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First Impressions: Autopilot 120 and Livescope


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  • Super User

Well, the cosmic tumblers finally all fell into place with the final touches on my Livescope installation and decent weather and I got to spend the better part of the day on the lake this weekend. The weather was partly sunny, winds 12-16mph, water temperature 61 - 63, and the lake is still heavily stained with only 1"-2" of visibility. All Livescope settings were at the factory default, so that meant many settings were on AUTO..

 

The one thing I have always heard people say when they first use FFS is that you won't believe how many fish are all over the place. In my case, that wasn't true at all. I saw a lot of small fish under my dock as I was setting up, but not a lot in open water and many other areas that I fished.

 

That being said, it is pretty cool when you see them. But you see them mainly when the fish is in profile. When they turn towards you or away from you they tend to disappear. I fished a few points but mainly tried fishing laydowns, seawalls, and backs of creeks. But there was a ton of boat traffic and a lot of wind, so it was hard to really scan the brush piles and laydowns. Even with spot lock, the ever changing wind had me spinning around. It seemed like everywhere I wanted to set up spot lock had me spun the other way. I need to get better at boat positioning with spot lock.

 

What complicates things is my FFS transducer is on a Fishing Specialties pole. So when the wind or wake starts to spin the kayak I need to reach out and reposition the transducer by rotating the pole. And because the rails on the Autopilots are far away when the seat is on the raised position I ended up having to reach and stretch a lot to position the FFS.

 

I also spent a lot of time looking at the screen when I probably should have been casting. I did far less casting than I would have without FFS. Truth be told, I also spent a lot of time just trying to find a quiet place to fish. There were a lot of boats out there and all of my favorite spots were occupied, so I fished areas that I normally wouldn't fish.

 

On that first day I was out there about three hours and caught just one bass. And wouldn't you know it, it was not because of FFS. I casted behind a dock as I passed it and the FFS was on an angle facing forward and towards the sea wall.

 

On the second day there weren't many boats and winds were down to 8-12 mph. But a storm was moving in so I stayed close to home. On this quick trip I played around with the gain settings and TVA, and took some settings off of auto. My goal was to use the FFS and fish docks, but I found it difficult to do that with the wind pushing me around. I did see one big bass under a dock with FFS as I was passing, but by the time I swung around I had lost sight of it. It was big enough and the FFS return was clear enough to see it was a bass and not just a blob on the screen.

 

I love to skip a bait under docks and I'm pretty decent with that on a boat. But it's hard for me to do that while sitting in a kayak. I need tp practice that or get enough confidence to stand when it's windy out.

 

As it turns out, a lot of those blobs on the screen are crappie. Passing between two docks I saw a bunch of blobs and started casting. I tried a few different baits and finally they started hitting on a crankbait. It was fun catching 3 or 4 of them, but I kept having to either circle back to gain position or grab the i-Pilot remote to go in reverse, speed up, or slow down as the wind pushed me around. Again, spot lock was ineffective as every time the wind changed it would spin me around.

 

I motored around and it turned out to be a Crappie on a Crankbait Day and I caught no bass. But I caught some fish and it was fun.

 

So, what did I learn?

 

  • I need to watch some videos and spend some time out there dialing in my settings
  • FFS is pretty darn cool, but it's going to take some time to really get the most out of it. It's not quite plug and play.
  • FFS probably works best for suspended fish and not moving targets. That's also why Elite Series anglers use multiple FFS units so they can see more area without having to keep repositioning the transducer.

 

But the number one thing that I learned is that in order to get the most out of FFS on a kayak is that I need to add a Power Pole system or at the very least a stake out pole so I can sit in one spot to pick apart a dock, laydown, or brush pile. With a boat you have your foot controls and it becomes second nature to hold relative position with the trolling motor and fish at the same time. But with the Autopilot it's not very efficient to have to try and use the handheld control unit and fish unless you're not fishing or letting your bait float or sink to the bottom.

 

I definitely don't regret the purchase. But I need to find a way to mount the pole closer to my seat and I need to be able to lock myself down with a Power Pole or stake out pole. I don't think I want to be tossing anchors in the water and hauling them back up. My kayak is already getting pretty crowded for space.

 

One more thing - in a previous afternoon test my 18Ah Lifepo didn't cut it running my Livescope system. Since I already had two 100Ah Lifepo batteries I could not see the point in purchasing a 50Ah battery for my electronics and because I run long distances and the potential for interference I did not want to run everything off of my trolling motor battery. So I put the second 100Ah battery in a battery box and put that in the tank well and run my electronics and lighting off of that. And in an emergency, it the trolling motor battery fails or I run it down I can use that second battery to get back to the launch.

