Choosing Marine Electronics In 2023
Have you thought about upgrading or adding to your boat’s electronics lately? Depending on what additions you decide to make, marine electronics can be quite an investment. Whether you fish fresh or saltwater from a kayak or a cabin cruiser, there are numerous choices concerning the brand, screen size, processing speed, and functionality.
Recent innovations in displays have led to better performing, easier to use units, with an incredible amount of information at your fingertips. If you haven’t upgraded your sonar or radar in recent years, you’ll be genuinely astonished by this fantastic technology that costs a fraction of what it once did a few years ago.
Whether you’re outfitting a new boat with the latest gadgets or simply adding a sonar unit to your existing system, it’s a good idea to make sure that it’s compatible with your current setup and that your wiring is in good shape.
Your nearby West Marine might be a good place to gather information and see the latest products and trends in the marine industry. They have nearly 250 stores across the US so finding one shouldn’t be a chore.
The winter months are a great time to do a little research and figure out the best fishing electronics upgrades for your boat, no matter your budget.
Smartphones have influenced every facet of the electronics industry. Intuitive touchscreens and connectivity via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have made controlling the electrical gadgets in our house, car, and now our boats as easy as touching the screens on our phones.
In the same way, the processing power and wireless connectivity of modern sonar displays show crisp 2D & 3D images of everything under and within a 360-degree radius of our boats.
A great benefit of this integrated connectivity is that installation has become much more manageable. In addition, with wireless communication between onboard units, less wiring is needed, and often an upgrade is merely a software update or a new transducer.
These newer products can make your time on the water safer and more productive by providing accurate information about what lies under and around your boat. In addition, this seamless integration can allow you to share your adventures with your loved ones in real-time or with a vast audience.
Many Excellent Choices
The latest lineup of marine electronics includes highly sophisticated machines capable of functions that few of us could have imagined just a few years ago. In addition, these innovations make it easier to locate fish while providing vital information that allows boaters to avoid obstacles and be safer on the water.
Garmin recently announced a new six-camera system that maximizes visibility around any vessel for unprecedented situational awareness and convenience in tight maneuvering situations.
It’s considered a breakthrough in video guidance for recreational boating and yachting. Utilizing six through-hull mounted cameras that act like multiple sets of eyes, Surround View provides a live 360-degree bird’s-eye view around the vessel to help captains quickly view their vessel’s perimeter during low-speed maneuvers, such as docking, from the helm. The technology uses six 1080p cameras located around the boat.
Today’s new Multi-Functional Displays (MFD) can control the sonar, radar, auto-pilot, anchors, power poles, live wells, communications, onboard cameras, and even monitor the engines and adjust your stereo.
The benefit of multiple displays is that you have access to all this information at each console. Most premium models even offer cloud storage, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity that allows monitoring and adjustments from your phone.
So, how big of a screen do you need? Consider a 12″ monitor for your console and no less than a 9″ screen for the front display. Bigger is better when it comes to viewing small details on the screen.
Each company has decades of experience creating innovative products to keep boaters safer and put more fish in their live wells. In addition, each has incorporated newer technology once reserved for deep-sea vessels and the military.
CHIRP Frequencies – How to Choose
- High CHIRP (150–240 kHz) Great for inland and fresh water and a good choice for lure tracking. It can identify game fish and baitfish targets in open water and near bottom structures—best for depths less than 600 feet.
- Medium CHIRP (80–160kHz) This can scan large areas more quickly, showing more prominent fish arches but less detail for smaller objects than high CHIRP. It’s also best for depths less than 600 feet.
- Low CHIRP (below 80 kHz) This frequency is best for water over 600 feet and offers outstanding depth performance up to 10,000 feet. This wavelength will display targets at all depths in the water column.
As with many product lines, you can choose between the good, better, and best fish finders. Better quality CHIRP fish finders can switch between multiple CHIRP frequencies on the screen. So you could use a broad cone with the medium frequency band and then switch to the tighter-focused high CHIRP setting when you find something that looks good to see more detail.
EchoPilot patented the world’s first real-time Forward-Looking Sonar (FLS) in 1992. Then in 2012, they invented and patented a 3D Forward Looking Sonar.
FLS was developed as a collision avoidance device for ocean-going vessels. Although it can pick up whales, coral reefs, and underwater obstructions, it was not originally designed to be a fish finder.
However, it wasn’t long before several companies took advantage of this new sonar by refining the technology and producing sonars that allowed fishermen to see a detailed 3D view out to 200 feet in front of their boat.
Garmin introduced this new game-changing technology to the fishing world about five years ago when they developed Panoptix. It was a real-time, forward-facing sonar and displayed a detailed map from the surface to the bottom out in front of the boat.
The transducer attaches to the trolling motor shaft. As the trolling motor turns, the sonar provides a real-time image in the direction the motor is facing.
Garmin has introduced a newer version called Livescope. It’s more powerful and covers a larger area. In addition, it provides detailed images that often allow an angler to distinguish the head of a fish and see tail movement.
Hummingbird introduced their MEGA Imaging technology with the introduction of MEGA Live Imaging. This new sonar technology delivers clarity and detail by allowing anglers to see fish and structure in real-time. In addition, they can now see fish on-screen as they move in to bite an angler’s lure.
Lowrance -Their ActiveTarget Live Sonar views show high-resolution images of fish movements in real-time in greater detail. Anglers can now watch and adjust their lure presentation to trigger a strike and see if more fish are active in an area.
ActiveTarget has three viewing options with forward, down, or scout mode. Forward and down views allow anglers to track fish in front of or below the live sonar transducer. Scout-mode delivers an ultra-wide, overhead view of structure and fish activity in front of the transducer – for finding bait balls and schools of fish.
SIMRAD– Available in 9-, 12- and 16-inch models, the newest SIMRAD NSSevo3S allows users to experience unprecedented levels of built-in functionality under all conditions using charts, radar, sonar, and more.
The NSSevo3S system supports a variety of power-boating and sport fishing activities. The built-in GPS receiver and high-performance sonar, support for HALO dome and open array radars, as well as integration with a range of Simrad autopilot systems, make all of your boating activities more enjoyable.
What Do You Need?
Fortunately, sometimes an upgrade can be as simple as a new transducer or a software update you can upload via Wi-Fi.
Whether you fish shallow or deep, salt or freshwater, need offshore or bass fishing electronics, what you do and what fish you target will determine which marine electronics will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
While forward-facing sonar would be an excellent upgrade for catching big-water smallmouths, it would be the wrong investment if your local lakes are shallow and weed-filled. Instead, Hummingbird’s MEGA 360 Imaging would be your better choice. It reveals the bigger picture, including holes in and edges of the grass in every direction around your boat.
If you spend a great deal of your time fishing deep open water and you’re searching for individual targets, then forward-facing sonar would be a good choice. An excellent option would be Lowrance, with its ActiveTarget live sonar. Lowrance units excel at managing large numbers of waypoints and can run C-MAP or Navionics mapping.
These latest products have made an enormous impact on the competitive fishing circuits, and they can also make a big difference for the recreational angler. The good news is that the latest marine electronics technology is available in various price ranges.
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