A week ago last Thursday, after two frustrating days of running wires, hooking them up and screwing brackets on my boat, I got my Garmin Panoptix Livescope unit hooked up. Part of the frustration was with the installation instructions with the unit. I kept having to stop and watch videos to try to figure out what to do.
I thought maybe the confusion was just me, but several of the folks showing how to do it in the videos said they agreed, the instructions were terrible.
Even though that Friday was rainy and cold, I just had to go to Jackson and see if I had it hooked up right and how it worked. Although I had watched the system in action on Brent Crow’s boat, he has been using the Panoptix for three years and knows what he is doing. I was afraid the unit set-up would be as confusing as the installation, but it was very user friendly and simple.
After launching the boat I idled to a point, turned on the unit and dropped the trolling motor with the transducer on it in the water. Instantly I watch a school of fish slowly move across the bottom under a school of baitfish. It was amazing.
I eased around with the trolling motor for about three hours, looking at brush piles, rocky points and fish. It took some time to get used to the very different view on the Panoptix than what I usually see on my other units. But it quickly became apparent what I was seeing.
I made a few casts and watched my bait in the water. A crankbait left a line as it wiggled back to the boat. I could tell exactly how deep it was running. A jig arched to the bottom then left lines as I jerked it up and let it fall back.
A couple of times I could see my jig going through groups of fish that I assumed were bass, based on their position. But they would not hit it. In and around brush I could see groups of fish suspended and guessed they were crappie, based on their size and position.
Last Saturday in the Potato Creek Tournament I got to use the system for eight intense hours of hard fishing. The system preformed as advertised and expected. I learned a lot.
The main thing I liked was that I could see fish and know my casts were in the right place. When fishing without the unit, I often wonder if I am casting to empty water or to places with fish but ones that won’t bite. Now I know.
It was very frustrating to see fish, know my bait was in front of them but still not get a bite. It did make me change baits often, trying to offer the bass something they would bite. It also worried me that many fish, as the boat approached within about 30 feet, would sink down into cover and become inactive. That told me the importance or long casts.
I did not do well in the tournament, catching only three small bass and placing ninth out of 17 fishermen. But I am not sure I would have caught those three without the Garmin.
The first two hit in some deep brush that I have fished for years. But normally I would fish there with a couple of different baits then move on if I didn’t get a bite. Seeing fish there made me try different things and stay longer.
I caught one on a jigging spoon and one on a swimbait. Normally I would fish the spoon but not the swimbait since it gets hung in brush so much. But with the Garmin I could cast and watch the bait, keeping it just above the brush, and not get hung.
The first cast I made I saw a fish hit the swimbait as it fell and got excited when I felt a fish on it, but it turned out to be a 1.5 pound crappie, a nice fish but no help in the tournament. A couple of casts later I caught my second keeper on the swimbait.
After trying several places and not seeing fish, I worked down a bank. As I passed a dock I saw a brushpile in front of it that I did not know was there, and it looked like fish were in it. That made me cast to it repeatedly rather than just making one or two cast as I usually do to brush. Several casts to it produced my third keeper at about 10:00 AM.
The rest of the day I watched fish ignore my baits, no matter what I tried. That was very frustrating but based on the tournament results and what folks said, everybody had trouble getting bites.
Maybe if I had just left the Garmin turned off and fished the way I usually fish I would have done better. Or maybe I would not have caught a single fish. Tournament fishing is like that.
I am amazed at the Panoptix and how it works. I think it is the electronics of the future for bass fishing and expect to see more and more of them on bass boats.