UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Clear Lake

ABCs of understanding flashers, fish finders for bass fishing

ABCs of understanding flashers, fish finders for bass fishing
FLW Tour pro Jim Moynagh.

If you follow the world of professional fishing, it is hard not to notice there is a trend back to using flasher technology for fish finders. The use of a flasher-style display uses a rotating wheel that displays the bottom and other targets in a series of lights on that spinning wheel. In contrast to liquid-crystal displays that show a history of what your boat has passed over, a spinning-wheel flasher displays the bottom and targets in real time.

Actually, first-generation spinning-wheel flashers were the first type of portable sonar systems used by fishermen back in the 1960s. A system called the Green Box made by Lowrance was the gold standard for sonar during this period.

Today's hard-core bass anglers have found some very important reasons to put a spinning-wheel flasher back in the boat. For many readers, a fish finder using spinning-wheel flasher technology is totally new. In fact, a complete generation of anglers have grown up in the era of the liquid-crystal sonar display and don't know the first thing about what a spinning-wheel flasher unit can do to make them better fishermen.

I should give our readers a little background on the evolution of sonar technology and why the flashers faded from favor with many anglers back in the early 1980s. The advancements of the LCDs amazed many anglers. They were now able to see a rough picture of what the bottom looks like and that was a big deal. In fact, they could even display little fish symbols while they were fishing. The technical and financial commitment of the major sonar makers into LCD systems rather than the next generation of spinning-wheel flashers spawned an almost complete elimination of the latter type of fish finder.

Only a 45-year-old sonar company in Minneapolis called Vexilar realized the potential of flasher technology for fish finders. Unfortunately, it was not for bass fishing; ice fishing kept this technology growing and developing. In Minnesota, the winters are long and cold. Liquid-crystal sonar would freeze, but the next generation of spinning-wheel flashers from Vexilar performed without fail. You see, the next generation of flashers did not use the fragile, single-color neon bulbs but used a combination of light-emitting diodes with colors. This breakthrough came with little fanfare to bass fishermen. The bass world was focused on looking at symbols of little fish and seeing a digital readout of the bottom. Anglers were willing to give up the real-time response of flasher sonar for a history of what their boat had passed over.

Simply put, the new generation of fish finders using LEDs and spinning-wheel flasher technology deliver performance and benefits that the now-popular liquid-crystal sonar units cannot. Are flashers better than a LCD? Maybe not, but they do offer information that cannot be shown on most LCDs, and I have found that it can definitely help some anglers catch more fish. This is the reason flashers have re-gained a spot in the boat for many of the nation's top bass anglers, even while they still have a liquid-crystal sonar displayed in their boats.

Think about the need for real-time response. The modern bass boat is getting faster and faster, while the image-processing speeds of the LCDs are getting slower and slower. At 70 mph, the delay in display time on a new color LCD, now called TFT, might be up to be 50 yards off before you even know the depth changed. A spinning-wheel flasher is almost instantaneous in its display. Even if you are trying to fish a brush pile, the display from a liquid crystal makes it almost impossible to hold the boat over the edge of the brush since the boat will drift over it and your LCD only shows the brush after you have drifted over the edge. The flasher will allow you to fish individual limbs on a brush pile.

Don't be confused by attempts from some companies to create an LCD of a flasher wheel. This is done to give the angler the feeling that it performs like a spinning-wheel flasher, but don't be fooled. The processing time of an LCD is just as fast as if it is in the normal shape of a TV-size display or shaped to look like a spinning-wheel flasher display. Many avid spinning-wheel flasher fans are very critical of the performance of this copycat display. Because of the time delay between when the copycat unit receives and displays the signal, it is almost impossible to use it like a true spinning-wheel flasher.

The best way to explain the benefits of a fish finder that uses spinning-wheel flasher technology is to actually show you images of the flasher in use. This also helps to explain why they are superior to LCDs for some fishing situations.

Shallow-water performance

Flasher detail in shallow water setting.If you own an LCD sonar now, you might think it is impossible to display a signal in less than a foot of water. Some of the nation's most popular liquid-crystal sonar systems that come standard on some bass boats from the factory do not even show you a bottom signal until you are in 5 feet of water. This photo shows the Vexilar FL-10 displaying the true bottom depth in less than a foot of water. If you're fishing a dirty-water lake or river system, it is critical sometimes to know if you are fishing in 1, 2 or 3 feet of water. The flasher sonar is designed to perform in supershallow water.

