The End All Discussion On Ice Fishing Sonar / Flashers

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The End All Discussion On Ice Fishing Sonar / Flashers

Hello ice anglers,

My brother is going to purchase a sonar or flasher for ice fishing.

Normally, I would say Vexilar.  But it is time for me to be fair to other products out there.  I'd really like unbiased (as best as possible) information on the units you are running.  Here's some needs:

A unit that just works.  No glitches.

A fast screen.

One that does not drain the battery horrible.

One that can TAKE A BEATING!!!!!!  That is, bounce around in the back of a towed Polar Sport (now the X something or other Ice Clam) or on a four wheeler and not be babied.

I would say Vexilar all the time but a couple things I do like are having contours readily available.  Also, I guess I'm getting lazy.  Having a digital readout would be nice for depth checking.

But again, I do not want to sacrifice any of the above needs.

Please provide any help guys and gals.  Much appreciated.

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 vexilar has always worked well for me. the best thing about them is the battery life. i have went to lake of the woods on a two and three day trip this year and didnt have to charge my battery or replace. the auto zoom feature also works well 

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Does this site allow it to be done as a poll?

Vex

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 Get an FL-20. Flat screen, 6 and 12ft zoom modes, and you can use it deep (60+FOW), which is what you'll be doing for those Sakakawea saugers. I have one and it's the bomb.



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HDS 5 on the ice. You can have your GPS and map chip available at any time. Great for checking lake contours as well as marking waypoints. Plus you get all the bennies of a graph with the screen memory, different color palettes, etc. If you have the proper ice pack cover for it, it will hold up just fine. Mine got beat pretty good this past weekend with no issues. 

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Pickerel Tamer Said:
 Get an FL-20. Flat screen, 6 and 12ft zoom modes, and you can use it deep (60+FOW), which is what you'll be doing for those Sakakawea saugers. I have one and it's the bomb.

 X2

Neat

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sdwxman Said:
HDS 5 on the ice. You can have your GPS and map chip available at any time. Great for checking lake contours as well as marking waypoints. Plus you get all the bennies of a graph with the screen memory, different color palettes, etc. If you have the proper ice pack cover for it, it will hold up just fine. Mine got beat pretty good this past weekend with no issues. 

If I go away from a flasher and move to a graph @ some point I'll mount a ram ball either on my handlebars or front rack, get a cigarette lighter power cable and have the unit out and running rather than carrying a handheld.  I don't have a really good plan for how to store the transducer yet but I could cypher that when the time came.  Lots less beating/banging having the unit mounted to a ram ball vs. riding in a sled and bouncing around in a 5gal bucket.

For the LX-3 I've been using for 8ish yrs I have some "computer foam" @ the bottom of a 5gal bucket, lay the flasher into the bucket on it's back (battery towards the bottom of the bucket), have a piece of computer foam over the top and then one of the threaded 5gal bucket tops with the rubber gasket.  That seems to work pretty well.  I also cut a small piece of computer foam to cover the transducer face when not in use as I scuffed one up pretty good and it wouldn't track a jig in the water column anymore.

This moment is a paradox, it's the oldest you've ever been as well as the youngest you'll ever be.



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EASY - GEN 1 Lowrance HDS-5. 

$100 Rebate from Lowrance and lots of clearance sales going on right now.  Incredibly sensitive sonar, far more adjustable and capable than a simple flasher type unit.  Built in GPS and mapping.  I had one of the first HDS units on ice and I've pounded mine in the bottom of an Otter sled for many miles with no problems.

Jim Carroll  NPAA #13

 

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I can't grasp how these lowrances work. Is it instantaneous? Is there a video out there that shows how they work icefishing? can you see your buckshot move the exact second you jig it?

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JIM C Said:
EASY - GEN 1 Lowrance HDS-5. 

$100 Rebate from Lowrance and lots of clearance sales going on right now.  Incredibly sensitive sonar, far more adjustable and capable than a simple flasher type unit.  Built in GPS and mapping.  I had one of the first HDS units on ice and I've pounded mine in the bottom of an Otter sled for many miles with no problems.

