The Ice Fishing Sonar Revolution

February 9, 2009 by  

Our Outdoors
Nick Simonson

Once you start using sonar for ice fishing, you cant leave home without it

Once you start using sonar for ice fishing, you can't leave home without it

Is there anything as comforting on the ice as the whir and glow of a sonar unit? Inside the cover of a permanent shack, or jumping from hole to hole, flasher-style depth finders have been a boon to anglers for over 15 years. New developments in sonar technologies and recent offerings by a growing number of companies are continuing to aid ice anglers in their search for fish.

King of the Hill

With last year’s offerings of the LX-5 by MarCum Technologies ( and the Lowrance ( X68c Ice Machine, the stranglehold that Vexilar ( had on the depth finder market was loosened significantly. The industry forefather has responded with two new models for 2007.

The Vexilar FL-12 and the FL-20 are the latest in revolutions on the ice. Though similar to the company’s FL-8 and the FL-18 models, the new units boast some minor tweaking that will benefit anglers.

The most noticeable change is the removal of the sunshield around the display of the units. The cone has been replaced with a flat screen which is magnified and helps increase the viewing angle so that the traditional red, orange and green blips can be seen from the side. The two units boast a new low-power setting for fishing in 20 feet of water or less. This setting reduces interference and allows for greater visualization of the water column, even in weedy areas.

The Vexilar FL-20 will add many improvements over their other popular models

The Vexilar FL-20 will add many improvements over their other popular models

The FL-20, akin to the FL-18, has a split screen zoom option which allows the user to display the bottom six or 12 feet on one side of the display, while viewing the whole column on the other. These new models will undoubtedly rush anglers to the forefront of ice fishing technology, if they’re willing to pay higher prices.

Discount Sonar

With the new models by the three major brands competing for top dollar, ice anglers are now given an option they never had before – lower priced flashers. As demand for recent models increases, demand for the old ones diminishes and opens a secondary market for low-priced electronics.

Seizing on this lesson in Ice-economics 101, several companies are offering new basic units that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Most notable is MarCum’s VX-1. This unit offers the standard flasher design without all the bells and whistles of the company’s LX series and without the financial sting associated with top of the line products. The VX-1 retails for up to forty percent less than most models of flashers. This makes it appealing to even the casual ice angler in an era where many fishermen won’t leave home without some sort of sonar device.

Nature Vision (, maker of the industry-leading line of Aqua-Vu ( underwater cameras, issues its first sonar unit in a design that is both revolutionary and inexpensive.

The Vertical Pixel Graph (VPG) is encased in a display unit that is less than three inches wide, 8.5 inches tall and 3.5 inches deep. The unit displays the bottom and the water column in a one-by-six-inch vertical bar of liquid crystal pixels. This compact design and innovative presentation may revolutionize the flasher market; but perhaps the best part of the VPG is the price tag. At around $220, the device is affordable and easy to use by the most technologically challenged ice angler.

The advancements in sonar hitting the ice this year will help anglers catch more fish, and with prices dropping, affordable sonar is within every angler’s grasp. Similar to summer sonar units, ice anglers now also have many choices when figuring which units will light up their ice shacks. Just like six inches of fresh ice, the situation is very clear – the sonar revolution continues…in our outdoors.


One Comment on "The Ice Fishing Sonar Revolution"

  1. Best Catfish Bait on Thu, 28th Jul 2011 10:24 pm 

    Have never been ice fishing but it seem if I do a great sonar will help indeed!

    Catfish Jack

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