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November 07, 2013

Today's Advanced Sonar-Charting Programs

Sonar-charting programs provide current, detailed maps of fishing grounds.

[Be sure to click through all the images in the gallery above. The last image includes specs and prices of four sonar-charting programs from top-of-the-line manufacturers.]

As a child, I often played in the neighbor’s sandbox. We piled up the coarse, white soil to create castles and forts, and dug moats to protect them.

The swift tidal currents in my home waters of coastal Georgia seem to “play” the same game. Any given season, a new sandbar appears or a ­once-­navigable creek mouth silts.

Federal charts simply can’t keep up with those shifting soils. But now anglers can create their own local navigation maps, and even see detailed, contour soundings of favorite fishing spots — all using their own fish finder and its record function.

“The speed of satellites and transducers has advanced to give us the capability” to record sonar with today’s sounders, says Paul Michele, national sales manager for Navionics.

Current Sonar Charting-Program Choices

Navionics rolled out its SonarCharts last year. At the same time, Navico — the parent company for both Simrad and Lowrance — introduced Insight Genesis. This summer, LakeMaster/Humminbird gave media members a glimpse of its upcoming AutoCharts, due in early 2014.

The technology advances at a breathtaking pace. A year has brought about tremendous changes in the existing software as companies mold products to consumer preferences.

Navico, for instance, brought out Insight Genesis initially geared toward freshwater anglers. The company added tidal adjustments in August, which means the software automatically uses the time stamp from the sonar log to calculate and present the mean tide.

Navionics recently added Raymarine to its list of manufacturers (Humminbird and Garmin) whose sounders can record and upload logs to SonarCharts. Both providers have widened their geographical coverage, and plan to continue with aggressive rollouts.

But before I get too far into the gee-whiz factor, let me step back and outline the way this works.