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Get More Out of Any Fish Finder

These insights can be applied to using electronics to find any species of fish. Electronics are so good these days, it is scary. Even a novice angler can use modern electronics to find a mega-school of fish. You don’t have to be intimidate by high-end electronics. Follow a few keys to understanding and interpreting your graphs will make you a more well-rounded and successful angler in any capacity.

Interpret the mood of fish on your fish finder and other tips to improve your fishing

Nowadays a bass boat can look more like a Black Friday sale at your local TV store than a fishing boat. With multiple electronic units reading sonar, Side Scan, and Down Scan, it is very easy to get overwhelmed. Still, it seems that everyone from your professional bass angler to the weekend recreational fisherman now has $1000 – $3000 in electronics on their boat.

There are a lot of people that own these electronics that couldn’t tell hard bottom from a stump, or a fish from clutter on the screen. So we wanted to hopefully clear up some things on reading your electronic fish finders with savvy professional angler that has done his homework when it comes to electronics.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with FLW Tour Pro Tom Redington and listen to some of his insights on utilizing his fish finders. Redington flourished in recent offshore tournaments thanks to his prowess with his electronics and finding deep schools of bass. In the 2014 FLW Tour Event on Kentucky Lake, Redington led days 2 and 3 of the event before finishing in 6th place, and he did it all through intense scanning with his electronics.

Here he offers up some knowledge on how he sets up his Lowrance HDS units and how he deciphers what he is seeing with them.

Keep it simple and consistent

Redington likes to keep it as simple as possible when he starts playing with his electronic settings. He will shut off all the factory set filters on his electronics. Not that these units aren’t ready to go right from the store. In fact, Redington believes today’s Lowrance Down Scan and Side Scan technologies are so good that almost anyone can pull them out of the package and be able to find and catch fish.

However, he takes these simple steps so that he can distinguish everything he sees on the graph himself. The filters do a lot of assuming and can be fooled by false returns from the sonar. Redington insists this will lead to you being much more knowledgable and efficient when looking at your electronics.

“To me, the most important thing about graphs that people need to understand, is that there is no one correct setting,” said Redington. “It’s not like there is a perfect setting, there are a lot of wrong and right ways to set them up. But you really just have to find something that works for you and stick with it. Once you get them set up and you start looking at different structures, a consistent look becomes critical. That way, if I see a certain type of bottom, or structure or the way a school of fish is set up, I can tell immediately what it is and if I can catch those fish or not.”

Redington also keeps it relatively simple when it comes to color palettes for his electronics. He has found two different color settings that he gravitates to, one for Side Scan and another for Down Scan. Redington uses these color schemes because they are what he is accustomed to and they are the most easily recognizable to him.

“I usually go with the red/yellow/purple scheme for Down Scan to differentiate fish from cover. Whereas in Side Imaging, I like that brownish scheme, as I am looking for structure or actual bottom contrast,” Redington said.

Recognize school formations

Once you hit the water with your electronics, you run into a whole host of details to decipher. Most notably, how to recognize and discern between schools of fish when graphing offshore structure. Redington not only can distinguish schools of fish with his electronics, but he can usually tell what species of fish they are, and even if he is likely to catch them or not.

“It’s almost the same thing as sight fishing,” he said. “If you have sight fished a lot, you can immediately tell when you pull up to a fish if it is going to be easy to catch them, or if you are going to have to spend a lot of time working on that fish. It is the same with your electronics once you understand.”

There are three distinct school formations Redington looks for and recognizes when bass move out to their deep haunts.

  • Attack Formation
  • Wall-to-wall carpet
  • An explosion

Attack formation

This is what Redington wants to see when graphing for bass, what he calls “attack position”. Notice the vertical formation to the school of fish. Redington says this is the most important thing he looks for when graphing for an active school. The fish are in a tight group with a vertical formation, but still relating to the bottom. When you see a school like this, Redington says you can throw most any lure to them and expect to get a bite.

“These fish will still be relating to the bottom somewhat, but they are grouped in a sort of mound, or haystack formation. If you have a ledge, point or a hump, these fish won’t be all over the whole structure. They’ll be in a tight little wad, within five feet of the bottom, with some vertical formation to them. When you see a school like this, you had better get up and get casting. It’s time to load the boat,” Redington said.

Wall-to-wall carpet

Here the school of fish is scattered across the bottom, not really in a group per-say. There is a large ball of baitfish grouped under an old bridge in the middle of the image; but you’ll notice the larger fish, in this case bass, are spread out to the left and the right of the baitfish.

