Roberts: Right sonar makes big difference

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

This week Miss-Lou anglers were blessed with cooler weather and a fall coming down the Mississippi River.

A much welcome cool front pushed thorough the area and put a smile on everyone’s face. The 90-plus degree surface water temperature won’t change much, but the cooler weather sure makes fishing more enjoyable.

The Mississippi River level is on a very slow fall. The stage at Natchez today is 24.5 feet. By Tuesday, the river stage will be around 23.8 feet.

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That’s a good stage for the bass, bream, white bass and crappie fishing on the Old River bend lakes.

As the river level drops, the water level of the Old Rivers will fall, which exposes cover that was once submerged. This is what we call the obvious structure.

The visible cover certainly holds fish, but it does receive a lot of pressure. If everyone fishes the same stump, that stump will eventually get fished out.

When this happens, back off. Move offshore, turn on your sonar and start looking for underwater structure with baitfish holding nearby.

The Old Rivers are loaded with submerged stumps and logs that receive very little fishing pressure simple because the cover is not visible above the water line. Three things will help you locate this hidden cover &045; a powerful sonar unit, patience and the knowledge to interpet the readings.

Low-cost entry-line units are fine if you only fish a half dozen times a year and you’re not worried about finding the glory hole. If you’re only concern is water depth, go cheap.

However, don’t let a cheap unit get wet, or you’ll have problems with moisture behind the screen.

If you are a serious angler, spend a little more on your next sonar. Mid range units from $225 to $350 will do a fair job. They will show brush, bait and fish, but the clarity is not that great. Better than the entry-line units, but not the best.

If you can afford it, go one step above the mid-range units and try a color sonar. It’s like comparing black and white television to color.

Garmin International offers the best, most powerful, affordable and user-friendly sonar and GPS units on the market. Garmin’s latest color sonar, the 250C, retails for about $530.

In September of last year, I began using Garmin color sonar, and there is no way I could go back to a standard gray scale unit.

The clarity and power of the Garmin color units are unreal. Get a Garmin, and you will see what you’ve been missing.

Eddie Roberts writes a weekly fishing column for The Natchez Democrat. Reach him at