Jim Carroll  NPAA #13

 

YEAH! I love that picture. That thing saved our rear end this past weekend. It was dark getting off the ice, and with all the pressure ridges around we just followed our trail out knowing it was safe while we traveled in the pitch black dark.

Plus I use it on the boat in the summer, so you have the best for both seasons. 

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sdwxman Said:
 

JIM C Said:
EASY - GEN 1 Lowrance HDS-5. 

$100 Rebate from Lowrance and lots of clearance sales going on right now.  Incredibly sensitive sonar, far more adjustable and capable than a simple flasher type unit.  Built in GPS and mapping.  I had one of the first HDS units on ice and I've pounded mine in the bottom of an Otter sled for many miles with no problems.

Jim Carroll  NPAA #13

 

YEAH! I love that picture. That thing saved our rear end this past weekend. It was dark getting off the ice, and with all the pressure ridges around we just followed our trail out knowing it was safe while we traveled in the pitch black dark.

Plus I use it on the boat in the summer, so you have the best for both seasons. 

Hands down IMHO!

 

Good Luck and Good Fishin'

Eric T

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 I think its all about preference. I have a marcum lx-3 and my buddy who i fish with all the time has a fl-18. I like things about both. I think the vex is easier to read because the lines on the graph are "fatter" whereas my marcums lines are very thin and crisp. My eyes start to bug out a little after staring at mine for awhile especially at night. My marcum seems to have better target seperation because of those fine lines however if you're a real stickler on that, I tend to pick up more fish right on the bottom than he does. The vex lines will blend from green to yellow to red where the marcum will blink from green to yellow to red which im used to so i prefer. Bottom line is we both catch fish. Both our units have takin a beating and i dont think you can go wrong either with either brand. I think as far as gps goes a handheld is just easier especially when on an atv or in the truck. 

 

 "I get what you're saying:  Like a sausage replica featuring a Polander holding a sacred illumination device." 

 

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bowhunter_24 Said:
 Is it instantaneous? can you see your buckshot move the exact second you jig it?

Yes to both.  I jig under my boat's transducers a lot in the summer.  0 lag, it's every bit as fast as a flasher.

This moment is a paradox, it's the oldest you've ever been as well as the youngest you'll ever be.



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Wags86 Said:
 I think as far as gps goes a handheld is just easier especially when on an atv or in the truck. 

That is my thought exactly too. Obviously in a boat the gps is nice to have on the same unit but I would find it very annoying when ice fishing.

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Wags86 Said:
  I think as far as gps goes a handheld is just easier especially when on an atv or in the truck. 



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bowhunter_24 Said:

Wags86 Said:
 I think as far as gps goes a handheld is just easier especially when on an atv or in the truck. 

That is my thought exactly too. Obviously in a boat the gps is nice to have on the same unit but I would find it very annoying when ice fishing.

So a full 5" screen GPS with contours for many lakes when running the ATV/snowmobile mounted to the handlebars or front rack on a ram ball, and then 3 button pushes to have a full 5" graph screen or if you prefer, full 5" flasher screen won't work for you for some reason?  Admittedly, in the truck it does get trickier.


This moment is a paradox, it's the oldest you've ever been as well as the youngest you'll ever be.



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Horsager Said:
 

bowhunter_24 Said:

Wags86 Said:
 I think as far as gps goes a handheld is just easier especially when on an atv or in the truck. 

That is my thought exactly too. Obviously in a boat the gps is nice to have on the same unit but I would find it very annoying when ice fishing.

So a full 5" screen GPS with contours for many lakes when running the ATV/snowmobile mounted to the handlebars or front rack on a ram ball, and then 3 button pushes to have a full 5" graph screen or if you prefer, full 5" flasher screen won't work for you for some reason?  Admittedly, in the truck it does get trickier.


yeah in the pick up is how I use my gps 90% of  the time.

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Tim Sandstrom Said:
Hello ice anglers,

My brother is going to purchase a sonar or flasher for ice fishing.

Normally, I would say Vexilar.  But it is time for me to be fair to other products out there.  I'd really like unbiased (as best as possible) information on the units you are running.  Here's some needs:

A unit that just works.  No glitches.

