by Hobie and Hogy Elite Pro Staff Marty Mood
It is no secret that the popularity of kayak fishing has exploded in recent years and a very encouraging by-product of that has been a robust increase in tools and accessories built and marketed to the kayak fishing industry! Not only has the sheer number and availability of products increased, but the quality as well. One such item where this is particularly true is marine electronics and more specifically depth finders and/or sonar GPS combo units. Just like trying to buy a computer or cell phone these days it seems as soon as you buy the “latest and greatest,” it is quickly replaced by something even better! The good news is that with each new innovation, the cost of the “older” technology comes down and is suddenly affordable for many more people. The DF/GPS units available today for under $500 simply blow away what you could get for the same price just a few years ago.
The latest model that I have outfitted on my kayaks, and by far my favorite that I have used to date, is the Lowrance Elite 7 HDI (Hybrid Dual Imaging). The “duel imaging” comes from the ability to use traditional broadband sonar, as well as high definition downscan imaging and unlike on some other models you get both from one skimmer transducer. And being the “Elite” series, you get a color screen with multiple color pallet options and night mode features, as well as self-contained GPS antennae and chartplotting capabilities for navigation. Also I should point out that although I fish mainly from a Hobie Pro Angler and thus have the space and enjoy the larger screen size of the 7” model, all the features discussed below are also now available in a 5” version as well for those with smaller kayaks or a slightly lower budget.
That being said, one of the first things you learn to appreciate as a kayak fisherman being used to tiny screens is the size of this beauty. It features a true seven-inch screen allowing plenty of room for the optional triple screen display or for really picking apart structure and/or target identification. There are just a few well thought out buttons on the right side allowing for easy, and relatively intuitive screen navigation and a waterproof microSD card slot as well allowing you to upgrade and update mapping features.
The single skimmer transducer allows you to choose between two different traditional 2D broadband sonar modes; 50/200 kHz for a narrower cone angle and greater depth capability (up to 2500’) or 83/200 kHz for a wider cone angle and greater bottom coverage with slightly less depth capability (approx..1000’) as well as 455/800 kHz Down Imaging to give you clear “real-time” 3D like views of fish and bottom structure all of which is aided by the Lowrance Advanced Signal Processor, enhancing clarity and definition with minimal to no user inputs.
Once you power the unit on, the greatly improved page menu lets you pick the screen layout you want to look at. The options include the chartplotter/map page, a GPS navigation page, broadband sonar page, down imaging sonar page, or several different combinations of up to three of any of the above.
Another awesome feature is the ability to “customize” the split screen options adjusting not only information content, but also each screen width to your liking. You can also access the various menu functions from any of the respective modes without leaving the split screen mode.
Likewise, in the following picture you can see what these triple-leg bridge pilings look like on broadband sonar versus the awesome detail provided from the DI image and as well as easily distinguish Sheeepshead that are hanging are hanging around them!
I find that most of the time I have leave the unit in the triple split screen view above as I like to have the most information I can available at a glance. But if I’m already sitting on top of structure, or I’m fishing visible structure I will go to the dual split screen showing the two sonar views and hiding the map giving me a larger picture of each. I really like having the ability to see both types of sonar at the same time. While the Down Imaging sonar gives you superior detail with regard to structure and bottom contour, it is sometimes difficult to decipher actual fish images and bait balls etc. that appear as just “dots,” from general clutter. Having the traditional broadband sonar picture right beside the DI image really gives you the “big picture” of what is below, and determine what is fish, bait, or structure, and especially in the beginning helps to shorten your learning curve in deciphering the DI image. In the image below you can get an idea of what I am describing. It would be fairly easy to dismiss the “dots” in the DI image as something other than fish, especially if they were near structure or there were some “noise” in the water, but by cross-referencing the broadband image, there is little doubt they are fish!
Being a kayak angler, I have always been a big fan of having a combination unit that incorporates the GPS in with my depth finder unit. Fewer gadgets to worry about rigging up and getting in the way and saving space even in a Pro Angler, are important considerations. The GPS on the Elite 7 is everything you could ask for with internal, high sensitivity WAAS enabled and the ability to store up to 3000 waypoints, 100 routes, and 10,000 points. It comes with either an expanded US BaseMap or Insight USA but you can easily upgrade any of those using the aforementioned micro SD card slot.
I am currently powering my unit with a 12V 9ah SLA battery and though run-time will vary somewhat depending on brightness settings and GPS usage, I can easily get eight to ten hours off a single full charge.
There are many features of this unit that I have yet to mention, and in fact ones that I haven’t even discovered how to best use yet. But as you can tell the amount of information available at a single glance, with the Elite 7 is phenomenal and will without a doubt help you put more fish in the boat! And with near continuous upgrades and technological advances is quite reasonably priced for even the budget minded kayak angler. Beyond the basic safety gear, and essential fishing accessories such as rod holders, a quality GPS/DF unit is one of the first and best things you can add to your kayak to turn your “fishing” into “catching”!