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Using Sonar for River Fishing

with Brandon Palaniuk

Brandon Palaniuk

I run Humminbird’s Solix 12 depth finders. I have four of these units on my boat. When you’re fishing rivers, the water level can be high one day and low the next. So Humminbird paired up with LakeMaster Mapping to put a feature in their units called “Water Level Offset” that allows you to adjust your unit to the water levels of the day. When you set the water level for that day, the unit readjusts the bottom contour lines. In other words, when a river goes up, that drop-off at 8 feet now may be at 9-10 feet when the water level is 2 feet higher. But on the next day, if the water level drops 4 feet, that drop-off may be at 4 feet. 

Only recently have we begun to understand what effect water levels have on bottom contour lines of lakes or rivers where we fish. By adjusting those contour lines to the lake level each day you fish, you can more accurately locate drop-offs, humps, brush or any other type of underwater structure. Another advantage to being able to adjust the contour lines on your depth finder based on the river or lake level is you won’t run your boat aground, if you’ve thought you’ve been running in deeper water than you actually are. 

Another advantage that my depth finder gives me is that I can break down a body of water much quicker than if I don’t have my four Humminbirds – two on the console and two on the casting deck. I’ve got Mega Side Imaging and Mega Down Imaging, which helps me find and fish underwater structure that I can’t see with my eyes. I also have the Humminbird 360, which enables me to see under the water 360 degrees, all the way around my boat. Often I’ll identify fish and/or structure that I can cast to but never will have seen if not for this feature. To be successful in a tournament, I have to find the bass and the structure to know I’m fishing where the fish are. Whether I can make those bass bite or not is a different problem. 

At one tournament in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I noticed on my depth finder that the bass were pushing deeper and deeper each day. I found some areas in another part of the lake where the bass already had moved deep and were headed back to more shallow water. During that tournament, every bass I weighed in was caught in less than 3 feet of water. But on the final day of the tournament, I realized that the bass were headed for deep water, even though I’d caught them in shallow water earlier. So, I went out to that 20-25 foot water depth, and that’s where I caught my bass that day.

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