By John Neporadny Jr.
I remember the first depthfinder I owned was a Humminbird Super Sixty that flashed a light to show fish, brush piles and the bottom. Now an electronics unit will show you detailed side, front and rear views of the area you are fishing along with the ability to mark waypoints so you can return to that hotspot.
Today’s depth finder/GPS plotter units have a wide range of capabilities and price ranges for crappie anglers to consider when they want to purchase a new unit. The latest technology is full circle viewing which Humminbird offers with its 360 system. Humminbird spokesman Jim Edlund notes the 360 technology is a must for serious crappie anglers because it shows real time movement of the fish. The technology also has an advantage over side imaging because it can scan while the boat is sitting still whereas side imaging only scans while the boat is moving.
Ethernet connectivity to run 360 imaging is available on the following new Humminbird CIHDSI units: 799, 899, 999 and 1199. The units also integrate with the MinnKota I Pilot link that allows the trolling motor to communicate with Humminbird fishfinders for automatic boat control and the ability to store and revisit fishing spots.” The cool thing about the units is they are priced $500 less expensive than last year even though they are the new models,” Edlund says.
The units also offer side and down imaging and 2D sonar. “If they get into deep water, guys are using down imaging to locate brush, wood and cribs and things like that,” says Edlund. “You get a real nice high definition picture with down imaging.” Edlund notes side imaging is ideal for cruising rows of docks to find fish or large coves for finding sunken cover.
The 799, 899, 999 and 1199 units come with base maps for the GPS plotter, and LakeMaster cards featuring high-definition contour maps of lakes in various regions can be purchased separately. Two key features of LakeMaster maps are the water level offset and depth highlights.
“If you are on a reservoir and the water is 5 or 10 feet down you can set that (water level) in your map,” Edlund says. “That immediately redraws the whole map so it is accurate to whatever the current water level is.”
“If you are fishing main basin open water where crappie are staging in the fall in 50 feet of water and they are suspended 30 feet down you want to find everyplace on the lake in that deep basin area between 30 and 50 feet,” Edlund says. “You then set your depth highlight to 30 to 50 feet and it shows up green on your map.”
For crappie anglers on a budget, Humminbird offers its 300 series models with mapping, down imaging and split-screen capabilities. The 398CI combo also features side imaging.
The new Lowrance HDS Gen2 Touch units offer side and down imaging through StructureScan. “You can really get a great picture of where the crappie are bunched together,’ says Lucas Steward, Lowrance product manager. “I can side scan a big area (of standing timber) and go right to the tree that has all of the crappie on it nearly every time.”
Lowrance has also introduced surround-scan imaging for HDS Gen2 or HDS Gen2 Touch units with its Spotlight Scan Sonar trolling motor transducer. “It actually allows you to spin the trolling motor and paint a radar-like structure image in front of your boat,” Steward says.
The HDS Gen2 units feature built-in mapping and are compatible with Navionics contour maps. Lowrance also offers the Insight Genesis custom mapping system for the HDS Gen2 units. “You can actually drive through an area and record the sonar log and then process the sonar into your own map,” Steward says. “So it is the most up-to-date map that you can possibly have.”
The weekend crappie angler can get down scanning imagery and traditional broadband sonar from the less expensive Lowrance Elite Series units with hybrid dual-imaging sonar. The units GPS plotter has a detailed U.S. background map and can be used with Navionics and HotMaps maps and the Insight Genesis mapping system.
Garmin spokesman Weston Owen stresses user friendliness should be a key feature you should consider when buying new electronics. “You can have as many features and capabilities on the unit as you need but if you don’t know how to use them, then what good are they to you,” says Owen. “We have always kind of prided ourselves on the user experience and really how easy the Garmin product is to use.”
Garmin’s top units for crappie tournament anglers are the 840xs and 1040xs models. “They are virtually identical as far as capability except the 1040 is a 10-inch screen and the 840 is an 8-inch screen,” says Owen.
Both units have built-in DownVu scanning sonar with the capability of adding a GCV black box sonar transducer for both DownVu and SideVu scanning sonar with CHIRP technology that is sold separately. A CHIRP transducer can display sonar images with clear target separation and resolution and dial into specific frequencies to target certain species of sport fish.
The fishfinder/GPS combos are also preloaded with Garmin’s LakeVu HD program that contains maps of 17,000 inland lakes across the U.S. including, 5,700 maps that have 1-foot contours from shore to shore. “So you get really pristine detail and a lot of good information as far as drops or where spawn areas will be and things like that,” Owen says.
Garmin’s low-price options for the weekend angler include the echoMap series 50 (5-inch screen) or 70 (7-inch touchscreen display). These fishfinder/chartplotter units feature traditional sonar and a worldwide basemap or LakeVu HD cartography. The 7-inch model also has built-in support for Garmin transducers that include DownVu, and SideVu scanning and CHIRP.
Today’s electronics sure make it a lot easier to detect what’s going on below the boat than trying to figure out those lights on the old flasher units.