Fish/Depth Finders

Discussion in 'Stillwater' started by GAT, Dec 18, 2012.

  1. I knew I was hooked on stillwater fishing when I bought a Fishin' Buddy fish/depth finder. As I alluded to in another thread, I had a chance to try the prototypes for a small finder that would work with personal floating craft... in those days, a donut style float tube. Bottomline sent two prototypes to Deke Meyer and he and I tested them in a bass lake. They were crude suckers. You had to attach a separate transducer under the float tube and the battery was separate from the screen so you ended up with wires running all over the place.

    They did work but were a hassle to install. Bottomline finally decided on a model that had everything self contained in a portable unit. No more wires running all over your float tube. They marketed the product as a portable fish/depth finder for small boats, float tubes and even for personal use from a dock. The personal use bit was nuts because you can't hold the thing steady enough for it to work unless it is firmly attached so using it by hand was silly.

    When Bottomline first sold the unit, it retailed for a 100 bucks. The model I bought included the side finder feature and that is desirable. Then Humminbird bought out Bottomline and changed the design. They changed the design for the better in some ways and not so much in other ways. The Bottomline held the batteries in the handle so they were easy to replace. Humminbird placed the batteries under the screen so you must remove the screen to replace the patterns. And the handle is easily broken off... which I did. But you really don't need the handle and can easily move the screen around without it.

    Eventually the first Humminbird I bought broke at the screen mount so I bought another one... this time I also bought the carrying case so it is protected from me breaking the dude when I'm not using it and it is rattling around in the back of my rig.

    The tool is very valuable when fishing a stillwater fishery for the first time. You can map the bottom for depth and structure and also determine at what depth the fish are holding... this helps you choose an appropriate fly line for presenting your patterns.

    Rivers are easy to read but a lake is not. The finder helps you read the lake bottom and increase your chances of catching fish. The downside is you may find the fish but it doesn't mean you can catch them. So frustration can become a problem.

    If you're a stillwater fly angler and don't own a fish/depth finder and someone is wondering what to get you for Christmas, the Humminbird 120 with the side finder would make a great gift. You can usually find them online for 150-170 bucks. Don't bother with the color model. It is much more expensive and the color feature eats batteries quicker than the black and white 120.

    Holders are available for the side of boats and pontoon boats or float tubes. Mine came with a boat holder so I had to buy one that works with pontoon boats.

    Just a suggestion you may want to pass on to Santa Claus.
    Starman77, mtskibum16 and Irafly like this.
  2. I finally broke down and bought a finder a couple of years ago and at first I didn't believe it would really help me out that much and in after a few outings I found I was correct, but the mistake I made was fishing lakes that I was already intimately familiar with. Once I started branching off to lakes I didn't know as well then value truly started showing up. After that I even started to find the value of using it on lakes that I did know well and it helped me find a spring on a lake that I fished a bunch that I didn't know of.
    Bartfly likes this.
  3. Normally, after I've mapped a lake and fish it quite often, I don't bother with the finder. However, the ODF&W dumps adult steelhead in one coastal lake I fish quite often and I will use the finder to locate where the steelhead are holding.

    I also use it frequently at the farm lakes I fish for bass. It helps me locate where the bass are holding when I'm catching nothing but bluegill.
  4. I got one this summer and it makes a big difference on the large reservoirs I fish over here. A lot of them have pretty murky water so finding the depth the fish are at is huge. Good for finding the springs too!
  5. I have the original buddy, the higher cost model. they are ok but more often then not many times weeds show up as fish. I sent it in twice to get fixed over the years probably from using it in salt water. a lot of times I have to go real slow or stop for it to pick up fish. my brother has the newer one and it isn't much better but both have the side finder feature which is sweet.

    We used to use them in tide water and scan to the side for chinook while float fishing bait and it would show how far out to cast. they also are good for when anchored on a channel you can leave them on and mark the side you are not fishing with the side finder to see if fish are going by behind you. also for the distance fish are moving in front of you for a consistant casting distance to stay in the fish.

