That was my first impression of the newest development in fishing sonar technology demonstrated to me on the water recently by Zach Brown, a sales representative for Garmin USA.
The technology I am referring to is the Garmin Panoptix LiveScope technology, which now allows an angler to see all around the boat in three dimensions and in real time with incredible detail approaching live video quality.
Panoptix LiveScope was first revealed at this year’s International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades convention where it took best of class honors for the marine electronics category and best of show honors overall.
For those who have not seen this technology yet, the closest thing I can compare it to is observing a live sonogram of an infant in the womb and being able to see the unborn child move its limbs and breathe while hidden from the naked eye by flesh and blood.
The LiveScope technology works its magic primarily via a wide-angle transducer, and a high screen data refresh rate on the order of 15 times per second.
I have used sonar for over 35 years now, beginning with a flasher-style unit used through the ice for icefishing, and have kept up with every advancement along the way by “trading up” when new technology developed. This is the greatest leap forward I have observed over that time, especially when it comes to ease in interpretation.
Here is an example. Brown and I used the Spot Lock function on his Minn Kota Ultrex trolling motor to hold atop an area in 45 feet of water on a breakline that dropped into the San Gabriel River channel on Lake Georgetown.
We set the manually adjustable transducer for LiveScope Forward mode which, with the transducer mounted onto the trolling motor, allows the sonar to “look” forward in the direction the trolling motor is pointed, as well as directly downward beneath the boat and slightly rearward, as well.
We set the range for 80 feet outward in the direction the trolling motor was pointed (although it can be set for as much as 200 feet). As we used slabs to attract white bass holding in the area, we could clearly see our ¾-ounce baits sinking downward and back toward the boat like a pendulum after we cast them 50-60 feet ahead of the boat. We then watched the baits work up and down in real time as we vertically jigged them beneath the boat.
At one point in time, a school of shad appeared on the screen in the classic “bait ball” shape. Then, to my amazement, a single gamefish approached the school of shad rapidly from the side. As this predator fish crashed into the school of shad, the shape of that round ball of bait morphed quickly into more of a kidney bean shape as the small baitfish fled upward, downward and away from the attacking fish. It was like watching a punching bag bend in slow-motion as a boxer struck it in its mid-section.
I watched again on a number of occasions where active white bass raced upward from around the 38-foot mark to chase down and overtake my bait as I reeled it toward the surface.
We landed several fish, then when the school of fish moved on, we took the trolling motor off of Spot Lock mode and turned it manually (via the foot-control pedal) left and right to scan and see which direction the fish had headed so we could move the boat and catch up with them.
Later, we manually changed the transducer’s orientation to LiveScope Down mode and worked our baits vertically. The clarity of the images portrayed on the screen while we sat still was way beyond my expectations after having prior experience with down-looking and side-looking technologies becoming quite blurry and grainy while at anchor, and therefore having to rely on “2-D” colored sonar in such scenarios.
In addition to the Panoptix LiveScope technology, the GPS Map 1242 Touch XSV model we used to attach the LiveScope transducer to also had mapping, colored sonar, down-looking sonar and side-looking sonar capabilities of a quality comparable to other name brand, state-of-the art units now on the market.
Like all sonar, this LiveScope technology is a useful tool for certain scenarios. For anglers fishing from the bow of their boat for cover-loving fish like crappie and bass, the ability to scan as far left, right, forward and backward as the trolling motor can turn in order to identify nearby fish-holding cover, then go toward it and stand off a cast’s distance while observing the retrieve and fish response to it is an incredibly useful tool.
For anglers pursuing top-water schooling fish in open water, the LiveScope Forward will be an incredible asset to keep tabs on fish location after the fish leave the surface and are no longer visible to the naked eye.
Retrieves that bring the bait through the water column versus creeping the bait along the bottom are much more readily observed given that, even when in Spot Lock, the trolling motor holding the transducer is constantly turning and adjusting, albeit slightly, thereby slightly blurring the bottom due to its irregular texture.
For anglers fishing vertically, the ability to see in great detail using a much wider angle of view than is otherwise available is a great asset as this can help keep track of multiple anglers’ baits at any given time and can help identify fish that are around the boat’s perimeter, not just directly beneath the boat, and do it with sharp detail.
Both trolling motor-mounted and transom-mounted transducers are available, and multiple transducers can be employed singly or in combination via a networking box.
Anglers desiring to cover large tracts of water quickly will still want to rely upon a combination of down-looking, side-looking, and “2-D” sonar.
No doubt you will wonder, as I did, about the price tag on this assembly. The system I observed on Brown’s tournament-ready bass boat included the following components at the following retail prices: The sonar head retails for $2,800; the transducer and sonar “black box” for the Panoptix LiveScope retails for an additional $1,500.
Based on what I observed with Brown on Lake Georgetown, I know the time for my next “trade up” has arrived.