Thick vegetation

Flasher with weed tops readings.Here is where the Vexilar FL-10 three-color flasher and fish finder excels. If you have fished deep grass or milfoil beds, you know what I'm talking about here. A standard liquid crystal might show your boat in 5 or 6 feet of water, but actually you are in 12, with 6 feet of weeds. Using a Vexilar Flasher is the unfair advantage for many Texas anglers who have discovered how to find pockets in the canopy of vegetation for flipping jigs. The three-color design of the Vexilar allows the angler to better understand where the open pockets will be, and in some situations, it is not on the bottom. This view clearly shows the top of the weeds in green. Green signals are the weakest and can be used to identify weeds or even small fish targets on the outer edge of the transducer cone. As targets get stronger, they turn to orange and then to red that shows, in this case, bottom. Some of the superdeep grass anglers of West Texas can actually see red targets of bass in the deep weeds that might run down to 30 feet.

Anglers can use this display to find where the opening in the weeds will occur. Here you can even see the opening under a large clump of milfoil. The bass can be holding just below this canopy, and many anglers fishing without a flasher will simply drop their jigs right past them. And unless they are very hot fish, these anglers miss a prime opportunity. With a flasher, you can hold the boat over these hidden pockets and fish your baits in the sweet spot ...very cool indeed.

Targeting hard or soft bottom areas

The more anglers understand bottom makeup, the more they start to realize fish relate to the things that offer what they need. In the spring, they might prefer soft bottom areas, where vegetation is starting to grow and where the bottom tends to absorb more sunlight. In the summer, they might target hard bottom areas that are holding crayfish. Flashers make it easy to know if you are fishing above hard or soft bottom areas, and you are able to pinpoint the exact areas where the soft or hard bottom areas begin.

Flasher with hard bottom and soft bottom examples.In this photo you will see how, within 10 yards of each view, the bottom went from hard rock to supersoft mud. The signal shows a bright red band for the bottom, so you can spot a hard bottom, but with the Vexilar three-color systems, you are able to see how the bottom softens and the colors change all the way to green, which means a very weak signal.

Too much power

Flasher with For many years, manufacturers would stress to anglers that, if you wanted to get more information on your LCD, you were to turn off the auto gain setting and manually turn up the gain. Not so with Vexilar Flashers, since there is no auto gain setting. Photo No. 4 shows how you can simply light up your display if you have your gain turned up too high, which then shows everything and that will confuse any angler. So turn down the gain until you can clearly spot bottom and you are good to go. In most cases with a Vexilar Flasher, the lowest gain setting is best, because Vexilar sonar systems offer the most sensitive receivers in the industry.

Will the spinning-wheel Vexilar Flasher like the FL-10 in-Dash, FL-8 or FL-18 help you catch more fish? Well, if you ask any true "flasher guy" out there, he will say he feels far more confident he can find and stay on fish holding cover better with a flasher than any other type of sonar display. It is my firm belief that it will not be long before a national bass tournament victory will be credited to the flasher directly and not some secret lure or hot spot. Serious tournament anglers know that being able to have great boat control around structure is a sure-fire receipt to put more fish in the boat.

Tags: jim-moynagh  article 

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 1

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 1

The first day of the Toyota Series Western Division event on Clear Lake started with calm conditions and pleasant weather. Some of the anglers surveyed today were struggling to get bites and others seem to have the fishing dialed in. It appears to be feast or famine so far, but there will be some solid bags crossing the stage starting at 3 p.m. PT this afternoon. READ MORE »

TITLE Coming to the Mississippi

TITLE Coming to the Mississippi

FLW and Explore La Crosse announced Thursday that the 2021 Tackle Warehouse TITLE, the Pro Circuit Championship, will be held Aug. 17-22, 2021, on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Although FLW’s top championship has been held on the Mississippi River once before – in Moline, Illinois in 1998 – this event marks the first time that FLW has hosted its premier event in La Crosse. READ MORE »

Fish Northern Rivers for Smallmouth

Fish Northern Rivers for Smallmouth

From the Mississippi River to the Peshtigo River, Wisconsin and the surrounding region has miles of flowing water chock full of smallmouth bass. In the recent Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota, Matt Stefan targeted rivers flowing into Green Bay for the majority of his catch, and in doing so, he was able to tap into a skillset that he’s groomed for years on the Wisconsin River and other flowages near him. READ MORE »

2021 Toyota Series Championship Hits Pickwick

2021 Toyota Series Championship Hits Pickwick

FLW and the Hardin County Convention & Visitors Bureau announced Wednesday that Counce, Tennessee, will host the prestigious 2021 Toyota Series Championship, Oct. 28-30, 2021, on Pickwick Lake. READ MORE »

Annual Bass Fishing Hall of Fame Auction Goes Digital

Annual Bass Fishing Hall of Fame Auction Goes Digital

The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame is excited to announce its first Digital Hall of Fame Week, which will be anchored by a massive online auction offering up an incredible selection of fishing-related items not available elsewhere. READ MORE »