I think this one is basically a wash. I'm a vexilar guy myself and they haven't let me down yet, but I've heard the same thing from owners of others. I think this one is a tie. 

A fast screen.

If you want to go with a combo such as the HDS-5 or Birds 385ci IMO you need to get used to using it like the Jim's up there mentioned. I have been told that when you use these units in emulator mode (where it will look like a flasher on your screen) there is a little bit of a noticeable lag that will sort of drive you nuts. If you use it like the Jim's show then they're instantaneous.

All that said IMO if a guy has experience with a flasher then it's tough to beat the feel of the Vex/Bird/Marcum flashers. 

One that does not drain the battery horrible.

No long term experience with the others but I know my FL-20 has gone 3 day trips in the shack, only getting turned off when I sleep and was still humming when I left the lake. I've also went on weekend trips and not plugged it in when I came home and went on a quick unplanned trip to realize I didn't charge and it still lasted me the day trip. 

Bit of advice, unplug and remove the battery in the offseason. Discharge it and charge back up once if you get the chance. 

One that can TAKE A BEATING!!!!!!  That is, bounce around in the back of a towed Polar Sport (now the X something or other Ice Clam) or on a four wheeler and not be babied.

Once again, no long term experience with the others but I've been fishing Vexilars and with guys with Vexilars for a long time now and I've seen them take a beating. Fall out of pickups when the doors opened, fall off sled on the move and skid down the ice for a bit, bounce around in sleds and houses and still fire right up and start graphing fish. My FL-20 usually rides tucked away in my sled or in a 5 gallon bucket (Pro-pack and ultra pack fit perfect in a 5 gallon bucket and won't move unless the bucket does)

I would say Vexilar all the time but a couple things I do like are having contours readily available.  Also, I guess I'm getting lazy.  Having a digital readout would be nice for depth checking.

What's the budget? I am seriously considering pickup up a Humminbird ICE 385ci combo to go along with the vexilar. RAM mount to the snowmobile or ATV for running on the ice and then can drop it in a 2nd hole once I get fishing. If I didn't already have an FL-20 I would buy the Humminbird ICE-55/385ci combo which comes with both and can be had for around $850 if you search around; sounds like good chunk of change but not if you look at what you're getting. 

The HDS and Bird thing is really appealing to me because I fish all parts of the year so you really get a good return on investment there.

But again, I do not want to sacrifice any of the above needs.

Please provide any help guys and gals.  Much appreciated.

J

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Horsager Said:
 

bowhunter_24 Said:

Wags86 Said:
 I think as far as gps goes a handheld is just easier especially when on an atv or in the truck. 

That is my thought exactly too. Obviously in a boat the gps is nice to have on the same unit but I would find it very annoying when ice fishing.

So a full 5" screen GPS with contours for many lakes when running the ATV/snowmobile mounted to the handlebars or front rack on a ram ball, and then 3 button pushes to have a full 5" graph screen or if you prefer, full 5" flasher screen won't work for you for some reason?  Admittedly, in the truck it does get trickier.


I run a handheld and have mount for it.  Tuck it in my pocket and I have it when on the go drilling.  Normally I invesigate depths with the handheld and then drill.  The mention of me wanting contours readily available is actually one of the last needs and not sure if it is even necessary.  As I agree, a handheld is nice.

The man reason to all of that mumbo jumbo I just said is I don't want to be limited to having to drive my four wheeler or snowmobile to every single hole.  When I take it seriously, I am moving to a new hole every few seconds to few minutes.  Grabbing and go is the name of the game.  Move to a hole, plop the Vex down hard, drop a jig, clean the hole a bit, close the bail and slowly lift hoping an aggressive fish whacked it as it thumped on the bottom or called one in.

As for beating stuff around I have yet to post photos of my creation.  If I wasn't a lazy man I would start selling but it is a lot of work and requires some sort of assembly line or something to make it feasible.  I built a carpeted platform with seats and with doors for my portable that enables nice structure storage for my poles, flasher, cooler to put fish in, bait, heater, etc.  It keeps things nice and tight in its appropriate place so the "beat up" factor is drastically cut down.

