Setting Up Electronics with Tim Horton
By John Neporadny
I am just as guilty as most anglers about failing to read the novel-sized book that comes with an electronics unit.
When I get new electronics I want to immediately get out on the water and look for fish-holding structure and then start fishing the spots I find. If I have trouble with a certain feature I will check out the manual later to see how it works.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Tim Horton believes this is the biggest mistake anglers make when setting up their electronics. “Don’t let that big manual be intimidating to you,” says Horton. “You can actually get through it pretty quick. So take an hour or two hours to read the manual if you are going to spend that much money for a high-end depth finder.”
The Alabama pro suggests taking the manual with you on the water and learn the unit rather than go fishing. “As you are reading your manual, be right there with your unit so you can see how everything works,” Horton says. He recommends browsing through the various windows of the unit to see what each feature does.
Known for his off-shore tactics, Horton has relied heavily on his electronics to win or finish high in tournaments throughout his career. So Horton disregards the auto feature on his electronics and works with the manual settings to receive the most accurate readings from his units.
The most crucial feature to set manually is the unit’s sensitivity level. “The unit has to be adjusted depending on the lake you are at,” says Horton. “If you are going to a deep, clear lake you want to set your sensitivity up a little more. If you are fishing shallower or on a dirty water lake you are going to want to cut it down some because of all of the debris in the water that (the sonar) will pick up.”
On deep, rocky lakes, Horton usually sets his unit’s sensitivity level at about 70 percent, but he will lower the number if he sees too much clutter on the screen. “If you are on a deep lake when you start seeing a thermocline in the summertime you have the sensitivity about right,” he says.
The next feature Horton adjusts is the chart speed to determine the speed at which the sonar information moves across the display. “I like to put my chart speed down a little bit slower than what is standard,” says Horton, who sets his chart speed close to the halfway point.
The Elite Series competitor also adjusts the upper and lower levels of the depth range feature when fishing various bodies of water. “If we are at Table Rock and I know I will be spotted bass fishing in deep water I will eliminate from 0-10 and from 60 on down so that way I am only concentrating on a certain depth range,” he says. “One thing that is going to happen is when you have it on auto and it is jumping around in the depth ranges from a zoom to a zoom2 you are going to lose a little bit of what you are looking at. Plus (with the depth range set manually) you are going to get a feel for the fish you are looking at too. When it jumps up and zooms itself in, the fish are going to look bigger and when it sets itself out the fish are going to look smaller. But if I have it consistent at that same range all the time I know what I am looking for a little bit better.”
On his home waters of Pickwick Lake, Horton frequently fishes mid-depth levels (10 to 25 feet deep) so he sets his upper depth range at 10 feet and the lower range at 40. “Obviously the deeper the lake is the lower range is going to be bigger and the only time you need to set the upper range is in the summertime when you are fishing offshore,” advises Horton. In the shallow waters of Florida lakes, Horton cuts off the lower range at 20 since he rarely fishes deeper than 15 feet there.
The main side imaging feature Horton suggests setting manually is the side imaging range. “I like to keep mine anywhere between 40 to 60 (feet),” he says. “A lot of people put it on 100 and 120 but it is hard to get a grasp on seeing the fish and everything at that range.”
When setting up GPS for electronics at the trolling motor and the console, Horton suggests locating a satellite receiver puck near the bow of the boat. He notes that when turning to the left while running the trolling motor, the back of the boat will move slightly to the right and vice versa. “So if you are running the trolling motor and have the satellite receiver on the back and you are trying to use a waypoint as a buoy marker with your front electronics that won’t compensate correctly (when turning).”
Whether setting up the sonar or GPS features of your electronics, remember to take the manual out on the water with you and spend the time learning how the key features work before even attempting to wet a line.