Tips for Using a Side-Finder Fishfinder

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Side-finding fishfinders can be a deadly tool, in the hands of a pro.

Many people have side-finder fishfinders on their boats these days, but few of them seem to have a solid understanding of how to use the tech to their biggest advantage. Sure, you can meander around and look for schools of fish. That’s the easy stuff. Spend some time aboard a boat with a real pro at the helm, however, and you’ll start to notice things like:


Side-finding fishfinders can be a deadly tool, in the hands of a pro.

  • Shadows get just as much attention as marks, when fishing structure. Don’t forget, those black shadows you see appearing behind an item tell you a lot about them. The longer the shadow, the taller the object, for one. And when you’re looking at fish marks as opposed to structure, the more separation there is between the mark and the shadow, the farther off bottom the fish is. When they’re connected, the fish is basically sitting right on bottom.
  • You’ll see a lot of toggling between side and down views (serious pros will have two displays up at all times, one for the side views and another for down-looking), especially when the side-finder is showing fish close to the boat. It’s tempting to just stick with the side-finder, but it’s also limiting. There’s still a ton of data to be gathered with the down views and especially in deeper waters, if you sit on the side view all the time you will end up missing some fish and/or structure.
  • When using a unit that has the ability (like the Humminbird Solix you see above), you’ll also see a lot of side-imaging frequency changes and ranging in and out. Remember that the higher the frequency is, the better the detail. But when you want to maximize range, lower frequencies sometimes provide better results. If you’re looking up to 50 feet off to the side of your boat, for example, and you have a unit like this, a 1.2MHz setting will give you utterly spectacular detail. Range out to 100 feet and you may get better views at 800kHz, and beyond that, at 455 kHz. Note, however, that these distances shouldn’t be triggers to always go to specific different frequencies because water conditions will have an impact on different frequency performance.

The bottom line? Side-finders offer up some awesome tech. But truth be told, most folks never get in enough time on the water, nor do they experiment enough, to understand how to take full advantage of them. And while reading articles like this helps, there’s no substitute for on-the-water experience. Aw, shucks – guess that just means you’ll just need to go fishing more often!


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