How to find the proper marine electronics for you
Many folks come to the store completely confused on what to purchase when it comes to fish finding equipment for their new or existing boat. If they go to the "big box" or online stores, they are faced with 100+ possible solutions. Many of the features that are listed on the box or brochure can be deceiving, one costing $399 and another costing $3,400. Because of the price difference it becomes very difficult to navigate which one to choose.
Ask Yourself Three Questions
What Kind of Boat Do You Have?
If you have a 14' jon boat, you probably don't need three 12" screens with side and down imaging, highspeed HD sonar, etc. If you have a 21' Tournament Ready Bass Boat, you probably don't want to put a 3" sonar only unit. If you have a Pontoon Boat you will need a different transducer so that the unit always shows depth at highspeed.
What Kind of Fishing and Techniques Do You Primarily Use?
If you primarily troll from the back of the boat, you will want a system that operates on the console and shows you fish behind the boat. If you are a structure fisherman (find structure and cast to the spot), you will want a networked unit from the console to the bow of the boat that will show you the spot you found. If you primarily fish from the front of the boat (e.i. spider rigging), then you will want a unit on the bow of the boat that will allow you to see in front and around the front of the boat. Different fishing techniques can help you narrow down your options.
Are You a Flip Phone User or Smartphone User?
If you are a flip phone user and don't adopt technology well, then you might not want to chose a touchscreen interface unit and stick with the standard keypad version. Many people that don't adopt new technologies very well usually struggle with using it and become very frustrated with the product and don't use it anymore. If you are a smartphone user then the operation and interface of the touchscreen units will become more intuitive to use vs. the keypad versions. The touchscreens usually provide an easier interface to change settings and parameters that the fisherman will use to get the most out of the unit.
Maximize Your Investment
If you are going to invest in new marine electronics follow these simple things to maximize your investment. You can spend alot of money on the equipment and if you end up just using it as a depth finder then you have not spent your money well.
Keep your expectations in check
If you purchase a side imaging unit for $399, just realize that the performance of that item will probably not give you the images that you see in the demos, videos, or pictures on the internet. The old adage, you get what you pay for, holds true to marine electronics. You may get the "feature" of side imaging in the less costly unit but its "performance" will be lacking. There are reasons that there is more expensive units with the same features. Just remember that the big box stores want to be able to sell you on features at the lowest cost. If the features don't have performance then you will resort back to using that $399 SI unit and use it as a depth finder. That feature can be found in a $99 unit, so you just spent $300 more than you needed.
Don't believe everything you read on the internet
While I realize that you are reading this on the world wide web, my point is you need to be careful on what is posted and said. The old adage "Brand Loyalty Sometimes Produces Blind Faith" holds very true in the fishing industry. Humminbird, Lowrance, Raymarine, and Garmin all make great products. The key is if they are installed correctly and you learn how to use them properly, they can become a valuable asset and make you a better angler. Make sure that when you are researching marine electronics and reading opinions that you verify the source. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.
Purchase your equipment from a certified dealer that installs the equipment
If a dealer installs the equipment on various boats and fishing platforms, more than likely they will be able to tell you what works and what does not before you purchase. Purchasing from a retail store or online usually results does not help when you need it. Proper installation of the equipment and transducers can make a huge difference in there performance. Also, its important to know how your equipment in installed so when you are on the water and having trouble, 9 times out of 10 you will be able to call the certified dealer and have them help you troubleshoot an issue vs waiting on a tech support line that has a 30 min wait.
Take an On-the-Water Electronics Class in your boat
Probably the best investment you can make in your marine electronics is an on the water class in your boat after the dealer has installed your equipment properly. Sure, you can read manuals, attend seminars, research online and watch YouTube videos until you are ready to pass out. The best way for adults to learn is by seeing and doing. What better way than to take an on the water training class in your boat? This method will assure you that your equipment is working properly, show you the best techniques to get better performance out of the equipment as well as learning how to use it.