Small Boat, Big Fish

Advanced sonar is easy to attain for trailerable boats--and even kayaks.

Sonar technology has come such a long way that the fish don’t stand a chance anymore. With compact designs and low prices, sonar can easily be taken advantage of by owners of smaller boats. These units show structure and fish so clearly that anglers can almost see what species is down there. Let’s look at some of the latest units that aren’t just for the 50-foot sportfishers.



Advanced Capabilities

The thought of old fishfinders conjures up images of monochromatic screens with some random shapes that may have been fish or underwater tree branches, or whatever. It took an advanced degree to make out what the old units were showing. But that’s all changed with new sonar such as Raymarine’s Element with HyperVision 1.2 mhz CHIRP technology. This super-high-frequency sonar shows unbelievable levels of detail in imaging the water column and bottom. Side-scan produces a wide search area, and 3-D imaging and conical CHIRP detect fish and deliver bottom-density information. It can detect fish and bottom structure from two feet to 900 feet and is geared for both saltwater and freshwater use, so anglers can exploit it on lakes and rivers, and for inshore and coastal fishing. Element runs the LightHouse Sport operating system, which is a derivative of the LightHouse 3 system used on Raymarine’s larger Axiom line.

Humminbird just launched its MEGA Imaging+ and dual-spectrum CHIRP sonar with three times the frequency of its prior product. The Helix CHIRP MEGA SI+ GPS G3N features side and down imaging, integrated Bluetooth and Ethernet networking capability, for boat owners who want to get really fancy. It delivers sharp images up to 200 feet to either side and 200 feet down with 20 percent more detail than the previous MEGA Imaging series.

Garmin’s Striker line comes with CHIRP technology packed into screens from four to nine inches and is offered with either a trolling or transom mount transducer. Users can return to hot spots, marinas and ramps and store up to 2 million acres of their own content with 1-foot contours.

The Hook series by Lowrance is built for casual freshwater and inshore coastal anglers. With broadband and CHIRP coverage and screens that start at 4.3 inches, Hook is compact enough to use on a fishing kayak or a pontoon boat. Heck, Hook units can even go ice fishing. But don’t underestimate this little power pack. It comes pre-loaded with CMAP and inland mapping, or buyers can create their own maps to share with angler buddies.




Fishfinders today highlight simplicity with all-in-one packages that are easy to install and usually consist of just a display, a cable and a transducer. Element’s HV100 transducer is compact, so it fits easily on trailerable boats, but is fully featured. Everything is built in, so no black boxes or external modules are needed.

Humminbird’s Helix comes with an MFD, a transducer (and mounting hardware), a power cord and a gimbaled mounting bracket. Variously sized displays are available from all manufacturers, so shoppers can find one to fit their dash. Element comes in 7-, 9-and 12-inch displays, while Humminbird offers MFDs from 5 to 15 inches.



Wallet Friendly

Perhaps the best reason to investigate new sonar is the price. These uber-powerful, super-simple, high-definition units are easy on the wallet as well as the eyes.

Raymarine’s Element is its midrange product, slotted between Dragonfly (starting at $299 with a choice of trolling, through-hull or transom mount transducers) and its advanced Axiom line. Element starts at $880 for the 7-inch unit. That price is all-in, plus installation, of course. Humminbird’s Helix 9 with built-in GPS costs $1,500.

Pocket sonar units are less. Garmin’s Striker 4 costs $140, and Lowrance’s Hook2 starts at just $100 and ranges, depending on screen size, up to $1,500.

Anglers get a lot for their money, because these units are available with integrated GPS and at least a base chart. Element even supports making custom bathymetric maps for both Navionics’ SonarChart Live and Raymarine’s own RealBathy mapping system.



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