Reap the benefits of big-screen sonar and GPS displays
Published By OutdoorsFIRST Media Published April 27, 2017
Like most modern technologies, fishing-friendly sonar and GPS systems have evolved dramatically in recent years. One of the notable advancements of late is the proliferation of high-performance, big-screen displays. Such units allow anglers to harness the full power of their electronics' fish-finding and navigational capabilities, all while seeing the underwater world like never before.
"Larger, enhanced displays deliver an incredible amount of easy-to-interpret information that allows anglers to make better fishing decisions and, ultimately, catch more fish," says multispecies fishing expert and tournament champion Scott Glorvigen.
"One of the major benefits of a 9-, 12- or 16-inch screen versus a 5-inch display is the sheer amount of detail you can see and interpret in multiple windows, simultaneously," he continues. "For example, I like to run broadband and side-scanning sonar in split-screen mode, along with a map view. With a big screen, I can adjust window size to enhance my view and fully comprehend what I'm looking at, without missing anything in the water column. On a 5-inch screen, tweaking window size is self-defeating because when you enlarge one view, the others become so small you lose detail.
"The ability to view traditional broadband sonar and newer products like side-scanning sonar side by side, simultaneously, also allows you to learn what the latest technology is trying to tell you," he adds.
The rewards of mastering the new technology are worth the effort, too. "Side-scanning is a godsend in a variety of fishing situations," says Glorvigen. "For example, it allows you to view cover, structure and fish in shallow water, without ever driving over the area with your boat and risk spooking the fish. Having this ability is always beneficial, but it's really critical on classic walleye lakes like Mille Lacs, where water clarity has improved due to the introduction of zebra mussels, making the walleyes more skittish and harder to approach than ever."
Side-scanning is also a boon when you're on the hunt for suspended fish, whether miles offshore or a long cast from the bank. "High-riding fish that dart off to the side of the boat are virtually impossible to mark with traditional down-looking sonar," says Glorvigen. "But side-scanning makes it easy to see these fish and adjust your presentations accordingly."
Glorvigen keenly remembers a tournament where such technology could have helped avert a disappointing finish. "Years ago I was competing in a North American Walleye Anglers event on Lake Erie out of Toledo and landed in third place on day one by trolling crankbaits 20 to 30 feet deep," he recalls. "I continued the same approach on day two, but it wasn't the same. I didn't realize it at the time, but most of the walleyes had risen higher in the water column. I couldn't mark these fish because they flared away from the boat as I went over them. Anglers who made the adjustment had a banner day and moved into the top ten, while I shot from third down to 53rd like a flaming arrow."
The new screens aren't just bigger, of course. Gains in pixel count, resolution, brightness and speed of operation paint a clear, real-time portrait that older units just can't match.
"Lowrance's new HDS Carbon displays, available in 7- through 16-inch sizes, offer more clarity and better resolution than anything anglers have seen, anywhere," says Lowrance account representative Chris Meyer. "They also feature an HD SolarMax display that's viewable from all angles, in direct sunlight, through polarized glasses. Because of the increased viewing angles, even a passenger sitting at a dual console can see the display without craning his neck."
"A wider viewing angle also means you can lay a Carbon display flat on a casting deck," Meyer continues. "So you can replace two upward-tilted smaller screens with a single 16-inch unit that's out of the way. You can see more information than the two older units provided, and never worry about pitching a jig through a screen again." In a similar vein, he says it's now possible reduce the number of displays sprouting from your boat's dash, thereby cleaning up the cockpit without sacrificing fish-catching information.
Clarity and resolution are a big factor anytime, but especially beneficial when viewing enhanced sonar readings such as CHIRP and StructureScan. "They're also great when you're zooming in tight on fish and other small targets, because you don't lose detail when taking a closer look," Meyer adds.
New big-screen displays also have more horsepower to provide instant display updates, even when running multiple sonar and navigational programs at once. "Carbon units, for example, have a dual-core processor that's doesn't bog down, even while operating radar, 3D imaging, mapping and more," he says. "Plus, they have plenty of memory and processing power to handle updates and product developments sure to come.
Glorvigen also notes that some big-screen options are now more affordable than ever. "One of the most exciting things about big-screen technology is how the cost has come down in product lines like Lowrance's Elite Ti and Hook models," he says. "For less than $1,000 you can get a high-performance sonar-chartplotting system with a 9-inch display, and 12-inch units are less than $2,000."
Whether you choose a top-shelf HDS Carbon or one of the Elite Ti or Hook models, Glorvigen promises the larger display offers additional, intangible benefits that are hard to define in facts and figures.
"A big screen simply increases your situational awareness, allowing you get a better feel for what's happening while you're on the water," he says. "Years ago, we'd motor out to a hump and throw out a dog-bone marker buoy as a reference point for gauging how things like wind and current affected our drifts or fish location and behavior. Big screen sonar and GPS take this process to a whole new level, revealing exactly what's going on above and below the waves. They also allow you to monitor the entire water column and spot trends, such as when the entire food chain begins to rise higher off bottom."
Glorvigen also acknowledges big screens' appeal to an aging society. "As we get older, vision isn't what it used to be," he says. "Larger, high-resolution displays are easier to see, and reduce the chances we'll miss critical details or misinterpret what our electronics are trying to tell us."
Whichever model you add to your fishing platform, Glorvigen is sure you'll appreciate seeing the world beneath the waves in a whole new way, and promises there's nothing quite like starring in your own big-screen fishing adventures.