I had a lot of anticipation, as Lowrance not only released the new Elite FS (FS) unit but the Active Target (AT) system as well. For a lot of people, myself included, the images and video of the AT in action got everyone super excited and only added to my anticipation. Every day saw a crazier video coming out, fish swimming in real time all over the screen, anglers watching their lures with ease dropping to the bottom and with the clarity unlike anything seen before, you can actually watch the fish swim right up to a 3inch plastic and eat it. With everyone’s attention on the AT it almost seemed like the FS got left out of the lime light a little, but with Lowrance really working on the rub points that anglers experienced with its predecessor the Elite TI² , the Elite FS improvements has delivered in spades. Straight out of the box the angler is met with a super slick looking unit, a clean crisp screen that when power could be easily mistaken for a Lowrance HDS, the screen itself gives the give anglers better visibility especially when wearing polarised glasses in high glare situations. Features included higher detailed Lowrance pre-loaded maps, radar and auto pilot, 3D Sonar and so much more.
Right from the get go I intended to install an FS and AT system in the bow of the boat specifically for targeting all my favourite estuary species, later on I’ll add an FS in the rear for all my navigation, sonar and down and side scan activities. This is by no mean the only way to install the new AT and FS and to be honest you’re really only limited by the type of fishing you do and your imagination. Over the past few months there has been some great debates on how you should mount the AT transducer, either on the trolling motor itself or a separate pole. In my opinion having the AT transducer fitted to the trolling motor can be a little restrictive, in the way having the trolling motor pointed in one direction and needing to have the transducer facing another like when in scout mode for example. As the majority of my fishing is often casting towards the bank (edge bite) the trolling motor itself is usually pointing off either into the wind, current or both and with this in mind I opted to mount my AT transducer on a separate pole. Now for the FS unit!
Installing the FS (or any unit for that matter) up front can be a little tricky, you need to opt for a spot that is highly visible whilst fishing but also free from things like hatches, ropes and so on. Ideally I would have mounted the unit directly up front so it could be easily seen when fishing from either side of the boat, unfortunately in the heat of a hot bite my unit would be in the firing line of my hatch opening whilst trying to find more fishing gear or myself jumping around the boat, so off to one side it went and following a few trips out it’s not too bad, well for me anyway.
If you’re an angler that had had and Elite TI² unit previously you’re in luck, installing the new Elite FS is super simple. Wiring wise the FS uses all the same plugs and transducer as the Elite Ti² , so it is literally a plug and play scenario, the only really difference for install is the mounting bracket. On the other hand if you’re installing from scratch you’ll need to spend some time running the power and transducer wires around but still make for a simple install. If you’re looking for some ideas check out my older article on installing my Elite TI² , it covers everything you’ll need to know.
Onto the AT transducer install, as I explained earlier your type of fishing will determine how to mount the transducer and something else to consider is being able to change between the different modes. Forward, down and scout modes require a physical change the transducer orientation so having quick and easy access to the transducer whilst on the water is must if you’re going to be changing between these modes on the fly.
The transducer is one aspect of the AT install to consider with the other being the AT sonar module itself, the sonar module is interface between the FS head unit and AT transducer, out of the box there is no shortage of cable so it can be placed anywhere really but for me, I like to keep all connections as far away from potential water egress as possible. My boat is an open style tiller steer which means I don’t have too many options for mounting the sonar module, the neatest area to install it and keep it out of the way of potential water egress was under the casting deck, basically on the back wall of the step. The cable themselves run up beside one of the ribs then route up under the gunnel. The plugs on the sonar module are facing down with dedicated drip bends in the cable so any water the finds its way down the cable drips off the wires and not find its way to the plugs themselves. Lowrances install manuals are really good to be honest and quite easy to follow. For me as the front FS unit and AT is almost a standalone system and I chose to power both from a standalone switch on my main switching panel which at first seemed perfect but it meant that every time I want to move spot I would need to cycle the FS unit and AT to off or the AT transducer keep pinging when out of the water. Not the best for the transducer. I’ve since added a switch as per the install manual so I can cycle the transducer to off when running in between spots.