However, I'm still scared of a sharp blow to an LCD screen not just from in a wheeler but from normal use.  That simply does not mix.  That's why I cannot get myself to bite...yet.  I am not kind to things, I don't want to baby anything.  I want to use it without too much worry.

And call me lazy, disconnecting all that electronics from the boat seems like work.  Especially when I FINALLY get my lazy butt into fishing the tailrace.  My boat is always in different spots from my ice gear.  I don't know.  I'm reaching now...ha.


 

 

Kirsch's Outdoor Products | Fargo, ND | 701-261-9017 Garmin GPS Hunting Maps
Liebel's Guide Service | Williston, ND | 701-770-6746 liebelsguideservice.com
Jig-em-Up Guide Service | Grand Forks, ND | 701-739-9198 jig-em-up-guide-service.com

 

 
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the question I got is hds-5 has anything for the interference from other units (ie) vex,lx-3 etc. also does this unit have a flasher. how good is the gps without a external ant.

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I personally have no desire to have my sonar/gps together.  I like having my handheld mounted on the ATV but yet be able to take it off when I want to walk, etc.  Having my flasher on my ATV would never work how I fish.  So, separate is better for me.  I like the screen size and all of the HDS or 385 but it just doesn't make sense for me.

Regarding flashers, I have Vex units.  But my next units will be BIrds.  The Marcum units are up there too but the Bird 45 or 55 would be it.  I have loved the little time I have used them, display is great, digital readout, it is all very nice.

The other thing to think about is interference.  In my experience Vex units have a tough time dealing with other units, most notably Marcums.  The Vex units can be setup to work well with each other but add in a Marcum and all the Vex guys have to deal with a touch of interference.  I guess you can look at it two ways- if you fish with Vex guys do you want to screw them up or if you fish with other units do you want to deal with the interference?  For me, the Bird takes care of all the issues. 

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” - Albert Einstein

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 Trying not to get sidetracked here, but I run a Garmin handheld that could be mounted to an ATV/snowmobile with a RAM mount. I personally just have it hanging off my neck on a lanyard, I like having it on me at all times. I'm like Tim, I like to check approx. depth before I drill.



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Traxion Said:
I personally have no desire to have my sonar/gps together.  I like having my handheld mounted on the ATV but yet be able to take it off when I want to walk, etc.  Having my flasher on my ATV would never work how I fish.  So, separate is better for me. 

For clarity's sake, I'd have a totally separate pro-pack or similar mount for the HDS when I got where i was going.  No thing to have a male 12V adapter with pigtail ends similar to that of a Vex battery for easy swapping between powering off the ATV and powering off of a Vex battery.

This moment is a paradox, it's the oldest you've ever been as well as the youngest you'll ever be.



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bowhunter_24 Said:
I can't grasp how these lowrances work. Is it instantaneous? Is there a video out there that shows how they work icefishing? can you see your buckshot move the exact second you jig it?

here is the easiest way to explain what you are seeing.... imagine that you take the water column on your flasher and turn it into a vertical line instead of a circular line... now place that vertical picture on the right hand side of the sonar screen shown. the "flasher" is the information you see at the far right hand side of the screen and it is indeed as instantaneous as any modern day video game.  the screen scrolls from right to left... so, everything to the left of the vertical flasher information on the right hand side of the screen is just the recorded "flasher" information from the last 15 seconds or so (depends on how fast jim has his screen scrolling).  in the particular picture that jim is showing, his lure is being held steady a little ways off the bottom and is represented by the solid blue line.  the fish came off of the bottom to take a peak at the lure a few seconds ago and is now staring at the lure. 

Born to hunt and fish... Forced to work!

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Get a vexilar.  I busted mine in half and vexilar fixed it for 50 dollars.  Vexilar customer service is top notch.  Vexilars are like a good pair of binos because you only have to buy them once. 

