From Flasher To Livescope
I remember as a boy my grandfather would borrow a minnow bucket and a broom handle from the neighbor anytime we went crappie fishing. I didn’t have a clue what it was, and my grandfather wasn’t one to explain a whole lot. One thing I can tell you is that when the brushpiles visible along the shoreline didn’t produce the old beat-up Styrofoam minnow bucket was unpacked. Then that broom handle came out as we headed to open water. I never knew that those trips with my grandfather was a prelude to the Garmin Livescope technology today.
My grandfather had been fishing this area of Percy Priest Lake for many years. He even saw it flooded when the dam was built. He knew where the creek channels were and probably had a good idea where some brushpiles were. I would bet that his neighbor that loaned the minnow bucket and broom handle had sunk a few and shared that with my grandfather. Anyway, the broom handle went in the water and my grandfather would move it around like stirring a big pot of chili. I would doze off chewing on the strap on my life jacket. I could never stay awake listening to the water lapping the side of that little aluminum boat and the putter of the old 18 horse Johnson.
My grandfather chewed tobacco back in the day. He didn’t talk much anyway. Especially not while staring into that minnow bucket and stirring with that broom handle. He never would spit either. That is until he found what he was looking for in the bottom of that minnow bucket. When he finally found it he would say to me “Kenneth drop your jig right here” but not before spitting a mouthful of Redman into the lake. That was my cue, and my jig would be halfway to the bottom before he could tell me. More times than not that old marabou jig, that’s all we used for crappie fishing, would produce a nice crappie or two before we moved on to another brushpile.
It would be many years before I realized that what was in that minnow bucket was a flasher unit. The transducer was on the end of that broom handle. I remember how he pointed that broom handle out to the side and back under the boat. He was searching the bottom for brush. It was much cruder but having the transducer on the end of that broom handle increased his search area. Much like Livescope today. We never caught a lot of crappie but from what I remember they were always big. I would give anything for just one photo of me and my grandfather holding up a few of those Percy Priest slabs for my granny.
That was 45 years ago. That minnow bucket and broom handle was the beginning of the steadfast advancement in recreational fishing electronics. An advancement that no one could have predicted back then. The flasher units were the cutting-edge fish finder for years. Then the fish finder that turned those little orange lines into fish symbols and brushpiles into blobs. Eventually these units replaced the flasher units. Then came side-imaging, down-imaging, 360-imaging and more. Most anglers have utilized the newer technology in one form or another but there’s a new technology that is taking fishing by storm. The Garmin LiveScope can be a game changer for tournament anglers and help weekend anglers catch more fish. That is for sure.
I was compelled to write this article after returning from a Brushpile Fishing Pro-Staff media event out of Holmes Bend Marina on Green River Lake. This is where I was introduced to LiveScope and as a skeptic for several years I can tell you after just 5 minutes at the controls of the transducer I knew I would be purchasing a LiveScope unit. I ordered it before writing this article. The big question for many, understandably so, is whether the LiveScope is worth it for the weekend angler?
This is a hard one to answer and I will try to explain why in the following paragraphs. My hesitation stemmed mostly from the cost. I also wondered just how good you could see the brush and the fish beneath you. That was the biggest question I had about the technology. I knew that anglers were seeing the bite and the fish on the screen. I wasn’t sure I wanted to stare at a screen wondering if a particular blob was a fish or not. Or what type of fish they were.
I was fortunate enough to be with Marcus Borgerding of Brushpile Fishing and Corey Thomas. Corey is arguably one of the best LiveScope anglers around. He is a guide on Dale Hollow Lake and uses LiveScope to put clients on big crappie. Corey situated the LiveScope on a few brushpiles for us. I could easily see the fish and that was eye opening. I could also tell that they were crappie by the shape. However, the one thing I never anticipated was how easy it was to see the mood of the fish. I could see the reaction of a crappie to the jig. Some fish would not even look at the jig while others would chase it around and ultimately strike the crappie magnet jig.
I was already being sold on the LiveScope technology when Corey asked me to sit down and work the controls. I will say it isn’t easy. There will be a learning curve to this technology. With a little patience and determination it can be mastered. Or at least learned enough to locate and catch more fish. After several minutes chasing two or three schools of crappie from cover to cover I was convinced that I had to have one.
The number one key to mastering LiveScope, at least after you have all the settings tuned in, is boat control. Finding and marking cover is the easy part. The key is to situate your boat so that you can get your jig to the fish effectively and know that your presentation is in the fish. There are many ways to do this. By using the range markings on the unit, you know how far from the transducer the brush is. Some like to drop their bait straight down to the fish while others prefer pitching or even casting to the fish. However, sometimes the fish will let you know what you will do whether you like it or not.
The second day at the camp I was very fortunate to fish with another Brushpile Fishing and B’n’M Poles Pro-Staffer Ron Bilbrey. Ron is also a great LiveScope angler with many tournament wins along with teammate Tom Hankins to prove it. Ron’s boat is setup with two Garmin LiveScope units. This allowed me to work the transducer myself. The transducer was mounted on a long rod with a handle. The handle told you the direction that the cover and hopefully the fish were located. It was a modern-day version of that broom handle my grandfather used.
I learned a lot that day. I was pretty sure I was getting a LiveScope unit from the day before but the day spent with Ron sealed the deal. With complete control of the transducer independent of Ron’s and with my own unit I was able to target fish that I saw while Ron could target a different fish all together. I could also fine tune the transducer so that I could see my jig better. With a single unit, with multiple anglers, this can be difficult.
Is the LiveScope technology worth it to the weekend angler? I would say without hesitation yes. Obviously, the cost is a sticking point for many and I get that for sure. It was a big sticking point for me until I saw it in action and the cost got a little less sticky. Many anglers fish 3 or 4 weekends a year and maybe a vacation trip. If this is you and you fish up shallow for spawning crappie then I would say Livescope might be too much.
If you fish a lot, especially in the summer and winter when fish move to deeper water or you want to maximize the time spent on the water then I would say that LiveScope is for you. The LiveScope technology can cut your time finding crappie tremendously. You can also see how the crappie are reacting to your presentation. This allows you to quickly decide to leave and check another brushpile or stake bed. This time savings alone will be the deciding factor in biting the bullet for a Garmin LiveScope unit for many anglers. The fun catching them and the fillets for dinner will eliminate any buyers remorse you might have.
Watch Video of Corey Thomas on Dale Hollow Lake catching slab crappie with LiveScope