Category Archives: ReefMaster

Marking Waypoint With my Humminbird’s and Minn Kota Ultrex

I recently bought a Minn Kota Ultrex 112 / 36 volt trolling motor for my boat. Man talk about a game changer in my fishing experiences! Not only does it utilize the “Spot Lock” feature and the “Auto Pilot” feature it has changed the way I now mark and fish my waypoints while on the water.

Since I started doing “Recordings” with my Humminbird SI units several years ago, I now almost only mark structure that I’ve found on the lake bottom. This could be stumps, points, sunken treetops, old sunken boats or anything else I’ve found that could or does hold fish. I fish for both bass and crappie so marking sunken treetops really helps with my crappie fishing.

What I now do it view my recording on my home laptop from my last fishing trip to see if I have found anything that I need to take a better look at or to mark and fish. Take a look at the video below and you’ll see that I’m using the “ReefMaster Sonar Viewer” software that I’ve blogged about several time on this blog site. I do recommend that you spent the $49 dollars on this software and learn to use it. It will make a difference in how you view and use your Side Imaging.

Now that you have watched the video on how I mark my waypoints and my anchor spots here is an image of how I go to my waypoints. As you can see in the image there is a “Green” and a “Purple” heading line on the map screen. The “Green” line is from the internal “Course Up” heading from the Humminbird unit. And the “Purple” heading line is from the Humminbird AS GPS HS GPS Receiver (Precision GPS/WAAS receiver with Heading Sensor provides fast position fixes accurate within 2.5 meters or 8.2 feet.  Provides more accurate position fixes than the industry standard GPS.) which is an electronic heading compass. This compass sensor will cost you around $200 but in my opinion it is worth the extra expense.

Humminbird AS GPS HS GPS Receiver
The Purple line is the external GPS puck heading and the green line is from the internal GPS sensor in the unit. So you can see the accuracy of both of them.

To go to my waypoint that I want to fish I just line up the “Purple” line with the “AnchorTop” waypoint and the “TreeTop” waypoint and when I get to the “AnchorTop” waypoint the treetop is straight in front of the nose of the boat at either 40 or 50 feet. Hit your “Spot Lock” on the Ultrex and make you cast to the treetop. I also use the “Casting Rings” on all my waypoints so that I can make my cast to the waypoint from different angles is I want to.

As for fishing the waypoints I try to get the best angle on the structure as I can to get the best coverage for my cast. Here is an example of what I mean by this. Let’s look at all four angles in the image. At waypoint number “1” this is the best angle to fish the top as I am making my cast across the top and have a wide target area to cast to. At waypoint number “2” this is also a great angle to fish this top from in the way of coverage and the lest likely as to get hung-up in the top as you are bringing your lure through the top with the limbs. Waypoint number “3” would be the same s waypoint number “1” and the wind would determine if I wanted to fish this one instead of waypoint number “1”. The last one waypoint number “4” would be the worst one to fish as you would be pulling your lures through the limbs and the most likely to snag or hang-up your lures.

I hope you find this blog useful and the software and this tip will help you become a better fisherman and how to get the most out of your sonar units to catch fish. After all that is the reason, we spend the big bucks for these units.

Tight lines….

Things Found While Recording

I love to do recordings with my Humminbird Onix Touch 10SI and my Helix 12 Gen2 SI. I’ll spend hours sometimes just riding around and scanning the lake bottoms. Then when I get home I’ll review these recording with either ReefMaster Sonar Viewer or DeepViewVF software on my laptop or desktop computers. With these two programs I can really see much more detail from the recordings than I could with my onboard sonar units on my boat. The reason being is that with my laptop and a 17″ screen with the resolution set to 1600 x 900dpi the images are much better in detail than the
1280 x 800dpi on the Helix 12 or the 1024 x 768dpi on the Onix unit. So with the higher pixel count on the home computers this translates into a higher detailed image. I’ll see things on the computer that I never saw on the onboard units while on the lake.

Here is an example I pulled off the internet to show you the difference in pixel counts. As you can see the more pixels the clearer and more detailed the images will be. (Note: you will not get this extreme high detail as in the top image).

Higher Pixels mean clearer images.

In the images below I’ll post a bunch of boats I have found on my local lakes. So if you really want to take your side imaging and down imaging to the next level then I recommend that you learn how to scan, record and then view on your home computers. There is a few blogs on my site about this subject. Spend the time learning nd playing with the software and see what you can find on your local waters.

Old Sunken Barge
Boat with stakebed canes for crappie
this one found by a friend that sent me a recording he did.
Very old boat, possibly a civil war boat.
An old mussel drag boat.
Almost buried sunken barge.
Probably an old runabout boat.
I’ve caught lots of fish off this one.
Old barge below a local dam.
Another one below a local dam.
Old steam driven train and a box car.
Box car.
Another box car.

