Bob Maindelle Guide Lines Aug. 8

No matter how a sonar user chooses to position his/her boat near fish or fish-holding cover, getting the sonar unit’s cursor (round object with crosshairs in photo’s center) on top of the target quickly is key, be that on the unit’s map, down-imaging, side-imaging or 2D sonar screen.

In the on-the-water sonar training sessions I conduct, one of the most common questions I get from both those new to sonar use and those who already have some experience, is, “How do I get back to the object or the fish that I have found with my sonar unit?”

There are several ways to do this, ranging from high-tech to low-tech.

High-tech approach

The high-tech approach, as you might imagine, is also an expensive approach. This involves the use of an interface between your sonar unit and your trolling motor. Humminbird/Minn Kota calls their system the i-Pilot Link system, Lowrance/Motorguide calls their system the Pinpoint GPS Gateway System, and Garmin calls their system Garmin WiFi (which is the only wireless system of the three).

These interfaces are only possible when certain GPS-equipped trolling motors are mated with certain current sonar units. For example, the i-Pilot Link system only functions when pairing an i-Pilot Link-equipped Minn Kota trolling motor with a Humminbird sonar unit (hence, a Garmin sonar unit or Lowrance sonar unit will not work with i-Pilot Link). Likewise, Lowrance sonar units will only pair with the Lowrance Ghost trolling motor or with certain Motorguide motors, and the Garmin sonar units will only pair with the Garmin Force trolling motor.

Users with such systems need only mark the object of interest currently showing on the sonar screen (be it the down-imaging, side-imaging, or 2D sonar screen) by placing a cursor on it, then, with a series of button-pushes, send the trolling motor to go to, then hover atop of, that object.

Note here that a waypoint does not need to be created first, and although that can certainly be done, it is an unnecessary step. These systems can also ferry you to a pre-existing waypoint.

So, to sum up this approach, using the Humminbird/Minn Kota pairing as an example, let us say I was viewing my side-imaging screen and noted a school of fish some 70 feet off the right side of my boat. With the trolling motor in the water and turned on already, I simply touch the screen of my Solix sonar unit to make the cursor appear like the cross-hairs on a rifle scope on that school of fish.

If I had a push-button Helix unit, I would use the four-arrow keypad to accomplish this same step.

Next, I touch the “Go To” button on the unit’s keypad, which brings up a menu on the left side of my screen. One of the options is “Spot Lock”. I touch the “Spot Lock” menu option and my trolling motor then powers itself and steers itself to the GPS location of that school of fish, then establishes a Spot Lock upon arrival. At this point, I am now in a hover above those fish.

The other two systems I have described work in much the same way.

Mid-tech approach

What I am referring to as the mid-tech approach is where the angler has both sonar and a trolling motor, but the two do not interface. In this case, the angler is the interface, making the trolling motor go where he or she has seen fish on the sonar screen.

The most critical step in this approach is to mark the object of interest (be it fish or fish-holding cover, etc.) with a waypoint quickly while it still appears on your sonar’s screen. Many sonar users fail to realize you do not have to have your chart pulled up to create a waypoint.

Rather, a waypoint can be created right on the sonar screen you are viewing, be it down-imaging, side-imaging, or 2D sonar. Once the waypoint is created, it will then automatically show on your chart.

Using a split-screen with your chart on one side and your down-imaging on the other, you can then U-turn back in the direction you came from when you created the waypoint and, by watching your boat’s location on the chart screen relative to the waypoint, and by viewing the bottom with the down-imaging screen, you can get near-pinpoint accuracy in returning to that marked object.

Wise anglers will approach their waypoint with the trolling motor already down so the instant you arrive at that desired location you can either use the remote control to engage Spot Lock, or hop quickly to the bow to take control of a manually-controlled motor before drifting or blowing off the location.

Low-tech approach

The low-tech approach still assumes you have a sonar unit and a trolling motor, but reduces reliance upon both to return to an area of interest.

In this approach, a floating marker buoy is used as a physical, visual indicator of where the object of interest is located.

A typical scenario using a marker buoy would be to slowly idle over an area while watching sonar until what you are searching for appears on the screen. The instant your sonar unit indicates that object is beneath your boat, you will want to precisely toss your marker buoy directly behind the path that your transducer has traveled by approximately a half of a boat-length.

The marker buoy’s weight will sound toward the bottom, thus anchoring it there.

The angler will then U-turn back to the marker buoy and use sonar to verify the presence of the marked object.

There is certainly nothing wrong with the low-tech approach; indeed, it was all we used for many years before all the advances in electronics came along. Perhaps the biggest downside of tossing a buoy, however, is its visibility. A brightly-colored buoy just screams to other anglers that you have located something of interest, and may draw unwanted company.

This week we have covered the basics of returning to an area of interest. Next week we take a look at how to do so quickly and efficiently before the fish you have marked have time to move on.

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