• Marine Electronics

    Getting a transducer to read at speed so your sonar doesn’t lose the bottom can be tricky – here are some tips to make it happen.

    Mounting transducers with a need for speed

    You open the throttle, plane the boat, tickle the trim until you can’t go any faster, and then your sonar loses the bottom. Chances are, the problem lies with your transducer installation.

    August 24, 2017 at 9:00am
    Units can use overlays to combine features and save screen space. The top right window of this split-screen image capture shows the submerged remains of a bridge piling in DownScan detail. The window below it shows the DownScan detail overlaid on a conventional 2D view with Lowrance’s DownScan Overlay feature so you can see the image displayed with both types of sonar.

    The big screen advantage

    “Multifunction display” grows in meaning with each new generation of marine electronics. Sonar functions now include traditional down-looking 2-D scanning with and without CHIRP, high-definition side and down scanning, live forward scanning, 360-degree circular scanning and a choice of frequencies to optimize each type for either maximum detail or greatest scanning depth/distance. Most units with Ethernet connections can also show radar scans and forward-looking infrared (FLIR) live video for extra safety when eyesight isn’t enough. They can also share readings with other displays in real time. Units can network with virtually any NMEA 2000 or NMEA 0183 sensor or device and with some engines to show data like RPM, pressure and temperature readings. Many displays can also control autopilots, shallow water anchors, bow-mounted trolling motors, and your boat’s stereo system. All these capabilities compete for the limited space on our displays.

    July 24, 2017 at 9:00am
    Combining Humminbird’s 360 Imaging with Minn Kota’s Ultrex motor lets you cast to fish, cover and structure within 150 feet around your boat and concentrate on your presentation while the motor holds you in place.

    Seat of your pants sonar

    Sonar fishfinders have always helped us find fish and fish-holding structure, but helping us precisely target fish has been another story. Early on,bulb-type flashers supported vertical jigging. You dropped your lure and watched its flash move down to a flash marking a fish and then, hopefully, all you had to do was set the hook. The problem was that not all the nearby fish were directly under our boats — not even all the fish we saw on our screens. Some were at the outside edge of the cone of sound generated by our transducers and we couldn’t tell if they were to our left or right or off our bow or transom.

    June 22, 2017 at 9:00am
    Lowrance’s latest software update includes a surface clarity filter upgrade that allows the fish arches in the top third of this screen to be seen at the low filter setting. The previous filter technology would have required a high enough level of filtering to eliminate them.

    What’s in a software update?

    Lowrance’s latest software update reminded me that it has been a while since I mentioned how important updates are to all of us — no matter what brand of electronics we run.

    May 24, 2017 at 9:00am
    A portable power dolly can park your boat or camping trailer in spots where there is no room to maneuver a tow vehicle without waiting for your neighbor to move his car or waiting for the absent owners of boats and vehicles blocking you in at a campground.

    Personal trailer parking

    Folks who think the average boater is great at backing a trailer need only spend 30 minutes observing a busy boat ramp to learn the truth.

    April 24, 2017 at 9:00am
    New C-MAP cartography products combine C-MAP data with GoFree Insight Genesis data, including bottom contour, hardness transitions and even the recent locations of weed beds.

    C-MAP lets you customize inland and coastal mapping

    A bass club member I used to know was hilariously secretive about his tournament fishing. As we watched from the headquarters dock, he would circle around the far side of a lake before returning to weigh-in to hide where he’d been fishing.

    March 23, 2017 at 9:00am
    Elite Ti units can use this TotalScan Skimmer transducer to provide CHIRP sonar and picture-like sonar views from StructureScan HD’s SideScan and DownScan sonar. It plugs right into the displays; no extra black box is required.

    Serious electronics can be affordable

    Unfortunately for our wallets, we can’t avoid some cost increases in electronics. They stem from new features appearing in each product generation that require more computer power and better screens. And the almost universal use of personal electronics with touch screens has fishermen looking for the same familiar convenience in their marine electronics. All this calls for high-tech components reliable enough for marine use and new software to tie them all together.

