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Inexpensive Side Imaging Fish Finder For Float Tubing? - Please Help!

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My son has recently become quite the avid bass fisherman and has just started float tubing. I'd like to buy him a relatively inexpensive fish finder for Christmas to mount on his tube. Since he likes to float out on local lakes and cast back toward shore, I'm thinking a finder with side scanning capability is the way to go. I've looked into a few Humminbird models, but the only ones that I see in my price range ($100 to $225) appear to be discontinued (Fishin' Buddy 140c).

Does anyone have a suggestion for a good side scan model in my price range that will work well mounted on a float tube? Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!

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They don't exist. The cheapest side scan unit is the helix 5 si. I wonder how possible it would be to use side scanning on a float tube as your legs would probably get in the way of the beam for one side of the image.

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Thanks for the replies guys. I guess I'm starting to get the picture. If I've done my math right, dual frequency downward scanners are going to get you about a 60 degree scan cone. This means an 11.5 foot diameter cone at a depth of 10 feet, a 23 foot diameter cone at 20 feet, 34.6 diameter cone at 30 feet, etc. Not very useful information from a float tube unless you're planning on bottom fishing directly beneath your tube.

It appears that side scanning units (as you have both pointed out) are well beyond my price point.

I'm still curious about the older "Fishin' Buddy Sidefinder" units that I've seen on auction sites and whether or not there's anything special about them. Are they really side scanning? What's their cone detection angle? Are the single frequency?

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Welcome to the site.

 

Check craigslist or some other classifieds for a used unit. I just replaced the SI transducer for my Humminbird and it was $150 alone. 

 

The Humminbird PiranhaMAX and Lowrance Elite-4 series both have units within your price range, and some are pretty feature rich. 

 

Some unsolicited advice. Get the largest screen you can afford (large as in actual size and screen resolution,) and get a color unit. GPS is also really nice to have. These things are worth more to me than my side imaging. I have side imaging on my boat and I don't use it nearly as much as one might imagine, same with the down imaging. It's nice for when I'm idling around and trying to survey a large area, but relatively useless when I'm fishing. Typically when I fish I will use 2D sonar and GPS/map.  

 

edit:

 

The Side Finders do not have true side imaging. They do however have the capability to see between your boat and the shore. It is not displayed the same way as a SI fishfinder though. You can probably find them used pretty easily. They were originally manufactured by "Bottom Line" which was acquired by Humminbird, and searching for a Bottom Line model will probably broaden your results.

 

Having sonar might not be too important if you're just beating the bank, but it could open up new waters that your son doesn't currently fish (e.g. offshore structure, points, etc.) 

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Thanks so much for your in-depth responses Snakehead Whisperer! I had tried to find a manual for the Bottomline SF without success, so that was extremely helpful. Looks like the Bottomline unit does indeed do what I was looking for - detecting fish between bot and shore. Given that fact, an old unit may be a workable option. I am a bit concerned about things like the age of the unit (I don't know how old they are) and their reliability. Obviously there would be no warranty. I don't mean to put you on the spot, but given my intended use (float tube) would you go with an older Bottom Line unit or would you opt for a new Piranhamax color or Lawrence Elite-4? No pressure, and no blame-game later. I'm just trying to decide what would be best for my son.

Thanks a ton,

Steve

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Thanks so much for your in-depth responses Snakehead Whisperer! I had tried to find a manual for the Bottomline SF without success, so that was extremely helpful. Looks like the Bottomline unit does indeed do what I was looking for - detecting fish between bot and shore. Given that fact, an old unit may be a workable option. I am a bit concerned about things like the age of the unit (I don't know how old they are) and their reliability. Obviously there would be no warranty. I don't mean to put you on the spot, but given my intended use (float tube) would you go with an older Bottom Line unit or would you opt for a new Piranhamax color or Lawrence Elite-4? No pressure, and no blame-game later. I'm just trying to decide what would be best for my son.

Thanks a ton,

Steve

Did you give up on seeing sideways? The PiranhaMax and Elite 4 cannot do that.

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Thanks so much for your in-depth responses Snakehead Whisperer! I had tried to find a manual for the Bottomline SF without success, so that was extremely helpful. Looks like the Bottomline unit does indeed do what I was looking for - detecting fish between bot and shore. Given that fact, an old unit may be a workable option. I am a bit concerned about things like the age of the unit (I don't know how old they are) and their reliability. Obviously there would be no warranty. I don't mean to put you on the spot, but given my intended use (float tube) would you go with an older Bottom Line unit or would you opt for a new Piranhamax color or Lawrence Elite-4? No pressure, and no blame-game later. I'm just trying to decide what would be best for my son.

Thanks a ton,

Steve

Steve,

 

Those older Bottom Line units are built like tanks. If you find one in working condition it will most likely continue to do so for many years to come. 

