Review: Lowrance Elite-5 CHIRP Gold Combo

Cutting-edge technology takes sonar performance to new heights.

Ever since Lowrance threw back the curtain on the underwater world with its iconic “Green Box” back in the 1950s, the company has continuously pushed the sonar envelope with a steady stream of ever-improving products.

The Elite-5 CHIRP Gold Combo is a shining example. Part of the all-new Elite-5 and Elite-7 CHIRP Series, this sonar/chartplotter boasts a fistful of hard-fishing features. From a sharp, easy-to-see 5-inch color display to a full suite of handy adjustments and functions fueled by intuitive commands, it’s a joy to operate.

To me, however, the CHIRP technology itself is what really sets the Elite-5 CHIRP Gold Combo apart from traditional sonar systems. Short for “compressed high-intensity radar pulse,” it uses long-duration ‘chirps’ to sweep a wide range of frequencies, and in the process takes sensitivity, target separation, noise rejection and even ease of use to new heights.

Long-time North American Fisherman friend and decorated tournament champ Scott Glorvigen introduced me to the Elite-5 CHIRP system, and the benefits were immediately obvious. For starters, CHIRP is unencumbered by trade-offs faced by traditional sonar. For example, when you crank up sensitivity to spot more fish on single-frequency sonar, clutter increases throughout the water column. Dial it back, and you risk losing detail and not seeing fish. With CHIRP, however, stellar sensitivity and target separation go hand-in-hand with clutter-killing noise rejection.

As a result, I’ve found it easy to spot bass, walleyes and other predators tucked tight to bottom, holding close to structure or cover, and even lurking within or beneath schools of suspended baitfish. In another victory for CHIRP, its high-power pulses produce crisp returns at faster boat speeds, fueling fast-paced search sessions that let me cover water quickly on the hunt for the next big bite.

To be fair, Lowrance’s time-tested Broadband Sounder and DownScan Imaging sonar technologies are no slouches, either, and the Elite-5 CHIRP Gold Combo incorporates them into the package as well. And thanks to DownScan Overlay, I could easily feather DownScan views onto either CHIRP or Broadband displays for an incredibly detailed look at structure, cover and the fish relating to it. As a bonus, the high-res, multi-window display lets you pick from pre-set layouts, including an extremely handy, three-panel view showing GPS, multiple CHIRP ranges and DownScan Imaging returns simultaneously. Thankfully, all of this is controlled via a simple page-selector menu system and one-thumb operation.

As if that weren’t enough to sell me on this unit, standard Lowrance features such as TrackBack—which lets you scroll back in recorded sonar history to study soundings and waypoint areas of interest—make it even better. Bundled with wildly accurate GPS performance and world-class Navionics Gold cartography; the map-making capabilities of Insight Genesis; Advanced Signal Processing (which I appreciate because it limits the need to tweak sonar settings); plus multiple HDI Skimmer transducer options—and you’ve got a top-shelf sonar-chartplotter system, all for less than $700.

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