My first recorder/depth finder was an old school flasher that I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the mark, but could read how deep the water was—and that was it. No GPS, loran, plotter, radar, nothing, just how deep the water was. Later, we had paper machines that worked wonderful! When you get to the end of the roll of paper, take it out, flip it over, and mark on the other side of the roll (of paper). It was big as a bread box, 20-lbs., and worth it’s weight in grouper on any given day, because it marked perfectly. It told us the difference between triggers and beeliners, bait and pinkies, and most of all, showed us grouper!
And now we have electronics that will do everything under the sun,if you have time to devote to a serious electronics crash course. Me, I’m pretty simple—all I want is a recorder that tells me where I am (exactly), a true reading of the bottom (and all the critters between me and the bottom), and a temp gauge that works, every time. Satellite weather and telephones are just the bomb, but shear cost keeps sat phones and weather out of reach of the average angler.
I still love the Loran/GPS/recorder that set the gauge block for all others to follow the North Star, however, I fitted my center console with a more reasonably priced Garmin 4200 (www.garmin.com) last time for two reasons: 1) cost, and 2) ease of operation. No one ever accused me of being an electronics wizard, but I can dang sure find my way to grouper and then back to the inlet every time with a few clicks of the cursor. Raytheon (www.raytheon.com)ß has made it easier to operate their units over the past few years, and great units to boot for the dollars spent. Even though I have the sweet 4200, I still refer to old faithful—my old GP30 Furuno (www.furuno.com) from time to time. This was the machine that brought me home with a bloody boat for many years, and still works perfectly this day! This is also one of the only units out there that will accurately convert my old loran numbers to GPS. You have to know the offsets for your area of the coast, but once you get that figured out, it does a nice job.
Bottom line: whatever unit you choose to install, make sure you know what it is marking, because there is a huge difference between anchoring on a school of bait, or sitting on a stack of fish. Usually these two go hand in hand, but it makes all the difference in the world to know what you are anchoring on top of, or trolling over! The only way you can achieve this is practice, practice, practice. Go out on some recon missions, and If you are marking what you think is a school of bait (by size, shape and/or depth), drop in a sabiki to verify. If you think you are over a stack of beeliners, drop in a beeliner tackle to verify. triggers, grouper, etc. Don’t be afraid to adjust the gain to make it read properly for you.
Whatever you decide on for a GPS/recorder, do some homework, and go with someone who owns one of these units, get their input, and run it for yourself before you buy. This is possibly the most important piece of equipment on the boat, so learn to trust it to tell what you need to know.
Not only do you need to be able to find bottom fish, but you have to have the tackle that is up to the job. Grouper season is now open, so make your minutes count. There is no coincidence about this…the anglers that fish for grouper come home with grouper, and the anglers that fish for anything that bites with cut bait come home with a cooler full of grunts, pinkies, beeliners, sea bass etc., arm yourself with the electronics, knowledge and tackle to accomplish the job. Check us out on line.
All the best fishing,
Capt. Tim Barefoot