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September 21, 2009

Shallow Threat

Catch more inshore with smaller, function-packed electronics

Captains like Ed Zyak - who grew up fishing his home waters of Stuart, Florida, with knowledgeable mentors - can describe every cut and pothole on a given flat. But two years ago, after upgrading his electronics with a Humminbird 997 side-imaging sonar/GPS unit on his 21 Hewes Redfisher, Zyak discovered a new view of his world and a new tool to increase his fishing odds.

Landmarks and bottom features change over time. Inshore anglers not only fish when the sun is high enough to see through the water, but also at dawn and under clouds. And with added features such as side-imaging sonar from Humminbird and now Lowrance, captains can detect fish under docks, along shorelines and around bridge pilings.

Bottom line: Even bay-boat and  flats-skiff anglers - whose vessels offer little room for accessories and who  normally fish water less than 10 feet deep - can improve their success and better guarantee safety with today's small, multifunction plotters/sounders.

Endless Choices
Guides and inshore tournament anglers choose products based on many factors, including the deals   they make. But how these pros use their electronics helps illustrate what may be available and useful for the weekend angler.

At first, Zyak (772-485-3474; questioned how much he would use the side-imaging feature of his 997 ($1,809 to $2,199). But the unit quickly showed him. "I do a lot of dock-fishing for snook. This allows me to weed out a lot of docks not holding fish. ... It takes a tedious process and really speeds it up."

He also uses side-scan and down-looking sonar to find depressions and grass humps on flats. He can see up under mangrove points to determine which feature wash-outs where fish may lie.

At press time, Lowrance had just introduced its StructureScan technology (see New Products, p. 63), offering side- and down-image viewing in a black-box add-on for Lowrance HDS machines, which include compact 5-inch display models.