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Improving my Simrad Sidescan – Part 3 (Re-mounting the Transducer)

Okay, so if you’ve been following along, I had identified a new location for my transducer – under the step and near the drain plug.  I REALLY didn’t want to drill more holes in the hull, especially since I wasn’t sure it was going to work in that location.  I did turn to Google to see if there were any posts about moving a side-scan transducer there, with marginal success.  Based on detaching the transducer from its current location and pulling some slack in my cable, I was able to eyeball the new location and see that everything seemed to be okay – the main concern being clearance of my lower unit when trimmed fully down and turned both ways. In that location it was clear that I would have an unobstructed view for a full 180 deg.  

Again, some Googling brought me to this site, that describes a way to mount Starboard (a.k.a HDPE) on a fiberglass hull.  HDPE does not like to stick to anything, usually.  I pretty much followed the instructions on the side to a “T” and had very good success with it.  Luckily I had some 3/4″ HDPE lying around already from other project(s).  If you need to get some HDPE, you can get it here.  Just in case the website link disappears in the future, I’ll list the steps below.  

Materials

  • 3/4″ white HDPE (a.k.a $tarboard)
  • 1/2″ drill bit or end mill
  • West System G-Flex 655 Epoxy
  • Blue painters tape
  • 80 grit sandpaper (or thereabouts)
  • Acetone or denatured alcohol
  • Propane torch

Cut the 3/4 HDPE to size for the places you want to make a mounting plate.  I chose to make 2 plates, one for the new location, and one to make a plate along the transom where transducers are usually mounted (and also to cover the old holes).  I figured while I’m at it, I might as well make a second plate “just in case” and covering the old holes was a second motivation.  

Once you have test-fit the HDPE block(s), drill 1/2″ +/- holes approx half-way through the thickness of the back part of the plate.  No special rule but put them randomly throughout the piece.  The link has some pics of what it should look like.  Unfortunately I didn’t take any pics of mine.  I then took a hand drill and 1/8″ drill bit and made short holes in the back of these holes angling to the side.  This is for the epoxy to grab onto.   The website says to make a lip underneath the holes.  Its really the same thing.

Next, use your sandpaper and rough up the back surface pretty good.  I also held the blocks on my transom and put painters tape around the perimeter of the desired location.  Then removed the block and sanded the gel coat so it was roughed up.  

Use your acetone and clean the gel coat and back of your block.  Get rid of any hanging pieces of plastic.

Using a propane torch, flame treat the back surface of the block.  Apparently this is the key to having the HDPE stick.  Pass the flame over the surface in overlapping passes at a rate of 2″ to 3″ per second.  It should not show any visible difference (ie. do not melt the surface – you can melt it if you go too slow).  The heat creates a chemical property change that aids the bonding.

Mix up the G-Flex (super easy to do, its roughly 50:50 mixture) and using a Popsicle stick or similar, fill the holes in the back of the block completely.  I also buttered the entire back of the block with a thin coat.  

For the next step, get your painters tape, paper towels and acetone ready.  Place the block in the desired location.  It will stick a little but will want to slide.  Using the painters tape, tape it thoroughly to keep it in place.  Don’t worry if its not perfect.

Blocks set in place and taped up while the epoxy sets

Wait about an hour and come back and remove the tape.  Make slight adjustments in the location.  Wet a paper towel with acetone and clean up excess epoxy now.  Re-tape to hold the block in place.  Give it a good 24 hrs to set.  Should be a very solid hold now.

With the blocks being set I went ahead and placed the transducer with my motor trimmed as far down as it would go in the driveway making sure it cleared with the wheel turned all the way to the left.  This was a goof – as described below (I do a lot of dumass things)! 