 

 

 

 

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  • Super User

Yeah, that’s about it. 
 

before you go too deep, wait for a calm day to dial in settings. A moving boat, moving fish, spotlock, and waves make it tough to know what’s real or not. Get a calm day, find some crappie, and sit with a spinning rod and a 2” jig. Get that dialed in so you know your settings. 
 

I have found my own method for using spotlock and ffs. Once I find what I’m casting at on the screen, as I cast I lock in that spot in my brain. Then if the boat moves I bump the fishing specialties handle to keep it on there. It’s a bit of a faff, but it’s the best I’ve found.  Keep in mind a powerpole will still spin the boat with wind. 

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I have the pdl version of your kayak and have been contemplating adding ffs. I'm looking forward to your future reports on how it's working out for you... best of luck getting the system dialed in!

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12 hours ago, Koz said:

I love to skip a bait under docks and I'm pretty decent with that on a boat. But it's hard for me to do that while sitting in a kayak. I need tp practice that or get enough confidence to stand when it's windy out.

 

I could see that being an issue.  I do it in my bass boat and even that took some practice and experience to master.  If I tried doing it sitting down in a kayak, it would be a train wreck.  It's just simple physics.

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Great write up.  Congratulations,  you’ve moved from the mythical world of FFS to the real world.   It’s not just see, cast, catch.  It’s a game changer and you’re in your rookie season of the new game.  The new game is a lot of fun but it’s not easy.  I’m two years in and I’m still not as good at the new game as I was at the old one.  I agree with @casts_by_fly that targeting crappie is a great way to learn and get dialed it. 

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My guess is that you had a somewhat unique day in terms of a swirling wind. Most days it’s for the most part one direction and spot-lock holds pretty true. That’s why I really like the Fishing Specialties set up so that on days when the wind switches direction, I don’t have the transducer affixed to my trolling motor like on my bass boat… it’s hard to hold position and pan the area for fish when it’s on the TM. If/when I go back to a traditional boat, I will definitely get some kind of a pole set up like my kayak. It’s been a good learning. 
 

I agree with casts_by_fly… try to pick a calm day to go out and play with your settings. Time on the water heals many issues. Also btw, in general I see less fish overall on ‘scope in the Spring until it warms up enough and they really

move around, but pods of baitfish can be just as fruitful as schools of game fish. Follow the bait 👍

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1 hour ago, FryDog62 said:

My guess is that you had a somewhat unique day in terms of a swirling wind. Most days it’s for the most part one direction and spot-lock holds pretty true. That’s why I really like the Fishing Specialties set up so that on days when the wind switches direction, I don’t have the transducer affixed to my trolling motor like on my bass boat… it’s hard to hold position and pan the area for fish when it’s on the TM. If/when I go back to a traditional boat, I will definitely get some kind of a pole set up like my kayak. It’s been a good learning. 
 

I agree with casts_by_fly… try to pick a calm day to go out and play with your settings. Time on the water heals many issues. Also btw, in general I see less fish overall on ‘scope in the Spring until it warms up enough and they really

move around, but pods of baitfish can be just as fruitful as schools of game fish. Follow the bait 👍

I do like the Fishing Specialties unit, it’s just that it’s too far away because of where the tracks are on the AP. If I can find a way to mount it closer it will help things out a lot.

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Today was a calm day with nice weather so I took the day off and hit the lake for some more FFS adventure. My plan was to fish shallow water today, specifically the backs of creek channels and timber, and made a 2-mile run to my first spot.

 

I saw a lot of small fish and what looked like schools of crappie (blobs on FFS) but no joy at that first spot. But when I got to my second spot the FFS showed the telltale shape of bass and baitfish in the area.

 

I hit the spot lock and tossed a spinnerbait for a dozen casts with no luck. So I switched over to spinning gear and a fluke, used FFS to target the fish and ended up catching three small bass. This gave me an opportunity to correlate the size of the images on my display for the given distance with the actual size of the fish. So that was a good learning experience.

 

Earlier in the week I had watched a video on suggested FFS settings and wouldn't you know it, I forgot to bring those notes today. But I did play with the settings a bit.

 

One thing I noticed is that sometimes the display looks great, and all of a sudden I'll get a hard return on the bottom and everything gets very bright for a while, then settles back down. I don't know what that is.

 

I did move my Fishing Specialties pole closer today by putting it in front of my DIY console mount. That put the head unit right up against the lip of the motor, but it worked.

 

Heading back I ran some docks and a few points, but all I saw were baitfish and smaller fish. I have no idea where the big girls are hiding. I also saw nothing in deeper water as I was moving to and from home. With the heavy sediment we have, they may have been holding tight to cover and I just didn't see them because I don't have the experience and I did not try and sit there and study to see if anything was hiding in the timber.

