Introduction to Enhancing Your Angling Skills
Over the years, I’ve noticed that many anglers frequently need help with using fish finders to locate fish. I receive numerous questions about fish finders on social media and during fishing trips. Interestingly, a typical pattern emerges among these anglers, such as transducer installation mistakes, so I’ve compiled this resource.
I’ve compiled the top 5 fish finder mistakes most anglers tend to make. By paying close attention to the information covered in this blog and implementing the suggested changes, you can unlock the full potential of your fish finder, whether it’s equipped with down Imaging, side imaging, or 2D sonar. This knowledge will make you a better angler and increase your chances of finding and catching more fish.
It’s important to note that these fish finder tips aren’t exclusive to a single type of fish; they apply to anyone targeting various fish species. The principles discussed in this guide apply to most brands like Lowrance and more.
Transducer Installation Problems (Tips to Avoid)
Installing fish finders incorrectly can lead to various issues, such as power cycling problems, screen interference, and even image clarity loss due to voltage problems. It’s a mistake to assume that marine dealers always install electronics correctly. I recommend wiring sonar fish finders directly to the battery with an inline fuse to bypass potential sources of problems and interference. The correct gauge marine-grade wire is crucial to prevent power cycle and shutdown issues.
Achieving high-quality images on your fish finder is equally crucial and hinges on a precise transducer installation. Positioning the transducer at the rear of the boat at the correct height—neither too low nor too high—is paramount. Sometimes, fine-tuning the transducer’s location may be necessary, making a poly mounting board a practical choice. An inadequately installed transducer can adversely affect your boat’s performance, potentially causing issues such as imbalance and reduced speed.
Ensuring the transducer is perfectly level is pivotal for optimal image quality. Rectifying a slight tilt forward or backward in the transducer is straightforward. Detailed instructions on achieving this balance are provided in the accompanying resource.
Setting up a transducer mount is pivotal in ensuring your fish finder operates at its peak and provides accurate data. However, there are several common missteps anglers frequently encounter during this process. One prevalent issue revolves around incorrect transducer placement. Mounting the transducer too low or too high on the boat’s hull can result in suboptimal performance. If situated too low, it might pick up interference from the boat’s hull, leading to distorted images and diminished sensitivity. Conversely, mounting it too high can create turbulence and air bubbles, disrupting the sonar signal and causing inaccuracies in the readings.
Another frequently encountered blunder pertains to the materials used for the transducer mount. The material chosen for the mounting must be non-interfering and robust enough to withstand the rigors of submersion in water. Employing subpar or incompatible materials can introduce vibrations, instability, and shifting, harming the transducer’s performance. Furthermore, inadequate securing of the transducer mount may lead to it coming loose during use, potentially damaging both the transducer and the boat. To avert these common pitfalls, it’s imperative to meticulously adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines for transducer installation, employing the appropriate materials and techniques for a secure and efficient mount.
If your fish finder is installed, troubleshooting steps are available to help you address potential issues.
Scan Speed (Slow and Straight)
2D, Down Imaging, and Side Imaging functions are designed to work effectively when the boat is in motion, not when it’s stationary or moving slowly. While adjusting fish finder speed and settings to gain a general idea of what’s beneath the boat is possible, you will only obtain detailed images with proper boat movement.
To scan for fish effectively, you need to drive the boat with the chart speed appropriately set. A general rule of thumb is to match the chart speed to or slightly exceed the boat’s speed. Scanning at 1 to 3 miles per hour will yield the best results and the most detailed images. For example, if your ship travels 3 miles per hour, set the chart speed to 3 or 4 miles per hour to achieve optimal image quality.
It’s important to avoid extremes; if the chart speed is too slow or the boat isn’t moving, fish may appear larger than they are. Conversely, driving too fast or having the scroll speed too high can make fish look smaller. Additionally, if the boat moves very slowly or is stationary, it distorts the images and makes the fish appear more significant than their actual size.
In addition to the proper scanning speeds and chart speed settings, scanning in a straight line as much as possible will produce the best images.
Fish Finder Sonar Cones (More Detail Isn't Always Better)
Many anglers struggle because they need to understand sonar cones or use the correct sonar type or frequency. Most modern fish finders come equipped with 83/200 kHz on 2D sonar and 455/800 kHz for side imaging and down Imaging. Humminbird fish finders also offer MEGA Imaging at 1.2 MHz. Higher-frequency sonar provides more detailed information but has a smaller cone angle. The higher the frequency, the smaller the sonar cone.
Whether you’re using 2D sonar, down Imaging, or side imaging, you need to grasp the concept of sonar cones and when to adjust them to avoid fish.
Let’s take 2D sonar as an example. In 20 feet of water, a 200 kHz sonar has a cone (circle) approximately 7 feet around the bottom. In contrast, an 83 kHz sonar has a much more comprehensive process, covering about 23 feet. If you’re scanning 20 feet of water with a 7-foot circle, you will only detect a few fish.
Many anglers prefer the 83/200 kHz setting, which alternates frequencies to provide detail and coverage. The same principle applies to down and side imaging, with higher frequencies offering more points but smaller cone angles.
Lower frequencies are better suited for searching for structure, cover, and fish. Once you locate them and identify their location, switching to a higher frequency can provide more detailed information. Lower frequencies are often more effective if you’re primarily focused on finding fish or conducting a search.
Sensitivity and Contrast
One of the most common mistakes anglers make when using fish finders is to adjust sensitivity and contrast settings. Modern fish finders typically provide excellent images right out of the box, assuming they’re installed correctly. However, these settings require continuous adjustments while fishing, significantly when water conditions change or you switch sonar cones.
Many modern fish finders offer a dynamic contrast option that automatically adjusts these settings, but you can also manually fine-tune contrast and sensitivity. I prefer making manual adjustments. Both contrast and sensitivity settings must be constantly fine-tuned as you change depths, encounter different bottom hardness, or adjust sonar cones. These adjustments can range from minor tweaks to significant changes.
If sensitivity is set too high, known as a “hot image,” it can result in washed-out details. Conversely, developing sensitivity too low will darken the image.
Overall, paying attention to and frequently adjusting these settings is crucial. I change contrast and sensitivity settings hundreds of times during a typical fishing day to ensure the best image quality.
Unlocking Fish Finder Mastery: Conclusion and Key Takeaways
In conclusion, mastering the art of using a fish finder effectively is crucial for anglers looking to enhance their fishing success. The top 5 fish finder mistakes discussed in this resource shed light on common pitfalls and provide valuable solutions to help anglers get the most out of their fish finder technology.
Proper installation, including correct wiring and transducer placement, optimizes your fish finder. Scanning at the right speed, with appropriate chart speed settings, is essential for detailed Imaging. Understanding sonar cones and selecting the right frequency for your needs can substantially affect your ability to locate fish.
Experimenting with color palettes and regularly adjusting sensitivity and contrast settings are critical for fine-tuning your fish finder’s performance based on changing conditions.
The key takeaway is that fish finder technology is a valuable tool, but it requires ongoing attention and customization to suit your specific fishing circumstances. Addressing these common mistakes and proactively managing your fish finder settings can significantly improve your angling skills and increase your success on the water. So, remember to stay vigilant and adapt your fish finder techniques to the conditions you encounter, and you’ll become a more proficient angler in no time.