HDPE blocks placed and transducer set in new location. Wire secured with temporary double-sticky anchors

Took it out to trial it, and images were great, both left and right.  I did a check when trimming the motor ALL the way down and turning the wheel and quickly noticed that it would hit the transducer IF trimmed all the way down.  Something that I really never do (lowest I go is 40%) but Murphy’s Law says “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong”.  When I got back home, I lowered my trailer jack all the way down so that I could trim the motor to the locks and turn the wheel.  Luckily I was able to shift the transducer about 3/4″ right and avoid an interference.  (AH, the benefit of having a block – no new holes in the transom!)

After shifting the transducer to the right. Note the fish line used to align it to the boat hull

 

Clearance is very tight when trimmed all the way down and the wheel turned all the way left. But – – no possibility of interference in this location

After all this, the only thing I did was replace the temporary cable ties with smaller profile ties secured with a tiny bit of G-Flex.  Again – no holes in transom. 

I’ll just need to be careful of having the transom get beached (I do this anyway) but it is a little more vulnerable in its current location even though its above the bottom of the hull.  For me, having the advantage of a full view of my side-scan and getting everything out of it is worth the additional risk of it in its new location.  My last post on this subject will show some of the images I’m able to get now.  Stay tuned!

Improving my Simrad Sidescan – Part 2 (Initial Results and Issues)

So, where I left off on my last post, I had purchased a replacement transducer and installed it in the old mounting bracket. 

So, upon inspecting the new Simrad / Lowrance ActiveImaging 3 in 1 transducer, the first thing that was apparent was that it is significantly deeper than the StructureScanHD.  In other words, it sticks down farther from the mounting bracket.  When I mounted the new transducer I used the old bracket and this made the new unit stick down just a little below the bottom of the hull, maybe 1/2″.  In my haste to see what difference it would make, I took it out for a trial.  Turns out, that was a bad idea.  The force of the water hitting the transducer was enough to bend the metal bracket and twist it.  But, I was able to get some images to show that the new transducer is in fact a big improvement.

New transducer mounted on the old bracket. Note that it got bent after a sea trial!

Some initial screen shots after driving around at Edisto during a short family vacation:

First look: Suspended schools of menhaden.  Menhaden were flicking on the surface nearby, but not in this location.

 

First look: Dock pilings with potholes carved out around the bases.  Note the crisp shadows from the pilings.

 

Ah! Large redfish under a dock. Note the floater signature (thin vertical lines)

If you look closely at the above plots there are a few problems still…  

First, if you look at the center of the image.  This is where the transducer is.  Note that on the right you see a clear black zone, but on the left you see yellow lines where the water should be.  This is interference from the motor’s lower unit.  You could trim the motor up out of the way whenever you need sidescan but really, who’s gonna do that?  Not me.  The other very significant result of the lower unit interference is that the left side of the plot is almost useless.  You see almost no detail on that side, if you look at all the above plots.

It’s now clear that the transducer should be moved, both to mount it safely above the bottom of the hull for one, and also to hopefully allow a full 180 deg unobstructed view.  Looking around at my options, it appeared I could mount it near the center of the hull next to the drain plug and meet both requirements.  

New desired mounting location: Under the “step” and near the drain plug.

But, I wasn’t sure where exactly to mount it – and no one wants to drill more holes in their hull.  The next post will discuss how I solved these problems, and where I am at today.

A side note:  Ben made a point to say he purposely installs the transducer himself to make sure its done right.  I, like most people I guess, had the factory/dealership install it.  I’m honestly not sure who installed it but in hindsight, it was originally installed in a bad location for its purpose.  I would recommend anyone who reads this and is purchasing a new boat with side scan to either ask where its going to be mounted or do it yourself.  That is, if you want to get the most out of your unit! 

I’ll have the third part of this series updated in a few days…

Improving my Simrad Sidescan – Part 1 (Background)

This will be the first in a several part series of blog posts documenting my journey to improving my side-scan sonar, based on what I learned from Capt Ben Powers at our Eye Strike Artificial Army Seminar on the subject of Setup and Interpretation of Sonar.  If you missed it, you can watch it in its entirety here (Note that there are 4 separate videos covering the seminar).  

