July 21st, 2009  |   ( Leave a comment )

Basic Fish Finder Set-up, Settings and Tips

Setting up your fish finder correctly is not always as easy as it looks, especially the newer models with all the bells and whistles. If you set it up wrong you’ll be missing out on a lot of the features and accuracy that your fish finder has to offer. Here are some basic general tips on how to get the most from your fish finder. At the bottom I have included a couple videos that might also help you understand how to use your sonar equipment.

Read the Manual and do some Research
The first thing to remember is to read your owner’s manual. No really…..read and study the owner’s manual and take some notes if you need to. Make a list of the features and settings you want to experiment with. Do some online research to find some ticks and tricks. My goal here at TopFishFinders.com is to add lots and lots of detailed fish finder set-up and usage information to the site over time. And I’ll be asking fishing pros and other avid fishermen to add their 2 cents along the way (how about you?). The videos at the bottom of this post might help get you started. There are more on the way.

Practice with the Emulator
If you have a Lowrance or Eagle sonar unit they probably offer an emulator program that you can run on your home computer to explore and learn about all of the settings. Check out this post for more information and links – Fish Finder Training Emulators for Eagle Lowrance Setup Help.

On the Water Learning (no fishing!)
Once you’ve studied the manual and taken some notes, it’s time to get out on the lake and spend some time getting to know your new sonar equipment. I always hear people saying to leave your rods at home when you go to the lake for this type of learning trip. That’s a great idea if you can force yourself to do it. You don’t want to be tempted into fishing those sweet new spots you find (right?). Go to some spots on the lake that you know well (or think you do) and see how they look on your new fish finder graph. Take more notes when you are out in the boat and get that crazy thing figured out once and for all. You’ll be glad you did, and the hours or days you spend learning to use your new electronics will pay off for years to come. If you do it right you’ll also find some great new fishing spots to try next time (brush piles, rock piles, underwater timber, underwater points, humps, channels, underwater cities, etc.).

One on One Instruction (from a friend, professional fishing guide or instructor)
If you have a relative, a friend, a friend of a relative, a friend of a friend, or a friend of a friend of a friend (etc..) who owns the same fish finder, try to set up a trip to the lake with him or her in your boat. Have them show you the ropes and give you some one on one instruction. Some fishing guides also offer this type of instructional trip. They will take you out in their boat or yours and show you how to operate and understand your new fish finder. Going out in your own boat is best for this, because you get to do all the tuning yourself and the new settings are there waiting for you the next time you take out the boat. Take more notes!

Well, once you’ve done these things you should be pretty well set. I’ll be adding more in-depth settings information and advice in the coming months. For now, check out the videos below to get a high-level introduction to setting up a fish finder. I have more videos identified that will be great additions. I’ll post them soon.

Good luck!

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Video: How to use a Fish Finder

Here’s a very basic video on how to use a fish finder.

Video Highlights

  • 3:00 – Tuning: sensitivity, auto-depth, depth-cursor
  • 4:10 – How to tell the difference between underwater trees/timber and fish
  • 4:25 – What does a school of baitfish look like on a fish finder?


Video: Basic Settings on your Lowrance Unit

Here’s a good video from Wilson Frazier who is know as “The Professor” of Lowrance marine electronics. He coaches lots of pro fishermen and teaches them how to get the most out of their fish finder sonar equipment. I’ll be adding more video from Mr. Frazier soon.

Video Highlights

  • 0:19 – Why to use Auto Sensitivity (it causes the unit to throw stronger pings in deeper water so you get consistent detail)
  • 1:10 – What the Stop Chart setting does – it turns off the transducer. This could be the cause of mysterious problems with your unit if you accidentally hit the Stop Chart control
  • 2:00 – How to use the Depth Cursor – very useful for measuring the depth and height of underwater objects
  • 2:40 – How to add a waypoint to an object you have already passed – cursor back to the object on screen and mark the waypoint. This is great because you don’t have to waste time going back and forth searching for the object again.


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