I hope you enjoyed looking at the images above and hope you learn to use your units and recordings from these examples.

Tight lines….

Humminbird Mega Scan vs. Traditional 455 kHz / 800 kHz

I have both a Humminbird Onix 10 SI Touch and a Helix 12 Gen 2 Mega Scan on my boat. While on the lake the other day doing a little scanning, I decided to compare the two of them to see which had the best image. I personally think my Onix has the better image, well at least after many software updates that Humminbird released. My Onix had a good image until one of the earlier update releases but after I did the update the images were horrible on my Onix. Finally, after about four or five updates and trips back to Humminbird I finally got the images correct and I will not update my Onix again! By the way my version of software on my Humminbird Onix is 3.230 and the software version on my Humminbird Helix 12 Gen2 is 2.110.

Anyway, back to the comparison of the two units. The images I recorded and the images below are from the two units with both the side image and the down image views. The recording were converted in the Reef Master software (search for a blog I did on this software to find out more information) and then I did a screen capture of both the unit recordings.

The first image posted below is from my Onix unit and the second image is from my Helix 12 Gen2 Mega Scan. One note is that when I run my Onix I use the 455 kHz setting for the side image and the 800 kHz setting for my down image views. On my Helix I used the highest Mega scan setting which was 1150 kHz to 1250 kHz. Take a look at the images below and I’ll let you decide which unit has the clearer images.

Humminbird Onix 10 SI Touch
Humminbird Helix 12 Gen2 Mega Scan

Is Humminbird Side Images as Recorded?

While I was on Google Earth recently I ran across a couple of old house foundations that are now submerged by a local lake. I made a trip to the lake and did a Side Scan of the two foundations. As you can see from the following images it records as realistic as possible. So you be the judge, does it record what is actually there?

Scanning Getting the Correct Angle

When scanning the lake bottom with your Side Image unit regardless of what brand or model you have to get the best images requires the correct angle you scan from. In the images below I have images of a side scan with a Humminbird unit at different angles to show you what I mean.

Here is a side scan of an old sunken boat on my local lake.

In the image above the boat is on the right side of my boat and I’m heading up river. And as you see that I almost ran over the top of the boat by looking at the top left corner of the boat with my boat.

Same boat but at another angle.

In the image above you can see that I took my boat over the very top of the sunken boat with part of the boat on the right and the left sides of the scan. By the way can you see the Bluegill beds in the sunken boat.

Scanning the boat going down river.

In the above image you can see I got the correct angle of the sunken boat and you can see the entire boat and the details of the boat.

Look at the above image and you can see I got the angle wrong.

Here I have the boat and chart speed wrong for the best scanning image.

Now in this image you can see it all came together with the correct boat speed, correct chart speed and the correct angle. I’m on the inside shallow side of the boat scanning up river at a slight angle to the boat to get the best scan of the boat.

So the next time you are on your lake and spot something, try scanning it from different angle and speeds to get the very best image of what you are looking at. This all takes time on the water with your units and playing with the settings.

Humminbird – Sometimes You Need Both

In an earlier blog I wrote about needing Side image to get the most out of your Down Image scanning. In this blog I’ll show you an example when you needed Down Image to find the structure that is hard to see with the Side Imaging transducer. In this scan I am using my Humminbird Onix 10 Touch SI/DI unit. Then as usual I convert the recordings using ReefMaster Sonar Viewer software. In this blog I will only be posting three images and you can see why you still need both your Side Imaging and down Imaging transducer at the same time in most cases.

In most instances I use only my Side Imaging while scanning for structure and I use my Down Imaging to try and locate fish whether it’s bass, crappie, white bass or any other species of fish i might be after on that trip. When I’m scanning for structure with my Side Image I usually have my unit scanning out to 100 feet on each side. If I’m looking for fish with my Side Image and Down Image together I set the Side image range to either 50 or 60 feet. On my Side image I use the 455 kHz and on the Down Image I set it up to use the 800 kHz settings. This will usually give me the clearest images i have found on my units.

The color palette will be a matter of personal preference. On my Onix for example before all the software updates I liked to use the “Green” palette but with the last software update I find myself using the #2 “Amber” palette the most. On my 360 transducer in shallow water I like the “Gray” palette the best. As usual you will have the continually make changes on the fly with your “Sensitivity” and your “Contrast” setting during the scanning process.

Okay now for my first image from a recent scan I did on the water. I,n the image below you can see a lot of stuff in the water, there are lots of schools of bait-fish. You can see some larger fish near the bottom which could be catfish or Asian Carp. You can the edge on the old creek channel bank on the right side of the image. You can see some larger fish up in the water column under the bait-fish which could be bass, stripe or crappie. You can see what looks to be a tree limb on the lower left of the image and possibly a brush top almost in the center of the screen.