2021 All-American Heads to Douglas

2021 All-American Heads to Douglas

FLW announced Tuesday that the 38th annual Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American will be held on Tennessee’s Douglas Lake in 2021. READ MORE »

2021 National Championship set for Grand

2021 National Championship set for Grand

FLW announced Monday that the 12th annual Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI National Championship will be held on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in 2021. The tournament, slated for March 3-5, showcases the nation’s best collegiate anglers and awards the winners a $33,500 prize package, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard and automatic entry into the 2021 Toyota Series Championship where they will compete for a top prize of up to $235,000. READ MORE »

Dardanelle Midday Update – Day 3

Dardanelle Midday Update – Day 3

Championship Saturday of the Toyota Series Plains Division opener at Lake Dardanelle presented by Fish-Intel followed its pattern of the week with anglers failing to capitalize on sparse opportunities. READ MORE »

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 3

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 3

With the wind laying down a bit, the top 10 anglers in the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River have been able to go wherever they pleased today. With crisp morning temperatures, plenty of sun and a north wind, the conditions have largely been quite good, with mixed results from the anglers. READ MORE »

Dardanelle Midday Update – Day 2

Dardanelle Midday Update – Day 2

Anglers said Thursday that current didn’t matter during the first round of the Toyota Series Plains Division opener presented by Fish-Intel at Lake Dardanelle, but apparently it matters more than they thought. READ MORE »

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 2

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 2

With strong wind from the north again, the Toyota Series Northern Division field was again confined to the actual Detroit River. On day one, the fishing was quite good, and several pros crossed the 20-pound mark and plenty of limits hit the scales. Today, things seem a little tougher. READ MORE »

Tommy Skarlis, 1965-2020

Tommy Skarlis, 1965-2020

FLW learned today that former FLW Walleye pro Tommy Skarlis of Denver, Iowa, passed away after a battle with brain cancer. He was 55. READ MORE »

Smith Wins Southeastern AOY

Smith Wins Southeastern AOY

Originally from Wisconsin and sometimes wearing a Green Bay Packers hoodie on stage, Dustin Smith doesn’t fit the mold of Toyota Series Southeastern Division Strike King Angler of the Year. Still, Smith hammered out a pair of top 10s and a 27th-place showing en route to the title, and his style of fishing was simply perfect for this season in the Southeastern Division. READ MORE »

Potomac Midday Update – Day 3

Potomac Midday Update – Day 3

Clouds have lingered throughout the morning, which most of the top 10 were thankful for as the bite has been better than it was during practice when conditions were calm and sunny. READ MORE »

Potomac Midday Update – Day 2

Potomac Midday Update – Day 2

Clouds once again greeted the field for day two of the Toyota Series Eastern Division event on the Potomac River and the fish were biting this morning. With low tide this morning around 8:40 a.m. ET – about an hour and a half later than yesterday – more anglers had time to capitalize on the strong bite revolving around that window today. READ MORE »

Potomac Midday Update – Day 1

Potomac Midday Update – Day 1

It was a gloomy start to the first day of competition for the Toyota Series Eastern Division event on the Potomac River, and though it seems like a fishy day, so far the fish don’t seem to think so. READ MORE »

2021 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Schedule

2021 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Schedule

The 26th season of FLW’s top professional circuit will feature six regular-season tournaments showcasing the best 150 anglers in the world competing for as much as $135,000 in a five-biggest-fish format on top bass fisheries at peak times. The 2020 season culminates in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit TITLE presented by Toyota, where the top 50 pros will compete for as much as $235,000 in a catch, weigh, immediate-release format. READ MORE »

Wheeler's Wheelhouse

Wheeler's Wheelhouse

The past 20 months of Jacob Wheeler’s fishing career have been nothing less than incredible. In 2020 alone, the MLF pro notched a Bass Pro Tour win on Lake Eufaula, an FLW Toyota Series victory on Pickwick Lake, and dominated the first-ever FLW Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Chickamauga. READ MORE »

Ft. Gibson Midday Update – Day 3

Ft. Gibson Midday Update – Day 3

Cameron Foster began the final day of the 2020 FLW Toyota Series Southwest Division event at Fort Gibson Lake with an 11-pound lead. By 8:00 a.m., Foster had returned to the honey hole that brought him to pole position with $27,070 on the line for crossing the finish line. Thanks to a hot, early bite, Foster is now nursing a four fish total with at least one 4-pounder in the boat. READ MORE »

Ft. Gibson Midday Update – Day 2

Ft. Gibson Midday Update – Day 2

Competitors in the Toyota Series Southwestern Division event at Fort Gibson Lake awoke to a completely different waterway than the one they fished yesterday. While day one brought overcast skies and a bevy of baitfish to the surface, day two screamed bluebird skies from the start and has settled into a mostly sunny blanket of blue towards midday. READ MORE »