By Tim Huffman
Crappie fishermen can improve their catching by building and sinking beds, maintaining good boat control and quickly forming patterns. However, according to experts, the quickest way for a fisherman to jump to another level of fishing is adding and learning to use advanced electronics.
In general, “advanced” means having quality mapping, side imaging and down imaging. All of these can be expected under the $1000 price tag.
Graph prices are based upon several factors with screen size being one the primary factors. A 7-inch model at $600 can be around $2000 in the 10- or 12-inch version. More money means more bells-and-whistles but more importantly more resolution with better separation. So $1000 can buy very complex units but their screens will be limited in size; not tiny, just smaller.
The good news is all brands have excellent quality electronics. Some may have a better transducer while another has a better screen, or ease of use. They are all different but very good.
The following units were chosen from interviews with manufacturer representatives, current press releases and websites. Prices are from Google searches in December.
This 7-inch Touchscreen Chartplotter/Sonar Combo features intuitive touchscreen controls. It also includes support for network connectivity, including autopilots, digital switching, weather and more. It allows Garmin Marine Network support for sharing sonar, Panoptix sonar, maps, user data, radar and IP cameras among multiple units. It’s preloaded with U.S. LakeVu HD maps and Blue Chart g2 charts. The unit is built-in ready to allow add-on transducers: Garmin Chirp and Chirp ClearVu. SiriusXM compatible.
John Spiddle, Regional Product Trainer, says, “Our 742 features an easy-to-see, color, sunlight viewable touch screen. It has multiple features including mapping, quick draw mapping to create your own maps. One of the best things about any of the Garmin units is there’s not a lot you have to do except get it on the boat. They are ready and easy to run right out of the box.”
Axiom claims separation from the others due to its blazing quad-core processor performance and built-in RealVision 3D sonar. Users can pan, tilt and zoom the 3D image to examine views from various angles. It also has high frequency Chirp Sonar, DownVision, and SideVision; all built into a single transducer housing. It supports charts from leading map makers including Navionics. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
Jeff Fink, Sr, Account Manager, Raymarine, says, “At ICAST we are introducing an Axiom, 7-inch, high resolution down imaging and sonar Chirp; Navionics Nav-Plus chart comes with it for outstanding mapping. It’s an affordable unit that has quality features a fisherman needs. It can be put in the automatic mode and do a very good job or you can fine-tune by using gain and contrast to get a little better picture and performance.”
Price: Axiom 7 DV $750.
Lowrance Hook2 9-TripleShot
The world’s easiest fish finder? That’s what Lowrance says about the Hook2 9-Tripleshot. The hassle of making adjustments is now done with a simple menu layout, easy access and Lowrance Autotuning sonar. This 3-in-1 unit has wide-angle, high Chirp sonar with double the sonar coverage of most fish finders, plus SideScan and DownScan Imaging. It has a 9-inch SolarMax screen and built-in high-detail maps.
Mike McCoy, tour pro rookie, says, “You don’t have to have a high-dollar unit to get everything you need. You can go down to a 7-inch or 9-inch and still get the functions you need. This is the easiest brand unit to use so it’s perfect for the less-techie fisherman. If you do play with it there is a Reset button for putting all controls back to original settings making it almost foolproof to mess up.”
The Helix 7 and 9 offers a wide range of features for a good price. These units are known for their super bright LED backlit display making them easy to see in the sunlight. Price depends upon options and size, but in general, for the under $1000 you can get Side Imaging/Down Imaging sonar with DualBeam Plus and SwitchFire, GPS Chartplotting with built-in Humminbird maps. Instant Access Preset buttons increases speed for changing screen views.
Humminbird’s Mark Gibson says, “The Helix units have been a great addition for affordable fishing. The 7-inch units are super bright, has Side Imaging, Down Imaging, Sonar, Chirp, Navionics or LakeMaps, and better built-in maps. Our newest units are the Helix 9 Mega.”
Price for best Helix 7 (Chirp, GPS, G2N) is $800: Helix 9 SI GPS is $999; (new Helix Mega 9 is above our limit).
There are no bad choices with the brands previously mentioned. However, each one has different advantages and disadvantages. Check reviews, compare specifications and learn which one is right for you.
Note that bolting one of these units doesn’t magically put fish in your boat. The number one complaint that “the unit doesn’t work” are from fishermen who are not learning how to use them. Your learning may require getting someone in the boat to teach you. Read the manual front to back and get on the water, leave the fishing poles alone, and spend time learning each function. Getting results requires the purchase followed by a learning process so don’t be fooled that just slapping one on your boat expecting magic. However, today’s units are the easiest to learn and use. Doing so will advance you to another skill level of fishing.