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Sonar Shopping Guide

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Sonar Shopping Guide
CoolFloatation fishermen have increasingly come to rely on having sonar on their craft. Once a serious angler has fished with good sonar, they feel "blind" if forced to fish without it thereafter.

The good news for tubers, tooners and yakkers is that the fishing electronics industry has become big business, and very competitive. Every year there are lots of new models and new technology available. Of course, most of it is aimed toward the affluent boating market, but we of the floatation persuasion are happy to take advantage of it.

Realistically, much of what is available in high end sonar is wasted on floatation craft. For example, who needs a speed guage for tubing? And, the highest wattage and most sensitive "real time" display units make sense to small craft only if the angler spends lots of time vertical jigging in deeper water. It is hard to justify spending more, and having to carry a huge heavy battery, just to have more bells and whistles.

Contrary to what sonar newbies might suspect, the main use of sonar on floatation craft is not just to find fish. Sure, it is good to be able to find some fish, and to know at what depth they are relating, but for the most part you will get far greater value from your sonar simply by being able to read depth and bottom conditions.

This is especially true in the relatively shallow water conditions in which most floatation fishing is done. While it is true that fish are not as easily spooked by the quieter approach of a tube, toon or yak, many of the fish will scoot out from beneath you in shallow water and you will never see them on the scree. It is better to know what kind of structure the fish are relating to and then casting to it once you locate it.

So, to enable you to get in a day's fishing, without draining your 7 amp SLA battery, you should stick to a sonar with no more than about 1500 watts of power. You should look for one with a wide angle transducer...20 degrees or more. Some are adjustable up to 60 degree angle in shallow water, for greater visibility below. Those with narrow angles, like 9 degrees, are good for little besides reading the depth.

Try to find a system with builtin temperature guage. This can be invaluable, especially during the early and late season "transitional" periods, when temperatures are rising or falling. Being able to find an area with slightly higher or lower temperatures can often be the ticket to finding the fish.

Here are some links to the most popular manufacturers or best outlets for sonars worthy of adorning floatation craft. They will be followed by promotional pictures and specifications for many of the best units for tubing. Most of them will be in the $100 to $200 range. You can get by with a decent unit under $100. If you plan to spend toward the upper end, make sure you are buying features and benefits you truly need, for your brand of fishing, and that you are not just being sold on high tech you will never use.

BASS PRO SHOPS SONAR SECTION
BOTTOMLINE (FISHIN' BUDDY & TOURNAMENT)
CABELAS (BOATING SECTION...LOOK FOR FISHFINDERS)
EAGLE ELECTRONICS
FISH FINDER REVIEW...ALL MAKES
FISH FINDER STORE.COM
FISHING TACKLE GUIDE - FISH FINDERS
GARMIN HOME PAGE
HUMMINBIRD FISH FINDERS
LOWRANCE HOME PAGE
LOWRANCE SONAR TUTORIAL (GOOD STUFF)
MARCUM FLASHERS & SONAR
NORCROSS (HAWKEYE, ETC.)
SONAR TUTORIAL BY BOAT U.S.
VEXILAR FLASHERS AND TUTORIAL
SIDE BY SIDE SONAR COMPARISONS (CABELAS)
FISHFINDERREVIEW.COM



BOTTOMLINE FISHIN' BUDDIES (Pic from Cabelas)
PRICE: POWER: CONE: SIZE: NOTES:


Fishin' Buddy 1101 (with temp guage)
PRICE: $99.99 POWER: 1000 watts CONE: 9 deg. SIZE: 6-1/2"W x 51"H x 8"D. Screen Size: 3.3" x 2.4" (8192 pixels).
NOTES: Runs up to 30 hours on 6 AA batteries.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Fishin' Buddy 1200 with side scanning and temp guage.
PRICE: $169.99 POWER: 1000 watts CONE: 9 deg. SIZE: 6-1/2"W x 33"H x 8"D. Screen Size: 3.3" x 2.4" (8192 pixels).[/b]
NOTES: Powered by 3 C-cell batteries (up to 40 hrs)
LINK TO MORE INFO


Fishin' Buddy 2255 with temp guage, side scanning, compass and multiview screen.
PRICE: $214.99 POWER: NA CONE: 9 deg. SIZE: 6-1/2"W x 44"H x 8"D. Screen Size: 3.3" x 2.4" (12,800 pixels).[/b]
NOTES: Powered by 3 C-cell batteries.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Bottomline Tournament 320 Max with temp guage
PRICE: $149.99 POWER: 3200 w. CONE: 18 deg. SIZE: Screen 320X320 pixels NOTES: 600 ft. depth
LINK TO MORE INFO


Bottomline Tournament 1101 with temp sensor
PRICE: $69.99 POWER: 1000 w. CONE: 9 deg. SCREEN: 128 X 64 pixels.
NOTES: A good "budget" sonar
LINK TO MORE INFO


Bottomline Tournament 5100
PRICE: $399 POWER: 3200 watts CONE: 18 deg. SIZE: 9.75" W x 7.75" H x 4.25" D. SCREEN: 3.5" H x 6.5" W (480 BY 320 pixels)
NOTES: 600 ft. depth range
LINK TO MORE INFO