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I have been useing a vex for years the first fl8 i bought still works fine . I updated to a fl18 a few years ago and this year added the tri beam ducer.
I wouldnt buy anthing without a zoom.
Nobody has mentioned the markum lx7 i almost bought one but i am going to wait for next year but from what i have heard with the 2.9 update they work very well. but i dont think they will be as tough as a flasher and the battery life (larger ampree hour than any other flasher) with the heated screen is questionable.
There are deals to be had on flashers now with the season comeing to the end.
I have my hds7 on the dash of my mini truck and love the gps and contour lines ice fishing, and all my summer marks are on there. Thought about getting a ice kit for it but figured it was too expensive to beat around all winter.

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I have been useing a vex for years the first fl8 i bought still works fine . I updated to a fl18 a few years ago and this year added the tri beam ducer.
I wouldnt buy anthing without a zoom.
Nobody has mentioned the markum lx7 i almost bought one but i am going to wait for next year but from what i have heard with the 2.9 update they work very well. but i dont think they will be as tough as a flasher and the battery life (larger ampree hour than any other flasher) with the heated screen is questionable.
There are deals to be had on flashers now with the season comeing to the end.
I have my hds7 on the dash of my mini truck and love the gps and contour lines ice fishing, and all my summer marks are on there. Thought about getting a ice kit for it but figured it was too expensive to beat around all winter.

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as far as using the things in a mobile fashion... i started w/ a 68c, got stolen, upgraded to a 522, thing got a crack in it and got wet this summer, now using a buddies 68 again till i decide what i am going to replace my 522 w/.  i fish out of my truck, out of a portable and spend way too much time in my permanent.  i don't ever fish w/o the thing.  when i know i will be fishing out of my truck, i pull the battery from the soft pack, set the thing on the dash and power it w/ my cigarette lighter.  if i move out of the truck to my permanent or to set up my portable, i just stick the battery back in.  it is pretty nice having your map (i actually use my garmin w/ trax and my phone map/app sometimes too to get the best of all worlds) sitting on your dash... and it only takes 2 seconds of pushing 2 different buttons to go from map view to sonar view.  as far as durability goes... if you trust your sonar unit on your boat getting banged around in big waves and crusing down gravel roads, it would be silly not to trust the thing being pulled around on the ice a little bit.  especially if you stick it in a bucket or make some sort of storage system for it. 

Born to hunt and fish... Forced to work!

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Horsager Said:
 

Traxion Said:
I personally have no desire to have my sonar/gps together.  I like having my handheld mounted on the ATV but yet be able to take it off when I want to walk, etc.  Having my flasher on my ATV would never work how I fish.  So, separate is better for me. 

For clarity's sake, I'd have a totally separate pro-pack or similar mount for the HDS when I got where i was going.  No thing to have a male 12V adapter with pigtail ends similar to that of a Vex battery for easy swapping between powering off the ATV and powering off of a Vex battery.

I gathered that.  The only downside I see, other than having to physically having to take off the unit and reattach each time, is having to power off the unit, then power back on and let the GPS initialize again.  Obviously you are in the same spot so it shouldn't take long, but power off and power on would have to happen every time.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” - Albert Einstein

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the only downfall i see w/ using a graph is that most of them have 20 degree cones that can't be changed.  i don't know bout the newer hd units and the ice ducers they sell w/ them.  but, that is what all of the old school lowrances like the 67, 68, 332, 337, 522, etc... had.  and a 20 degree cone casts a pretty big shadow in 50 plus feet of water.  which can be a good and a bad thing... good... you can spot a fish a long ways away... bad... possibility for sonar dead zones in areas w/ big contour changes.  but, weighing the pros and the cons... there is no question in my mind... go graph and never go back.  i've still got a flasher that gets used by friends who don't have anything and my other friends have everything from fl18s to hummingbirds.  but, they simply don't do what a graph does. 

Born to hunt and fish... Forced to work!

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Pickerel Tamer Said:
 Trying not to get sidetracked here, but I run a Garmin handheld that could be mounted to an ATV/snowmobile with a RAM mount. I personally just have it hanging off my neck on a lanyard, I like having it on me at all times. I'm like Tim, I like to check approx. depth before I drill.

I do the same as you.  I carry a Garmin handheld on me which I love.  In fact it's the rhino, so we can spread out and talk without messing without phones.  And I can't say a bad word about my FL 20

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