    February 20, 2017 at 9:00am
    This Quatix 3 is in “Clark Kent” trim with its default watch face and black leather band.

    Marine electronics for your wrist

    An electronic watch can be as smart as Einstein and still be useless to fishermen if it isn’t waterproof.

    Well, Garmin’s Quatix 3 ($449.99) can be submerged to 100 meters — about 178 feet deeper than the practical limit for SCUBA divers on compressed air — so this watch should handle anything a fisherman is likely to encounter.

    January 23, 2017 at 9:00am
    These jump starters include a set of “Smarty Clamps” with a new pinch-point jaw design engineered to get a better grip on all sizes of battery terminals.

    Portable emergency power for your boat

    If you have never turned your boat or tow vehicle’s ignition key only to have it do absolutely nothing, you should be both wary and happy.

    Be wary because it happens to almost everyone sooner or later, and be happy because you still have time to prepare for it.

    December 19, 2016 at 9:00am
    The skipper of this boat probably can’t use his soaked cell phone or his marine radio — hopefully he had an EPIRB or similar device.

    Emergency electronics get faster

    When Murphy’s Law suddenly sinks or disables your boat, your Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) is your no-nonsense, last-ditch rescue resource.

    November 21, 2016 at 9:00am
    When looking for wiring problems, you might find trouble on the inside where you see trouble on the outside. Note the broken clamp and wire ties that used to secure this covered wire bundle to the bulkhead.

    Getting wired - Proper wiring for your boat

    Wires are the blood vessels of your boat’s electrical system. If they aren’t right, everything that runs on amps and volts is at risk.

    We’re talking about boats here, so when we address wire we’re talking about marine-grade wire you can get from your local marine dealer or online at places like West Marine, Boaters World, Cabela’s or Bass Pro Shops.

    October 20, 2016 at 9:00am
    Cable steering has always been the first choice where quick and positive maneuvering is required and the new Ultrex has power cable steering.

    The next step in trolling motor evolution

    My first real bass boat was a new 1973 Raycraft Pro built in St. Augustine, Texas, right between Lake Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend Reservoir.

    Tri-hulls designed with a larger center hull and two smaller side sponsons were cutting-edge for bass boat hulls back then, and every company had its own version.

    September 19, 2016 at 9:00am
    This Helix Motor Drive pod is designed as a drop-in electric propulsion unit for Wilderness System’s Flex Pod OS-compatible kayaks. It fits in a specially designed scupper built into the boat.

    Electric propulsion update

    Today’s electric propulsion systems can replace everything from kayak paddles to outboard motors, and fishermen are finding them more proficient than ever.

    August 25, 2016 at 9:00am
    This screen shot shows Furuno’s Target Analyzer engaged and indicating two red targets approaching. The Echo Trail feature shows the shadowy paths of the moving objects to help avoid the vessels.

    Furuno’s new small-boat radar

    Ask three fishermen what they like most about their radar units and you might well get three different answers.

    The most-experienced user might tell you it ties with sonar as his most valuable fishing tool.

    July 21, 2016 at 9:00am
    This is a daylight shot of a work barge moored about 200 yards from the Binox unit.

    Digital binoculars for night or day

    Binoculars have always had a place in my outdoor life. I keep a pair handy in a storage compartment in my boat, in my truck’s console and in my hunting pack.

    June 23, 2016 at 9:00am
    CHIRP technology lets a unit show baitfish clouds in an unmistakable manner and easily separate fish from submerged trees.

    Marine-grade software updates on your electronics

    There was a time when updating your electronics meant buying new units.

    We gadget-minded fishermen understood that keeping up with technological evolution meant replacing our fishfinders and navigation units every eight to 10 months.

    May 23, 2016 at 9:00am