My first impressions:
Straight out of the box both the Elite FS unit AT transducer and module look sharp, all the brackets and hardware are robust and look like they’ll stand up to the hard environments that us aussie fisho’s are going to put them through. Post install and during first power on I always get a little nervous, have I done everything correctly? In this case everything powered on smoothly, once powered up the FS unit prompts you accordingly with things like language unit measurements and so on. Once these prompts are complete the FS unit automatically sets up the AT system and before you know it the Active Target icon is located on the main screen. After spending some time cycling through the menus it was obvious that the FS unit is much quicker at changing between menus and screens than the Elite TI² and overall the display is a lot sharper. It’s fair to say I was stoked with the new unit.
On the water
Well it wasn’t long before I hit the water to play with the new set up and like all new toys you need to spend some time fiddling to get them just right, as far as the sonar, down and side scan goes all your familiar functions are there pallet colours sensitivity settings etc. and as I’ve mention in other articles I didn’t need to play around with the settings too much. The FS displays all these functions in a super sharp image making it a lot easier for you to interpret the image being presented to you. I can wait for the weather gods to play ball so I can get back out. The Lowrance charts straight out of the box are good also, I have no problem using them to navigate out to all my favourite spots, but the unit is capable of adding C-MAPS and it won’t be long before I add this for the ultimate navigation experience.
The AT functions are easy to find was you’ve selected the AT, pallet colour, mode (scout, down, forward) are easily found on the menu and there is a cool function which I have been using a lot called “record”. As long as you have a micro SD card installed that’s 32G or less the FS unit has the ability to record the AT image being presented, I’ll touch on this a little later on. The pallet colour I like to use is either the blue or gold colour as I find that it contrasts well and the fish and structure are visible and well defined on the screen. With regards to the modes remember the AT transducer needs to be set up for the modes you have selected, refer to the install manual as it explains all the modes and transducer positions, but there are marks on the bracket of the AT transducer that aid setting up the down and forward views. Scout mode being the obvious difference as the transducer is mounted horizontally instead of vertically.
My first trip out using AT systems was a mind blowing experience, I could literally see all the bait fish and bigger fish on the screen moving in real time and at one point I had to remind myself to keep fishing rather than watching what was going on. When set up in scout mode you have a 135 degree view but the cone angle is quit narrow at 15 degree so you may need to adjust the angle of your pole to suit the depth of water or area you’re scanning. But once set up this mode is awesome for locating fish and indicating where you should be placing your casts. The down and forward modes are great for locating fish sitting on structure and in particular seeing how the fish are holding in the area. On a recent trip I was able to watch my presentation drop to the school and see how the fish were responding to it, for the first 2 presentation dropped I didn’t even get a look in but on my 3rd I could see the fish following and striking, pretty incredible to watch to be honest and this particular scenario is where the AT system comes into its own. Being able to see exactly how the fish are and are not responding to your presentations is key. This means I will make presentation changes quicker based on what I am seeing and in nutshell gives me more effective fishing time on the water.
As I said earlier I have been using the record feature quite a bit, in particular when I get home. Let’s be honest as much as I’m watching the screen whilst out on the water I’m not going to see everything, so taking some time back home to review the video means I can look at the structure with more details and once again see how the fish and bait are moving about the area. At one point in a video a turtle came into view video and I had no idea until I was watch from the comfort of home.
Overall I think Lowrance has done a great job of developing a new Elite FS unit and matching it up with the AT system. This whole package I believe fits a price point that most fisherman can justify to the minister of war and finance (partner). The FS unit overall has had some excellent upgrades and like I said earlier could be easily mistaken for a Lowrance HDS screen. Does the introduction of the AT system mean fishing is now going to be called “Catching”, the simple answer is No. The AT system is another tool that will provide insight as to what the fish are doing for the day and can potentially make the difference between a day to forget or one to remember.
In short I have been absolutely blown away by the new system and if you have the opportunity to get out and check it out for yourself I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. On a different note keep an eye out for the new Lowrance trailer rocking up to a location near you they have all the cool toys on their including the FS and AT system, check it out.
Screaming Dragz and I hope your finding a few fish and thanks for reading