These fish are sucked right down to the bottom and spread out evenly in what Redington refers to as “wall-to-wall carpet” formation. Redington suggests soaking a bottom bait on a slow day to catch a few stragglers or to hopefully get the school fired up. He also suggests leaving this school and checking back later. As he can often catch more in 10 casts out of an active school, than he could in 5 hours of fishing on a school grouped like this.

“It’s like playing a slot machine… you only have to hit jackpot once a day to make it a great day.  Definitely stop back again later in the day though, as this is a timing deal. Sooner or later this group is going to get together and eat.”

Explosion

Even though an “explosion” of fish on your graph may look and sound like an enticing thing, Redington believes differently. He notices that the fish and baitfish are spread out in all directions, with no true formation of any kind.

“When I come across a school like this, I’ll come back later and see if they all group up together in a small area relating to the bottom, but I won’t waste a cast now,” Redington said. “A lot of beginners tend to see this and spend a lot of time on a school like this, but it is extremely hard to get a fish to bite when they are set up this way. I tend to see this formation a lot on post frontal days. If I see this formation on 4 or 5 spots in a row, I’m going to start thinking about a shallow backup plan.”

Zoning in

Redington’s tactic to finding bass on offshore structure is to first slowly idle over the structure with a zig-zag approach. When he starts to graph schools of fish he believes are bass, he will make a few casts to confirm his notion. Once Redington knows that there was a school of bass in say, 20 feet of water, he can narrow his search. If bass are offshore, they will typically inhabit similar depths throughout the lake, river or reservoir.

“Once I have an idea of what depth to look for, I will go back to the map and find as many structures with a lot of area in that productive zone as possible,” Redington said. “Say I found a few schools of fish on sloping points in 14-17 feet of water. Well, I now want to find as many points as possible that have a lot of area in 14-17 feet and give them all a look with my electronics; applying what I know about school formation to what I see. This eliminates so much water and lets me zone in on the most productive depth.”

This process lead Redington to being extremely efficient when looking for schools of bass during a short practice period, and he does it all by keeping one eye on his electronics.

Redington makes a living fishing for bass, but these insights can be applied to using electronics to find any species of fish. Electronics are so good these days, it is scary. Even a novice angler can use modern electronics to find a mega-school of fish. You don’t have to be intimidate by high-end electronics. Follow a few keys to understanding and interpreting your graphs will make you a more well-rounded and successful angler in any capacity.  by:  Luke Stoner

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Get More Out of Any Fish Finder

These insights can be applied to using electronics to find any species of fish. Electronics are so good these days, it is scary. Even a novice angler can use modern electronics to find a mega-school of fish. You don’t have to be intimidate by high-end electronics. Follow a few keys to understanding and interpreting your graphs will make you a more well-rounded and successful angler in any capacity.

Interpret the mood of fish on your fish finder and other tips to improve your fishing

Nowadays a bass boat can look more like a Black Friday sale at your local TV store than a fishing boat. With multiple electronic units reading sonar, Side Scan, and Down Scan, it is very easy to get overwhelmed. Still, it seems that everyone from your professional bass angler to the weekend recreational fisherman now has $1000 – $3000 in electronics on their boat.

There are a lot of people that own these electronics that couldn’t tell hard bottom from a stump, or a fish from clutter on the screen. So we wanted to hopefully clear up some things on reading your electronic fish finders with savvy professional angler that has done his homework when it comes to electronics.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with FLW Tour Pro Tom Redington and listen to some of his insights on utilizing his fish finders. Redington flourished in recent offshore tournaments thanks to his prowess with his electronics and finding deep schools of bass. In the 2014 FLW Tour Event on Kentucky Lake, Redington led days 2 and 3 of the event before finishing in 6th place, and he did it all through intense scanning with his electronics.

Here he offers up some knowledge on how he sets up his Lowrance HDS units and how he deciphers what he is seeing with them.

Keep it simple and consistent

Redington likes to keep it as simple as possible when he starts playing with his electronic settings. He will shut off all the factory set filters on his electronics. Not that these units aren’t ready to go right from the store. In fact, Redington believes today’s Lowrance Down Scan and Side Scan technologies are so good that almost anyone can pull them out of the package and be able to find and catch fish.

However, he takes these simple steps so that he can distinguish everything he sees on the graph himself. The filters do a lot of assuming and can be fooled by false returns from the sonar. Redington insists this will lead to you being much more knowledgable and efficient when looking at your electronics.

