Many of you have sent me E-mail over the past year and have asked me to write an article about fish finders. First of all thank you for the many requests, the tips that a lot of folks have given me has helped my fishing plus all the questions that you have asked forces me to use several types of resources and really makes me think.
So lets get down to the business of fish finders, I picked the Lowrance LMS-350A for a bunch of reasons. Number one was that every pro on the circuit be it Bass, Walleye, Crappie had one, I figured that it had to be the best because that is how they make there living, and every boat had one.
Second Lowrance has been around a long time; I owned one of the green box flashers many years ago, boy now I wished I had hung on too it. There workmanship was excellent and the fish finders had very few problems.
Third, and the most important was I wanted to find fish fast and spend my time with lines in the water instead of running all around the place, have I done this, yes I have, do I regret paying the One Thousand dollars plus for this unit with the GPS, no way! I like the big screen, as I get older it is tough to see those small screens and this has a big one, the buttons are easy to get to and they rise above the face so they are easy to push during the cold winter months, as far as operating it, well you dont have to have a Masters degree to run it but sometimes it may help! No not really just kidding, simple to operate and it gets the job done. Since I fish for Catfish I really dont look for fish with it, my main use is to look for Structure. This is the key word for fishing for Catfish, they hang on structure, and the food that they eat hangs on structure, structure is where they rest to get out of the current.
The Lowrance has a couple of great features one being the Zoom feature. I use this feature to look at bottom structure and I also use it to see if there are any arches in a school of Shad, a large school of shad show up as a big cloud if they are schooled tight. When they are near the bottom it is tough to see the structure or arches and the Zoom feature does the trick here.
Grayline feature is great; it allows you to distinguish a hard bottom from a soft bottom. A hard bottom will show as a wide grey line because the signal returns back with a strong signal.Most of the bottom on the Ohio river is composed of both hard and soft bottoms, Flatheads like the hard bottoms, or a mix of both hard and soft bottom. If you can find concrete like old blown up dams they will be hanging all over the stuff. Tributaries are a great place to find a hard bottom surface, right at the mouth were a tributary empties into the Ohio the bottom will be solid gravel as the current washes anything soft away. Where you have a combination of both soft and hard bottom it will show on the bottom as a sawtooth type of pattern.
A soft bottom shows as a thin grey line due to the signal being absorbed by the soft bottom returning a weak signal. When you have a lot of structure that is on the bottom and you are trying to find a Flathead laying in the junk, with Grayline you can tell the difference between structure and a cat. Here is a tip that most people dont know about, when you are setting up your fish finder set the sensitivity so that you will see two sets of echoes. One that focuses on the bottom and another will show up exactly twice the distance from the original, if I have confused you, here it is again, if the depth of the river is twenty feet deep then you will see another echo at forty feet. This will work well if the bottom is hard, because with a soft bottom the signal comes back weak. So here is the trick if you have all of the above, and Mr.Flathead is laying on the bottom of the river he will show up at the twenty foot level, Grayline will show as a thin line where he is located, but he will not be at the forty foot level because the double echo shows up on hard objects only and a Flatheads body is soft hence it will not show up at the forty foot level. Pretty cool huh, it works; I have caught Flatheads that I would never have seen with out this. You can only do this in the manual mode of your electronics.
I like the Windows feature. Nice to be able to see so many different things like the four-screen feature.
The upper left corner is the plotter that shows spots I have marked on the GPS,upper right is the sonar, lower left is the water temparature,lower right is the battery volts and all this at the same time. At any time I can push the sonar button to go to full screen sonar. The back light feature is great for nighttime; Im glad they made it so that you can tone it down some, because it gets hard to see driving the boat at night.
The digital box that is on the main sonar is handy when you first put the boat in the water. Tells you the depth, water temperature, and your speed, but that is the only time I use it, as soon as I am underway I flip it off, it takes power to run these little extra features and I want that power going to the Transducer finding structure.
Another thing, I always use the manual mode of the fish finder so that I can customize my settings, the manual settings allow me to set-up what I want to see not what the Lowrance thinks I should be seeing. The Automatic feature gives me just too much garbage on the screen.
The depth line feature is nice if the fish are suspended as it will tell you the actual depth of the arches.
The little fish symbols, I dont use that either because it takes a lot of power to make them and less to make an arch.I like seeing the arches like the above picture, too bad you never get to see it like this, very seldom do I see a complete arch like these, most of the time is is a half or quarter arch. If you have a good fish finder, most of what I have discussed should work with your finder, give it a try and let me know how it works.