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Author Topic:   GPS and Fishfinder For Small Boat
DE_Montauk_170 posted 10-26-2007 01:57 PM ET (US)   Profile for DE_Montauk_170   Send Email to DE_Montauk_170  
I have just purchased a new 2008 170 Montauk. It's due to arrive in January 2008. Very excited for it to arrive!

This is my first time on the forum. I've been doing some research online, and browsing the forum. I have a question; hopefully you guys can provide some feedback. I'm trying to pick out a nice fishfinder, GSP, and chartplotter combined for the new boat. I've narrowed it down to the following three, all have nice 5-inch high resolution screens (at least 480X480), 256 color, internal antennas, dual beam transducers, etc.

Lowrance LMS 527C DF iGPS ($699 with basic navigation software pre-installed, would have to buy other navigational software to show chartplotting, contours, etc.)

Garmin GPS MAP 545s ($1000 with "saltwater, coastal mapping" pre-loaded, could upgrade to G2 Bluechart vision or other local maps for much more money)

Hummingbird 787c2i w/ NVB ($850 with Navioics Gold and Hot-maps pre-loaded, no way to load software in the future, but the loaded maps seem pretty good for what I'll be doing)

I have checked Boston Whaler forums and the
Humminbird actually seems to be a popular model with many boaters raving about it. I had heard that Humminbird is lower end though (not sure if that's true) The Lowrance seems to have nice fishfinding capability and with the upgraded maps would be very nice, and end up around the same price as the Humminbird. The Garmin seems to specialize in the maps and not so much in the fishfinding...almost a secondary feature on the device. They seem to care mainly about the GPS.
Any thoughts on which model I should invest in?
I'll be fishing in the upper Cheapeake Bay and DE area.
Thanks for your help!

BellBoyBob posted 10-26-2007 03:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for BellBoyBob  Send Email to BellBoyBob     
I also did some researching to upgrade my GPS and Sounder and decided on the Garmin 540s. The only difference I know of between that unit and the more expensive 545 is that on the 545 the screen resolution is better. I can tell you that the color screen on 540s was crystal clear out in the open water in both daylight and night cruising. There is an automatic clock-driven screen change for day and night. Night viewing is on a darker background and really reduces the glare. In addition, you can "dim" the light on the screen further. The 5" diagonal screen size is more than enough for viewing even in vey choppy water. The pre-installed g2 costal maps are very detailed (and the detail is adjustable) - more so than the old Bluechart. It covers all of the US costal waters including the Great Lake costal waters of Lake Ontario where I do most of my off-shore cruising. The ONLY thing the 500 series (and 400 series) Garmin units do not have is a trip log page. They do have a "numbers" page that is programable and re-setable. It does not, however, give you the max speed, average speed, running time, etc. Perhaps Garmin decided those features were superfluous but as Tom from this forum has suggested, a software update including a trip log page for the 500 series could materialize if enough owners wrote in. You can download their updates for all the GPS units - even discontinued ones - from their website.

Good Luck!


jimh posted 10-28-2007 10:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Making comparisons between these complicated instruments is difficult. There are so many features and variables, and there are really four products bundled into one unit:

--GPS receiver
--Chart plotter
--Chart cartography

Unless you are a very avid fisherman, the SONAR units tend to be overlooked and treated as equals. However, I recommend you look at the actual transducer to be installed. See if its size and shape are appropriate for your boat. If you want the SONAR to work at high boat speeds, check to see if it is designed for that.

The GPS receiver portion is not highly differentiated, and this tends to be overlooked in most comparisons. Check that there are NMEA outputs from the GPS to connect to your VHF Marine Radio with Class-D DSC rating.

The chart plotter and its display are often the principal focus of attention. The size and quality of the display are important. The layout of controls and design of the software is important. Check that there are NMEA inputs to allow the plotter to display data from other devices such as a VHF Marine Radio.

The chart cartography is probably the most important factor. Once you pick a brand of device you will be wedded to the particular format of digital chart cartography it supports. The first basis of selection is simply availability of data for your region or lake. Next is the comparative quality of the cartography. Is it provided only by the same vendor that makes the unit, or does it come from a third party? And most important, is the cartography included in the price? Some units come with a huge amount of cartography data embedded in them as part of the selling price of the unit, while others come with almost no cartography and require purchase of it at extra cost. This can have a big influence on the total cost of one unit compared to another.

The decision matrix is complicated. I am afraid I have never figured it out. I don't know if there is a clear winner or optimum selection. Let me know if you discover one.

DE_Montauk_170 posted 10-28-2007 11:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for DE_Montauk_170  Send Email to DE_Montauk_170     
Thank you Bob and Jimh.
That is the kind of info I was looking for. I appreciate the detailed feedback.
I am going to head back the websites and continue my search for the right device. I feel like I will be leaning towards a Garmin now and probably the 540s (thanks Bob for mentioning that the higher resolution is really the only difference, you are correct after checking the Garmin site). I could probably save some money on the resolution and use it to maybe add on a US 006R or US505L Garmin maps later if I need further detail.

Are the Garmin sonar/fishfinding capabilities as good as the Lowrance's? Anytime you see used bass boats for sale, or watch fishing shows, the boats are always outfitted with Lowrance units. It makes you wonder?!?!

The Lowrance dual frequency transducer does seem a little large and cumbersome for the back of a 17' Montauk (thanks Jim for mentioning to look at the physical size of the transducer). I'll be looking for models that have smaller tranducers.

