by Brad Wiegmann
There has never been a better time to upgrade your marine electronics. Manufacturers have new marine electronics available with everything from LiveSight Sonar, Panoptix LiveScope, MEGA Imaging, RealVision 3D and Superior HyperVision. It’s almost impossible to keep up with the new technology and features offered in each unit.
Professional crappie guide and Garmin pro staffer Kirby Ham aka Crappie Kirby (www.crappiekirby.com) has seen the advancements in sonar over the years. “Sonar has been able to show images of the bottom and fish echoes for years, but now you can actually see where the fish are located, how they react to a lure and what species. It’s truly changed the way I fish for crappie and how other anglers will be fishing for them in the future,” said Ham.
Ham will scan the lake bottom to the surface searching for baitfish, cover, structure and crappie. “I use CHIRP DownVu to see laydowns or brush piles to see where the fish are located in the wood indicating where I need to be fishing,” said Ham.
On an unfamiliar reservoir, Ham will utilize Garmin SideVu (side-to-side imaging) technology to search for brush piles and crappie in fishy areas. SideVu allows him to cover a large area quickly. He will waypoint those areas then go back and use LiveScope scanning to pinpoint exactly where the crappie are positioned.
“After, I have graphed the area and know where the crappie are located it’s time to dial in the LiveScope range from 30 feet down to 20 feet. At the 20 foot range I can easily see the outline of the fish and tell if they are walleyes, bass, stripers, white bass or any other species. Normally, I keep the boat about 10- to 12-feet away from the fish compared to when I used to put the boat right on top of the brush,” said Ham.
Amazingly, Ham can see just how many crappie there are in a brush pile, his lure presentation and how the crappie react to his lure or minnow on a hook. Normally, he likes to use a slow rise presentation to entice a crappie to bite if keeping it right in their face doesn’t get a reaction strike. “I have had crappie chase my lure all the way up from 18 feet deep to 6 foot trying to bite my lure and I can see it all with live viewing,” said Ham.
Real time viewing technology allows Ham to control or manipulate his lure better to tease them into striking a lure and control the lure with confidence when a crappie is close by. In addition to being able to see just how a crappie is reacting in real time to the lure. To keep his distance away from the cover or structure, Ham uses long fishing rods. B’n’M Poles Russ Bailey Signature Series 12 foot rods for jig fishing and Super Stiff for everything else.
“I keep my presentations really simple. I like to have a 3/8-ounce bell sinker with swivel below a jig or live bait. The length between my crappie jig and #2 Red Tru-Turn Hook and bell sinker depends on where the crappie are located. Of course the bell sinker helps the rig from getting hung up on brush or get loose and allows me to put it level or above the crappie,” said Ham.
Normally, Ham is a one man-one pole in-the-hand angler. He loves to feel the bump of a crappie strike a lure or live bait, however, he revealed crappie anglers could long line, spider rig or even shoot docks in more productive areas by utilizing side or live viewing technology.
He acknowledged that crappie fishing was similar to football. “Fishing is a game of inches, not guesses if you want to be successful!” said Ham.
Seeing fish in real time or real time scanning sonar technology has been called a game changer by crappie anglers that have been using the Garmin LiveScope technology. Currently only Garmin and Lowrance offer real time scanning sonar technology. Instead of real time sonar, Humminbird continues to promote 360 Imaging that became available to anglers back in 2012 and Bow 360 a year later. Unlike real time scanning sonar, 360 Imaging works like underwater radar making circular sweeps surrounding your boat up to 150 feet off all sides.
Raymarine and Lowrance have 3D imaging technology. It’s advanced sonar imaging capable of showing three dimensional views. Raymarine’s new RealVision 3D and Lowrance StructureScan 3D can both accurately identify the location of cover, structure, baitfish along with fish.
Quick Look…Choices and More Choices
Be prepared for sticker shock when shopping for a new marine electronics units and transducers especially on real time scanning sonar units. Note units may require transducers not included with the unit to operate specific features. Different mapping options are available for all units.
Garmin GPSMAP 8612xsv 12-inch touch screen display with premium performance processor (MSRP $3,999.99)
Lowrance HDS Live 12 12-inch touch screen display with quad-core processor (MSRP $2,999)
Lowrance Elite Ti2 12 12-inch touch screen display with built in CHIRP and Broadband Sounder (MSRP $1,849)
Raymarine Elements 12HV 12-inch non-touch display with quad-core processor featuring HyperVision with HV-100 transducer (apx $2,430)
Humminbird SOLIX 12 MEGA SI+ G2 12-inch display with touch screen interface (MSRP $3,099.99)
Connectivity between units continues to improve with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities along with features like Lowrance’s Smartphone Notifications or Humminbird’s One-boat Networks. Plus now many of the units available can do software updates through Wi-Fi.
Knowing which transducer to purchase can be confusing. Several of the electronics manufactures offer all in one transducers or single purpose transducer. Additional sonar enhancing black box or module may also be available.
Garmin LVS 32 Panoptix LiveScope with GLS 10 sonar black box is 135 degree (front to back) x 20 degree (left to right) ICAST 2018 “Best of Show”. (MSRP $1,499.99)
Garmin LVS 12 single-array LiveScope is both 30 degree (down) x 20 degree (left to right) x 30 degree (forward) x 20 degree (left to right) with no black box required compatible with Garmin’s(MSRP $499.99)
Lowrance LiveSight will have forward facing transducer and down viewing for the transom or bottom of trolling motor. All three brackets come in the box. ($999)
Often overlooked frequency settings can change the size of the area your unit is scanning. In traditional 2D sonar 83 kHz is a wider cone making it a better setting when searching for cover or crappie compared to 200 kHz. Similar 455 kHz is wider than the 800 kHz or 1.2 MHz (short range, High resolution). CHIRP (Compressed High Intensity Pulse) is a wide spectrum of sonar pulses producing sharp, accurate signals.