I was introduced to the world of side imaging four years ago when the first Humminbird unit a 997 SI; was added to the boat. Since then I have moved the 997 up front on a ram mount and have added two more: a 798 SI HD which I have mounted in dash and a big boy 1198 on a ram mount at my console. I can honestly say that without these I would not be the fisherman that I am today. These units, make eliminating water so easy it should be illegal! I am sure the Lowrance units are just as good, I am just a hummibird guy through and through and it is now what I am used to. Between these units and a good map chip prepping for tournaments or just heading out onto the lake to try and dissect the "puzzle" of where the fish are holding on that day is easier than ever. I thought I would share some pointers on how to get the most out of these new units, from my last few years playing around with these things.
The first thing I do to my sonar settings is set the range of depth. Most units out of the box have auto depth control, this is fine but if you want the best picture possible you should adjust to the water you are fishing. I want to see the bottom but I want the full screen focused on the area I'm fishing. I don't always trust my graph to give me the full picture. A good rule of thumb I use is to set the max depth 10 ft above where I am fishing ie. if I am fishing in 20 ft I set it to 30. The next thing I do is adjust the sensitivity, again usually out of the box this is on auto but depending on what you are fishing, this is a great thing that will give you better detail and help you interpret the picture better on your graph. If you are fishing hard structure, which usually is the case for me up here in New England I run my graphs at about 75% sensitivity, if you are fishing grassy areas you can turn this up higher. Basically all this boils down to is ping speed. The harder the structure around you the faster the return is back to your unit; if you are fishing around hard structure: rock, pea gravel, etc. you can back off your sensitivity and get a better picture. This is without a doubt a must if you are fishing "video game" style with a drop shot. When I am doing this, I put my birds in switchfire mode which is an unfiltered version of traditional sonar. What this does is it allows me to not only see suspended fish better but it also allows me to see my line and my bait, you can litterally put your bait right in front of their face!
Lastly and this especially goes for side and down imaging screens is changing the color! I know this sounds like something that is just a personal preference but it makes a huge difference. I am not familiar with the color options on Lowrance models but I know on my birds I basically use two different colors for side and down imaging. If I am fishing rock and hard structures I go with amber colors (humminbird has two different ones and I chose the right one based on the sunlight and angle). If I am fishing grassy areas or sandy areas with out much hard structure I use blues. Believe it or not the structure you are fishing will become sharper and more defined when you switch between colors; may sound strange considering its the same technology either way but it makes a huge difference trust me!
This knowledge may be well know to all of you reading this. I just downloaded some updates for my units online and it got me thinking how much of a game changer these things actually are. I just figured I would share some of the things that I have learned since owning my units that help me every time I go out on the water. It is like everything else that is in my boat, the more I use it the greater my confidence is in that given product and I am a firm believer in having confidence in fishing; usually it means the difference between having a good day out there and a great one.