The game of fishing has embraced technology full-steam, turning the art of finding and catching fish into a modern-day science. High-tech electronics have replaced the, “that spot looks good over there,” mentality with the fishfinder leading the way in terms of functionality and definite angler advantage.
The Nitty Gritty
A sonar works by sending out an electronic impulse from the unit to the transducer. This impulse is transmitted into a sound wave by the transducer, at which point it is beamed through the water column. The sound wave will now travel downward until it reaches the bottom structure — it is at this point that it will be bounced back to the receiving unit. The sound wave will also “travel” through any objects found between the lake bottom and surface of the water (fish or baitfish.) When the signal is received, the unit will then make its interpretations, finally showcasing the results on the screen.
The power of a sonar unit is described in watts. The term “peak-to-peak” is used to describe the overall power of the transmitter. When dealing with fishfinders, the higher the wattage, the more efficient and powerful the overall unit.
The bare minimum peak-to-peak power would be 600 Watts, although 2,000 to 3,000 is certainly recommended for most anglers.
Simply put, a pixel is a dot — on some fishfinders. The screen is made up of a series of many dots, which in turn produce the picture or readout. The more pixels present on the screen, the better the picture will appear. 160 x160 pixels is the bare minimum when it comes to choosing a fishfinder (that uses pixels). This will appear somewhat “blocky,” so going higher is recommended. 240 x 240 would be a great starting point, and if your wallet will allow you, keep going higher.
A transducer is the part of the unit that sends out sound waves in order to see what is below the surface of the water. When dealing with transducers, the most important aspect is cone angle. The wider the degree on the cone, the larger the view of what lies beneath you will receive.
Transducer cones can be purchased in ranges from 9 degrees upwards of 60 degrees, with most units falling somewhere between 16- and 20 degrees. In my mind, a cone of 20 degrees is a perfect starting point for anglers fishing a variety of water.
Frequencies also come into play with transducers. Most will come with 50-, 192- or 200-kHz, all in direct relation to the cone angle. The higher the frequency, the better the unit will perform in shallow water.
Another interesting aspect of transducers is the ability to have more than one cone transmitting from the same starting point. In other words, the standard transducer will have a single beam. Moving up the scale, you can then progress to a dual beam, triple, side beam, and so forth. What each of these does is cover more water — a very efficient option to have when scouring the lake for fish.
There was time when black and white was the only option when it came to your fishfinder’s display screen. With the advent of new technology, color screens are bursting onto the market like wildfire. Although black and white will work for most anglers, color will give you a greater screen definition, making fish and structure literally pop out in different shades of color for easier identification.
Back Lit Display
For those that like to fish the graveyard shift, or anglers up before the sun, having a back lit background, making viewing possible under dark and non-existent light conditions.
Temperature, Speed, Distance
Although standard on some units in the market, many finders will offer these as options. For those that primarily troll, the speed and distance feature certainly is helpful.
Having a temperature gauge on board is extremely important for finding those warm waters, which are holding fish. (Keep in mind that this is only a surface reading, and not from deeper water.)
Portable Or Fixed?
Anglers have the option of purchasing a fishfinder that will be affixed permanently to their craft, or one that can be taken in and out of the boat with ease.
For those that rent boats, ice fish, or go to places to “fly-in” fish, the portable option is one to look into.
Fixed fishfinders certainly get the nod for boat owners, as they can be mounted in the exact position they desire. The transducer can also be attached to either the stern, trolling motor or hull — giving the angler many options. (Portable units often use a suction cup for attachment purposes.)
The GPS Option
With the advent of the GPS, anglers are finding many uses for this revolutionary technology. GPS or Global Positioning System uses satellite signals to pinpoint your exact location while out on the water. This feature allows you to mark productive spots, (and come back to them time and time again!), find your way back to shore in the case of an emergency, and also map out co-ordinates for your home lake through the use of mapping software. It’s a great feature to have on any fishfinder you purchase!
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