Background

So, I took delivery of my Sportsman Masters 207 in June of 2018.  I knew I wanted side scan technology so I just asked for a side-scan transducer.  What I got was a Simrad StructureScanHD transducer.  It was mounted on the side in the general location where transducers typically are, up near the right trim tab.  I could see all kinds of cool stuff with it and was generally pleased with it.  I knew I had a pretty good understanding of what I was looking at, but really felt Iike there was a lot more to it than I was understanding.  

Original location of my Simrad StructureScanHD transducer from the factory

With this in mind, and having had many conversations with friends and customers on the subject, I felt like this was a great first seminar where we could go in depth on the subject and learn a lot from it.  Having gotten to know Ben Powers through the course of business and hearing about what he was seeing on his side-scan, he became the natural choice to deliver our seminar.  

Ahead of our seminar, I didn’t want it to seem like an advertisement for a particular brand of sonar, so we discussed bringing my boat down to Folly and getting some comparison images between our units.  He is running a Humminbird Solix.  Honestly, I was feeling like I would get very similar results to his….Wrong!  

The difference in images was very significant.  His were crisp and high contrast.  Mine were blurry and low contrast.  He could identify individual fish under a dock, I could hardly see anything of interest.  

Simrad StructureScanHD (Left) and Humminbird Solix (Right) passing by the same structure. Not so great for me!

If you know me, you know I couldn’t let this rest!  I figured that competition being what it is, that Simrad probably had an improved sonar available to compete with Humminbird.  I did some googling and had a few interactions on social media and discovered that, yes, this was true.  There is a better transducer called ActiveImaging 2 in 1 or (3 in 1) available and that it was relatively inexpensive (under $300) and a bolt-on upgrade.  You simply mount the new one, pull the old transducer cable and route the new one and simply plug into your NSS-EVO3 unit.  It automagically recognizes the new unit.  

I went ahead and placed an order for the new unit.  I got the 3 in 1 because it also allows Med and High Chirp echo which my current thru-hull transducer does not have.  

Sportsman does a good job allowing cable runs to the console and pre-inserted pull cords, plus, of course the all-access bilge which is A-MAZING.  I am able to fold my entire 6 ft tall body inside the bilge to work on stuff.  So, once the transducer came in, pulling and routing the transducer cables was relatively easy with a couple hours and a little bit (OK, a lot!) of sweating.   

Before I got a chance to try the new transducer, we had the seminar and I learned that how and where the transducer is mounted is almost as important as anything.  

The next posts will discuss initial results, how I repositioned my transducer, and what results I am getting now.

Stay tuned and I hope someone finds all this of interest!  

Artificial Army Seminar Series – Sonar – Now Uploaded

If you weren’t able to make our first Eye Strike Artificial Army Seminar Series – Sonar Setup & Interpretation with Capt. Ben Powers – – now you can!  We have uploaded the entire seminar (4 parts) to our YouTube channel.

Below are links to the videos on YouTube (please consider subscribing to our page).  The videos can also be found on our website under the Learn menu, and Fishing Instruction (scroll down).   

A big thank you to Capt Ben Powers of Reel Time Charter Adventures – make sure you look him up next time you need a great fishing charter!

Part 1
https://youtu.be/dhTqboO3PtQ

Part 2
https://youtu.be/ZP6zwKMAp8Y

Part 3
https://youtu.be/VWz6cSBgB1s

Part 4
https://youtu.be/WROfkkhgAQs

Please note that I will be following up this post with several more that document my journey to improve my side imaging on my Simrad technology.  I have been able to make big improvements based on what I have learned from Ben.   Hope it can help you too.

