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Scott Brands
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6/24/2024 9:25:00 AM
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Forward Facing Sonar First Impressions

Blog by: Scott Brands , CO 3/29/2024
Over the past few years Forward Facing Sonar (FFS) has been all the rage. This piece of technology has been very divisive in the fishing community, especially in tournament circles with many tournaments being won by anglers utilizing it. I recently picked up a Garmin 93sv along with a Panoptix transducer and got into the game. Here are my first impressions of this style of fishing.

Before I used my FFS for the first time, I did a little bit of research on how to utilize the sonar. I learned how to adjust the settings to personalize it for my eyes, and I watched Bassmaster tournaments where they simultaneously show a split screen of the anglers fishing and their FFS screen. I also picked up a few lures that have been designed specifically for use with FFS including the Berkley Krej, Finisher, and hover rigs.

I launched my kayak and started panning around Carter Lake in search of trout and walleye. The first thing I noticed was that there were many fish roaming open water in the top few feet of the water column. The majority of these fish were likely trout based on their swimming behaviors. I got to work casting jerkbaits, kastmasters, and my newly acquired FFS specific baits. 
As it turned out, these fish were very difficult to catch. Once I would locate a fish on the sonar Iíd make a cast directly in its path. The majority of the time these fish would follow my lures but never actually commit. Eventually, I located a pod of 3 fish swimming together, I made a cast to them with my jerkbait, and hooked up with my first FFS fish. It was a 17Ē cutbow, and I felt like I had just achieved my first medal in a video game! 

I then spent the next few hours panning around with my livescope searching for fish to cast to. The pattern of locating fish, casting to them, and watching them follow the lure without committing was quite frustrating. I adjusted baits, colors, speed, etc but I could not get those fish to go. By the end of the day, I had landed a couple trout and a single walleye. It is hard to know how well I would have done without my FFS that day. All the fish were caught in areas one would normally fish even without the sonar (points and transition areas) so I could have reasonably done just as well without it.  

Since that first day on the water, Iíve gotten out a couple more times and am improving my utilization of FFS. I learned after my first trip out that I cannot simply rely on my sonar. I even got a headache after staring at my screen all day during that trip! The next time I got out, I made quicker adjustments to my presentations after once again seeing fish follow my lures without committing. To me that has been the biggest personal change in my angling approach. Instead of covering more water looking for active fish with a few key baits, I now find myself swapping presentations a lot more before moving areas. 

Before I got this technology for myself, I was on the fence about whether this was a good thing for fishing. Many people paint FFS as a way to automatically catch every fish that pops up on your screen. Iím here to tell you that itís not that easy. In my opinion this is just a new tool to use for fishing, and you cannot throw away all the other things youíve learned in your fishing journey thus far. Continue to use your brain in your pursuit of fish and add this as a tool to your arsenal if you so choose. Tight lines everyone!

Blog content © Scott Brands
Blog Comments
Coyute, 3/29/2024 1:17:29 PM
I like to say that fishing is a treasure hunt and not a heist. The more I embrace that attitude the more I enjoy my time on the water. To each their own I suppose. However, the times I did get to fish with adept anglers using FFS, it was more of a distraction than anything else.
Anteroman, 3/30/2024 7:02:57 AM
Most of my experience with sophisticated sonars has been on saltwater, the equipment available for seeing and tracking fish has over the past several years revolutionized saltwater tournaments. These units, the Furuno Omni in particular, have proven extremely successful in locating fish as well as bait. I personally purchased a side scanning Helix 5 several years ago for my pontoon, it didnít work as I had anticipated and I switched back to a non side scan unit, cheaper and better overall results. A regular fish buddy of mine i2 uses an older inexpensive unit that has a scan feature and I have watched him, many times over the years, targeting and catching fish that he is seeing on his unit. Obviously itís not 100% but it works quite well for him especially when heís using metal hooks. Bill
chodeman, 4/1/2024 8:57:38 PM
Great writing Scott. I have been using Panoptix going on 3 years now and here's my take. If you fish structure like rock piles or submerged trees for Bass or Crappie, it's lights out. Also jigging for kokes, it's a game changer. When fishing fish off the bottom like walleyes, I feel like down scan on my lowrance is more reliable and forget about trolling. As much as I've tried, down and side scan on the Lowrance is much more effective when trolling around. I do really like it when the Lakers are still in shallow cruising the flats. You can take a look around and see if any are in the area and as you get better using it you really get a good feel of the size of fish you are seeing. Now getting them to bite is still the challenge! On the ice in the winter it is a true game changer as well. Initially I thought it was going to be such a game changer that it could destroy fisheries, but now after using, it's just another tool in the toolbox. As much as it's nice to see that fish are around, you realize technic, skill, presentation and a lot of luck have a major impact in catching a fish. Enjoyed your article!!
i2fly, 4/3/2024 6:55:57 PM
I have Fishing buddy with side view. For fly fishing itís really effective. It has a scan range of 60í in all honesty I canít cast a nymph rig any further. Many times I have 4-6 fish in view. I look at the handle, it and the transducer are in line. I Just line up the angle and drop bugs right in their grille. I cast out to the best targets and slowly work my bugs back. Sometimes I twitch my flies after long pausesÖ boom bobber down. Itís always easier to fish when you know you have lookers in the immediate area. On our pontoons we donít really need sophisticated equipment. This method itís more like hunting. Because if youíre seeing fish on the scanner you stay more focused. These units are simple and lightweight It is awesome to use while fly fishing. I2