A Graph Feel-Good

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I wanted to make some discussion about graphs. “Electronics” is a huge topic in the current fast moving fishing industry, and many folks simply become overwhelmed by all of the gadgetry. People often tell me how they just bought a graph, but now don’t now how to read it, much less navigate through the instrument’s charts and menus and settings.
My big tip to you is begin with the basics. Think practicality. I’ve been a full time guide for 22 years now, and I find myself using a fraction of the options my graphs give me. Very rarely do I wish I knew more about the graphs I use. I’m a basic guy so all I really want is a good clear depth reading and clean picture. That’s it. The only real trend I’ve followed with my electronics is that I’ve been buying large screened graphs the past few seasons.
If I’m not taking advantage of a bunch of functions why get a big graph at all? To be honest, bigger screens like 9 and 10 inch screens are easy too see. Also, the processors in large units are powerful and fast. I like to have my information coming to me quickly. Also, larger screens break into several different sub-screens if you ask them to—other wise called “split-screens.” I like my graph to show a GPS screen and a sonar screen at the same time. Somewhere on the face of the graph, I need for the water temp, depth, and boat speed to show nicely. That’s it, in a nutshell.
When I was searching my archives for a good image for the purposes of this article, I actually selected a shot from a smaller graph. For a lot of years, I simply used 5 inch screens because they did anything and everything I wanted them to do. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve moved into larger graphs now because they’re easy to see and they’re fast (and they’ve also become more affordable). Anyway, the photo for this article is taken from a 5 inch graph screen. I liked this photo because it has many elements that folks struggle with when they view graphs.
What’s all that stuff? In the upper left hand corner is the depth—nice and BIG—it’s important. The number under the depth is the temp. On the far bottom left of screen is the speed (sorry it doesn’t show well). The white part of the image is “water” and the dark black “bumpy” area is the bottom. Why is it rough or bumpy? It’s a question I get VERY often (and the main reason I chose this shot). When the boat goes up and down the sonar signal simply keeps “signaling” and the screen continues to draw and display a one dimensional image. When the boat goes up, it will draw an incline, and when the boat goes down, it draws a decline. Ultimately, when you’re sitting in waves, your graphing looks rhythmically bumpy—so the “bumpiness” is only the bottom and not fish. The “heavier” black lines suspended off the bottom, on the left and middle section of the screen, are fish. They are dark/intense because they are large and dense objects. I know they are fish because they are separate from the bottom. The lines on the right side of the screen are weeds. Notice how they “stack.” There seems to be some minor separation between each line, but they are faint lines unlike the fish which were more apparent/dark and thick. Also, notice the bottom directly beneath the weeds—it’s faded because it is a mat of weeds. It’s not hard bottom like it is on the left side of the image. I also know these are weeds because they stack vertically and create a “tall” shape. This is exactly the type of situation you need to be very careful of. Don’t think that everything you read on your finder is a fish. The suspended dotty globs in mid-water column are schools of bait. All of the lines that represent fish and weeds and bait in the image are wavy for the same reason the bottom is—it’s wavy and that’s how a graph records when it’s going up and down. If you never see a bumpy bottom on your graph, you probably don’t boat in the waves.
Get to know the graph that you own—old or new, big or small. Make sure you get to understand it’s basic functions and know how to read and interpret the images on the screen. If you buy new graphs every year like I do or want to upgrade to a larger unit this season, don’t be overwhelmed by all of the options they come with. I think it’s OK to get the newest fastest models and not use everything they are callable of. The most important thing to remember is to know your basic fishing needs (from the graph) and then simply continue to grow with the graph and it’s new functions in time. Good luck on the lakes this spring and enjoy getting to know your electronics. By Ross Hagemeister, meisterguideservice.com

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