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New angles on sonar: take a fresh look at fishfinder technology.

Traditional sonar involves a dual-frequency transducer, which shoots a short duration pulse straight down from the boat toward the sea bottom. It's an affordable combination that's helped anglers become more successful on many waters, from small lakes to deep ocean reefs.

Today, there are more options.

Spread Spectrum or CHIRP

The newest generation of recreational transducers from Airmar transmit a long-duration pulse of energy over a range of frequencies. This technology is capable of painting the bottom in depths to 10,000 feet, when coupled to the latest black box sounder technology from one of the major marine electronics makers. To achieve this level of performance with traditional technology would require a transducer far too big to be mounted on any recreational boat.


Other advantages of CHIRP include vastly increased target definition, the ability to detect targets at higher boat speeds and in greater depths, and finer target resolution to more easily distinguish between bait, fish, structure and bottom. CHIRP transducers are available in dual frequency configurations and for the first time offer operations in 100 kHz band, where fish targets show up the best.

Side Imaging

Fishfinders that can look to the side use transducers with higher frequencies than are normally used for traditional shoot down transducers. These give the side-looking gear superior detail for increased target definition. The cost of this detail is usually limited range. Most side scanning fish-finders have a maximum range of about 300 feet.

Humminbird and Lowrance are the two biggest players in this area. The latest hardware release from Lowrance is the LSS-2 StructureScan HD module which is designed to couple to a Lowrance H DS Gen2 MFD. Featuring both an increase in range and resolution, the LSS-2 hit the market in early 2012 with a 2-year warranty and a $599 price tag.

Humminbird offers its side-imaging technology in several models in the 700, 800, 900 and 1100 series. These also use the same side-imaging high frequency technology shooting straight down, calling it Down Imaging, to give incredible detail in depths to 200 feet.

360 Degree View

The latest fishfinder iteration to come to market is the full 360-degree view from Humminbird. The AS 360SSI transducer is an add-on available for high end models in the 700, 800, 900 and 1100 lines. This unit mounts to the transom and deploys the transducer vertically into the water when in use. It can be used when stationary or up to trolling speeds of 7 mph. In a single sweep the unit will display sonar data onscreen up to 150 feet away from the transducer in all directions, allowing anglers to mark fish in front of and to the sides of the boat without disturbing them.This specialized transducer is expected to be available in August 2012 and carry a suggested retail price of $1,499. Commercial fishermen have had access to 360-degree sonar for years, but the transducers were huge, and the systems usually came at a price tag with an extra zero at the end.
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Title Annotation:ELECTRONICS
Author:Herum, Al
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Jun 1, 2012
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