 

While seeing between the tube and shore is cool, I can't express enough the advancements made in traditional 2D sonar in the last 10 years. I use Humminbirds on my boat, but if I were going with one of the lower price models the Lowrance seems like a better value. I did have a PiranhaMAX 150 on my old jon boat, and it was a good fish finder. Once I got it dialed in it was very accurate, albeit in grayscale. 

 

My guess is that you will most likely not see as many fish between the tube and the shore as you'd expect. A reliable 2D sonar will reveal new water that was previously a crap shoot to fish, with pinpoint accuracy. Once learning to use it, your son will be able to eliminate unproductive water and fish the other direction (away from the bank.) Just a thought. If it were me, I'd probably get one of the Lowrance Elite-4 units and a small deep cycle 12v lantern battery for it (should run all day with ease.) 

 

I sent you a PM with a link to a really good unit at a really good price. 

 

-Andrew

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Did you give up on seeing sideways? The PiranhaMax and Elite 4 cannot do that.

 

No, I haven't given up completely on side scan, but I think based on my price point I'm pretty much out of that market. I'm thinking that with 10+ year technology lag of the old Bottom Line models, it probably makes sense to stick with a more modern downward scanning model in my price range.

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Steve,

 

Those older Bottom Line units are built like tanks. If you find one in working condition it will most likely continue to do so for many years to come. 

 

While seeing between the tube and shore is cool, I can't express enough the advancements made in traditional 2D sonar in the last 10 years. I use Humminbirds on my boat, but if I were going with one of the lower price models the Lowrance seems like a better value. I did have a PiranhaMAX 150 on my old jon boat, and it was a good fish finder. Once I got it dialed in it was very accurate, albeit in grayscale. 

 

My guess is that you will most likely not see as many fish between the tube and the shore as you'd expect. A reliable 2D sonar will reveal new water that was previously a crap shoot to fish, with pinpoint accuracy. Once learning to use it, your son will be able to eliminate unproductive water and fish the other direction (away from the bank.) Just a thought. If it were me, I'd probably get one of the Lowrance Elite-4 units and a small deep cycle 12v lantern battery for it (should run all day with ease.) 

 

I sent you a PM with a link to a really good unit at a really good price. 

 

-Andrew

 

Thanks again for your help Andrew. I would have gone with the unit you linked, but as per my PM, my mobile phone and the West Marine website didn't play nice together and I couldn't get an order off in time. That'll be "the one that got away". Ouch.

 

Still Lookin' !

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I assume you're not a fisherman yourself and it's your son who is? The idea of the side finder in the bottomline units sounds appealing to a non angler as they imagine it will reveal where to cast and make the fishing easier, but in reality they were cheap units aimed at occasional anglers and the advertised technology wasn't that useful. If you aim a normal transducer sideways, rather than down you'd get similar results.

 

Getting a standard modern inexpensive unit, like one of those suggested above, will be far more useful for your son really. That's the same technology that every pro and every charter captain use every day on the water, just in a smaller package. Sonar is great at telling you about the structure you're fishing over and will often spot fish for you, especially in deeper water, but in shallow water you're less likely to see fish, or need to see fish as you're fishing visible structure most of the time, so the value of sonar is lower anyway.

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I've been using a Lowrance 2D color unit from my float tube and it's very helpful -even in shallow water. I can tell depth changes, bottom composition, vegetation edges and types, and even spot fish. The narrow cone angle at the depths I'm fishing (under 12ft mostly) may not be ideal but I can sure see and gain a heck of a lot more info in a short amount of time than I could without it.

 

Here are some previous fishing reports that show my use of 2D sonar in shallow water. They might be inspiration for your son:

 

http://www.bassresource.com/bass-fishing-forums/topic/69812-more-mapping/

 

http://www.bassresource.com/bass-fishing-forums/topic/69619-some-more-fishing-crankin%C2%92-and-finessin%C2%92/

 

http://www.bassresource.com/bass-fishing-forums/topic/70481-peri-spawn-blues-and-grays/

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I think the fishing buddy is the way to go . they're very portable and use AA batteries , they doc come up for sale on C/L for short money as someone mentioned earlier  ,, Good luck

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I've been using a Lowrance 2D color unit from my float tube and it's very helpful -even in shallow water. I can tell depth changes, bottom composition, vegetation edges and types, and even spot fish. The narrow cone angle at the depths I'm fishing (under 12ft mostly) may not be ideal but I can sure see and gain a heck of a lot more info in a short amount of time than I could without it.

 

Here are some previous fishing reports that show my use of 2D sonar in shallow water. They might be inspiration for your son:

 

http://www.bassresource.com/bass-fishing-forums/topic/69812-more-mapping/

 

http://www.bassresource.com/bass-fishing-forums/topic/69619-some-more-fishing-crankin%C2%92-and-finessin%C2%92/

 

http://www.bassresource.com/bass-fishing-forums/topic/70481-peri-spawn-blues-and-grays/

 

Those posts are Classics filled with Gold Nuggets of solid information Paul ~

 

Classics.

 

Site needs more of that.

 

:) 

 

A-Jay

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