Captain Ralph Delph of Key West uses conventional gear to fish depths as great as 700 feet. With the right bottom machine, he says it’s possible to target individual fish at these depths. “We can watch our jig descend, and the fish rise to the jig,” said Delph, “and that’s when I tell the angler to get ready.”
A fishfinder with a 200 kHz (kilohertz) transducer may read bottom as deep as 1,000 feet if the unit has enough transmitting power, but the fish-marking ability of a 200 kHz transducer in water deeper than 600 feet is marginal at best. Lower frequency transducers record better target definition at greater depths. This is why savvy deepwater anglers opt for a 50, 38 or even as low as a 28 kHz transducer. Delph has four transducers, one with a special narrow beam that allows him to mark individual fish easier.
How deep a transducer reads depends on several factors including power output (watts), transducer frequency, mounting location and boat speed, as well as some factors beyond our control, such as water conditions and seafloor composition.
If you want exceptional detail at 1,000 feet or more using a 200/28, 200/38 kHz, or a narrow-beam transducer, you need to be sitting down when writing your check. Some of these systems cost upwards of $1,500.
Below is a brief sampling of deepwater-grade fishfinders. Many of the units are network systems which can multi-task, displaying charts, radar, weather radar and other features. Prices shown are manufacturers’ suggested list price and are not necessarily the price you will pay. Due to the multitude of mounting conditions, transducers are sold separately for nearly all of these units.
With several new features, the Furuno FCV1100 color video sounder allows users to choose a variety of frequencies as well as several power settings to suit different transducer situations. The FCV1100 is a high-performance, dual frequency fishfinder that allows you to select from 28, 38, 50, 88, 107 or 200 kHz transducers that will read the bottom in water far deeper than you will want to fish.
Featuring a 10.4-inch TFT LCD screen, the FCV1100 can display echoes in 8 or 16 colors (user selectable) or use a custom color menu to blend colors giving you the ability to display more than 4,000 colors. In addition, a water temperature alarm will alert you to changes in temperature, and the background color can be changed for optimum day or night viewing.
Power is one of the FCV’s strong points, with user-selectable output of 1, 2 or 3 kW (1,000, 2,000 or 3,000 watts), and two transducer frequency outputs. With eight user-selectable and adjustable range scales to 6,000 feet, the FCV1100 can also be custom preset to read depth ranges to 12,000 feet depending on transducer selection. With this unit you also have the ability to display an A-Scope, and to display single, double or triple pictures on a horizontal or vertically split screen. Suggested retail price is $3,595. For more information, visit www.furuno.com or call (360) 834-9300.
The Garmin 3010C is a multi-function unit that requires the addition of the company’s GSD 20 sonar module, a proprietary “black box” sounder add-on that offers 500 watts of RMS power to a 50/200 kHz transducer. Although 500 watts RMS power would be the minimum amount of power needed to display a reliable outline of the bottom beyond 1,000 feet, with a properly installed transducer transmitting on 50 kHz, the 3010C’s 10.4-inch display is a beautiful screen to look at.
The GSD 20 sounder module sends data to up to two Garmin display units, handy if you have a remote display. Other features include auto-ranging (to 2,000 feet), 2X and 4X enlargement, auto and manual zoom, optional fish symbols, and “See-Thru” technology that separates fish from thermoclines and structure.
A bonus to the Garmin 3010C is that it is first a GPS and chartplotter, and second a sonar/fishfinder, so all of the GPS and chartplotting ability is already included prior to adding their GSD 20 sonar module. Suggested retail price of $3,124 includes the optional GSD 20 sonar module ($267.00). Visit www.garmin.com or call (800) 503-7099.
The Humminbird 931c DF is a user-friendly fishfinder with dual-frequency sonar operating on both 50 and 200 kHz frequencies. The 50 kHz option is capable of reading the bottom in excess of 1,000 feet.
Putting out a whopping 1,000 watts for a relatively small, 7-inch display unit, the 931c DF has a maximum stated range of 2,500 feet. There are numerous options for depth-range settings, depending on whether you want to view the water column from the surface to the bottom, or the bottom plus any amount of water above the bottom, or any combination thereof.
