Sound It Out – John Boon 2017

So where about’s is the best place to position yourself if you want to catch a fish? No I haven’t lost the plot and this very simple question has a very simple answer. Of course if you want to catch a fish then obviously you would be needing to fish in an area where the fish are. After all it’s common sense that the fish need to be there in order for you to catch them.

Sure you could go old school and just cast or drop on likely looking structure where the fish should be and hope to convert flogging the water blind into a well earned feed but the law of averages states that if you’re putting your lures or baits in front of fish more often then your results will show.

Advances in technology has put us ahead of the game. Being able to look at the sounder screen and clearly identify targets before deploying techniques is next level. Sitting up a mangrove creek and knowing that the fish you are watching is a barramundi on your side imaging is an incredible feeling. What’s even better is being able to tell which way that barra is facing and then hatching a game plan to get full utilisation out of the observation you have just made.

It doesn’t matter if you’re chasing barra with side imaging or out on the reef looking to catch your next red emperor being able to tune your equipment to maximise your time on the water will assist you in becoming a successful angler. The difference between “is that a fish there?” and “that’s definitely a fish there” is huge. Having confidence in your ability to decipher what the sounder screen is showing you is a talent that I believe you should invest a fair amount of time in.

To some it comes easy. They will pick it up straight away. For others it may take a bit more explaining or a bit more research to get the penny to drop. If you don’t understand then don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The very first rule of sounder operation is to READ THE BLOODY MANUAL!!!! This statement almost sounds like a smart arsed comment but I assure you it couldn’t be further from the truth. We as rough tough testosterone fuelled blokes don’t need a manual right? Wrong. The manual has all the good oil in it. Take the time to go through, read it and understand it the best you can. Then take the manual out on the water with you when you go to have a play with your new equipment. Go through the settings and see what they do. If you’re worried you might fiddle with the wrong setting then check the manual before adjusting.

Once you have a handle on the settings and have been through the manual then it’s time to ask the pro’s. The guys that use their equipment all the time and spend a lot of time on the water. The reason for having a play with it yourself first is so that when one of the guru’s start talking you can follow what they are saying because you have experience through the menu.

When I needed a new sounder for heading offshore I had a good look around at brands and also looked for users opinions. You have got to be careful when getting opinions though and have the BS filter turned on. Heavily sponsored anglers are always going to push their product. It can be difficult to differentiate between fact and someone who pushes gear because they get it for free or at a heavily discounted price. I settled on Furuno. My budget would only let me go as far as the FCV 588. I was lucky that I already had a separate GPS. The 588 is a sounder only. You can’t freeze the screen, take a screen shot or anything fancy that other units can do. It was a sounder and that’s it. My research however suggested that this was the unit for me.

I was lucky when I installed my Furuno 588. I had one of the Furuno guru installers helping me out plus I had been on a few trips with blokes who were using the older models so you could say I had a head start. I still did the above and went through the manual front to back. I then had a good chat to Greg Lamprecht. He’s always got his finger on the pulse. A couple of settings we tinkered with was the TVG and Rezboost settings. These made a big difference for me. I’ve talked to others about these settings and they have said they didn’t see much change. I guess what works for one doesn’t always work for the other. Always give it a try though.

For the estuaries I have used Humminbird for as long as I can remember and will continue to use into the future. I still look at other brands and discuss different topics with good friends that own them. I feel comfortable with Humminbird and find the menu’s user friendly and easy to adjust to get the best results. Good friends that own other brands feel the same way about their units because it works for them. This brings up another good point. When looking to choose a unit having a play with the demo models in the shop can give you a very quick over view. You can walk away thinking “I liked this, I thought that was pretty cool but I didn’t like that”.

My very first depth sounder for the estuary was a portable black and white Humminbird unit. I still have that unit in the shed. I refuse to part with it no matter how many times we do a bit of spring cleaning.

Many years ago there was a jump in fishing evolution. Side imaging was born and made its way onto the shelf. The first unit I had experience with was on the Humminbird 797 unit. It only had the 455Khz side imaging frequency but going from traditional 2D to side imaging and being able to see a tree or a school of bait out to the side of the boat was mind blowing at the time.

The most experience and success I have had with since the 797 is the 998 model. A much bigger screen and the addition of the 800Khz side imaging frequency. Going from the 797 to the 998 was once again a massive step. The screen detail jump once tuned was amazing. Being able to see the shadow of a Barramundi and know which direction it’s facing is off tap. To this day I believe the 998 and 1198 models set a bench mark in side imaging technology. They still get talked about a lot even though newer technology is available.

There are a few things that I really like about the 998. Right on the front panel is a set of hot keys. One push buttons that will shortcut you straight to your favourite screen option. Not having to cycle through screens will save you time and frustration. All of your main side imaging settings are in the one place. Being able to adjust things like sensitivity and scroll speed quickly is a big deal for me. Depending on where you are fishing the two settings mentioned in my opinion are ones that require adjusting a fair amount throughout the day. Scanning from mud up onto rock will see a need for sensitivity to be adjusted. Traveling with the current and into the current can see a need for scroll speed to be adjusted. I’m a big fan of having everything simple. This brings me back to the Furuno 588 for offshore. Being able to manually shift the screen to follow the bottom and being able to adjust the gain output with one touch of a button or the turn of a dial makes it so much easier for the user.

Being confident to read your sounder correctly will also help in eliminating a lot of dead water. For example I was up in a shallow part of the Fitzroy River on low tide. Out in front was an entire bank full of drains. 20 – 30 at a guess. Back in the old days we would have drifted past those drains putting about a dozen casts into each one. How long would it have taken to find the only drain that was holding fish in this area? it would have taken hours. With the aid of side imaging we had managed to locate the one drain holding fish in about 15 minuets. From half a dozen casts two king salmon were captured. A simple process of elimination had us on the fish quickly.

I guess the biggest point i’m trying to get across is that the technology is there to assist you in becoming a successful angler. Your sounder is your underwater eyes. Become a whiz at deciphering what it’s telling you, know the menu backwards and i’m sure the potential you unlock will be sure to impress.