On Monday, June 11, 2018, recreational fishing changed forever with Garmin’s press release which stated: “Garmin International, Inc., a unit of Garmin Ltd., today announced Panoptix LiveScope™ — a scanning sonar live stream that provides anglers with higher resolution and easier to interpret images of structure, bait and fish swimming under and around the boat than ever before.
The release continues: “Now, with the active scanning capabilities of Panoptix LiveScope, anglers can see images and movement so clear and precise that it is even possible to distinguish between fish species.
Shortly after this press release, LiveScope was physically revealed at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades in Orlando, Florida.
I had previous experience on the water with LiveScope’s predecessor, Garmin Panoptix, and was not impressed at all, mainly due to the fixed position of the transducer and the rather coarse and grainy images it produced. .
But, when I saw the LiveScope images, I was impressed. Before the summer was over, I had coordinated an on-water demonstration with Garmin, observed the strengths and weaknesses of the technology, and by October had installed my first LiveScope unit on my boat.
Fast forward to today, I now have two complete, independent Garmin LiveScope systems on my boat, each with a transducer, black box and two monitors (four monitors in total) thus allowing me, even with a full complement of six fishermen, to place all my clients in front of a monitor so that they can all observe their presentations and the fish react to these presentations, in real time.
Just enjoyed the most productive season I’ve had in 16 years of guiding. In the year 2021, my clients caught and released 20,434 fish. Garmin LiveScope combined with the vertical use of the MAL lure accounted for the vast majority of these fish. Garmin technology has helped me become a better guide and provide a better experience for my customers.
Key to this LiveScope setup is the use of infinitely adjustable transducer poles, one on the starboard aft corner of the boat and one on the port aft corner, which allow me to direct the LiveScope’s sound beam very precisely to keep all customers visible presentations, even when the boat heels one way or the other due to uneven weight distribution.
This configuration described above has served me well. Since January 28, this setup has started to serve me even better.
A day before, one of the on-water sonar training customers I had introduced to LiveScope technology, and trained in its use after purchasing his own setup, contacted me. He had learned that a major LiveScope software update had been released and he wanted my opinion on it.
I’ve been headlong, focused on the Belton Anglers Stocking Hybrid fundraising effort lately and had yet to hear about the update. To be able to answer my client’s question, I dug.
The more I dug, the more impressed I was with what this latest software update offered.
I mentioned earlier that when I went on a demo with Garmin, I noticed some weaknesses in the LiveScope technology. One of them was the appearance of unwanted electronic artifacts at the edges of the image produced by LiveScope. Some people call it noise or static or interference or fuzz – whatever you call it, it was annoying. But, what I could see closer to the center of the tech sound beam image was so helpful, I just learned to live with that artifact.
That is, until I downloaded this new software.
Following the instructions on the Garmin website, I downloaded the appropriate files for my Garmin GPSMAP units (note that EchoMAP units have different software to download which will produce the same end result). These files went to the “downloads” section of my personal computer. I unzipped these files while still on the personal computer, then copied the unzipped files to a 32 gigabyte SD card.
This update can also be done through Garmin’s ActiveCaptain app, but I went the other route.
I placed the card in my device, turned on the device (which with my setup also turns on the black box and transducer), and the device recognized the SD card and the software update on it . I kept the unit on for the over six minutes of the update processing, watching the screen for a message that the update was complete.
Once complete, I turned off the system on my starboard side, then performed the exact same update process for the system on the port side of my boat. These two systems consist of a “master unit” to which the transducer is wired and a “slave unit” which receives its information from the “master unit” via a network cable. I ran my update in the master unit with the slave unit turned on and with the slave unit connected to the master via the network cable, and in doing so I updated the slave unit at the same time that I updated the master.
The next day, I invited the customer who had alerted me to the software update on the water with me to observe, first-hand, what the update did in a “real world” scenario.
We launched onto Stillhouse Hollow, pulled in about 40 feet of water parallel to the Lampasas River channel, put the Minn Kota Ulterra on Spot-Lock, put the starboard side transducer pole in the water, turned on the starboard side front and rear LiveScope units (I’m running a 1242xsv Touch as master and a 1233 as slave) and observed that we dropped 5/8 oz white. Hazy Eye Slabs blade down vertically.
After quickly making a few setting adjustments, we watched our baits sink, watched fish approach our baits, and then watched those fish attack the bait. My client reeled in a barely legal largemouth bass and I reeled in a 13 inch white bass.
Under Sonar Appearance settings, a new setting called “Color Limit” has been added. This color limit setting is the crown jewel of this update.
By increasing the color limit from its default of zero to the mid-50s (53-56 worked best for my application), peripheral artifact (aka interference, noise, static, fuzz) is virtually eliminated.
With that artifact no longer a problem, I found I could crank my gain (other brands call it “sensitivity”) much higher than ever before, making small objects, like my lure, stand out more than ever. .
Since that 40 minute test drive, I have now fished with four client groups and gained valuable experience on the water with this new Garmin LiveScope setting. I experienced how gain, color gain, and color limit adjustments all impact image quality at depths ranging from 22 to 51 feet.
The result of all this? If you own a Garmin EchoMAP or GPSMAP device and use LiveScope, you owe it to yourself to take the time to run the software update and set aside time on the water to adjust your settings to get the most out of this new variable. It will be an investment in your 2022 fishing season.