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Using the Vexilar Sonarphone

Posted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 11:13 am
by tadpole
track w navionics chart.jpg
Navionics charts show more contour detail, and also provides lots of additional information.
track w navionics chart.jpg (45.6 KiB) Viewed 2080 times
Here is a long-awaited post about using the SonarPhone system that I won at the Classic. You can find earlier posts about my installation and initial thoughts elsewhere.

I did a short paddle last evening on the river in Mandarin. I launched from County Dock Rd and paddled SW for about a mile or so. I took some pictures of the screen and I'll try to describe some of the features.

If you are only interested in depth and fishfinding, you can use your smartphone as the screen and the SonarPhone app. There are as many adjustments available as there are with most mid-range sonars. If you want to use the GPS features of your phone, and have a split screen with depth, you use the Navionics app. That is what I was using for these pictures.

First, you can choose from four different charts, and can switch between them at will. Government charts (least detailed) Navionics charts (very detailed), Vexilar charts (look just like Navionics in my limited use) and Vexilar Live, which is the Vexilar chart, but with new info painted on as you acquire it. This is the data that you can send back to Vexilar and they use it to constantly update their info (or maybe Navionics does this....I'm not sure.) NOTE - Chart detail varies with zoom level! Much like any other GPS. Also you get all the details of your track - length, time speed, etc. Just be sure to turn it off, otherwise you will add the drive home to the end of your fishing trip. (Ooops!)

For this run I used a Samsung 7" tablet for the screen, and took picture with my Motorola Moto G phone (a small, basic phone).

The first two pictures are showing the Navionics chart and the govt chart, one right after the other. (I had the system settings showing metric depth, but I changed that after these two pictures.) The screen is glossy and highly reflective so you'll see reflections of the photographer....

You can see more detail in the Navionics chart (above). Also note that I am in about 6 ft of water (1.9 to 2.0 meters) The bottom is relatively flat and hard. Water temp is 84 degrees, but the transducer is inside the hull. I was using the 20 deg transducer cone. Also, you have to scroll the chart to keep up with your position. There may be a way to change that setting - I haven't looked. That is why the Navionics chart view shows me almost off the screen....

In the third photo you can see that I paddled straight for a dock, stopped, drifted backward on the same line, then took off in another direction. I took this picture after I had located a drop-off - you can see the depth change at the bottom of the screen and see the contour line I crossed on the chart.

Last photo - bottom flattens out at 13 feet, and I'm marking fish at 8 feet.

Here are some interesting features - and I haven't even started exploring all the neat things in the Navionics app when it comes to tides and water flow. There is a lot to that I am sure will be helpful.

If you take a picture with your phone while the Navionics app is operating, there will be a camera icon on the track. It saves it with the track. So any time you review the track, you can also click on the icon and the picture opens. ALSO - you can export the track by email, Facebook, twitter, or upload to cloud storage, as a .kmz file (google earth uses these). When the recipient opens the file in Google Earth, the photo is there as well.

I tried to post a .kmz file from an earlier trip but it is not permitted. I converted to a PDF but it may be too big. If you want to see it, shoot me a PM and I'll attach it in an email.

I think you can move back and forth between the SonarPhone app and the Navionics app, but I believe the wifi connection will break and have to be re-established. Not sure - I'll try it out soon.

I think that a current smartphone with a medium to large scree is suitable for this. It musty have true GPS, nit just a location service based on cell towers. It looks better in portrait mode, unless you like a really wide view of the bottom behind you. I also think that you don't have to keep it on and in view all the time, so I am going to experiment with putting my phone inside the pocket of the PFD that I won at the Classic (a good haul for me that night!). It has those zippered semi-rigid pouches that flop down like a small desk....could be just the thing.

Re: Using the Vexilar Sonarphone

Posted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 3:49 pm
by DougyMillCove
Thanks for the AWESOME write up. I'm going to put mine together soon, but I'm concerned about the Wi-Fi thing. Do you have to use a phone that uses Wi-Fi? I have a data plan but I don't know if that will work.

Re: Using the Vexilar Sonarphone

Posted: Sat Jul 18, 2015 4:26 pm
by tadpole
Yes, my phone and tablet use wifi. I generally only have wifi turned on - helps save my data plan (man, am I stingy! But I don't want to pay for a data plan then spend it all with app updates...) I can bring the phone and tablet to the HH on Tuesday. I'd bring the boat as well but without water it won't mean much.

One neat thing is that if you are with a buddy, and he has the app on his phone, you can give him the password and he can see the same thing you are seeing. I think that we could be running different apps, as well. For example, if I am using the Navionics app with the GPS and depth, you could be running the Sonarphone app and only see the depth.

There is a similar system on the market that uses bluetooth, but I think that might use more power.

Re: Using the Vexilar Sonarphone

Posted: Sun Jul 19, 2015 9:48 pm
by tadpole
Dougy, what phone do you have? You can download the sonarphone app and the Navionics app (not the Navionics HD - that's for tablets) and I can show you more on Tuesday night.

Re: Using the Vexilar Sonarphone

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 10:12 am
by Nakamoto2
So can you mark spots and will it give you a good depth while you are moving? I was wondering if I should spend the money on a normal fish finder/depth finder or this.

Re: Using the Vexilar Sonarphone

Posted: Wed Jul 29, 2015 5:27 pm
by tadpole
Yes, you can mark spots, and save them (like waypoints) And the depth screen is what you see on the lower third of the screen.witch to the SonarPhone app, all you have is the depth/FF screen, no track log. But I think you could also run a different tracking app while you are the SonarPhone app, and jump back and forth between the two. Having it all on one screen makes a lot of sense to me. Using the smartphone in general opens up a lot more possibilities.

But remember, the phone is now the screen for your GPS/FF, and it drains the battery. The T-box takes very little power, but on a long trip you need to have a booster for your phone.