Going Live – By Jason Masters

Do you prefer a spin or overhead reel? Are you a plastic’s or hardbody lure caster? Braid or mono line? Lures or bait? Short or long rods? These are some of the questions that we all face when it comes to fishing, and with each question, you will always get a varied answer to the question. It all comes down to personal preference and what people prefer.

This is no different to electronics in your boat. Ask 20 different people what sounder they prefer to use, and they will give you what their preferred unit is, and they will all have a reason why. In the past 10 years, the advancements in sounders has been mind-blowing, and it is scary to see what the future holds and what we will be able to see on our screens in the coming years.


Think about this, how long before an image is processed to look like a real fish, although the images are clear now, with the processing capabilities now in a sounder it will not be long before we see a single fish or a school of our target species in real time and lifelike colour swimming on the screen, showing the snag or rocks they are swimming around, the same as we see in an aquarium, right there on our sounder screen.

There is so much to consider when looking and comparing units and to start to list the options and compare features is endless, from Side Scan, Down Scan, 2D, Gps, video ability, electric motor compatibility, clarity of screen and usability are just some of the features that we start to look at. It can get bloody confusing, but one thing is for sure, there are a couple of brands that cover all of this and more.


One thing I will point out before I start, as I am in the retail industry, one thing I have learnt over time and will NEVER do is bag out or disrespect any brand out there without using it myself. This is something that I have always stood by, and was taught as a junior in sales. It is an easy way to get people offside in any industry and lose respect from your fellow peers. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but sometimes these opinions are based on heresy and not fact.

About 3 months ago, after completing a project boat with my boys, we decided it was time to install a new sounder. After a bit of research, we decided on a new Lowrance Live unit. It did not take too much convincing for me as the Live units come with the new 3in1 Active Imaging Transducer. The AI transducer would give us the functionality of having Chirp, Downscan and Sidescan all in the one transducer.

Lowrance is a market leader worldwide in providing a user-friendly unit that ticks all of the boxes in the right areas. Now, you may soon realise that I am a big fan of the Navico products (Simrad and Lowrance in particular) and have run the Simrad products in one of my boats for about 6 years. I did have the Lowrance gear but upgraded to Simrad. I currently run a Simrad Evo 3 in a 12-inch with 3D Structure and a 7” Evo 2 as a spare and GPS in the bigger boat as I do a bit more offshore fishing in that boat, hence the change to Simrad.


After a bit of searching, we decided on a 9” model as it would be the perfect fit for the boat. Once the decision was made, we were like kids on Christmas day and were eager to test the new product and thought it would be well suited to our smaller 385 Explorer. I could not wait to get home and install it and get it on the water.

To say it was easy to install is an understatement. In under 30 minutes, I had the cables run, transducer installed and was powered up ready to go. Now, the little boat I share with my boys Dylan and Beau who are 23 and 19 respectively and upon startup they were impressed with the clarity and the ease of use, they are not as sounder savvy as what I am, but it was interesting to see just how quickly they picked up the functions on the new HDS Live unit.

It was now time to get on the water and test the unit out. I had read reports and spoken to a few other anglers who had upgraded transducers to the Active Imaging unit but not the head unit as yet, and they could not speak highly enough of the improvements. I thought to myself, it has a lot to live up to, if you are to compare it to my Simrad with the 3D, but I was soon to find out.

The first test run was a late afternoon run in the local Inlet in Cairns, we had received some rain that day and the water was a smooth mocha colour, and I thought it was going to be the perfect time to test the unit. On switching on the unit, I was impressed with the clarity of the start-up screen similar to my Evo 3, then it switched to the Down and Side Scan image, and I sat there in amazement as I looked at the image that was displayed.


I was in 10 feet of water and was scanning out to 80 feet either side of the boat. That is a total coverage of 160feet, and it did it with ease. Now, this is nothing new to me with the capability of the side scan, but what was impressive was the clarity of the image displayed. There was no need for a unit to display above the 800hz transducer output as the display made the picture crystal clear. I was able to clearly make out a snag that was 75 feet away. Now, it was not a big snag, but a small mangrove tree that had fallen in.

The speed on the unit is another feature that impressed me as well. From doing some prior research, it has now got a built-in Dual-core processor, which helps in the smoother transition between pages and cuts the lag in processing information, it is just about an instant switch between selecting pages. Also, the capability to run multi windows without any lag in display or performance is another big plus.

Over the next couple of weeks, we all tested the HDS Live unit and took multiple screenshots to compare once we got home. What we were able to learn from each use was helpful to not only the boys but me also. From shallow water, seeing drains snake their way back on a mangrove flat complete with stingray holes to snags and rocks 20 to 30 metres away in deeper water. The Lowrance unit continued to impress with each use.

The boys and I had started to really zone in on what the unit was capable of producing. We left the setting on Auto, we adjusted the contrast, we changed the Hz rating back to 455hz, we stood on our head. We played with everything, in no way could we fault the unit in any way.

After doing a bit more research, I felt that there was no need to go to a higher Hz rated units as the clarity and definition is something to behold, and the new design of the AI Transducer and crystal placement means a lot clearer image as well. Not only that, but there was no need to adjust the Auto setting, as the picture displayed was crystal clear. With each pass over a different area, I was able to make out more and more detail, and I had not started to make any adjustments as yet. Did I have to change the setting from auto? Not really, as I run it on auto for a long time during the test afternoons, but this was a test run so why change.

Like anything with sounders, we all read them differently, and we get used to our own units. You have your own settings that you interpret as to what a fish may be or what it may look like. How the bottom shows up, how weed or rock shows up. It all comes back to using the unit and how easy they are to set up.


It is the time on the water that will give you a better understanding of the unit. There are a few courses and online videos that will help you interpret what you may be seeing, but it is nowhere near the understanding you get when you are on the water using the unit.

What does the future hold? Well in the coming months, Navico are going to release their Live Sight transducer, which will give a real-time image of how the fish are reacting and swimming in and out of structure both ahead of the boat and underneath. If you have seen any of the footage, it is mind-blowing to watch. If you haven’t seen this stuff yet, Google ‘Lowrance LiveSight’, it will seriously impress.

I really cannot rave highly enough about the HDS Live unit. One thing I will point out again is the speed of the information that is processed. The clarity of the screen and the user-friendly display and all-round usability of the unit, from scanning creeks or impoundments for your particular species to fishing the reef and blue water, this unit can do it all with ease. The new Lowrance HDS Live units have definitely changed the way we fish once again. Fellow Fish and Boat writer, Luke Galea, wrote an in-depth article in the April Edition explaining the Genesis Live Mapping, Fish Reveal and so much more, and will explain so many of the features.

Would I recommend putting one in your boat? Most definitely. Do yourself a favour and get to your nearest Lowrance dealer and compare models to what suits your needs. You will not be disappointed. I have just touched on what the unit can do.

Until we meet on the water, take care and enjoy our back yard.