Marine News from the Great Lakes

Advances in Fishfinders

Published: Thursday, April 2, 2015
By: Rushton Gregory


There was a time not too long ago, when fishing meant you got on your boat with a rod, reel and a jar of worms, and used skill and local knowledge to try to trick the fish onto your stringer. The old joke went, “if it were easy they’d call it ‘catching’ not ‘fishing’”.

One major advancement that has surely changed the sport and makes it a whole lot easier than in the old days is recreational sonar or fishfinders. In 1957 the Lowrance "Little Green Box", sold commercially as the Fish Lo-K-Tor, was introduced as a portable and affordable version of existing military and commercial fathometers – it quickly revolutionized recreational fishing. Nearly 60 years later, how things have changed since the days of interpreting those little flashing lights. Recently, I got to try a new Multifunction Display (MFD) – the great- great-grandchild of the Lo-K-Tor – the new HDS Gen3. A single display that has the latest advancements in built-in sonar, chartplotting and cartography, as well as internet connectivity and state-of-the-art radar capabilities, the HDS Gen3 is a powerful piece of equipment, to say the least. With the cost savings of not needing to add modules and plug-ins to get most of these amazing features, the Gen3 will definitely be seen on boats throughout the upcoming season.

The HDS Gen3 is more than just a repackaged and remarketed version of the HDS Gen2 Touch. Lowrance really started from the beginning, taking the experience gained from one of the most successful inshore MFDs in the industry, and added new features and capability to make it even more powerful.


Right off the bat, I noticed the interface is intuitive and easy to use, with full control of all functions through either a multi-touch touchscreen or via full keypad operation which includes access to scrolling menus, cursor assist, snap-to setting markers and innovative preview panes with quick-touch slider bars. The large, LED-backlit, widescreen display is specially tuned for high definition sonar returns, dynamic menu elements and a layered color scheme for excellent on-screen detail. To drive its display, the HDS Gen3 houses a lightning-fast processor, which virtually eliminates wait times between functions.

There are more than a few sonar advances built in to every HDS Gen3. With single frequency Broadband Sounder, you can display and mark gamefish, baitfish and structure, even while traveling at high speeds and at great depths – reported to reach to 3,000 feet. Using the multiple frequency CHIRP Sonar, fishfinding capabilities have much greater sensitivity with seriously improved resolution and incredible noise rejection for clearer, easy-to-see targets. As a bonus, the HDS Gen3 reduces the number of items need to be installed since it can deliver CHIRP and Broadband Sounder frequencies all from a single transducer. Looking for even more detailed images? Lowrance StructureScan HD sonar is also built in and delivers incredible picture-like 180-degree views of what’s below the boat, although it does require the additional of an optional StructureScan transducer.


Not only are there a dizzying number of options for how to capture these vivid images, the data collected allows boaters to tailor how to use the information. With HDS Gen3’s StructureMap HD capability, you can use live or recorded StructureScan logs to create stunning underwater images that can be viewed as an overlay to add incredible bottom detail to any electronic chart. Or, if your style of fishing requires a more ‘localized’ view, the DownScan Overlay technology combines DownScan Imaging with either CHIRP or Broadband sonar for an unmistakable way to identify fish. To round out new ways to use collected data, a feature I thought was brilliant and sure to be a hit is TrackBack. Using internal memory, TrackBack lets you scroll back through the sonar history and pinpoint an exact location with a waypoint on the chartplotter. Pass a fish or structure while moving at high speed? Mark the spot and come back for a closer look at another time, all without missing a thing or having to swing the boat around for another pass!

More than just a fishfinder, the HDS Gen3 is also a powerful navigation system. A built-in internal GPS antenna with a 10 times per second position update rate gives the Gen3 ultra-accurate trails, smoother chart performance and maximum accuracy even at high speeds. It also supports WAAS corrections in case of GPS signal loss. This accurate position information is displayed on Insight USA charts for Coastal and Inland US waters and a world background reference map, and is compatible with the most expansive selection of cartography on the market including C-MAP and Navionics charts. Also, all charting options can be used in conjunction with Insight Genesis personalized maps. Genesis allows you to make maps using recorded sonar logs by uploading data to your Insight Genesis account and add optional vegetation or bottom-hardness overlays. These charts can be used by themselves or viewed side by side in a chart-in-chart split screen presentation simultaneously, in 2D or 3D perspective view, with independent control of range and overlay capabilities.


One of the new features I found most exciting is access to the newly launched GoFree Shop directly from the display. The HDS Gen3 comes with Wi-Fi functionality built in allowing access to GoFree Shop services by simply linking to a local wireless or 3G service and logging in. With the GoFree Shop, you can purchase, download and immediately use Insight and other third party maps directly from the home screen of the HDS Gen3 without the need to purchase a new chart card, or download on a home computer. Also the GoFree cloud-enabled technology allows for automatic software update notification, direct download and install – guaranteeing you’re using the most up-to-date operating system with all of the latest features. We have come to expect this type of service for our computers, smartphone, TVs and other consumer electronics, so in my book it’s a welcome feature of the Gen3 and something I expect to see on other systems in the future. Rounding out the HDS Gen3’s wireless connectivity features, there is also a free GoFree App that allows you to view and control select displays wirelessly using supported tablets and smartphones.


As if that wasn’t enough packed in to a small gray box, the HDS Gen3 is designed for true, full-boat integration. For total control, SmartSteer with the optional Outboard Pilot system can not only steer the boat to a selected heading, waypoint or along a route, but can seamlessly switch from control of an electric-steer MotorGuide Xi5 Pinpoint GPS trolling-motor to the Outboard Pilot autopilot steering system, right from the display. The HDS Gen3 is also plug-and-play compatible with Lowrance performance modules such as 4G Broadband Radar, SonicHub Marine Audio, SiriusXM Marine Weather, and more. Dual Ethernet networking ports and micro-C connections support NMEA 2000 device integration, as well as video input capabilities using an optional adapter cable for unlimited customization. Sized to fit the same bracket and flush-mount cutout as the HDS Gen2 Touch, upgrade and installation are a snap. The HDS Gen3 is available in 7-, 9- and 12-inch displays to match the helm station of almost any boat.

Even after all these years and all of these advances, we still call it “fishing” and it still takes skill and patience, but with the HDS Gen3, there are so many features that take the guesswork out of the process, you’re sure to call it “a great day of fishing”.


For more information on the all-new Lowrance HDS Gen3, accessories, video and other great information, go to






tags: Electronics, Fishing

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