Humminbird is the only manufacturer listed here whose fishfinders come standard with a transducer. One possible glitch, though, is that Humminbird only offers a transom-mount transducer for the 931c DF, which may not be a viable mounting location for some saltwater boats. Suggested retail price is $1,200. Visit www.humminbird.com or call (334) 687-6613.
The JRC FF50 is a dual-frequency (50/200 kHz) unit putting out 600 watts of power. Developed from Japan Radio Company’s over 20 years of experience manufacturing high-end sonar, it comes with a high-definition, sunlight-viewable 6.5-inch TFT LCD water-resistant display. Internal software is the same as that used in JRC’s larger commercial-grade fishfinders. Capable of operating in either manual or auto mode, the FF50 has 10 depth ranges to a maximum depth of 5,000 feet. Suggested retail price is $1,799. Visit www.jrcamerica.com or call (206) 654-5644.
Long a leader in fishfinder technology, Lowrance this year introduced the LCX-111c HD. Actually a combination GPS/chartplotter and sonar, the HD model has a built-in 20 gig hard drive—the only combo system to our knowledge that has a large built-in hard drive. With a 10.4-inch LCD TFT screen and 600 by 800 dpi resolution, the LCX-111c is a beautiful display. One unique feature is “FishTrack,” which prints the digital depth above each fish marked, allowing you to adjust baits accordingly. Lowrance offers a variety of 50/200 kHz transducers that match up to the 111c. Power output is 1,000 watts, allowing it to easily read depths in excess of 1,000 feet. Suggested retail price is $2,549. Visit www.lowrance.com or call (800) 324-1356.
Like many marine electronics manufacturers, Raymarine no longer offers a stand-alone sonar/fishfinder, instead offering a variety of multi-function marine electronics that are fully integrated on one display screen. The Raymarine C80 is such a unit, with the ability to show 256 high-resolution colors on an 8.4-inch sunlight viewable display with excellent contrast at a wide viewing angle.
Adding Raymarine’s remotely mounted DSM300 dual-power sonar module to the C80 turns it into a high-definition fishfinder with a maximum depth scale of 5,000 feet (using 1,000 watts of power). The DSM300 power module automatically adjusts output power to a maximum of 600 or 1,000 watts depending on the transducer chosen. There’s a multitude of pre-set zoom ranges, or you can set your own zoom scale. Bottom Lock feature displays fish echoes directly above the bottom, while selecting Bottom Coverage Display will show you the diameter of the transducer beam where it meets the bottom, a feature especially helpful when bottom fishing. Another unique feature allows you to pause the screen over a particular piece of bottom while saving the spot as a waypoint. Suggested retail price of $2,820 includes Raymarine’s optional DSM300 sonar module ($780.00). Visit www.raymarine.com or call (800) 539-5539.
The heart of the Simrad EQ44 is its transmitter that pumps 1,000 watts of power to an optional 50/200, 38/200, or 38/50 kHz transducer, allowing users to display depths beyond the range of many other sonars. All the expected features are here, including split-screen and zoom modes. An advanced white line feature helps distinguish bottom-hugging fish from the bottom, while the bottom expansion feature provides an unparalleled picture of the bottom. The 10.4-inch TFT screen is ideal for open boats or flybridges, and the company’s Seaview technology allows the display image to become clearer as the sun becomes brighter. In addition to the above transducers, Simrad has a host of other transducers available for the EQ44. Suggested retail price is $2,995. Visit www.simrad.com or call (425) 778-8821.
The Si-Tex CVS-833C with 8-inch TFT LCD display gives viewers outstanding daylight and nighttime viewing. Pumping 1,000 watts of RMS power to a 50/200 kHz transducer, the CVS-833C has eight range scales from 10 to 4,000 feet. A rotary switch facilitates quick mode changes as well as gain and range settings while a split-screen option displays normal and bottom view modes or dual frequencies. The FCV-833C also has a bottom discrimination mode that expands bottom images, while an A-Scope displays instantaneous imaging of fish echoes and bottom detail directly under the boat.
The CVS-833C is NMEA 0183 compliant and can be interfaced with navigation devices as well as optional speed and water surface temperature gauges, fish and depth alarms and is weatherproof. Suggested retail price is $1,899. Visit www.si-tex.com or call (727) 576-5547.