Recommended Podcast “The science of Fish Vision”

If you’ve not yet tuned in to Tom Rowland’s podcast, you ought to.  You may recognize Tom as one of the hosts of the popular Saltwater Experience TV show.  I’ve been a fan for a while and recently listened to this one about the science of fish vision.  If you have read my posts over the years you probably know that as an optical scientist I don’t believe in using the color red in my lures (even EyeStrike jigs) because that color disappears quickly underwater and most of our inshore species can’t see it.  

I’ve also stated an opinion that is unconventional among fishermen and that is that I believe in contrast rather than the usual bright day- bright lure, dark day-dark lure opinion of most.  In other words, I like to fish light-dark or dark-light for contrast.  Dr. Schwiekert backs some of these opinions up and offers a whole lot more that we can all learn from.  

Check it out, and there is plenty more nuggets available on Tom’s other episodes.

Where can I find / buy Jail Baits?

In addition to our online store or shop, you can now purchase Jail Baits at the following list of tackle shops:

  • South Side Bait & Tackle, Charleston SC
  • Haddrell’s Point, West Ashley & Mt Pleasant Locations, Charleston, SC
  • Crosby’s Seafood, Folly Beach, Charleston, SC
  • Neuse River Bait & Tackle, Grantsboro, NC
  • Chasin Tails Outdoors, Atlantic Beach, NC
  • Ocean’s East, Virginia Beach, VA

We will update the list as more tackle shops stock them!

Jail Bait Rigging Tips

The Jail Bait is a revolutionary new Sheepshead and Reef jig.  It uses a feature called the Bait BakPak.  This is simply a rubber band, but how its used is the true innovation.  The Bait BakPak allows crabs to remain alive, and other baits to be positioned directly above the hook points.  We have found the best way to use it is to double the rubber band over the eyelet.  This prevents it from slinging off while fighting a fish.  

PRESS RELEASE – For Immediate Release

There’s a New Sheriff in Town, and the Sheepshead are Scared

Eye Strike Fishing’s Jail Bait™ Reef Jigs use a new approach to round up convicts 

North Charleston, SC – (May 2, 2019) – “You gotta set the hook before they bite” is a common way to describe the difficulty of hooking a sheepshead, one of the most desirable inshore game fish.  Eye Strike Fishing®, a leading designer of fishing tackle featuring oversized eyes and high-end components, is proud to announce Jail Bait™ Reef Jigs; a new concept that aims to solve many of the challenges of catching these evasive fish.

Consisting of a double hook embedded in a lead weight featuring – you guessed it – an oversized eye, the jigs feature a simple, yet innovative feature called the Bait BakPak™.  The Bait BakPak™ is simply a rubber band, but how its used and where its positioned is key to its effectiveness.

“Rigging fiddler crabs or other baits such as oysters or barnacles on a small hook has always been a problem – either it kills the crab or it falls off.” says David Fladd, product designer for Eye Strike.  “The Bait BakPak™ allows a crab to be held firmly and keeps it alive, and when a sheepshead tries to bite, those double hooks are right there below the bait resulting in better hookups.”

Any sheepshead angler knows that there aren’t many places inside a sheepshead’s mouth for a hook to hold.  Ralph Phillips, a legendary Charleston angler and Partner at Eye Strike®, agrees, “Their teeth look like a dentist’s nightmare. Because there is a direct connection to your line, and the hooks are directly below the bait, you tend to hook them in the outer lip.  You can truly feel the bite better with the Jail Bait, and when you set the hook, they find the lip.”

Why an eye?  Phillips and Fladd admit part of it is marketing, but the few sheepshead they have caught on their Eye Strike® jigs have been on a pearl colored eye.  “They may associate the color with an oyster or barnacle, we don’t know, but it sure adds to the eye-appeal.”