Now in the next image I am using the Down Image transducer to run the exact as area, as a matter of fact I was running both the Side Image and the Down Image at the same time to get this scan. But you can now see what I missed with just the Side Image transducer.

Wow, now what do you see in the Down Image scan? You can now clearly see the three big man-made brush tops someone dropped in the lake! You can still see the bait-fish and a few fish but not everything you saw in the Side Image scan image.

And finally in this last image I’l show you them side by side and see what you can and can’t see if you were only running one without the other.

Remember I was running both at the same time over the exact same area and I would have missed the three big brush tops without having them both on at the same time. So you can clearly see you need to run both at the same time to get the most out of your units. This is one reason you need the larger units like the 10″ or 12″ for the largest screen area you can see at once. I also run a Helix 12 SI Mega but most of the time I only use it for mapping as i find my Onix unit gives me the clearest image of the both of them.

I hope you get a little more understanding out of your expense tools you have added to you boat.

Tight Lines…..


Definition of thermocline

: the region in a thermally stratified body of water which separates warmer surface water from cold deep water and in which temperature decreases rapidly with depth.

The thermocline is formed on lakes with little to no current flow that allows the mixing of the top and bottom layers of the lake waters. Since cold air and water is heavier that warm or hot air or water the heavier sinks and the warmer rises. In the following three images you can clear see the thermocline. Summer and early fall is the times that the thermocline is most prevalent with the high air temperatures this time of the year.

Why knowing where the thermocline is important to you as a fisherman? Simple it will define the maximum depth you need to be fishing. The thermocline is void of life giving oxygen so the fish you are seeking can not live in the thermocline. During the summer and early fall, adjust your unit to see the thermocline. Scan the area you are planning to fish and look for the top of the thermocline. Let’s say the top is at 27 feet as in the images in this blog. Then the maximum depth you need to fish is no deeper that 27 feet. Look for a or drop-off, shell mound or hump that is shallower than 27 feet and fish there if you see fish on them with your down image units.

Finding the thermocline is easy with the new Side Image and Down Image sonar units, in my case I use the Humminbird Onix 10 SI and the Helix 12 Gen2 Mega Scan. You will need to learn to adjust the sensitivity and contrast settings. You can find settings on this blog just do a search in the search bar. There are a lot of YouTube videos on how to tune your units.

Hope you find this blog helpful in understanding the thermocline in your fishing.

Tight lines….

Wilson Lake and what Lies Below

Wilson Lake, Florence, Alabama.

When Wilson Lake was impounded there was a lot of old structures, canal, bridges and other structure let on the lake floor. With the advent of the new sonar technology such as Side Imaging and Down Imaging you can still find a lot of them.

I have both Humminbird Onix and Helix Mega Scan units on my boat. These amazing pieces of technology enable me to see what’s still laying on the ;lake floor to this day almost a 100 years later!

A Little History on the Lake

Wilson Dam spans the Tennessee River between Florence (north) and Muscle Shoals (south), Alabama. It stands at an elevation of 508 feet and crosses the Tennessee on a 20-foot roadway along the top of the dam. Impoundment of the Tennessee River above Wilson Dam has created Wilson Lake, with a maximum width of 1.6 miles and a main shoreline of 154 miles.

Wilson Dam was erected by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1918-25 and turned over to the Tennessee Valley Authority when that agency was established in 1933. Wilson is a concrete gravity-dam on a blue limestone rock foundation. The total length of the structure is 4,535 feet, the height 137 feet, and the maximum width at the base (Including the apron) is 160 feet. The head the water depth on the upper side of the dam is 97.6 feet. There were originally 58 spillway gates in the face of the dam, each capable of discharging 10,000 cubic feet of water per second.

As I scan the lake bottom with my Side Image and Down Image units I’m always looking for objects that are on the lake bottom. If I do manage to find something, if I can I’ll research and see if I can find out what it is and if possible try to find a photo of what the object is or was. In the two photos below I found an old submerged arched bridge crossing a small stream or creek bed. You can clearly see the creek bed in the Side Image photo.

Click on the photo thumbnails to get a larger view.

I found an old submerged mill a couple of years ago that an old time fisherman told me if I had ever looked for it. In the two photos below you can see what the mill looked like before it was torn down and all that was left was the stone work of the mill.

The following photo is an old marina boat cover slips that instead of being torn down was easier to just pull it out into the lake and sink it. The tin metal top and sides are still on the old boat cover slips. I have tried to find a photo of the original one but have not been able to do so.

Tight lines……

Side Imaging Interpretation

In this blog I’ll be discussing Side Imaging Sonar and Down Imaging and do you need it. As I discussed in my earlier blog on Sonar versus Down Imaging was it really needed. From the images I’ll post below we can see that some of the structure is visible in the Sonar and the Down Image views but the problem is where they are located in relation to the boat.

