The importance of marine electronics cannot be underestimated – a quality sonar unit is akin to a having a second set of eyes underwater, while a decent chartplotter is the nautical equivalent of a detailed street directory.
When it came time to choose a sounder and GPS for my new boat a couple of key points were paramount. I wanted a capable unit yet didn’t want to be over burdened with complexity. I also wanted plenty of viewing real estate in the form of a large screen to allow usage of the various split screen functions and combination displays available to maximise information output.
There are many sounders on the market that could have taken pride of place in my new boat although when I first saw the Garmin touch screen units I’ll admit to being somewhat intrigued. I didn’t know anyone running one of these sets and I was drawn to the element of differentiation.
After much deliberation I chose the Garmin GPSmap 5012 – an impressively large twelve-inch touch screen display. This was well and truly different to many of the plotters and sounders that I have used before and while I was installing the unit two questions kept coming to mind: how would the touch screen fare in an open boat exposed to the elements and how capable is the Garmin sonar?
Having clocked up about 50 hours in the new boat I can report on first impressions and to be completely honest performance has been impressive to date. I literally mounted the display, the GPS aerial, digital sonar box and transducer, plugged in a G2 Vision card then went fishing the following morning.
Simplicity and capability were vital – I didn’t read the manual and didn’t play with any settings to start. After launching the boat I navigated through the home menu and easily found the split screen sounder and plotter combo display. I hadn’t punched any marks into the GPS so was relying on the chart to guide me to some of the reefs that I knew offshore. There are a number of chart displays that can be selected using the 5000 touch screen series equipped with the G2 Vision card, the Fishing Chart option displayed the quite detailed depth contour information which was the option I settled on. I touched the screen at a contour that appeared familiar and selected the “guide to” option then followed the gps to the spot.
Until this point I hadn’t used the sounder in anger but noticed a clean image straight from the word go with the unit (in auto mode) capable of picking up the bottom inside the Harbour with the boat travelling at 32 knots. Venturing outside the heads and towards the chosen patch of reef saw the bottom rise as expected and a school of fish hovering a couple of fathoms off the reef proper. I stopped the boat, threw a jig over and after a couple of drops came up tight on a rat kingy. I repeated the drift a few times, creating a waypoint each time I marked a fish on the sounder and hooked up most drifts.
The 600w transom mount transducer worked well in the 50 odd metres of water I was fishing and the unit was intuitive to navigate. I could clearly see my jig dropping through the water column and readily marked fish with the sounder in auto mode – like I said, performance straight out of the box was impressive. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the sounder I took Fishing World’s Mick Fletoridis out fishing one morning and after jigging a few kings offshore we came back inside the Harbour. I sounded out a jewie spot and marked a few fish on the first drift. Mick looked sceptical when I pointed what I thought were jewies on the sounder and sure enough on the second cast I picked up a little schoolie. To prove it was no fluke, Mick managed to catch one himself a few casts later. I caught another before we left the jewies alone to head home in the fading light. Mick was also there the morning I jigged a couple of 10kg kings on consecutive drifts after marking the schools of fish near the bottom – results like that speak for themselves and have given me a great deal of confidence with the unit.
This Garmin 5012 is pitched at the upper price point and performs in that category – you pay a premium for quality and in initial testing the sounder and plotter are as good as I could have hoped for. The touch screen is quick and easy to navigate – it definitely feels more nimble and easier to operate than a traditional unit with the added benefit of giving you more viewing real estate in the absence of buttons. Another neat feature is the ambient light sensor which adjusts brightness depending on the amount of light available which means the screen is always easily viewable in all light conditions without the need to adjust the display. A function that I have been using heavily is the ability to pause the sounder screen and create a waypoint by touching the screen where a school of fish or interesting structure is found – this has been a godsend while jigging kings, allowing me to mark a school of fish without having to second guess their location.
I was also pleased to find a full qwerty keyboard displayed on the screen when editing waypoints making the entry of marks extremely quick and simple.
There’s a lot to the sounder and GPS that I haven’t yet used and I haven’t had the boat out more than about seven miles so can’t comment on deep water performance. Time will also tell how the touch screen holds up when exposed to the elements, however, Garmin is a leader in touch screen in-car GPS systems and I suspect the technology will be sound given the amount of harsh sun and saltwater it has already been exposed to. I’ve mounted the display on top of the console, exposed to the elements at all times so this will be a solid test for the robustness of the unit. The unit will also interface with my Suzuki outboard, allowing fuel flow data and the like to be monitored – when the necessary cables arrive I’ll hook it all up and report back. Watch this space!
More info at: www.garmin.com.au