STEPS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR SONAR'S PERFORMANCE
By Keith Krych
Sonar is an abbreviation for SOund NAvigation and Ranging.
It was developed by the US Military to find and track submarines
during WWII. Sonar does only one thing; it measures the DISTANCE from
the transducer to objects in the water and/or the bottom by using sound waves.
Using your sonar properly is the quickest way to becoming a more
successful angler. Here are seven steps to properly set up any sonar
on any boat.
1. Install the Transducer Properly!!! This is the most frequent
problem I see with not getting the maximum out of your system.
2. Turn the unit from automatic to Manual Mode... NO FISH ID Please!!!
3. Set the Depth Range .. maximize the pixels you paid for!
4. Adjust Sensitivity until "snow" or black dots appear on the
screen. About 70% on my unit in 20 fow. Shallower = less, deeper = more.
5. Set the Gray Line also to about 70%; this will enable you to tell
large fish from smaller ones and also tell the bottom type (hard, soft, weeds).
6. Set Chart Speed to maximum. This lets you see objects better at high speed.
7. Set Ping Rate to Maximum. This also lets you see objects better at
Transducer Installation-the most common problems with sonar performance.
When I talk to fishermen who are having trouble getting a good
reading with their sonar unit, particularly at high speed, the most
common problem is a poor transducer installation. Nothing can affect
your sonar's performance as much as a poorly installed/placed
transducer. It must be level with the transom and mounted in a smooth
water flow area, 1/8 inch below the bottom of the hull. The bottom
surface of the transducer needs to be parallel to the waterline, not
in line with the bottom of the hull. Keep the transducer clear of
hull strakes and rows of rivets. Hull strakes and rivets will cause
air bubbles and water turbulence that interfere with the transducer
signal when you're on plane. Also remember to keep the transducer at
least 18" to either side of the main engine.
The problem with fish ID is you're letting the computer tell you what
is beneath your boat instead of looking at it yourself. The computer
is preset to show a fish when a certain amount of signal is sent
back; even if that signal is from a group of weeds, debris, insects,
or a group of baitfish. Another problem is fish sizing. An example is
if two fish enter your sonar's cone - one is a 7" perch and the other
a 4 lb walleye. The problem comes if the perch is directly in the
center of the cone and the walleye just barely touches the outer edge
of the cone. With Fish ID on it will show the perch (because it is
giving the stronger return) as a large fish symbol while the walleye
will show as a small or medium symbol.
The problem with sonar in auto depth range mode is they are
programmed to think you're always going deeper. If you're in the
river and your depth is 32 feet of water most sonar units
automatically jump to a deeper depth range, say 60 feet. You're
loosing the ability to see objects (fish) because half your screen is
below the bottom of the river. Set the depth range yourself and get
all the definition you paid for.
High sensitivity settings are needed to determine bottom type, see
small targets, and separate targets (fish). On a B&W unit turn the
sensitivity up until your screen has looks like its snowing. If you
have a color unit turn the sensitivity up until it looks like a blizzard.
Grayline/Colorline allows us to determine how hard the bottom below
our boat is. Second, grayline lets us see if an object that is close
to the bottom is actually connected to the bottom (structure) or not
connected (fish). Lastly, and probably most important for walleye
fishermen, is that grayline let us actually separate bottom hugging
fish from the lakes/rivers bottom.
Turning up the chart speed to max will enable you to spot fish while
you're cruising. If the chart speed is to slow you could run over a
pod of fish without even knowing they were there.
Turning up the ping rate will also help you to spot more fish while
running above trolling speed. The faster you're traveling across the
waters surface, the more distance is between the signals (the ping)
of the sonar. Turning up the ping rate will shorten the distance and
enable you to see more of what's under your boat.
Now that your sonar unit is set properly go use it "Let's go fishing!".