In the past crappie anglers rarely used marine electronics for anything, but using it for depth, water temperature, finding cover or structure and marking baitfish or crappie. However, the new technology by electronic marine companies has taken seeing baitfish and crappie to a new level. Now anglers can actually see a crappie strike a lure in real time and catch a crappie. 


There are several major electronic marine companies. Each company has different multifunction devices (MFD) or sonar/GPS units for crappie anglers to choose from for their boat or kayak. Which one a crappie angler needs or wants is influenced by the features and price. 

Professional crappie angler, fishing guide and Strike King pro staffer Tim Blackley has embraced the new technology with open arms. Truth is Blackley has enough sonar/GPS units to rig up two boats, however, Blackley uses all of them to locate cover, structure, baitfish and crappie. Amazingly, he has not just one brand of sonar/GPS units, but a mixture of brands. 

On Blackley’s console he has two Lowrance units. He uses the left unit just for SideScan. Typically, he sets the range from 30- to 55-feet on each side scanning the left and right side of the boat for structure, cover, baitfish or crappie. 

Than on the right side of the console a Lowrance unit he used DownScan to see what is directly under the boat. Sometimes he will switch to 2D traditional sonar to get a view he grew up looking at under the boat. On the other side of the screen he will run a mapping chart like Navionics or the Lowrance built in mapping. 

Upfront, Blackley has a Lowrance, Humminbird and Garmin unit. While this seems like overkill, Blackley uses all of them to locate, see and catch crappie. The Humminbird features 360 Imaging allowing him to see fish or cover exactly where they are located. His Lowrance unit is marking baitfish or cover along with waypoints. His Garmin sonar/GPS rounds out the units on the bow of Blackley’s boat. The Garmin unit has LiveScope. 

LiveScope allows an angler to see where the fish are located and how a crappie is reacting to the lure or live bait. Garmin LiveScope and the soon to be released Lowrance LiveSight have the ability to see out in front of the boat or beneath the boat. 

Blackley uses a B’n’M Poles Sam Heaton Super Sensitive ( 12 foot rod and a small B’n’M size 100 spinning reel. He rigs it up with 12 pound Vicious Hi-Vis line and Strike King ( 1/16-ounce jighead with a tube or a different soft plastic lure. Sometimes he will tip the jighead with a live minnow to increase the number of strikes. 

“With these LiveScope, I can see my lure going down and can put it right where the crappie are located. The key is to put your lure right on top of where the crappie are located and the 12 foot rod let’s me do that for sure. I normally watch my lure go down and can read how the crappie are reacting to the lure. Sometimes you have to change up lures, depth or even color to get them to bite.” said Blackley. 

Currently only Garmin and Lowrance offer real time scanning sonar technology. Instead of real time sonar, Humminbird continues to promote 360 Imaging that became available to anglers back in 2012 and Bow 360 a year later. Unlike real time scanning sonar, 360 Imaging works like underwater radar making circular sweeps surrounding your boat up to 150 feet off all sides. 

Raymarine and Lowrance have 3D imaging technology. It’s advanced sonar imaging capable of showing three dimensional views. Raymarine’s new RealVision 3D and Lowrance StructureScan 3D can both accurately identify the location of cover, structure, baitfish along with fish. 

How much these units cost can be the biggest factor in buying one of the new sonar/GPS units. Be prepared for sticker shock when shopping for a new marine electronics units and transducers especially on real time scanning sonar units. Note units may require transducers not included with the unit to operate specific features. Different mapping options are available for all units and now each marine electronics companies own a mapping company so compatibility can be an issue.

Garmin GPSMAP 8612xsv 12-inch touch screen display with premium performance processor (MSRP $3,999.99) 
Lowrance HDS Live 12 12-inch touch screen display with quad-core processor (MSRP $2,999)
Lowrance Elite Ti2 12 12-inch touch screen display with built in CHIRP and Broadband Sounder (MSRP $1,849)
Raymarine Elements 12HV 12-inch non-touch display with quad-core processor featuring HyperVision with HV-100 transducer (apx $2,430)
Humminbird SOLIX 12 MEGA SI+ G2 12-inch display with touch screen interface (MSRP $3,099.99)

Knowing which transducer to purchase can be confusing. Several of the electronics manufactures offer all in one transducers or single purpose transducer. Additional sonar enhancing black box or module may also be available. 

Garmin LVS 32 Panoptix LiveScope with GLS 10 sonar black box is 135 degree (front to back) x 20 degree (left to right) ICAST 2018 “Best of Show”. (MSRP $1,499.99)
Garmin LVS 12 single-array LiveScope is both 30 degree (down) x 20 degree (left to right) x 30 degree (forward) x 20 degree (left to right) with no black box required compatible with Garmin’s(MSRP $499.99)
Lowrance LiveSight will have forward facing transducer and down viewing for the transom or bottom of trolling motor. All three brackets come in the box. ($999)

Often overlooked frequency settings can change the size of the area your unit is scanning. In traditional 2D sonar 83 kHz is a wider cone making it a better setting when searching for cover or crappie compared to 200 kHz. Similar 455 kHz is wider than the 800 kHz or 1.2 MHz (short range, High resolution). CHIRP (Compressed High Intensity Pulse) is a wide spectrum of sonar pulses producing sharp, accurate signals.

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