Nothing in bass fishing has produced the kind of improvements and technological advancements that we’ve seen occur among fishing electronics in recent years.
Due to better screens and higher resolution, our sonar graphs are proving us with incredible color images of the underwater world and in detail never before imagined.
In addition to the fabulous images, we’re getting a plethora of information on our graphs, such as GPS and topographic maps, boat performance, water temperature and much more – and for less money than what it cost just a couple of years ago.
One remarkable new feature, called side imaging, may just change the way you find and fish underwater structure. Do not confuse side imaging with the side-finding feature that was introduced years ago and showed fish that were near the boat. Side imaging, which is found on select Humminbird models, is a unique sonar system that clearly defines structure and cover beneath the surface on either side and away from the boat.
I’m generally not keen when new technology is introduced so I was very skeptical when side imaging was first explained to me – but not anymore. I’ve found it to be an amazing tool unlike anything else out there.
Here’s how it works. A unique transducer mounted on the rear sends sonar signals to the side and downward. Any hard structure such as rocks or bridge pilings are quickly etched onto the sonar screen, providing you with a vivid picture of objects that lie on the bottom away from the boat. In many cases, the image looks like a black-and-white photograph. It is also very accurate.
For example, last summer I was catching bass around scattered grass in Michigan’s Lake St. Clair, when the screen displayed an isolated rockpile about 100 feet on the other side of the boat. I moved the GPS cursor out to the rocks and saved a waypoint on it so that I didn’t lose it. I eased the boat within casting distance, and my partner and I proceeded to catch 35 big, beautiful smallmouth bass on a spot that we would have never known was there without side imaging.
Traditional sonar will display the same bottom features, but you have to drive over the top of them to spot them. By marking them away from the boat, you are less likely to spook fish because you are not disturbing the immediate area with your boat.
In addition to the side-imaging feature, these units provide traditional down-looking sonar from a separate transducer as well as excellent detail and information on the same screen. You can even set up your screen so that you are looking at side imaging and traditional down-looking sonar simultaneously.
Of course, there are a few drawbacks. For instance, it’s more difficult to distinguish softer objects such as grass and brush when in the side-imaging mode. In addition, while it does occasionally display fish, I really haven’t used it for that. It’s far more valuable as a structure locator.
Also, side imaging only functions well when the boat is at idle speed, but that’s when you’re most interested in seeing structure detail anyway.
Because side imaging is relatively new, we’ve only scratched the surface of the capabilities it has to offer. Every time I use it I gain information about my lakes that I probably would not have known with traditional sonar.
While you may not need it for ponds or casual fishing, if you’re serious about learning more about what lies on your favorite lake bottom, it is worth checking out.