I am often asked by beginner and layman fisherman, “do I really need a fishfinder/depth finder equipped with sidescanning technology?” The question is asked because units having this technology are obviously more expensive. As a professional bass fisherman competing against high-level anglers in tournaments, I have to utilize all tools that improve fishing efficiency and save time on the water. Therefore I MUST have it! But what about you? Well, let me tell you why I need it and what it does for me. Then you decide how important it might be for you.
We’ve always been able to see straight below the boat using traditional sonar and the more recent downscan. But sidescan allows an angler to see below the lake’s surface on both sides of the boat. This results in seeing more of the lake bottom and surrounding water column at one time. And the end result of this is an angler will discover more rockpiles, brushpiles, stumps, baitfish, and gamefish! All of this stuff will be found in less time.
For example, let’s say you are on a new lake and are unfamiliar with a hump that is displayed on your map. In this situation, I always like to thoroughly idle my boat over the hump looking for bottom features that stand out. I will grid out the entire hump weaving a zig-zag pattern while staring at my Lowrance the whole time. By the time that I am done, I will know most of the key areas of that hump. This process is time-consuming, especially if limited to just traditional sonar or downscan. But with sidescan, I can weave a looser grid pattern, learn just as much, and cut the time required by a third. Plus I can save a little on gas and oil too!
A very cool feature of sidescan is the ability to drop waypoints on features that are seen on the side image. For example, let’s say I’m idling across a long point with gravel looking for isolated boulders that draw smallmouths. When one of these boulders appears on the sidescan, with Lowrance’s touchscreen abilities, I can simply touch the boulder on the screen and a waypoint will drop there. Now I can know the precise boulder location and quickly find it again.
Sidescan is useful in displaying fish as well, although I personally have a more difficult time picking fish images apart from rocks. I guess that can be a problem anyways with just downscan or traditional sonar too. But they do show up. Suspended fish are very easy to read, it’s just the ones on the bottom that can be tricky. I’ve caught many suspended crappies thanks to sidescan.
Sidescan is also useful in determining the numbers of bass in a school and how they are positioned. For example, when I see a school of bass on my downscan, I always consult the sidescan to see which side of the boat has the majority and how far out they extend.
In the end, whether you decide to purchase a fishfinder with sidescan depends on the level of seriousness you regard your fishing. If you enjoy checking out new lakes, it is going to save you a lot of time searching out productive water. So I highly recommend it in those situations. But if you simply fish one lake and know it like the back of your hand, then you can maybe do without it. Unless the fish in your lake like to suspend, roam, and chase bait schools.
As a final note, I prefer using the Lowrance fishfinders with touch screen technology because they are the most user-friendly units sold of any brand. Personally, I am not good with trying to remember sequences of buttons; Lowrance has diminished this problem substantially.
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