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July 28, 2010

Six Ways to Customize Displays

Expert tricks to help you set up your chart plotter, fish finder and radar screens

The unfortunate reality is that few of us can afford to spend half the time that's needed to learn even a fraction of the functions that our chart plotter, fish finder and radar can perform. Or we spend weeks at a time learning the ins and outs of our machines, only to forget how to use them during the off-season. That's a shame because even though much of the data stuck inside these gizmos is useless to some, there's also plenty of valuable stuff buried deep that can help you run your boat more effectively - and thus help you catch more fish.

One way we can overcome the problem is to sink some time into learning what's what and customizing our displays. Virtually all modern multi-display electronics suites allow you to customize the layout and views displayed on each screen. And if you make the effort to customize them once, the value lasts for the lifetime of the system. In certain cases, usually when the electronics manufacturer left the base-screen setup to an engineer who knows a hell of a lot more about microchips than marlin, your screen starts off with a slew of information that you really don't need. So get rid of those screen wasters, and plug in the prime data - in the long run, you'll catch more fish by doing so.

Setup Problem #1
A lack of echo trails on the radar screen.
Most all units come with the ability to display trails on radar targets, and almost no one uses them. However, radar trails are incredibly helpful in determining when radar targets change course or speed. So helpful that in the old days, mariners would physically mark trails directly on the screen with a grease pencil.

The Fix
Set your radar to show trails. In crowded waterways a trail that lasts only 30 seconds or a minute is probably all you'll need. But in open waters, switch over to a three-minute trail to see any course changes or abrupt maneuvers from any vessels in your vicinity.