Eagle Cuda 128 (no temp. guage)
PRICE: $79.99 POWER: 800 w. CONE: up to 60 deg. SIZE: 4" diag. screen (128 pixels high) NOTES: A great budget sonar for tubing.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Eagle Cuda 168 with temp guage
PRICE: $99.99 POWER: 800 w. CONE: up to 60 deg. SIZE: 4" diag. screen (168 pixels)
NOTES: One of the best buys per dollar.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Eagle Cuda 168 EX with temp guage
PRICE: $119.99 POWER: 800 w. CONE: up to 60 deg. SIZE: 168 vert pixels but wider than the 168. NOTES: Same as the Cuda 168 with a bigger screen.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Eagle Cuda 240 (combo sonar/GPS)...GPS mode
PRICE: $199.00 POWER: 800 W.


Eagle Cuda 240...sonar mode (with temp guage)
CONE: up to 60 deg. SIZE: 4" diag. (240 X 160 pixels) NOTES: A great price on a combo unit.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Eagle FishEasy 320C (color) with temp sensor
PRICE: $219.99 POWER: 800 w. CONE: up to 60 deg. SCREEN: 3.5" diag., 320Vx240H pixel, 256-color, active matrix TFT display for exceptional sonar viewing even in direct sunlight NOTES: Best price on a color unit.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Eagle FishMark 320 with temp sensor.
PRICE: $169.99 POWER: 1500 w. CONE: up to 60 deg. SCREEN: 5" diag. 320 X320 pixels.
NOTES: Real time display. Good for vertical jigging.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Eagle FishMark 480 with temp sensors
PRICE: $209.99 POWER: 1500 w. CONE: 20 deg. SCREEN: 5" diag. 480 X 480 pixels high res.
NOTES: High speed and many super features for price.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Eagle Trifinder 2 (no temp. guage)
PRICE: $179.99 POWER: 1500 w.
CONE: Up to 150 deg. with 3 band
transducer. (Left, Right, Below)
SCREEN: 4" diag. 240X160 pixels high res.
NOTES:
Pro model available with temp guage.
(Price: $219.99 at Cabelas)
LINK TO MORE INFO CABELAS LINK



Garmin FishFinder 120 with temp sensors
PRICE: $119.99 POWER: 800 w. CONE:
SCREEN: 3 3/8" x 3 3/8" (240 x 128 pixels)
NOTES: 600 ft. depth
LINK TO MORE INFO


Humminbird Fishfinder 565
PRICE: $199.99 POWER: 2000 w. CONE: 20 deg. SCREEN: Highest resolution 640 vertical pixel x 320H ultra high contrast 5" LCD with 12 level grayscale for maximum image clarity and target separation.
NOTES: Real time display makes this unit good for vertical jigging...so you can see your jig.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Humminbird Matrix 12 with temp sensor
PRICE: $149.99 POWER: 2000 w. CONE: 20 deg. SCREEN: 240x240 pixels 5" diagonal display that's easy to see in bright sunlight and from a distance.
NOTES: Real time display for vertical jigging
LINK TO MORE INFO


Humminbird Smartcast RF 30 (No temp sensor)
PRICE: $89.99 POWER: NA CONE: 90 deg. SCREEN: Worn on wrist.
NOTES: A novelty better at catching anglers than fish. LINK TO MORE INFO


Lowrance X67C (color) with temp sensor
PRICE: $299 POWER: 800 w. CONE: up to 60 deg.
SCREEN: 3.5" diag. 340 X 240 pixels (256 color)
NOTES: Compare to Eagle FishEasy 320C
LINK TO MORE INFO


Marcum LX3 Flasher
PRICE: $429 POWER: 1500 w. CONE: 20 deg.
SCREEN: Round flasher dial, upon which different colors indicate bottom and mid depth targets of different size and proximity to the cone.
NOTES: An excellent system for anyone who does a lot of vertical jigging in water deeper than about 15 feet.
LINK TO MORE INFO



Norcross Hawkeye 3355P with temp sensor
PRICE: $99 POWER: NA CONE: 45 deg.
NOTES: Not generally taken seriously by serious anglers.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Vexilar FL-8SE flasher
PRICE: $220 & up POWER: 400 w. CONE: 19 deg.
SIZE: 4.4"H x 6"W x 2.5"D - Weight: 1.1 lb
NOTES: Color code display helps identify fish and proximity. Variety of transducers and cone angles avail.
LINK TO MORE INFO


Vexilar flasher screen.

Zebco ZF200 Portable Fishfinder



It also sounds like it would be a good item to carry on ice fishing trips, although most good sonars will shoot through the ice if you place the transducer directly on hard ice or in a small puddle of water on the ice.


While it is a good unit for quick reads on depth, I doubt that it has the power or sensitivity to give the more sophisticated readouts that more experienced sonar users require. When you really learn to use a sonar you appreciate the grayline feature, that shows you bottom structure and composition. Also, with only the fishy icon displays you get a lot of false fish readings, from bubbles, tree branches and other things in the water.

Still, for $69 and portability, it has some appeal for some situations.

(This post was edited by TubeDude on May 6, 2006, 3:12 PM)

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