Years back, a sage angler friend suggested I turn off all the automatic features on my sonar and play with features like sensitivity to learn as much as possible about what was beneath my boat.
It was great advice ... still is.
Today's sonar units are incredible technological devices, so much so that most anglers today take for granted the benefits of GPS and mapping, and many are still awaking to the benefits of side imaging. To get the most of your sonar, take the time to read the Owners Manual of the unit or units you own, even leaving your fishing rods at home if they get in the way of truly learning how to run your electronics.
Last week, I had access to a 15-year-old portable Humminbird on a trip to Quebec's Gouin Reservoir with Bob Smouse, winner of the Quebec Ultimate Destination Giveaway (to enter yourself visit www.quebecultimatedestination.com), and it was a gentle reminder of how far sonar has come in recent years (all it did was show depth).
After returning Saturday, I launched my own boat on a lake near home. It's rigged with a Humminbird 1197C on the dash, so I immediately switched it to a split screen mode with sonar on the left and GPS/Mapping on the right, then set up a couple trolling passes for walleye as the sun set. My daughter Maddie connected on a 4-pound pike as we approached a point, then my buddy Mitch hooked a walleye in the same spot a half hour later. As we approached the spot a third time following my plot trail, I turned my attention back to the sonar side of things to see if there was a breakline or other reason for fish to concentrate there and as I watched, my concentrated was broken by a 17-inch walleye that took my crankbait!
And that's when I noticed it ... all three fish came along a transition zone where the bottom went from a gravel/sand mix to a soft mud .... a line clearly visible on my graph because Humminbird incorporates WHITELINE into its option packages. Simply put, when I am over a hard bottom area, the sonar uses white to signify this. When I'm over soft bottomed areas, the sonar bottom contour is signified as red. When it's a mixed bottom, the sonar uses both red and white in various combinations to show it.
A little thing? No. It was the key to finding numbers of fish Saturday night and will be again in the future.
So I'm back to review my Owner's Manual again to find out what other features I should be using, but don't because I don't know they exist.-- Steve