­or­ity list. Here are their sug­ges­tions (gath­ered al­pha­bet­i­cally by brand name).


While Fu­runo is best known for its off­shore elec­tron­ics pack­ages, the com­pany says its GP1871F (7-inch) and GP1971F(9-inch)com­bounits work well for in­shore an­glers. Both fea­ture mul­ti­touch dis­plays with a GPS/WAAS chart plot­ter plus chirp and con­ven­tional fish find­ers.

“Cer­tain fea­tures can help find the best fish­ing grounds, de­pend­ing on species,” says Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia, Capt. Sean Gill. “Some of the fea­tures that you want to look for are water tem­per­a­ture (ei­ther from a sen­sor on your trans­ducer or through a weather ser­vice). An­other is [Fu­runo’s] bot­tom-dis­crim­i­na­tion fea­ture to find low-re­lief ar­eas.”

Easy add-ons in­clude Fu­runo’s DRS4W wire­less radar, if your ves­sel is equipped with a T-top or hard­top. The DRS4W will over­lay onto charts on the main dis­play unit or net­work with an iPhone or iPad.


David Dunn, Garmin’s di­rec­tor of marine sales and mar­ket­ing, says he’s see­ing ever-larger dis­plays mounted on in­shore and nearshore boats. “Builders are mak­ing con­soles larger to ac­com­mo­date larger screens,” he says. “These days, it’s cer­tainly not un­com­mon to see a 16-inch dis­play or two 12-inch dis­plays on a bay boat. It all comes down to what you can fit and how much you want to spend.”

Dunn says sonar and GPS rank as the top-two needs for in­shore an­glers. Sonar, ob­vi­ously, to find fish, and GPS “be­cause you can mark your dock and your fa­vorite spots, and you don’t have to worry about get­ting lost.”

GPS also al­lows you to pin­point your ex­act lo­ca­tion in case of emer­gency.

Garmin’s new in­Reach Mini is a good op­tion as a backup GPS and as a method to trig­ger an SOS, he sug­gests.

“The hottest setup we have right now is the GPSMAP 1242xsv Touch, a full-func­tion 12-inch MFD that comes with built-in 1-kilo­watt chirp sonar and chirp ClearVu and SideVu scan­ning sonars,” he says. “It comes with BlueChart G2 car­tog­ra­phy, and it’s also com­pat­i­ble with Panop­tix.”

Panop­tix adds 3D tech­nol­ogy to sonar, par­tic­u­larly with the in­tro­duc­tion of LiveS­cope. “Tra­di­tional sonar is lit­er­ally his­tory, and shows you where the fish were when your boat passed them,” he says. “Panop­tix is game-chang­ing.”

Dunn also rec­om­mends that in­shore an­glers use the Ac­tive Cap­tain app, which net­works with Garmin plot­ters. “You can use it to pre-fish and mark points that will au­to­mat­i­cally up­load to your Garmin plot­ter through your smart de­vice. You will also have a backup for your cov­eted fish­ing spots.”


“All in­shore flats boats and skiffs or even shal­low-run­ning bay boats need a unit com­pat­i­ble with good charts,” says Daren Cole, global mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor for Lowrance. “The charts need to have a way to cre­ate a plot trail that can be saved and used again on your next trip.”

Fish­ing back­coun­try re­gions means work­ing with tides that can change the look of wind­ing shal­low creeks at var­i­ous stages, he adds. An in­shore plot­ter should also al­low aerial pho­to­graphic over­lays, par­tic­u­larly for lo­ca­tions that are not well-mapped.

“Side- and down-scan [sonar] views can help in shal­low sit­u­a­tions. It can be in­valu­able for find­ing red­fish or snook hang­ing un­der a dock, around jet­ties, in ditches and sloughs, as well as around rock and struc­ture,” he says. “Lowrance side-scan has in­cred­i­ble range. It can help you check out those easy-to-spook tar­pon lurk­ing in the pot holes and man­groves with­out dis­turb­ing them.”

Cole also rec­om­mends that in­shore an­glers opt for in-hull or shoot-throughthe-hull trans­duc­ers for track­ing bot­tom at high speeds and mak­ing fre­quent low- and high-speed turns. Add to that a tran­som-mount imag­ing trans­ducer for low-speed prospect­ing.

Fi­nally, a VHF marine ra­dio and an­tenna are ne­ces­si­ties. To­day’s units in­te­grate with mul­ti­func­tion dis­plays and al­low dis­tress calls and AIS for safety.

Those with trolling mo­tors should opt for units such as the Elite-Ti and HDS mod­els that can link to a Mo­torGuide Xi5 trolling mo­tor for seam­less con­trol. Ad­di­tional op­tions in­clude in­stalling an

NMEA 2000 net­work to mon­i­tor en­gine data and fuel use, a WM-3 Sir­ius mod­ule and sub­scrip­tion for weather in­for­ma­tion, and a Point-1 Head­ing Sen­sor to en­sure that the boat di­rec­tion in­di­cated by the ar­row on the dis­play is al­ways match­ing the ac­tual di­rec­tion of the front of the boat while drift­ing.


In­shore an­glers need a chart plot­ter or app with satel­lite-im­age over­lay, side-scan­ning sonar, and mul­ti­func­tion dis­plays with su­per-bright and/or IPS dis­plays, says Raymarine mar­ket­ing man­ager Jim McGowan. “Hav­ing the abil­ity to run a track line on a satel­lite map is key to fish­ing the flats and back­wa­ter,” he ex­plains. “The charts alone are good, but noth­ing beats the satel­lite im­age to be able to see the flats, sand­bars, is­lands and chan­nels.”

Side-scan lets an­glers im­age much more area than down­ward-look­ing sonar. To­day’s units of­fer in­cred­i­ble de­tail and clar­ity at a dis­tance far­ther than an­glers can cast. Bright dis­plays are im­por­tant be­cause many smaller boats lack T-tops. IPS dis­plays also of­fer broader view­ing an­gles and are view­able through po­lar­ized sun­glasses.

Raymarine’s Ax­iom RV (RealVi­sion) units sup­port a wide va­ri­ety of chart brands with satel­lite-over­lay op­tions, in­clud­ing Stan­dard Map­ping ’s su­per­high-res­o­lu­tion aerial charts (South­east only), McGowan says. In ad­di­tion, RealVi­sion 3D sonar pro­vides chirp SideVi­sion, ca­pa­ble of reach­ing out to 300 feet port and star­board in water as shal­low as 1 foot deep. It also pro­vides chirp DownVi­sion, chirp tra­di­tional sonar and sta­bi­lized 3D views.

Even the smallest skiffs can host pre­mium elec­tron­ics such as side-imag­ing sonar and 3D views that re­ally step up an an­gler’s abil­ity WR ƓQG ƓVK LQ VNLQQ\ ZDWHU

Garmin’s new Panop­tix LiveS­cope of­fers views so de­tailed that an­glers FDQ LGHQWLI\ LQGLYLGXDO ƓVK VXFK as this tar­pon in the up­per-left TXDGUDQW RI WKH GLVSOD\

Even sin­gle-out­board bay boats such as this char­ter ves­sel now sport up to three mul­ti­func­tion GLVSOD\V 7KLV ERDW IHDWXUHV WZR /RZUDQFH XQLWV DW WKH KHOP DQG RQH LQ WKH VHFRQG VWDWLRQ

Satel­lite over­lays such as this high­res­o­lu­tion aerial view from Stan­dard Map­ping — sup­ported by Raymarine’s Ax­iom RV MFD — give in­shore an­glers an edge when scout­ing po­ten­tial ƓVKLQJ ORFDWLRQV

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