As stated in the earlier blog I will be converting recordings done with my Humminbird Onix 10 SI Touch and my Helix 12 Gen 2 Mega Scan SI units. The software I use to view the recording is ReefMaster Viewer and sometime I will use Deepview FV as well as AutoChart Pro. Three of these are purchased software and the other one is a free software version. You can do a Google search to find out more on these products. As for recording with your Humminbird unit I have a blog discussing this as well just follow this link “Recording”.

The problem with Sonar and Down Imaging while fishing or even scanning the lake bottom with your units. Is to determine where the structure is in relation to your boat. Since we are dealing with a 2 dimensional flat screen and scanning a 3 dimensional world. Since the software on the units is only placing pixel dots on the screen there is no way to show the bottom in a real world display. That is unless we are using Side Imaging.

With Sonar and Down Imaging as we drive over the structure is it under the boat as the display shows? It possibly could be and we can tell this with the Sonar view by looking at the colors displayed on the screen palette. Since on a Sonar transducer set to 200 kHz the cone angle is pointing straight down and for an example shining like a flashlight beam. Take a flashlight and turn it on and point it straight down at the floor. The circle of light you see will represent the transducers cone angle. As you can see the angle is in a circular pattern and any object that enters the cone will be visible. Now lower the flashlight down towards the floor and you will see the circle of light gets smaller. This represents the depth of the water your boat is setting in. With a standard 200 kHz transducer the circle will be 1/3 of the depth of the water, for example in nine feet of water you will only be scanning a three foot circle of the bottom. Now move out into 30 feet of water and now you will be looking at a ten foot circle of the bottom.

With all that being said if your boat is in 9 feet of water and you drive your boat over say a stump, and it shows up on the display screen then that stump is directly under the boat. That is under the transducer where ever it is located.

Now let’s say we dropped a waypoint on that stump and wanted to fish it. As we turn the boat around and go back to the waypoint where is the stump in relation to the boat. Again on the display as we get closer to it it will show up on the display but now is it under the boat or in front, rear or right or left of the boat?

The only true way to know for sure is either with the Side Image or the Humminbird 360* transducer. With the Side Image transducer the problem is we now have to drive past the stump to see it displayed on the unit. But now we will know if the stump is on the right side or the left side of the boat. With the Humminbird 360* transducer we can see the stump without having to even move the boat. If the stump is at a three o’clock position we just cast to the stump at a 90* angle to find the stump.

I hope this explains a little the advantage of the Side Image transducer. Take a look at the images below to see what I am trying to explain. I’ll do a blog on the Humminbird 360* transducer after I get on the water and do some screen shots with it.

Click on the Thumbnails for an Enlarged view of the images.

In this image we can see a stump displayed on the Sonar but only know it is located slightly to the right of the boat by looking at the Side Image view. In this view we see the top is directly under the boat and slightly behind the boat.

In this image there is a creek channel that the boat just passed over but but it did not show up on the Down Image view.

Now let’s look at this gravel point that is off the the right side of the boat. Without the Side Image view we would not even know it was there.Can you see the gravel bar on both sides of the boat in the Down Image view.
See the tree top slightly to the left side but still under the boat?Stump field to the right and a stake-bed to the left not visible on the Down Image view.

Stump field to the right and a stake-bed to the left not visible on the Down Image view.

Sonar Interpretation – Sonar and Down Imaging

I get asked sometimes if Down Image is really worth the extra expense over the regular Sonar  units. I definitely have to say yes but only if you do not know what your looking at with the Sonar unit. I’ve used sonar units since the old flashers and paper graphs from back in the mid to late seventies. One thing for sure is that you want to get one with a GPS so you can return to the structure that you will find with them.

My units are Humminbird Onix 10 SI Touch and Helix 10 DI and a Helix 12 SI. All of these unit have GPS and Sonar built into them. I’ve also used a Garmin unit and Lowrance units with good results.

One thing I must say is that of all the Humminbird units that I have owned, everyone of them has had software issues and several have had to be returned to Humminbird for repairs! I don’t know why they can not get their software right before they release their products. Anytime that they have to release five to ten software updates that tells me they have issue with their software!

All of the images you will see in this article will be from recordings that I have recorded with either my Humminbird Onix or my Helix 12 units and then viewed in ReefMaster Viewer software.

I use the Sonar with the 83/200 kHz transducer settings and my chart speed is normally around 5 or 6 with my boat speed at about 3.5 to 4 mph when I’m doing the recordings.

Look at the images below and you will be able after a lot of time on the water looking at different structures to learn what you are really looking at. In my next blog I’ll show you the Side Images and the Down Images views.

Hope this helps you to learn your units a little better and catch a few more fish.

Click on the image thumbnails for a larger view of the images.