Modern bass anglers are very fortunate to have so many great technologies available to help them catch more fish. Many anglers may feel overwhelmed trying to learn each and every feature available. To me it comes down to minimizing my adjustments and developing systems to get the most out of them. Here is what I do to get the most out of my electronics while keeping things simple.
The modern fishfinder is amazing and they keep getting better and better. They are also quite complicated with all of the different settings. Next I’ll break down my setup and also explain what settings I use for each situation and why.
I run Lowrance HDS 12 units and have three of them on my boat; two at the wheel and one up front. I will have the front unit set up with a split screen showing the chart with a Navionics Platinum card on one side and traditional 2D sonar on the other half of the screen. For the back units, I will have one with SideScan and the other half for DownScan. On the other unit, I will show the chart and 2D sonar side by side. These are the screens I use most and keeping them set at these screens keeps me from moving back and forth between screens.
If you only have two units, I would keep the front unit the same as what I do and set the back unit to display the chart and DownScan. I have found more fish using the DownScan than the SideScan and feel like this is the one to use if you could only have one showing. SideScan is better for finding structure, but for finding fish DownScan is better in my experience.
There are so many different settings and the best advice I can give is to not get too bogged down with each and every single one. Here is what I do for each of the major screens.
The range that you set for your SideScan plays a big role in what you can see and how easy it is to spot fish. I keep it between 40 to 60 feet almost all of the time. After 60 feet, the fish become too small to easily see. I keep it simple and will use 40 feet for shallow water and 60 feet for deeper water.
I keep my DownScan settings on the automatic range setting. The one thing I will do is change the contrast to make it easier to see things. I like to keep this setting between 65-75 percent.
I will use the 65 percent setting when I am idling over a hard bottom or shallow water. The reason is because the harder bottom or shallow water will create a harder return from the sonar and if it is any higher the screen starts to look washed out or dull.
If I am going over deeper water or a soft bottom, I will use the 75 percent setting. It will be the reverse of the hard bottom and will create a softer return from the sonar.
The color palette adjustment and everything else I will keep at their default settings.
I make a few more changes to my 2D sonar and will adjust them based on the conditions as well.
The first thing I do is change the color palette to the setting called #13. This is the one that shows fish as yellow, red or blue and the bottom will look brown. I have found this to be the best color for finding fish and making sure they are clearly visible.
I also set the mode to shallow water and adjust the sensitivity setting. The sensitivity is usually set at “auto” and I will adjust it to somewhere between 65-75 percent. Each lake is different, but I like the screen to show a little bit of clutter. If the water is very clear, I will adjust my setting towards 75 percent and lower it for dirtier water.
Another way I have simplified my electronics is through the way I manage my waypoints. Many bass anglers have hundreds or even thousands of waypoints on their units and most of them are just numbers. I used to just hit the waypoint and then when I came back a month or year later I had no idea what it meant and what was there.
There are so many different icons available to use, so I started using them. If it is a brushpile, I use the tree icon. If it’s a rock pile, I use that icon. It makes it much easier when you return. I also take it a step further by renaming the icon to the corresponding depth. This extra work at the time makes it so much easier when you come back to the waypoint and then can pick the correct bait to fish that piece of cover. I do this with each type of structure I find and also make sure to adjust them all if I arrive at the lake and it is much lower or higher than the last time I was there.
There are many different ways to organize and manage your waypoints. The best thing to do is to have a system that you are comfortable with and that will help you quickly know what each waypoint means.
FishSens SondeCAM Underwater Camera
The use of the FishSens camera has changed the way I fish and quickly made me realize that I didn’t know as much about my electronics as I thought I did. By using the camera in conjunction with my Lowrance units, I was able to easily determine exactly what I was seeing on the Lowrance. This helped me better understand what each piece of cover looks like, both with a camera and then on my sonar.
The camera plugs directly into the video port on my Lowrance HDS units so I do not need any additional screens to view the video feed. It also works with Garmin and Raymarine units.
I think of the FishSens SondeCam as an educational tool and it is also helpful to see what kind of fish are showing up on your screen. There have been many times where I saw a school of fish on my screen and swore that they were bass only to find out that they were a school of white bass or something else. It can help you save time and it is really fun to watch the camera and see what is down there.
Some people are still skeptical of the Hydrowave and I get asked “does it really work?” all the time. I believe it does and I put one on my boat each season.
These units have come a long ways and there are now many different sounds that anglers can use. I still keep it simple and use the sound setting for “Power Pattern” because I think this is the one that sounds most like a baitfish trying to get away from a predator. On the older units this sound setting was called “Frenzy.” There may be other sounds that work, but I keep it basic and almost always use this one.
Another key is the volume and delayed loop settings. The unit will allow you to play the sound on a continuous loop with delays and different intervals. I like to keep it at the 15-second setting and leave it. When it comes to sound, I will start low at 25 percent when fishing a school of fish and then gradually increase it if the fishing starts to slow down or I haven’t caught anything yet.
One final note about the Hydrowave is knowing when and where to use it. When I am moving down the bank I am most often casting at shallow cover. This is when I do not want the sounds at all. Think about it, the fish are likely hiding in the cover and I can cast to them, I wouldn’t want them to leave that cover and come to my boat. In my opinion, the best places to use the Hydrowave are for offshore fishing and anytime you are fishing for schooling fish.
Power-Poles have changed the way we all fish. The ability to stop in place with the touch of a button while fishing a piece of cover has really helped me catch more fish over the years. They are also lifesavers when it is really windy.
The Power-Pole comes with three different settings for how fast they raise and lower. Originally I thought the fastest setting would be the best. I thought the faster the better, but have changed my thinking after some experimentation. I now use the middle setting as it is much quieter and I feel it is still fast enough for my needs.
The biggest thing with all modern fishing electronics is to not get overwhelmed. Years ago we had none of this technology and people still caught fish. I think of them as tools to make my life easier and to help me catch more fish. That is why I try to simplify my electronics to get the most out of them.