“To me, the most important thing about graphs that people need to understand, is that there is no one correct setting,” said Redington. “It’s not like there is a perfect setting, there are a lot of wrong and right ways to set them up. But you really just have to find something that works for you and stick with it. Once you get them set up and you start looking at different structures, a consistent look becomes critical. That way, if I see a certain type of bottom, or structure or the way a school of fish is set up, I can tell immediately what it is and if I can catch those fish or not.”

Redington also keeps it relatively simple when it comes to color palettes for his electronics. He has found two different color settings that he gravitates to, one for Side Scan and another for Down Scan. Redington uses these color schemes because they are what he is accustomed to and they are the most easily recognizable to him.

“I usually go with the red/yellow/purple scheme for Down Scan to differentiate fish from cover. Whereas in Side Imaging, I like that brownish scheme, as I am looking for structure or actual bottom contrast,” Redington said.

Recognize school formations

Once you hit the water with your electronics, you run into a whole host of details to decipher. Most notably, how to recognize and discern between schools of fish when graphing offshore structure. Redington not only can distinguish schools of fish with his electronics, but he can usually tell what species of fish they are, and even if he is likely to catch them or not.

“It’s almost the same thing as sight fishing,” he said. “If you have sight fished a lot, you can immediately tell when you pull up to a fish if it is going to be easy to catch them, or if you are going to have to spend a lot of time working on that fish. It is the same with your electronics once you understand.”

There are three distinct school formations Redington looks for and recognizes when bass move out to their deep haunts.

  • Attack Formation
  • Wall-to-wall carpet
  • An explosion

Attack formation

This is what Redington wants to see when graphing for bass, what he calls “attack position”. Notice the vertical formation to the school of fish. Redington says this is the most important thing he looks for when graphing for an active school. The fish are in a tight group with a vertical formation, but still relating to the bottom. When you see a school like this, Redington says you can throw most any lure to them and expect to get a bite.

“These fish will still be relating to the bottom somewhat, but they are grouped in a sort of mound, or haystack formation. If you have a ledge, point or a hump, these fish won’t be all over the whole structure. They’ll be in a tight little wad, within five feet of the bottom, with some vertical formation to them. When you see a school like this, you had better get up and get casting. It’s time to load the boat,” Redington said.

Wall-to-wall carpet

Here the school of fish is scattered across the bottom, not really in a group per-say. There is a large ball of baitfish grouped under an old bridge in the middle of the image; but you’ll notice the larger fish, in this case bass, are spread out to the left and the right of the baitfish.

These fish are sucked right down to the bottom and spread out evenly in what Redington refers to as “wall-to-wall carpet” formation. Redington suggests soaking a bottom bait on a slow day to catch a few stragglers or to hopefully get the school fired up. He also suggests leaving this school and checking back later. As he can often catch more in 10 casts out of an active school, than he could in 5 hours of fishing on a school grouped like this.

“It’s like playing a slot machine… you only have to hit jackpot once a day to make it a great day.  Definitely stop back again later in the day though, as this is a timing deal. Sooner or later this group is going to get together and eat.”

Explosion

Even though an “explosion” of fish on your graph may look and sound like an enticing thing, Redington believes differently. He notices that the fish and baitfish are spread out in all directions, with no true formation of any kind.

“When I come across a school like this, I’ll come back later and see if they all group up together in a small area relating to the bottom, but I won’t waste a cast now,” Redington said. “A lot of beginners tend to see this and spend a lot of time on a school like this, but it is extremely hard to get a fish to bite when they are set up this way. I tend to see this formation a lot on post frontal days. If I see this formation on 4 or 5 spots in a row, I’m going to start thinking about a shallow backup plan.”

Zoning in

Redington’s tactic to finding bass on offshore structure is to first slowly idle over the structure with a zig-zag approach. When he starts to graph schools of fish he believes are bass, he will make a few casts to confirm his notion. Once Redington knows that there was a school of bass in say, 20 feet of water, he can narrow his search. If bass are offshore, they will typically inhabit similar depths throughout the lake, river or reservoir.

“Once I have an idea of what depth to look for, I will go back to the map and find as many structures with a lot of area in that productive zone as possible,” Redington said. “Say I found a few schools of fish on sloping points in 14-17 feet of water. Well, I now want to find as many points as possible that have a lot of area in 14-17 feet and give them all a look with my electronics; applying what I know about school formation to what I see. This eliminates so much water and lets me zone in on the most productive depth.”

This process lead Redington to being extremely efficient when looking for schools of bass during a short practice period, and he does it all by keeping one eye on his electronics.

