I get asked by many about what is the best fish finder to buy and I also get lots of questions about basic set up and procedures.
As most of you are aware Humminbird is my sonar of choice. I would pick the unit best system you can afford at the time of purchase. Humminbird has a unit for every budget and every skill level. If looking to get into tournament fishing and learning the water and have limited resources I would recommend two units. The first I would suggest would be the 596 HD DI and 597ci HI DI Combo. If you are fishing a smaller body of water and already have a GPS unit on your boat I would pick the 596 HD DI. If you’re fishing larger bodies of water I would highly recommend an all in one fishing system like the 597ci HI DI Combo. For myself GPS units are a must have feature on your boat. Years ago before I upgraded to an all in one fishing system, I had one fish finder and one GPS unit mounted to my console. On some lakes I wouldn’t even turn on my GPS because I thought I could navigate with no problem. One lake in particular, I had been at so much that I thought I knew the water like the back of my hand. Boy was I wrong; I ended up getting turned around. The fog had gotten so think we couldn’t see the front of the boat, I had put the boat in neutral and had to try and figure out where I was. My brother asked why we were stopping, wasn’t my GPS working? I told him I didn’t have it turned on and I was waiting for the GPS to sync up so I could find out how to get back on track.
When you launch your boat on a new body of water I would advise you create a waypoint before your start your trip. I would also make a few waypoints so you have a reference point in case anything happens, weather as we know can change on a dime. This is especially important if your GPS doesn’t have an overlay or a mapping chip.
Now that we have taken care of safety, I am ready to show why I would recommend the 596c HD DI fishing system. The 596 offers a 5” viewing screen with a brilliant color 640V x 640H display.
Here are a few features that help will you clear up the bottom structures and learn the secret spot that the fish aren’t will to divulge to you.
Before I get into the advantages I would to explain the basic of sonar:
Here are two terms that are commonly used for describing and understanding coverage with fish finders.
KHz (kilohertz) - The kilohertz, abbreviated kHz or KHz*, is a unit of alternating current (AC) or electromagnetic (EM) wave frequency equal to one thousand hertz (1,000 Hz). The unit is also used in measurements or statements of signal bandwidth.
Sonar Frequency – the sound pulses can be set at various frequencies depending on your fishing requirements. Very high frequencies (800 kHz) are used for the image definition but the depth is limited. High frequencies (200 kHz) are commonly used general fishing situations and provide a good balance between depth performance and resolution. Low frequencies (83 kHz) are typically used to obtain great depth capably.
How Sonar Works
Sonar is very FAST!
A sound wave can travel from the surface to a depth of 240 feet and back in less than ¼ of a second.
Sonar uses precision sound pulses or “ping” which are emitted in the water in a tear drop shape beam.
Reading your Screen
To understand the data returns from your transducer, you must first know that the line (Ping) on the farthest right side is the most recent. Each line (ping) represents something detected by the sonar return at particular time. As your boat and the target (fish) may be moving, the ping is only showing a particular segment of time when the objects were detected, not exactly where those objects are in relation to other objects on the screen.
The sonar (pings) returns are displayed on the right of the screen, and each time a new ping is received the old ping move across the screen from right to left.
Sensitivity controls how much detail is shown and can be adjusted on all frequencies. When you are fishing in very clear water or deep water, increase the sensitivity to see weaker returns that could be valuable to solve the fish puzzle that day. If the sensitive is set too high, the display may become too cluttered and you may not see the needed results. Decreasing the sensitive helps remove the clutter from the display that is sometime shows up in murky or muddy water. If the sensitivity is adjusted to low, the display may mot show returns that could be fish.
Key set up tip:
Adjust the Sensitivity to get the amount of data you want.
Understanding Fish positioning and Arches
• Boat Speed, Chart Speed and the position of the fish within the Sonar Beam greatly affects the shape of the Arch.
