"There's still that kid in me that absolutely delights in catching crappies," says Bill Carson. "Plus, when it comes to table fare, they're awfully hard to beat."
Truth is, since the recent launch of the Humminbird® ONIX™ at the 2013 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, Carson has been using the powerful new technology to find and catch pretty much everything that swims: from largemouth and spotted bass to stripers and walleyes to crappies and redfish.
"Second only to bass, panfish are America's fish. So a big part of Humminbird's job should be to show anglers how our technologies can help them find more panfish faster. And ONIX is the cat's pajamas. It gives anglers an unprecedented level of customization, so a bass fisherman can set it up for the way he fishes, a walleye guy, redfish angler, crappie fisherman and so on."
Just this past week, Carson took a break to fish crappies on Georgia's famed Lake Lanier. Running two ONIX10ci HD SI units, one at his console, the other on the bow, Carson says the new units are amazingly fast, powerful, customizable and easy to use. "ONIX eliminated a ton of guesswork and put me on crappies fast."
Like a lot of waters in the country right now, Carson found crappies pushing up shallower from wintering areas to pre-stage near shallower spawning habitat on Georgia's Lake Lanier.
"These pre-staging areas can mean areas close to structure, like wood or docks. On Lanier manmade structure is key. For example, I can idle by a boat that's backed into the water off a dock and and the outdrives will actually hold fish. It's not unusual to find crappies hanging around the crud on a lower unit hanging in the water."
Carson's typical M.O. is idling parallel to docks with Side Imaging, looking for fish in and around the floating platforms, pilings and underwater cover. His favors the larger, shaded platforms of community docks which often hold massive schools of crappies.
"Side Imaging allows you to quickly identify which docks have fish on them and which don't. It's a great filter. No wasted time on areas with no fish."
Yet, as was the case on Carson's recent outing, a cold front moved in, pushing crappies away from docks and out over adjacent, deeper water.
"There just weren't the numbers of fish under the docks that there should have been. So, I looked to the other side of the boat away from the docks with Side Imaging. Once I found them with ONIX I was able to highlight a specific depth contour and keep idling that depth contour until I found the biggest schools."
Carson's magic depth was the 30-foot contour on his Humminbird LakeMaster map, which he set with a variance of plus/minus five feet a touch slider via the patented Depth Highlight feature, which highlighted the area in green for easy navigation.
"Since crappies typically look up to feed, I like to present my bait a foot or two above them in the water column. My set-up usually comprises 8-pound braid with a 2- or 3-foot leader of 8-pound fluorocarbon. I like braid for immediate hooksets on deeper fish; the soft tip of my rod prevents any ripped lips."
While filling his livewell with slabs destined for the dinner table, Carson stumbled on an underwater tree in relatively shallow water, illustrating how Humminbird Down Imaging can be a crappie angler's best friend.
"I was following that 30-foot contour when I approached a point and discovered a tree that had broken off and fallen into the water. You can clearly see the wood and fish suspended off of it in 10.5 feet with Down Imaging. So, not all crappies will suspend into deeper water during a cold front. Often, they will hold close to cover like wood, too."
Anglers using ONIX say that the Down Imaging view is sharper than on previous Humminbird units.
Carson explains: "The ONIX has a new all-in-one transducer that has a dedicated Down Imaging transducer element built in. Historically, unless you used a separate XNT 9 DI T transducer with your Side Imaging unit, all DI images were created out of two Side Imaging overlays. Now it's a dedicated transducer with a 455 kHz beam with an approximate 75-degree cone for stunning imagery.
"You also have an 800 kHz setting, but at 45 degrees, it's narrower. I typically want to use 455 kHz with DI for the same reason we want to use it with Side Imaging: bigger playing field. The only time I switch to 800 is when I'm looking for something that is very hard and reflective, like a car, an airplane or something metal. I might use it in boulder fields or rock piles, but nine times out of ten I'm using 455 kHz."
Speaking of fast operation, Carson says the visual icons on ONIX make operation a breeze.
"The upper left hand corner shows an arrow with a little brown box. What this tells me is I was looking at the screen in multi-pane view. Most likely, I had Down Imaging, Side Imaging, 2D Sonar and a chart in a custom wire frame view all at the same time. Then, I saw these fish on the tree so I simply touched the DI view window with both fingers and had it snap to a full-pane view, which is what you have in the illustration above."
He adds that on the top right of the screen you can tell at a glance what other integrate technologies are on and running. "The top right of my screen tells me left-to-right that my GPS, Sonar, and 360 Imaging are all on, my trolling motor is deployed, and iPilot Link is engaged."
"The ONIX Side Imaging view reveals a majority of crappies off to the right of the boat, which gradually becomes deeper."
"Simply touch one of the view with two fingers and it will snap to a full-page view of that particular screen shot. Notice the crappies on the left hand side of the boat. The chart indicates that the boat is Spot-Locked, notated by the anchor icon. The green line that trails left indicates the direction the trolling motor is turned. Also notice the saved waypoints where Carson marked other fish."
"In this image Carson is no longer Spot-Locked; instead, he's moving around with the Minn-Kota Terrova, looking for active fish. The ONIX Side Imaging view reveals suspended fish off to the left of the boat. Note: Look above the "H" in "kHz" on the SI view and there's another school of fish in deeper water!"
Carson: "You'll notice in this screen grab fish are not showing up in 2D sonar because of the narrow transducer cone and the fact I am running in Clear Mode with minimal sensitivity. There are times, especially with smaller fish like crappies, when Max Mode – even in shallower depths like this – works best with panfish. Simply adjust the sensitivity until the fish that you see in Side Imaging and Down Imaging begin to appear."
At the end of the day, Carson says the new Humminbir ONIX is the first step in a beautiful trifecta: locate fish, catch fish, eat fish.
"I tell you what, that meal of fried crappies was the best meal I've had in a long time: fresh guacamole, sliced fresh jalapeno peppers, steamed taco shells, and perfectly fried fish … wow!"
Pretty hard to argue with that.
Humminbird ONIX Crappie Case Study #1 officially CLOSED.
For more information visit humminbird.com,, contact Humminbird, 678 Humminbird Lane, Eufaula, AL 36027, or call 800-633-1468.