Capt. Justin Carter with a Jail Bait Convict

Captain Justin Carter, former IFA Kayak National Champion & Angler of the Year, and full-time guide for Redfin Charters in Charleston, SC has been the primary field tester for Jail Baits in the prototype phase. “When I take clients sheepshead fishing, they often struggle to feel the bite.  Jail Bait™ jigs have taken the hookup ratio to the next level.  Because of where the hooks are positioned, the fish get hooked in the lip almost every time”.

The 2/0 black nickel VMC® hook is plenty strong and sharp, and due to its positioning, the rigged bait tends to make it semi-weedless.  This is important when fishing reefs, where plenty of snags are around to grab your hook. 

Since the Jail Bait™ is designed for vertical jigging, its not just for sheepshead.  “We have done very well on our nearshore reefs using them, and have even caught grouper in relatively shallow water” says Phillips.

Eye Strike® Jail Bait™ Reef Jigs are available in ½- and ¾-ounce weights and pearl colored eyes.  For more information, including rigging tips, visit eyestrikefishing.com

Eye Strike® co-owner David Fladd with a sheepshead caught at a nearshore reef using the Jail Bait™

Click here to download the press release in PDF format

About Eye Strike Fishing

An innovative designer of original jigheads featuring oversized, 3D eyes, Eye Strike Fishing has been steadily increasing its offerings since 2014.  Product lines include TroutEye®, RedfishEye™, StriperEye™, WeedlessEye™ and TexasEye™ jigheads and range from 1/8-oz to 1-oz.  Six eye colors are offered and all products feature premium hooks.

Contacts:
David Fladd, Eye Strike Fishing, 7341B Peppermill Parkway, North Charleston, SC 29418 dfladd@eyestrikefishing.com (843) 324-4272

Stay in Your Lane – How to Fish 3 People in a Small Boat

By popular demand, we are going to start offering brief tips to help you improve your catching and enjoyment on the water.  Our latest is the following video, we are calling “Stay in Your Lane”.  When fishing three people it is so annoying when you’re about to make a cast to that perfect little piece of structure when suddenly out of the corner of your eye you see a line coming from the back of the boat all the way across your “zone”.  Sometimes the person in back finds that structure too tempting to wait for, and all you can do is put your hands on your hips and wait till the line is clear.  You don’t want to cuss out your fishing buddy, but man, it’s tempting!  Follow this tip to keep everyone happy and trust us, you will still catch plenty of fish in the middle or back of the boat.  In fact, on this trip Alex caught the day-maker (year maker?), a 23″ trout, off the stern!  

Hope you enjoy!

Announcing the Eye Strike Artificial Army Seminar Series

We recently created a seminar space at our HQ at Eye Strike.  We used it to host the Lowcountry Kayak Anglers club Toys for Tots Tournament captains meeting, along with hosting the Summerville Saltwater Anglers January membership meeting.  

We have decided to start an event we are calling the Eye Strike Artificial Army Seminar Series, named for our Facebook private group Eye Strike Artificial Army.  Our intention is to offer seminars that are “above and beyond” in terms of information and instruction and in general focused on improving your inshore fishing using artificial lures.  

To promote our seminar series we have created a new page on our website named Seminar Series

Our first seminar we are very excited about.  It involves a subject that many people want to learn about:  How to better understand your sonar so you can set it up and interpret it to use it to its fullest.  After all, what good is it to invest in all this technology if we don’t know how to use it.  Most seminars on the subject gloss over the setup and interpretation.  We intend to “dive deep” into this so that we all understand it better.  

Date:  Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Location:  Eye Strike Fishing | 7341B Peppermill Parkway | N. Charleston SC 29418
Time:  7pm – 9pm

We hope to see you there!

Redfish under a dock using side-imaging technology

Our speaker is Capt Ben Powers of Reel Time Charter Adventures.  Ben is a Shimano pro-staffer, local guide, and commercial oysterman and has been mastering setup and interpretation of his sonar lately.  He has been taking snapshots of some of the amazing things he has found using his side imaging sonar and is excited to share his learning with our group.

 

 

Capt. Ben Powers