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Electronic Extras for Anglers

Helm on fishing boat

Cast a Wide Net(work)

In all the excitement of add-ons and peripherals, anglers may be losing sight of the fact that it’s the togetherness of the systems that makes them so special.

There’s a ridiculous amount of power on the helms of today’s boats, or more accurately, in the the helms. That’s because the helm consoles of today have become the skull of the boat, encasing a nerve center comprised of black-box units, processing modules, and more in a (hopefully) tidy package. We tend to lose sight of the real power of today’s systems. It’s not the self-contained reality of the multifunction display that multiplies the power level. It’s the connectivity of it all that makes these tools add up to a system that is, to use the cliché, greater than the sum of its parts.

Fishermen stand to benefit the most from this connectivity by virtue of the sheer number of systems that they use at any given time to augment their on-water experiences and amplify their success rates. Besides just needing to know the depth, anglers look at their fishfinders for, of course, fish, but also for bait concentrations, bottom compositions, and even the locations of thermoclines. And that’s just part of a vast interlinked system, in which the sounder, chartplotter, and radar all work closely together with the VHF, autopilot, AIS, and more, compiling a comprehensive data picture to be parsed and analyzed. How can you make the most of your vast system? Depends on how serious you are about the pursuit of game fish. Have a closer look at these manufacturers’ networks and see where the potential for smart thinking starts.


With Raymarine ( multifunction displays all running the same Lighthouse II user interface, a fisherman can have two or three different units placed around the boat that all use the same HybridTouch combination of control knob and touchscreen—the eS128 ($3,399.99) is a great 12-inch display upon which to base this strategy. Anglers with bait-slimed hands know that touchscreens have a time and place. Still, a nearby towel (for your hands, not the screen!) makes a big difference when you’re trying to hone a setup.

While that helm display has a built-in Clear Pulse sounder module, serious fishermen most likely will want to step up with a networked CHIRP fishfinder, such as the CP470 ($1,199.99), which is a black-box system that tucks away out of sight in the console, and makes its fishfinding data available across all networked screens.

If the picture-like quality of down-scanning and side-scanning sonar will help you better understand the fish habitat you’re targeting, the CP100 DownVision ($519) and CP200 SideVision systems ($609) may be worth your while as well. But since thermal-imaging system manufacturer FLIR acquired Raymarine in 2010, the go-to add-on for Raymarine systems has been thermal imaging. Seems like an extraneous add-on for the fisherman, you say? Think again. The first rule of fishing is to get home safely (How else would you brag about your catch?) and a thermal-imaging system, such as the Raymarine T450 ($20,995), can help with that, especially should you have to stick around the canyons later than you want so your buddy can boat that big yellowfin all by himself. Think of it this way: Safe running in poor conditions means you can leave the dock at three in the morning, and be on the grounds at first light, when the bite peaks.


If you hook up the Simrad NSS12 evo2 ($2,999;, you can look at so many charts—all at the same time—that your head’s likely to spin right off. That’s just one strength of this seamless system, which uses a combination of knob and touchscreen for intuitive control. Just use what feels right at the time and you’ll be in business. An interesting add-on is the GoFree wireless technology that works with an optional Wi-Fi module to allow for easy chart downloads and chart creation.

The NSS evo2 system has a built-in CHIRP sounder (including StructureScan HD, the company’s proprietary side-scanning sonar feature) that makes for a very powerful package—because it’s so closely integrated, a track-back feature allows you to review your sounder history simply by swiping a finger across the screen to scroll back. When you find an underwater feature you want to revisit, a couple of taps and the integrated autopilot will drive the boat to the spot where the sounder marked the target. You don’t even have to create a waypoint.

And don’t forget to ship Simrad’s VHF system, which can include both a fixed-mount RS35 ($399) and the HS35 wireless handset second station ($169), which is always ready, thanks to inductive charging. The beauty of the second station mic announces itself best on a big convertible: While those diesels rumble away on a fast troll for wahoo, the skipper on the flying bridge can simply mumble into the fixed-mount handset while the mate in the cockpit tends baits and keeps him up to date via the intercom feature, a nice touch.


Garmin’s sturdy line of multifunction displays has always had a certain cachet: The company got people to use their electronics more, and more effectively, because it paid attention to the human side of the user interface. Garmin ( adopted touchscreens  early on (though I recently tested a non-touchscreen unit and loved the simplicity there—it actually made me pause and think about what I wanted to do, making me more focused on using the system). The networked sounder options from Garmin, including the DownVü and SideVü scanning CHIRP systems, as well as the integrated Panoptix system, can actually look all around the boat to identify hazards ahead and structure all around. But there’s more to fishing than what lies beneath the surface. Even if the barometric pressure and its attendant fronts don’t have a direct impact on the feeding patterns of your favorite game fish (and I think they often do), they will definitely play a role in your ability to chase your target fish effectively and safely. 

That’s where XM WX Satellite Weather ( comes in. For a monthly subscription (plans start at $9.95), your system can download and display all the weather data you need for those bright days on the water. Dial in your location, overlay front movements on your navigation charts, and pay close attention to sea-surface temperatures and the locations of warm eddies and chlorophyll concentrations, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of where they’re biting, and where they ain’t.


The NavNet TZTouch2 multifunction displays from Furuno (starting at $3,995; are certainly powerful touchscreen systems, and the updated user interface is loaded with features. The built-in fishfinder module provides lots of data and uses the proprietary Rezboost system for improved target discrimination, while features such as Furuno Digital Filter (FDF) eliminates signal noise and adds digital auto-tuning. Meanwhile, TruEcho CHIRP uses a broadband transducer to augment signal quality and defines targets better. AccuFish is a feature that computes fish size based on echo returns, while the Bottom Discrimination Display tells the user whether his boat sits over rocks, sand, gravel, or mud by portraying the seabed through a color-coded system. So many features! Of course, this company has a long and rich history of outfitting commercial fishing vessels.

But there’s always the exception that proves the rule, and here it’s the non-networked, dedicated sounder module, the FCV-1900 ($7,495), that’s really going to set a fisherman apart from the rest of the fleet. Capable of displaying four different frequencies at one time, this system will put the raw data right in front of the user to let him figure out what’s going on beneath the boat, largely because he can stick his face right in the dedicated screen and not have to share display real estate with charts and radar. Just ask yourself: How serious are we about catching fish?

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.