Advances in Sonar

Advances in Sonar: ‘Instant Fishing Feedback’ with New Garmin Tech
Lake Commandos host Steve Pennaz discusses real-world applications for Garmin Panoptix LiveVü Down

By Steve Pennaz
from The Fishing Wire

When Garmin introduced Panoptix a few years back, I viewed the potential of this new technology through the eyes of both an angler and a television producer.

Garmin calls Panoptix “all-seeing sonar” as it allows you to view what’s below and to the side of the boat in three dimensions and in real time.

What fascinated me about Panoptix was the opportunity to not only locate fish, but actually watch—and digitally capture—their reaction to a presentation like a swimming crankbait, jig or live bait beneath the boat.

For decades, anglers have been using traditional 2D sonar to vertically present baits to fish visible on their sonar screen. The difference is, and it’s huge, Panoptix allows you to do this not only in the vertical water column directly below the boat, but also to the front, side and rear!

I have used both Panoptic Forward and Panoptix Down for the past two years on a variety of waters while targeting largemouth, crappie, walleye, smallmouth and other species.

I’ll focus on Panoptix Down here and save the discussion on Panoptix Forward for a future date.

The Technology

Panoptix starts with Garmin’s Panoptix Down transducer, which delivers three views: LiveVü Down, RealVü 3D Historical and RealVü 3D Down, even when the boat is stationary.

LiveVü Down—Although I’ve been using all three Panoptix down-looking technologies, LiveVü Down is the game-changer I’m using on nearly every single fishing trip.

With a push of a button I can adjust the angle of sonar to look forward or back. This allows me to tweak view for boat movement and desired presentation.

With LiveVü Down I can not only tell when fish are beneath the boat, but how far they are off the bottom and even what side of the boat they are on! The practical value of this is incredible as it allows me to drop or pull baits directly in front of the fish… and then watch their reaction to it in real time.

The video clips provided show actual fish response to presentations as viewed on Panoptix.

RealVü 3D Historical scrolls through data as the boat moves to show a history of the entire water column, from the bottom to the surface and all of the fish in between. Bottom contours and fish pop in vivid color and three dimensions.

3D Historical views are incredibly detailed and I use to gain a true understanding of the structure I am fishing.

RealVü 3D Down digitally scans the area below the boat from front to back and side to side. A full 3D view of the area under the boat is constructed, showing bottom contour changes, fish and structure, even while stationary.

Value of Real-Time Viewing

I am not new to real-time viewing… it’s been part of the ice fishing scene for a couple decades now. But to have a system that works so well in open-water situations is a major improvement.

One of the biggest revelations with LiveVü Down has been learning about how active fish really are, and how far they will chase a bait.

After decades of watching static, half-moons scroll across a sonar screen, I had the impression fish basically stayed pretty motionless until moving to strike a bait. I was stunned to learn just how active fish often are. Schools seem to be in constant motion, especially if not tied to cover, and I witnessed a variety of species chase my bait 10 feet or even more.

Those that reject my presentation often rise quickly to the bait, then slam to a halt just below it. Some then slowly drift back to the bottom, while others scurry away as if spooked by the lure.

This feedback is valuable as it helps me quickly tweak jig strokes, and other things like speed and color more efficiently than ever before.

By species, here are some of the things I’ve learned.

Walleye Fishing

When it comes to walleye fishing, these machines have really changed the bottom-bouncing and live bait rigging game. When fish are located on the screen it tells you three things: 1) which side of the boat the fish are on; 2) distance of the fish from the boat; and, 3) location of fish relative to bottom.

When I or a fishing partner sees fish on screen while working structure, we say simply “left” or “right,” so we’re presenting two different baits to the fish.

It doesn’t matter if you are a weekend angler or a pro, this information is deadly effective. On numerous occasions I’ve had my fishing partners move their ‘bouncers or live bait rigs from one side of the boat to the other—then quickly hook up on fish.


Another great application for LiveVü Down is targeting suspended crappies or bluegills. Once located, what makes machines like this so powerful is the “instant fishing feedback.”

There is a noticeable difference between this technology and standard 2D sonar, which you quickly realize is slow by comparison and leaves out a lot of vital information.

In LiveVü Down, you actually see a real-time “trail” as the fish moves and reacts to your bait. Schools of crappies do not appear as Christmas tree-like forms; instead, you see each and every fish and can watch their individual movements in real-time.

A lot of times, several fish in the school will come up to your bait at the same time. I’ve always viewed fish as static, because when you go over them with traditional 2D Sonar, they’re always drawn with a half-moon arch. With this unit, I’m seeing fish do things I never imagined them doing. They’re chasing the bait, they’re coming way up… if you do something wrong they spook and slide back down.

By watching the fish react to presentations in real-time, you can tweak jigging cadence, bait style, size, color, depth, etc., as necessary. Sometimes simply changing colors makes a big difference. 


This summer, on a lake I fish often, I located several deep rock piles that often hold large schools of bass, as well as crappie, perch and walleye. On other lakes, I’ve located a bunch of big smallmouth by looking for larger boulders or fish cribs, and then fishing vertically on them.

Panoptix is so sensitive that I can see both my sinker and my bait when dropshotting. I can also tell you that very few things are more exciting than seeing a five-plus-pound smallmouth slide up to your bait, and then watch at least of a portion of the fight on screen as the fish bulldogs against a heavy drag!

I’ve noticed on several occasions that individual members of schools are often very active, while others are less likely to move any distance to take a bait. I’ve also found the “chasers” are typically smaller fish and by getting them to rise to the bait and then dropping it back to the school I catch larger fish on average.

One of the attached video clips shows this.

Parting Thoughts

No matter the species, the ‘instant fishing feedback’ that Garmin Panoptix LiveVü Down provides is a true gamechanger. It allows you to monitor fish response in real-time and quickly respond with changes in presentation. That’s translated to maximizing my time on the water… and a whole lot more fish.

Panoptix Forward and Down are currently compatible with Garmin’s GPSMAP 8000 Series, GPSMAP 7600 Series, GPSMAP 1040xs/840xs, GPSMAP 741xs, and echoMAP CHIRP Series. Each requires you to purchase specific transducer.

About Steve Pennaz

Steve Pennaz is a Hall of Fame angler who excels at finding and catching fish on new waters, a skill developed over 30 years of extensive travel in search of giant fish. His television series, Lake Commandos, Man vs. Lake vs. Man, helps anglers understand the steps to building successful patterns on the water.