When the first handheld GPS units hit the scene, we were floored by the idea of being able to mark and revisit productive fishing spots. It introduced repeatability to the equation. Meaning we could quickly and easily find “spot-on-the-spot” locations without turning the ice into Swiss cheese while triangulating and double-checking our bearings to shoreline landmarks.
GPS also ushered in a whole new era of navigational safety. Whether it’s knowing where potential lower-unit-robbing areas are located, or being able to navigate in driving rain, fog or bee-lining it to the landing in case of emergency, if you’re fishing without GPS you’re taking your chances. Especially on big waters, GPS should be in every angler’s ride.
GPS was a big deal. Still is. But we rarely give any thought to fishing with GPS; it’s just part of what we do.
The only thing that’s really changed is the box around the GPS circuit. Although still thriving in the hunting market, fishing electronics manufacturers have moved away from handhelds to “all-in-one” units that offer GPS chartplotting and fishfinding capabilities in the same box. And why wouldn’t they? Ice fishing is a sport made tons easier by reducing the amount of gear we have to carry. Who wouldn’t want a flasher, graph and chartplotter in the same box?
I can hear it now. “But what about smartphone mapping apps?”
And my answer to that is fine; use them as a backup. But when I get on my snow machine or ATV I want to run and gun. I don’t want to pull out my smartphone every couple minutes to look at it. It’s just not efficient.
Yet, like a lot of other anglers out there, I was reluctant to give up my Lowrance H20c handheld. The unit was incredibly ice-worthy and put me on a lot of fish. Still, there were things I would’ve liked to change about it. I always wished the screen was a little bigger and it mounted easier to my rides.
Via the units’ Quick Release Tilt & Swivel Brackets, I now have the means of plug-an-play operation. This means I can easily pop the unit into place on my ATV, snowmobile or vehicles, and then off and into the protective Lowrance ice bag when I get to my fishing destination. Then it’s simply a matter of choosing the flasher or graph screen via the easy-to-use menu and using it as a fish finder.
Fish-finding Power and Ease of Use
Both the Elite-4 and -5 have some advanced signal processing that I won’t pretend to understand, let alone explain. All I know is the units are jet-figher fast, even in sub-zero conditions. And with 2200 watts of PtP power, tiny jigs show up clear as day, even in some pretty extreme depths. The transducer operates at 83 and 200 kHz, for a cone angle reaching 120 degrees. And, with both broadband sonar graph and flasher screens, you can fish any way you want.
Plus, both feature TrackBack, which allows anglers to cursor backward in time to view graph history. That information can be helpful to study what kind of jigging cadence a fish responded to, as well as where in the cone fish may have appeared. Refining your approach based on this data can put more fish on the ice.
One of the biggest complaints you hear from anglers is how difficult some fishing electronics are to operate. The guys in the lab coats apparently took that to heart and have redesigned a new user interface that makes one-handed control of the “Page” and “Menu” options a breeze. Let’s face it—nobody reads the manual. These units are intuitive and easy to learn.
One of most-asked questions in any marine electronics or tackle retailer is, “But which digital GPS map card should I use?”
The honest answer for some time has been “all of them.” See, what one manufacturer does right the other doesn’t, and vice versa. Often times, one lake map was better on one company’s card, and so on.
However, some of those challenges have now been addressed. One of the most significant features of the new Lowrance Mark- and Elite-4 units is its compatibility with a new digital GPS card called Lake Insight Pro 2013, available now.
Rather than having to purchase separate cards for various states and regions, the new Lake Insight Pro 2013 card features high-resolution 1- to 3-foot contours on more than 650 lakes in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, plus Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake. It also features 8,000 lakes, plus rivers, and the Great Lakes with detailed contour lines. That, and another 100,000 named bodies of water with shoreline detail.
And let’s be honest, sometimes when we’re faced with a new lake—and limited time—it can be difficult to decide where to start fishing. Lake Insight Pro removes some of that guesswork by providing “Fishing Hot Spots” detail for over 500 popular lakes, featuring marked fishing areas, vegetation, helpful fisheries and facilities information and more.
One Last Drop
No matter how you look at it, ice electronics are changing at a breakneck pace. Units now have faster and more accurate GPS, better defined maps, improved fish-finding features and more power for better fish and bait returns. Whether you’re an old-school flasher guy or one of the new legions of graph-heads, one thing remains—a unit with onboard GPS just makes sense.
Image courtesy Scott Glorvigen