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September 21, 2009

Shallow Threat

Catch more inshore with smaller, function-packed electronics

But it's not just sonar that helps Zyak make better use of his fishing time.  He uses his GPS when trying to drift a location. By marking his trails, he can drift a zone, then motor back up to his starting point, move over and drift a second zone, aiming casts to un-fished waters.

Florida Capt. Ray Van Horn (727-639-2486; fishes all over the Southeast and throughout the Gulf, following the ESPN Redfish Cup series. He and teammate C.A. Richardson use a Raymarine C90W ($2,695) plotter/sounder on their 2200 Bay Ranger and an A70D ($1,899) aboard their 168 Ranger Phantom skiff. Raymarine designed the A series specifically for smaller boats, building all the functionality of larger units into 5- to 7-inch-screen models.

One of the first features Van Horn cites is Raymarine's SR100 add-on Sirius satellite-weather module. "Before you go trekking off into the bushes, it's nice to know what the weather is doing and which direction to run, if you need to," Van Horn says. "You can get that on your cell phone, but you don't always have coverage."

Van Horn says he also appreciates Raymarine's well-planned swivel mount with height adjustment and built-in cable management. As with many skiffs, Van Horn's boats offer no shade. Adjustable mounts such as Raymarine's and aftermarket RAM mounts really help screen visibility in bright sun.

Dial It In
Capt. Steven Lamp, who runs Dream Catcher charters out of Key West (888-362-3474; uses Furuno's FCV585 ($1,695) fish finder (and its predecessor the FCV582) and Garmin's GPSMAP 4212 ($2,499) and 5212 ($3,499) plotters, flush-mounting one of each brand in the consoles of his three 24-foot Yellowfin bay boats.

For the fish finder, Lamp uses a wide-cone, 200 kHz thru-hull transducer. He feels the thru-hull placement results in the best signal, plus his Airmar transducer comes with a    thermometer and mounts almost flush with the hull surface. The wide angle shows him a broader swath of shallow bottom.

"The Furuno has tremendous target separation," Lamp says. "I can adjust the Furunos so much, and the menu screens are very customizable."

Lamp says he likes the graphics and accuracy of the Garmin plotter. He uses GPS to navigate to more than 100 small nearshore wrecks.

Garmin also makes 4- and 5-inch display units that may be more popular for smaller vessels than the 12-inch displays Lamp uses. In fact, Garmin just announced upgrades to its GPSMAP 400 and 500 series. The company has added a high-sensitivity GPS receiver for faster satellite acquisition, plus increased map drawing and panning speeds and NMEA 2000 connectivity. Garmin will also offer sonar as an option on the new GPSMAP 541($799)and 546($999)units.

Electronics companies now offer exquisite options in small packages. To take advantage of all this fish-catching technology, though, anglers must study. Judging by the success of these captains and pros, however, that time is worth it.