I continue to be amazed at what my Garmin Panoptix shows while I am fishing. The Panoptix Livescope has a transducer that sends out sonar pulses and receives them back from three different angles at the same time. It then combines and interprets the resulting “pings” from objects the pulse hits as lights on a screen.
You can watch dots of lights indicating fish move on your screen. It shows how far from the boat they are, the angle they are at and how deep they are. Any stationary object shows as a solid light image that resembles the object. For example looking under a dock you can see the post, cross bars and any brush or fish under them.
The size and shape of the image give you a good idea of the size and shape of the fish out there. There is no doubt what a long, thin gar is when it is in the beam. Crappie, bluegill, bass and hybrids show similar images, but their position relative to the bottom, way they move and how they are positioned to each other give you a good idea what they are.
From what I have observed, a school of baitfish looks just like it does from above when near the surface. The small dots move and flash in sync with each other, and move around a lot without going anywhere.
Crappie usually hang in groups over or near cover like brush or pilings. You can see the individual fish as they slowly move within the school.
Hybrids stay up from the bottom, move around a lot and move fast. There are often a dozen or more fish in the school, and they are generally bigger than the crappie.
I target bass, and they can show up as different things. Often a single bright spot at the top of a brush pile or against a post under a dock is a bass. Sometimes a small school, six or so fish, move in unison, going up and down as they look for food.
We always thought bass moved in tight to cover when the water is muddy and are out from cover a little in clear water. I saw this proven the first couple of months I had my unit.
The first time I used it at Jackson, the water was clear and I saw what I was sure were bass suspended just over some brush I often fish. Another place with big rocks I could see the fish holding just above them and saw several stumps with fish on top of them, too.
A couple of weeks later a heavy rain had muddied the water. The same brush pile with fish just over it now had bright dots down in the brush. I know they were bass because I caught two by repeatedly casting a worm to the brush and slowly working it through the limbs.
The rock pile now showed bright dots right at the bottom tight to the rocks. Stumps showed the fish tight against them near the bottom.
The most worrisome thing was the fact I could see fish near the cover in clear water but they were slowly moving around like they were looking for something to eat. But when my boat got within about 30 feet of them, they sank down into the cover and became inactive. I just knew the fish knew I was there and would not hit. Maybe they picked up sounds from my boat, a shadow from it or some other reason that spooked them.
At Martin last week I was fishing a point and saw five or six dots slowly moving just off the bottom. They would swim up a couple of feet then go back down as a group, like they were searching for food.
When I casts a shaky head worm to them, knowing the angle and how far to cast from the picture, I watched my bait start to sink toward them. As has happened dozens of times, one came up to meet my bait.
Time after time I have seen a fish do this, follow the bait to the bottom and never hit it. Usually the bait separates from the fish and the fish follows it down.
But this time was different. The bait did not continue to sink, the fish dot and bait dot stayed together. I realized the fish had hit it and tightened up my line and set the hook, landing a 13-inch keeper spot.
I like watching my crankbait run through the water. The unit lets me know exactly how deep it is running. And I can see fish follow it, but so far have not seen one eat it.
Topwater baits skim across the top of the screen. I can watch a Zara Spook twitch back and forth and see the wake produced by a Whopper Flopper. And watch fish come up to them.
All this is very exciting but also very frustrating. I never realized how many fish are out there, they are everywhere. But getting them to hit is another story. Knowing a fish is sitting by a stump or in a brush pile will make me keep casting to it, sometimes wasting way too much time trying to make a fish eat that just will not.
But at times changing the size or color of a bait will make the fish hit. So at times it makes the difference between catching a fish and just blind casting.
Expensive electronics are not for everyone, and they definitely have good and bad points. But technology continues to improve, even if you don’t want to take advantage of it.