(***See picture number 4 for examples***)
The reason fish show in an arch is because of the relationship between the fish and the cone angle of the transducer as the boat passes over the fish. As the front of the of the cone hits the fish, a display pixel is formed and as the boat passes over the fish, the distance to the fish decreases. This turns each pixel on at a shallower depth on the display. When the center of the cone is directly over the fish, the first half of the arch is formed. This is also the shortest distance to the fish. Since the fish is closer to the boat, the signal is stronger and the arch is thicker. As the boat moves away from the fish, the distance increases and the pixels appear at progressively deeper depths until the cone passes the fish.
For the best results, turn the sensitivity up as high as possible without getting too much noise on the screen.
Switchfire: Is an option that lets you choose between two distinct modes for displaying returns on the sonar views.
The two modes are Max and Clear mode.
Max mode shows the maximum amount of sonar information. Clear mode reduces noise to show only structure and fish.
Choose MAX MODE – to see only raw sonar returns on the display. When MAX MODE is selected, you will see the maximum sonar information available within the transducer beam, so more fish arches and better jig tracking.
Choose CLEAR MODE – to see less clutter and better accuracy on fish size. When CLEAR MODE is selected, the clutter is filtered, and the sonar returns are deciphered to provide more details about the object within the transducer.
Key set up tip:
Switchfire CLEAR Mode (Auto Power Adjust) for < 10 feet (it adjust to shallow mode)
Example: if power was set to 4000 watts you would get multiple returns.
Switchfire Max Mode for Depth > 10 feet
Down Imaging: Down Imaging scans the water with a razor-thin, high definition beam. The beam is wide (side to side) but very thin from front to back. The Down Imaging beams can be operated at two frequencies: 455 kHz (75 degrees) or 800 kHz (45 degrees). For the best overall image quality and depth select 455 kHz and for the sharpest image select 800 kHz.
For me, Down Imaging was a big eye opener to really understand what I was actually seeing on my fish finder. I have a split screen running on my unit, 2D on the top and Down Imaging on the bottom. I have found humps on the bottom years ago and now I am going back to those and I am seeing a new picture, log piles, rocks, bridge pilings and other structure I was missing from only using 2D. One spot in particular on the 2D screen you could see a hump and on the Down Imaging you could actually see four individual rocks. It even showed me that there was quite a lot of space between the rocks. By looking at the Down Imaging screen it’s also helping me to interpret the 2D a lot more than before.
Down Imaging Specs: the Down Imaging beams can be operated at two frequencies: 455 kHz (75 degrees) or 800 kHz (45 degrees). You would select 455 kHz for the best overall image quality and depth. I would choose 800 kHz for the sharpest overall image.
Total Coverage is 75 Degrees
Bottom Coverage is 1 times the Depth
Dual Beam Plus @ 200 kHz
200 kHz = 20 degree coverage
1/3 of the Coverage
Examples of coverage
3 feet = 1 foot coverage
9 feet = 3 foot coverage
30 feet = 10 foot coverage
Precise Detail due to Limited coverage
Dual Beam Plus @ 83 kHz
83 kHz = 60 degree coverage
Bottom Coverage = 1 times Depth.
Key set up tip: Set you system frequency to match the conditions.
Finding Fish – Set to 200 kHz / 83 kHz
200 kHz for running at High Speeds – Removes Clutter
The last set up tip I would like to mention is to the set scroll speed to match your boat speed for the best results. The best example I can use to explain this is if you walked into Bass Pro Shop and started running from the front to the back of the store you would be able to tell if you were in the fishing section, but you wouldn’t see brands names. If you were walking down the aisle you should able to see names, colors and maybe even prices. As a result of matching your scroll speeds to your boat speed you are getting a less distorted return.
As you can see that Humminbird has a lot of cool features, listed below are just a few options that make Humminbird so easy to use.
• Custom View Selections
• Custom Digital Readout Selection
• Selectable Display Colors
• Selectable Background Colors
• X-Press™ Menu System
I hope this article helps you understand the basic sonar terms and some suggestion tips on your Humminbird set up.
An obsessed angler