Open water is here and it is time to get the boats out, rigged and ready for the water, and this year is a great one to consider updating your electronics. There are a lot of exciting new units and technologies available from all the major brands. New sizes and features at great prices are getting to be the theme in fishing electronics in recent years. We’ll look at the offerings from Lowrance, Garmin and Humminbird, from top to bottom of their lineups and look at some of the things that make them all great choices. An important thing to keep in mind while considering a new locator or a new system is that it will be for you. Be thinking about the type of fishing you do, where you fish, how you fish, etc. It is always good to get advice from fishing buddies, but remember that not everyone fishes the same and what is best for you might be completely different from your buddies.
The newest generation of the popular Lowrance HDS series is here. New for 2017, the HDS Carbon series builds on many of the same great features in the current HDS Gen3 series and takes them to the top tier of locator performance. These units are available in 7, 9, 12 and 16 inch Solarmax HD screen. These screens have even higher definition than before and are much more friendly to polarized glasses, making for easier viewing at wider angles. The most noticeable difference, besides the brighter, sharper picture, is the speed the machine operates at. Stocked with a Dual-Core processor, the Carbon series will operate at about twice the speed of the Gen3 series, which were already very fast. So when it comes time to adjust your pages or options, you can use the touchscreen or the keypad and have lightning fast performance, thus getting you back to fishing faster. The new Carbon series will also work with the Navionics SonarChart Live system, so you can easily and quickly make custom maps of your favorite spots, or entire lakes that have not been previously mapped. You can buy the Carbon series in several transducer packages such as Chirp sonar, StructureScan 3D, or the TotalScan transducer. The TotalScan option has been by far the most popular option. You get all of the sonar elements in one tranducer – StructureScan (left and right imaging), DownScan, and 2D Chirp Sonar. The big win here is that you no longer have to find a spot for multiple transducers because you can mount one at the transom. All of the HDS carbon units can be networked with each other and many of the past HDS series to share the sonar and imaging throughout your boat. If you want the absolute best units available from Lowrance, the Carbon series is the way to go.
This year Humminbird launched the Solix series. These 12 and 15 inch units feature Cross-Touch screens, meaning you can control the units however you wish. Screen customization is another huge advantage with the Solix over many other Humminbird options. You can pick any combination of up to 4 viewing panels, allowing you to setup the screen exactly how you like it and customize the panel sizes to fit your individual needs. A new user-friendly interface, with both angler and custom modes, allows you to choose how simple or advanced you want the menus and options to be. Bluetooth capable, Auto-Chart Live and MEGA imaging options make the Solix units the top shelf option from Humminbird.
Also new from Humminbird this year is the Helix G2N. Growing the success of the Helix family last year, Humminbird has yet again made some pretty cool improvements on an already value packed family of locators. MEGA Imaging has been a huge buzzword this spring and for good reason. Available on the Helix 9, 10 and 12 G2N SI units, MEGA Imaging gets its name from the 1.2 Megahertz frequency of the signal. These are the only units running this frequency, everything else is using a signal at or around 455 Kilohertz.
So what does that really mean? Basically, the MEGA Imaging signal is almost 3 times higher quality than other signals out there, resulting in the images on your screen being almost 3 times clearer than anything else you have fished with to date. The increase in clarity means it’s easier to see what’s going on under the water. A clearer picture is going to make it much simpler when you are trying to figure out what structure or how many fish are down there. The clearer the image the easier and faster this process will be. Bluetooth technology has also been added to the Helix G2N family and gives you some pretty cool options. You can update your software from your phone, see calls and texts messages on screen and talk through the Bluetooth in the Minnkota Link motor. Also upgraded in these units, the new AutoChart Live gives you a clearer map and now you can get Vegetation and Bottom Hardness maps. This allows you to compare the depth changes to the physical structures around them. Add Chirp sonar to the new family and you now have some pretty amazing features and screen sizes at prices that are very reasonable.
The EchoMAP Chirp 73sv and 93sv have everything you need to get fishing with premium technology right out of the box. Now with Chirp Sonar providing clearer pictures than ever before, the EchoMAP also comes preloaded with over 13,000 LakeVu HD Lakemaps with 1 foot contours. This means you do not have to buy a chip, and if the lakes you fish have not been mapped the included Quickdraw feature allows you to make your own high detailed maps. These units can also work with the Garmin Panoptics real-time sonar that gives you a live feed on your screen as to what is under your transducer. When you look at the screen sizes available and the features included, the EchoMaps give you a lot of bang for the buck and some premium features usually only found on more expensive units.