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I have a 17 foot Bass Tracker with a ~ 2004 fish finder mounted on the console that I can flip around and also read from the bow while I fish. I would like to up my game and get one of the new side/down imaging sonar things they have now.

Do any of you have suggestions for devices and configurations that would be a worthwhile improvement for $500 or less including installation?

Thanks in advance!
 

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I had the HB Helix-5 SI for a couple years, its a really great FF w/SI and GPS for $500. I did a ton of research and this was the most bang for the buck for entry level SI with GPS. Its as good as any $1000 unit but with a smaller screen. I used it exactly like you do, on the console with a swivel mount. Save your money and install yourself, just follow the wires on your boat and replace them with what comes in the box. For example, tie bailing string to the end of your old transducer cable before you pull it through. Then use that string to pull your new transducer cable through. You could buy a trolling motor mount for the old transducer and throw that old FF on the bow.
 

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Awesome information. Thank you Matt. And would you say it was a significant improvement (as far as fishing/catching ratio) over just the old 'fish-finder'?
 

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Side Imaging is probably the biggest leap in sonar technologies that will help you find offshore structure. Going from traditional sonar to down imaging helps a bit, going from side imaging to 360 imaging helps a bit, going from 360 to the new Panoptix deal is pretty helpful... but the biggest jump is from down imaging to side imaging. You can suddenly cover way more water in a much shorter period of time and get a much clearer image of what is really down there. If you get it though, make sure to put in the time studying it and how to operate it properly. I know a lot of guys who buy them, spend about 30 minutes trying to learn it, and then never look at it again. If you put in the time to learn how to use it effectively, it will "up your game" BIG TIME.
 

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Again - thanks for the great advice! Question - if the transducer is at the back of the boat, what am I getting a 'side-image' of? Like if I'm parallel to the shore is it showing me what's under and to the side of the back of the boat between the boat and the shore? What about being around a point?
 

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Ill second what Ander had to say although I don't know about them new fancy 360 and panoptix thingys. I started with a little elite 4 on my kayak that had DI. Paired with the sonar, it was great. I picked up a power boat a few months ago with a hds5 gen 1 up front so I stuck with lowrance and added a hds7 gen1 on the console, lss1 and linked them. Its 6 year old technology at this point, but from gen1-3 and lss1-2 they have not changed much. Being able to scan an entire cove in one pass rather than zig zagging all over it is huge.

That being said, it isn't like it gives you a VR headset and lets you virtually walk around the lake floor looking for fish (that's probably be here within 5 years though). Being able to (1)configure everything so it works properly to get good images (2)take what you see on the screen and visualize and place where things are in the water takes the same type of skill as with your old sonar. So, if you don't really do much of that now and just use it for general depth/temp, you probably wont do that with side scan either.

As far as the actual units, I am the type of person that prefers top of the line used things for the same price as new low end things. I can talk lowrance on the HDS units and the elite, but don't know much about hummingbird or garmin. The boat I picked up had a gen1 and some basic wiring, so adding hds7 and being able to link them was my choice. Keep in mind those damn proprietary cables are expensive. $30 for a power cord, $70 for two for lowrance Ethernet cables, $70 for ram mount in addition to the bare unit cost. If this guy pulls all the wires, this would make a good package -Gen 1 package, especially with the puck and nmea wiring. Dual units are nice, but linking them is a must for me. They can share map cards, waypoints, transducers etc. I don't believe you can link the lower end units.

Ill also second installing it yourself especially if you are straight up replacing an existing that was done right the first time. Like MattATX said, just attach you new cables to the old ones when you are pulling them out. Running new wires is typically the difficult part especially on an older boat.
 
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