    Now I have gone over this before GAT and have 3 friends who have the gps units in there sleds. we can troll using these and know where our path is for springers in the columbia by charting our trolling lanes and being able to go right back to those lanes. or anchor fishing in 50 ft of water for upriver brights we have points plotted all over that are hot spots.

    where these are nice is when you fish a lot of large lakes like crane-wickiup-unity-and many other lakes I have been fishing the last two years. by looking at a new lake with a satellite map that you have never been to that might be 3 to 4 miles long like many I fished last year you can see areas and shoals you want to fish and write down the gps numbers and it will take you to that exact spot (well with 10 or 20 ft) river beds - weed beds - drop-offs old crick channels.

    View attachment 21972

    this is a map of crane prairie res. where the deschutes river comes into the lake at the lodge side and runs into the lodge bank and takes off for the middle of the lake. this is about 1 1/2 miles of exactly where the deschutes river channel is! now you move that starting point and it shows the gps points everywhere you stop it. I would suggest the darkest turns in the channels beings they are the deepest!

    That's why I say finders have come a long way! tech like this I can not just pass-up it helps to much! now If I only fished a few lakes close and never branched out I wouldn't need this kind of tech - but you have to admit that this is some good stuff! I have maps of the cultuss river bed - the quinn river bed and rocky point under water springs, where the cultuss and quinn river channels meet in the middle of the lake and how they run to the dam including where the deschutes river bed is from start all the way to the dam. now as you know this is almost 5 square miles of water and I have sent a few people there with all the info I could give them but they all say after words the lakes are so "HUGE" in central oregon. wickiup is even bigger! and has so many secretes but before I go there I will have maps like this!

    I also took these downloaded maps and took them to kinko's and had them printed out and then laminated for water proofing!

    You can get a gps-finder combo for around $350 from there on up to the down imaging. tournament bass fisherman have gps-down imaging- and fish finders now running in the thousands of dollars for a reason. but I plan on a portable one in a ice fishing case (that holds it's own small battery) so I can take it in any ones boat! I had to get a trolling motor this fall or I'd already have one. Santa are you reading this?

    MY TV blew up so I've been on a lot lately! thank goodness for the internet I just watched a video on how to fix it!
    Starman77 likes this.
  6. I haven't invested in a finder yet because when I fish on my own, it's often walk-in access lakes out in the desert and I don't wanna lug around any extra crap. And when I fish with others, it's usually in their boat and they already have one (thanks, Ira!).

    As has been pointed out, I have experienced the value of fish (depth) finders in large and new-to-me lakes. Old river channels in reservoirs, drop-offs, deep weed edges, depth contours, springs . . .yeah, I get the applications.
  7. Interesting subject for sure....I have been using electronics for going on twenty years.... my first being a portable "fishing buddy"..... There are a few things that I have "learned" in the last few years....
    The down and side "imaging" units are probably overkill for most of us and you must be moving for "imaging" to work... Since the "beam" projected is not a cone shape but is a nearly two dimensional vertical "slice", movement of the boat is needed to complete the three dimensional image..... and fish only show up as little dots requiring some interpretation. Many imaging units come with sonar too with 30-60 degree down cones..... The imaging feature is mainly good for revealing structure. Since I fish mostly open water and want to find fish to begin with and know what depth they are cruising, having a big open cone is the very helpful.... both Garmin and Lowrance have finders with 120 degree cones....for under $200..... one or two under $100 even...
    I still have a 12v "Side Buddy" with a down and a side cone but it's only a back up... and the cone angles are only about 15 degrees and since I am always fishing vertically from a anchored both, the bigger 120 degree cone simply marks way more fish and the the depth at which the fish are cruising ( suspended) is known......
    As for gps ( quite help.ul)...I still simply use my $100 Garmin Trek handheld unit......
  8. Good info on the imaging units - thanks! for the money they want for them it would seem not worth it if you have to be moving.
  9. It depends on what you are after. My FB works just fine for me on my SuperCat for my flyfishing purposes. ... which is usually an indication of water depth, temps and holding position of the fish. I'm not into fishing tournaments so the price of a high-zoot unit wouldn't be worth it for me. All I'm looking for is subsurface information to help me choose a flyfishing technique... not a zillion dollar machine that can indicate every snail on the bottom within the size of a football field.

