By: Zuzana Prochazka
I have an old chartplotter on my center-console fishing boat. It still works, so I don’t really want to get rid of it, but I’m fishing farther and farther out in the gulf on weekends. I want to stay safe, and I’m not sure I can trust the old equipment. I don’t have a lot of room left on the console, especially if I keep the old display as a backup, and I don’t want to break the bank. Any new options out there for us little guys?
Absolutely. There have been a number of small multifunction displays introduced recently that do double duty as plotters and sounders, and they’ll make a very small dent in your dash and your wallet.
Check out the Raymarine Dragonfly 4, which is a 4.3-inch multifunction display (MFD). For $300, you get a full-color chartplotter with a built-in GPS antenna so you can always get home, and with the dual-beam transducer, you also get CHIRP DownVision and conventional CHIRP sonar, which means you’ll see detailed bottom structure. It also provides a fish-targeting beam to depths of about 600 feet. If you step up to the Pro version with a 5-inch screen, you get all three plus Wi-Fi communication to your smartphone for under $550. If you have the room, you can flush mount this tiny unit or attach it with a bracket and use your phone as a repeater.
Another 4-inch unit under $200 is the Lowrance Mark-4. A fishfinder and chartplotter combined, the unit has a 3.5-inch black-and-white screen and a swivel bracket mount. It comes with a detailed base map with Navionics Gold and Premium chart upgrades possible via the waterproof microSD card slot. The transom-mount transducer is included in the package price, and the unit has Lowrance’s nifty TrackBack feature, which allows you to review a snippet of sonar display history. For example, if you are cruising along and just catch the tail end of some interesting underwater topography, you can replay the last stretch and turn around to find the fish you may have otherwise missed.
Finally, there is also the Humminbird HELIX 5 SI/GPS with a dual-beam sonar (1,500 feet of down imaging and 350 feet of side-imaging capability). This 5-inch color MFD is both a chartplotter (Navionics charts) and a sonar unit. The screen is big enough to display navigation and sonar information on a brilliant side-by-side screen, and it’ll set you back only $500.