Every day at the Bass Pro Shops in Leeds, Alabama, I get asked the same question, which is “hey, is there someone else I can talk to?” I’m just kidding. Actually, what I often hear is “I bought this used boat and need to upgrade the electronics, but I don’t know what I want. Can you help?” The answer is “yes, I can, but I can’t tell you what to buy. I’ll give you some options, but you will have to tell me what you want it to do.” I usually begin by asking a few questions, such as “where do you fish, what do you fish for, and how do you fish?” Ultimately, your answers will shape and influence your final decision. A fellow fishing from a johnboat on a small lake may need something totally different from a fellow with a big bass boat who fishes the tournament trail , but they both normally want the same thing, to catch fish. Fish Finders and Chart Plotters are amazing tools, and the technology available today really is rocket science. You do not have to be an engineer to operate one, but you do have to invest the time in learning your new electronic gear in order to maximize the return on the financial investment that you have made in that particular piece of electronic wizardry. We occasionally hear the sorrows of buyer’s remorse, as someone finally saved up enough money to purchase their dream electronic widget for their boat, only to learn that it will not do what they thought it should, or they can’t make it do what they are convinced it will. Our goal, when you come in to the Marine counter, is to spend the time necessary with you so that you will leave with confident knowledge that the choice you are going to make is the right choice, the best choice for your boat, and the best choice for your money. This is our pledge to you when you come to Bass Pro Shops, that when you purchase your dream from us, you get a little of us with it so that it doesn’t turn into a nightmare. Our relationship does not end when you decide to buy from Bass Pro Shops. It reaches the next level as we support your efforts to master your new piece of electronic gear. So, let’s take an overall look at the offerings available from Humminbird today, and we will look at the specifics later.
Group 1 – Fish Finders only. This group will be the basic offerings from Humminbird, no frills. These are great units, but are low in price and sparse of features. For the person who wants the basics such as depth, bottom structure, and whether or not there any fish to be caught, this group is for you. Your big decision will be color or gray scale. There are some new models for 2013 in this group, and all offer a transom mount skimmer style transducer. There is a trolling motor mount transducer available for them as well, but all you really need is to get the Humminbird adapter and you can mount this transducer on the trolling motor. These transducers can also be glued in the hull of a fiberglass boat if you prefer. Models in this group include the PirhanaMax series, and range from $79.99 to $199.99. This group includes some larger 5” screen Monochrome models as well, all priced in the same range.
Group 2 - Combination Fish Finders with GPS. GPS has offered a whole new approach to fishing, as now you have the ability to add detailed lake maps, find and mark new hot spots with waypoints, and leave trails for navigating new waters without getting lost. You now have the ability to go to a new lake, launch your boat, and navigate the lake safely, knowing where the channels are, knowing where the submerged structures are that might attract fish, and knowing where all of the humps, holes, drop-offs, and lake irregularities are that are critical to the holding and feeding patterns of the fish that you are after. GPS gives you the ability to return to the same productive spots, whether they are roadbeds, treetops, or anything else you wish to re-visit. GPS makes charting a safe path through a maze of standing timber and stumps possible, allowing you to retrace your steps while keeping your boat safe and free from damage form the hidden dangers just below the surface. GPS works day or night equally well, relying on the satellites above rather than the sun. You do not have to spend a fortune to get a Fish Finder with GPS. The PirhanaMax 196ci for $199.99 has GPS, but no maps or ability to add maps. It is a basic model for the budget minded fisherman. The 386 ci Combo retails for $299.99 and is feature packed in a small package. Humminbird still offers Combination units all the way up to a hearty 8” or larger screen size ( measured diagonally ), though these units are being replaced with the newer Side Imaging and Down Imaging models.
Group 3 – Down Imaging Fish Finders. Down Imaging Fish Finders are gaining popularity out on the lake as fishermen figure out how to work to new information to their advantage. They are not hard to operate or understand, but you do need to spend some time on the water getting to know the unit and learning the settings to maximize the performance. Traditional sonar units send down a cone shaped signal that bounces back to the transducer, providing details for a cone shaped area of coverage. Most Humminbird units are dual beam, meaning that they send down two cones of coverage, a narrow cone and a wider cone. The results of the returns are then displayed on the Fish Finder screen, and you get a good idea about what is going on in the area under your boat. Down imaging signals are sent out from the same transducer, but, instead of a cone, you have a flat side to side scan going out about 82 to 86 degrees, but only 8 degrees or so thick. Down Imaging returns cover the area directly under the transducer, and as each scan is completed, the picture on the screen gets refreshed with new data. If you can imagine a wedge shaped slice of pizza following your boat, you can visualize what the down imaging scan is shaped like. Down Imaging technology is great for locating and identifying structure that could be or should be holding the fish you are after. Down Imaging, when used in conjunction with the regular sonar or Humminbird’s Switchfire sonar, makes a powerful addition to your tackle box of tools for locating and catching fish. Down Imaging Fish Finders can be purchased for as little as $249.99 for the Humminbird 346c DI model, and go up from there as you add size and features such as GPS.
Group 4 – Side Imaging Fish Finders. Side Imaging technology was originally brought to the market by Humminbird, though it has its’ origins in earlier military use. Side Imaging gives you everything that Down Imaging does, and more. Side Imaging actually allows you to scan side to side at 180 degrees for up to 360 feet per side. Side Imaging will allow you to motor around at idle speeds up to 7 mph or 8 mph, looking at suspended and bottom detail for as far as you care to go. Side Imaging is what the pro’s use to stay competitive, it is that important. With Side Imaging on your boat, you can spend a mere $1999.99 extra dollars and add 360 degree imaging, allowing you to see the lake details in front of your boat before you even get there. With Side Imaging on your boat, you can add a MinnKota Trolling Motor with i-Pilot Link and a Lake Master Map Card and program your trolling motor to follow a certain depth contour on a loaded lake and it will, allowing you to do nothing but concentrate on catching fish. Side Imaging is not cheap, with the 598ci HD SI Combo starting at $800 and the 1198c HD SI Combo selling for $2799.99, but to the fishermen who will invest the time to learn how to use it properly, it is certainly worth it. As with anything else for your boat, they key to your satisfaction is in doing your homework before you decide to buy, and that includes coming to Bass Pro Shops in Leeds, Alabama for a hands on demonstration in the model differences. Let us help you so that your experience will be a good experience.
Come see me in the Marine Department. Jim Mann, Bass Pro Shops, Leeds, Alabama