When it comes to live-action sonar, Virginia Beach angler Jay Bernas is a believer. Since the light-tackle aficionado rigged his 14-foot Hobie Pro Angler with a Garmin Panoptics Livescope system, he hasn’t been able to take his eye off the screen. “I call it video game fishing,” he laughs.

A live-action transducer shoots a signal forward, like underwater radar, bouncing off the bottom, fish, structure and other obstacles. The display unit shows real-time images of the action, users can watch fish swim across the screen and see their lure work back to the boat. Bernas marvels, “It’s like watching an aquarium.”

The signal is sensitive enough to pick up fish, bait, even the lure. To fool speckled trout, Bernas often relies on suspended lures. “I can see where the fish are holding and adjust the depth of my lure to keep it in the strike zone,” he explains.

Greg Groener oversees Panoptix Livescope for Garmin. In a recent interview, Groener says Garmin offers two systems. The most advanced model, Panoptics Livescope System, was introduced in 2018 and retails for $1,500. The other, LVS12, uses the same technology but covers less viewable area, and costs around $500. The second choice doesn’t require a black box to connect to a compatible display unit, so Groener says it is best for kayak anglers.

Live-sonar is growing quickly and Groener says Garmin is hard at work improving the imagery and making it easier to use. While they don’t have plans for a kayak-installation kit, Groener expects third-party accessory makers to cook up solutions to running the system on a kayak.

Until then, the challenge has fallen to innovative engineers. For forward seeing sonar to work properly, the transducer must rotate 360 degrees. Most anglers are mounting the transducer on a pole they can turn to aim the signal. Burnas suggests, “Be sure to index the handle so you know the direction the transducer is pointing.”

Bernas’ system uses a RAM ball mount attached to a gear track on the gunwale. The other end of the ball mount connects to the shaft of an aluminum cane that Bernas can adjust for length. He mounts the transducer head to the end of the cane and uses the handle on top to direct the signal. He recommends a 15ah lithium-ion battery to power the fish finder and black box.

Using the system, Bernas says he’s learned more about speckled trout in 12 months than he’s learned in 20 years. “I anchor the kayak and rotate the transducer until I find fish,” he says. His Panoptix Livescope has won him new friends, too. “When I find fish with the Livescope, everyone else hooks up, too,” he laughs.

“I can see clearly now the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way…” –Johnny Nash | Featured photo: Jay Bernas

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Dan Wassmann is a free-lance writer who travels frequently to northern Michigan, where he can be found in his sea kayak on Lake Michigan or in his fishing kayak on inland lakes in pursuit of lunker bass, pike and walleye. Dan is the former managing editor of both City & State, a national newspaper for state and local government officials, and the Deerfield Review, a suburban Chicago community newspaper. He is also a former communications manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, part of the central bank of the United States. Dan has published articles in variety of publications, including the Chicago Tribune and Kayak Angler. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dan is married to Kathy Wassmann. They live in Glenview, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, and are the parents of three grown children, all of whom live in Chicago.


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