 

This is why I am considering at least a stake out pole for now and maybe power poles later. You really have to sit and look at a spot so you get a profile view of the fish to target it. If a fish is head on, it's there on the screen and kind of fades away. Maybe I need a closer fixed distance to see them better head on.

 

Anyway, I found bass to target, but there's still a pretty big learning curve. It's not quite video game fishing.

 

 

 

 

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24 minutes ago, Koz said:

One thing I noticed is that sometimes the display looks great, and all of a sudden I'll get a hard return on the bottom and everything gets very bright for a while, then settles back down. I don't know what that is.

 

Obviously without seeing it, but if you're in halfway shallow water (say <15') and keeping your gain set at a constant setting, when the beams hit a hard bottom area, they reflect much more/harder and it tends to wash out/blow out the screen until you move on to softer bottom. Basically when it happens, just need to dial back the gain setting until things clear a bit, then bump back up once you're past the area. It happens in deep water too, but not near as bad unless you're gain is really cranked. 

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2 hours ago, Koz said:

Today was a calm day with nice weather so I took the day off and hit the lake for some more FFS adventure. My plan was to fish shallow water today, specifically the backs of creek channels and timber, and made a 2-mile run to my first spot.

 

I saw a lot of small fish and what looked like schools of crappie (blobs on FFS) but no joy at that first spot. But when I got to my second spot the FFS showed the telltale shape of bass and baitfish in the area.

 

I hit the spot lock and tossed a spinnerbait for a dozen casts with no luck. So I switched over to spinning gear and a fluke, used FFS to target the fish and ended up catching three small bass. This gave me an opportunity to correlate the size of the images on my display for the given distance with the actual size of the fish. So that was a good learning experience.

 

Earlier in the week I had watched a video on suggested FFS settings and wouldn't you know it, I forgot to bring those notes today. But I did play with the settings a bit.

 

One thing I noticed is that sometimes the display looks great, and all of a sudden I'll get a hard return on the bottom and everything gets very bright for a while, then settles back down. I don't know what that is.

 

I did move my Fishing Specialties pole closer today by putting it in front of my DIY console mount. That put the head unit right up against the lip of the motor, but it worked.

 

Heading back I ran some docks and a few points, but all I saw were baitfish and smaller fish. I have no idea where the big girls are hiding. I also saw nothing in deeper water as I was moving to and from home. With the heavy sediment we have, they may have been holding tight to cover and I just didn't see them because I don't have the experience and I did not try and sit there and study to see if anything was hiding in the timber.

 

This is why I am considering at least a stake out pole for now and maybe power poles later. You really have to sit and look at a spot so you get a profile view of the fish to target it. If a fish is head on, it's there on the screen and kind of fades away. Maybe I need a closer fixed distance to see them better head on.

 

Anyway, I found bass to target, but there's still a pretty big learning curve. It's not quite video game fishing.

 

I don't have FFS on my kayak yet but have been out on a couple boats that have it and I have seen two approaches.  One was a guy looking and chasing fish. We didn't catch a lot using this method.  Next was a guy that new what structure to look for. He would find brush a pile or a pile of rocks, cast towards them and out of nowhere the fish would come out. The key for him was patience and sometimes multiple casts with a bait just sitting in front of the fishes face. This is were the video game fishing comes in. You just sit, watch for the fish to move and then move our twitch your bait.

 

Again, I'm no expert but it is a weird way to fish. 

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14 hours ago, FishTank said:

 

I don't have FFS on my kayak yet but have been out on a couple boats that have it and I have seen two approaches.  One was a guy looking and chasing fish. We didn't catch a lot using this method.  Next was a guy that new what structure to look for. He would find brush a pile or a pile of rocks, cast towards them and out of nowhere the fish would come out. The key for him was patience and sometimes multiple casts with a bait just sitting in front of the fishes face. This is were the video game fishing comes in. You just sit, watch for the fish to move and then move our twitch your bait.

 

Again, I'm no expert but it is a weird way to fish. 

That’s always the dilemma with fishing from a boat. Do you try and pick an area apart or do you run and gun?

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1 hour ago, Koz said:

That’s always the dilemma with fishing from a boat. Do you try and pick an area apart or do you run and gun?

 

The guy I was fishing with was older (maybe 75). He knew what to look for and he had probably fished this lake since the water was poured.  He had specific way points already set in his graph that we were targeting.  He would fan those areas. Then, at this point for once,  I was the guy that got technologically lost. He would point and tell me where to cast. 

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Hi Koz,

     One of the things I do with my settings is changing the distance forward and depth. I do it to best match what I am throwing and the distance I want to cast. That way I get the best return to be able to see my bait. I don't do much sweeping (turning the transducer) as I do turning the kayak so I know where the beam in in relation to the bow of the kayak. Not sure if that helps or not. I can see where having the trolling motor head underneath the kayak can make it challenging.

FM

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