    For 160 bucks, I think the FB is worth the investment for float tubes, pontoon boats and small floating craft. Obviously, it's a different game when you get into full size fishing boats.

    Besides, when fishing is slow the screen gives you something to watch for entertainment while you fin or row around the lake :)
    Eyejuggler likes this.
  10. Oh I wont be getting rid of my FB anytime soon! being able to look 120 feet out to the side is priceless!
  11. The side finder function is kind'a cool.

    One day I was using the FB at Crane and a fish was marked by the side finder at a distance and it was heading my direction. I was so interested that the marking was getting closer and closer that it shocked the devil out of me when the fish hit the white WB I was trolling. It turned out to be one of the illegally planted LMB in the lake but I watched it come from a distance on the screen while it was charging the fly.

    That happened another time while fishing a bass lake. The side finder marked a fish and a few seconds later the bass hit my fly.

    Of course it is common to mark a fish below me and as I move over the spot and the fly enters the area where the fish was marked WHAM!

    But the best mark and hit was when I was on a coastal lake and saw a very large fish on the screen and suddenly had an adult steelhead attached to my line. Landing an adult steelhead in a small pontoon boat with a five weight is no easy feat so I had to make my way to shore while playing the fish so I could land the sucker. It kept pulling me around until it became tired enough that I could land the boat and then the steelhead.
  12. Although I love my RF 35 wrist mount finder, I do miss the sidewinder feature in my old FB which I sold. I might get an updated model and your 120 recommendation sounds fine.

    Question is the mounting. I have a frameless Scadden and SFC and those tube mount flexible sleeves I don't like at all. I can't figure out how to mount the 120 on anything frameless with the included mount, can you advise? Thanks!
  13. The pontoon boat holders include an adjustable strap that goes around a pontoon so no frame is required. I actually made my own from PVC pipe and straps from discarded waders for my SuperCat before the pontoon boat holders became available.

    You can either buy the Humminbird holder or one from Cabela's... no advantage to one over the other... accept maybe price.

  14. I made a little frame from 2x6 that exactly fits in the side pocket of my fat cat. Then I use the clamp that came with the unit. It works muck better than the Cabela's holder I bought.
    TB Wannabe and GAT like this.
  15. There ya go. Easy solution.
  16. I don't like those neoprene holders. They move around or at least the old ones did. I like Bakerite's solution. FWIW, they are on sale now at Cabela's. $130
  17. This is what you do to keep the commercial holders in place: Velcro. I have Velcro all over my SuperCat to keep things where I put them. I attached Velcro to the side of one of my pontoons and to the side of the holder. I use the commercial grade Velcro so once the stuff sticks together, it doesn't move.

    However, whatever works for you.

    Yeah, normally Cabela's is the least expensive place to buy a FB. That's where I buy mine.
  18. Saw some folks at Dry Falls lake with a setup like this last fall, really cool! I have a Fat Cat and I will look into the strap mount, I bet a bunch of shoe goo dots (applied and left to dry first of course) on the parts of the strap that contact the tube would help mitigate any sliding if that was an issue.
  19. The fish finder also sits better in the clamp mount than in the commercial kind. My mount is just 2 pieces of 2x6 screwed together in an L that I made after using the cabella's mount for a day. I made it in 5 minutes before heading over to the local reservoir and haven't seen the need to change it. It holds the fish finder up more than the commercial ones, which is a bit of an advantage when launching. It is easy to adjust the clamp mount and if anyone wants a slightly used cabella's commercial mount (one time only by a little old lady) I will give you a good deal on one!

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