Redington makes a living fishing for bass, but these insights can be applied to using electronics to find any species of fish. Electronics are so good these days, it is scary. Even a novice angler can use modern electronics to find a mega-school of fish. You don’t have to be intimidate by high-end electronics. Follow a few keys to understanding and interpreting your graphs will make you a more well-rounded and successful angler in any capacity.  by:  Luke Stoner

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Tips For Buying A Fish Finder

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The game of fishing has embraced technology full-steam, turning the art of finding and catching fish into a modern-day science. High-tech electronics have replaced the, “that spot looks good over there,” mentality with the fish finder leading the way in terms of functionality and definite angler advantage.

The Nitty Gritty

A sonar works by sending out an electronic impulse from the unit to the transducer. This impulse is transmitted into a sound wave by the transducer, at which point it is beamed through the water column. The sound wave will now travel downward until it reaches the bottom structure — it is at this point that it will be bounced back to the receiving unit. The sound wave will also “travel” through any objects found between the lake bottom and surface of the water (fish or baitfish.) When the signal is received, the unit will then make its interpretations, finally showcasing the results on the screen.

There are ton of quality fish finders on the market — many at a very affordable price!

Power/Wattage

The power of a sonar unit is described in watts. The term “peak-to-peak” is used to describe the overall power of the transmitter. When dealing with fish finders, the higher the wattage, the more efficient and powerful the overall unit.              

The bare minimum peak-to-peak power would be 600 Watts, although 2,000 to 3,000 is certainly recommended for most anglers.

Pixels

Simply put, a pixel is a dot — on some fish finders. The screen is made up of a series of many dots, which in turn produce the picture or readout. The more pixels present on the screen, the better the picture will appear. 160 x160 pixels is the bare minimum when it comes to choosing a fish finder (that uses pixels). This will appear somewhat “blocky,” so going higher is recommended. 240 x 240 would be a great starting point, and if your wallet will allow you, keep going higher.

1354023211_459709656_1-New-Lowrance-HDS-Gen2-Touch-Fish-Finders-MorningsideTransducer

A transducer is the part of the unit that sends out sound waves in order to see what is below the surface of the water. When dealing with transducers, the most important aspect is cone angle. The wider the degree on the cone, the larger the view of what lies beneath you will receive.

Transducer cones can be purchased in ranges from 9 degrees upwards of 60 degrees, with most units falling somewhere between 16- and 20 degrees. In my mind, a cone of 20 degrees is a perfect starting point for anglers fishing a variety of water.

Frequencies also come into play with transducers. Most will come with 50-, 192- or 200-kHz, all in direct relation to the cone angle. The higher the frequency, the better the unit will perform in shallow water.

Another interesting aspect of transducers is the ability to have more than one cone transmitting from the same starting point. In other words, the standard transducer will have a single beam. Moving up the scale, you can then progress to a dual beam, triple, side beam, and so forth. What each of these does is cover more water — a very efficient option to have when scouring the lake for fish.

$(KGrHqRHJBIE7)0fnHpuBPHSQ+Rsrg~~_8Display Screens

There was time when black and white was the only option when it came to your fishfinder’s display screen. With the advent of new technology, color screens are bursting onto the market like wildfire. Although black and white will work for most anglers, color will give you a greater screen definition, making fish and structure literally pop out in different shades of color for easier identification.

Back Lit Display

For those that like to fish the graveyard shift, or anglers up before the sun, having a back lit background, making viewing possible under dark and non-existent light conditions.


Temperature, Speed, Distance

Although standard on some units in the market, many finders will offer these as options. For those that primarily troll, the speed and distance feature certainly is helpful.

Having a temperature gauge on board is extremely important for finding those warm waters, which are holding fish. (Keep in mind that this is only a surface reading, and not from deeper water.)

A fish finder will help you quickly find fish and increase your odds of hooking them

Portable Or Fixed?

Anglers have the option of purchasing a fish finder that will be affixed permanently to their craft, or one that can be taken in and out of the boat with ease.

For those that rent boats, ice fish, or go to places to “fly-in” fish, the portable option is one to look into.

Fixed fish finders certainly get the nod for boat owners, as they can be mounted in the exact position they desire. The transducer can also be attached to either the stern, trolling motor or hull — giving the angler many options. (Portable units often use a suction cup for attachment purposes.)

The GPS Option

With the advent of the GPS, anglers are finding many uses for this revolutionary technology. GPS or Global Positioning System uses satellite signals to pinpoint your exact location while out on the water. This feature allows you to mark productive spots, (and come back to them time and time again!), find your way back to shore in the case of an emergency, and also map out co-ordinates for your home lake through the use of mapping software. It’s a great feature to have on any fish finder you purchase!

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