I wouldn't say I'm an avid fisherman...most of my fishing will be bass fishing in larger state ponds in DE, and striper fishing in the Upper Chesapeake. I'll also be using it a lot for crabbing the Chesapeake and pleasure riding with the family.

Thanks for all your info...this is a great forum with excellent topics. I'm trying to kill time waiting out the next few months until the boat arrives.

jenkinsph posted 10-28-2007 12:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for jenkinsph  Send Email to jenkinsph     
While you wait for the boat to arrive is a good time to do your research for the electronics. I would put off the purchase for the electronics as long as you can since the best deals seem to appear right after the holidays are over. I would also advise at least a 7" or larger screen since in split screen mode you will need more room to view both of them.

The frequency chosen has more to do with the size of the transducer, a 200khz unit will be smaller than a 50khz or 200/50khz. I would think a 200khz single frequency unit would be ideal for your boat.

A word of caution about mounting the electronics, it is a good idea to have plans for expansion with room for more gear. You may find that you will want to add a second screen in the future or something else to the console face.

Congratulations on the new Whaler.


jimh posted 10-28-2007 09:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The Lowrance SKIMMER transducer is known to work well at high-speed boat operation.
sternorama posted 10-29-2007 03:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for sternorama  Send Email to sternorama     
I noticed the Sandard Horizon CPV 350 didn't make you cut to the top three. Any particular reasons? Just curious, as I am on the same road as far as shopping around... I also heard from a tech at SH that they will be offering a radar that will work with that unit sometime in the future.
BellBoyBob posted 10-29-2007 05:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for BellBoyBob  Send Email to BellBoyBob     
Incedently, on the Garmin 540s, if you equip it with the optional XM antenna and a XM subscription, you can access NEXRAD which gives you some radar return on the plotter screen. I looked at some of the subscription features and it does include radar for US surface at the entry subscription price.
Moe posted 10-29-2007 06:06 AM ET (US)     Profile for Moe  Send Email to Moe     
I highly recommend downloading the Owner's Manuals from the company websites and getting familiar with the operation of the units. You may find you like one better or less well than others.


Hal Watkins posted 10-29-2007 07:58 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hal Watkins  Send Email to Hal Watkins     
In April I purchased a new 170 Montauk...After a brief review of GPS/depth finders, I had the dealer install a Lowarance 522C/iGPS. I have been using Garmin handhelds for 10 years and currently use a Garmin 60Csx in the car and as a back up on the Montauk. I was very comfortable with the Garmins features and quality. The decision for me came down to the quality and availabilty of data bases where I boat. The upper Mississippi, St Croix and Minnesota Rivers were non existant at the time.
I like the customization of the screens that Lowrance facilitates. Adding waypoints is simple and quick. The transducer has worked very to love those MN weeds though. Wish I had bought Garmin stock a couple years ago!!! Hal of Waseca, MN
ryland posted 10-29-2007 02:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for ryland  Send Email to ryland     
just installed a garmin 440s on my 150 sport.....very pleased! easy to use, and plenty of features.
jgkmmoore posted 10-29-2007 04:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for jgkmmoore  Send Email to jgkmmoore     
I bought an 'EAGLE Intellimap 500C GPS/FF' over a year ago for $449 at Boaters World. The Eagle brand is the Chevy of the Lowrance world....built by Lowrance, but with wiring that would genarally be described as 'less commercial duty' than the Lowrance.Had to add a carto chip for about $99 to get accurate mapping for west coast (does not include inland lakes..bummer).Have found it to be a really dependable, sturdy unit.User friendliness could be better, but not much.Great display in any lighting conditions.I'm a rather casual fisherman, and found the unit really useful to return to hot spots, and very good at showing fish size as well as location.Great for downrigger fishing. LOTTA BANG for the buck !!!! Enough pixels for good pics. 5" screen is what you get for the price...would prefer 7". For the amount of fishing I do, it's a great unit.Got home in the fog a couple times with confidence...that was waaay cool.
jgkmmoore posted 10-29-2007 04:53 PM ET (US)     Profile for jgkmmoore  Send Email to jgkmmoore     
Ridge Runner posted 11-07-2007 06:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for Ridge Runner  Send Email to Ridge Runner     
If you want to save some money look at the Garmin 498C. It was discontinued, but if you do a search you'll find it available with dual transducer for about $460.00 ($1,070 List). It's preloaded with BlueChart g2 data and includes 3D maps, tide and current data. It also can accept mapping cards. It's resoultion may seem lite at 234 x 320 pixels, but I recently purchased this and mounted it on my 130 Sport and I think it is extremely readable. On the IFA Redfish tour in Port Charlotte, FL out of 86 boats about 20 had this unit. I talked to quite a few fisherman and they really had great things to say about it.
bigjohn1 posted 11-08-2007 08:08 AM ET (US)     Profile for bigjohn1  Send Email to bigjohn1     
I own and fish offshore from a 170 MONTAUK. Some will recommend against outfitting your boat with a Chartplotter/Sonar combo unit but you have limited space up on that console. I have found that a quality combo unit is very practical for this particular boat.

For the water you're navigating and fishing, you will never "need" a dual frequency 50/200 sonar unit. A single frequency 200kHz model with at least 600 watts of power will be perfect. If you find a dual frequency unit at a great price, go for it. You "could" use the dual frequency capability in shallower water and run a 50/200 split screen. The 50kHz will show you a much wider (but much less detailed) look at the bottom while the 200kHz will overlay a narrower and much more detailed look at the bottom.

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