I was able to get out on the water this past weekend and test the modifications that I made to my kayak over the winter. The most significant modification was the installation of the Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro. I previously highlighted the fantastic customer service team, and the ease of the installation to my Big Rig. Having had the opportunity to better acquaint myself with its slew of features, I wanted to, “walkthough,” and provide my thoughts on the its overall use.
At first glance the 5.7″x 5.7″ screen looks crisp and modern. It gives the immediate feel of a High Definition television with a 16:9 ratio screen. The glass screen is reminiscent of a cell phone, and Raymarine boasts the unit is submersible, and water proof. The five large buttons provide simple navigation of the unit and the inclusion of directional toggles allows you to navigate through the menus with relative ease. Its single wire input provides easy set up, perfect for the yakfisher who needs to roof his kayak.
Powerup is queued with a simple hold of the power button, which also provides access to simple start up menu which hosts choices such as Micro SD card removal, screen brightness, deactivating the sounder and taking screen shots. Once you have made it through the start up menu a simple press of the menu button reveals a side to side scrolling menu which gives you the choice of Tools, Sonar, DownScan, Chart, and combination menus where two of the three features are paired in side by side screens.
On initial exploration I found the features to be overly simplistic, and felt the weight of disappointment when I thought that I could not customize the unit’s features. It was quite by accident that I discovered the depth of the unit’s features that I truly fell in love with its set up. The System Setup menu gives you access to the unit’s typical user settings such as Unit Set up, Simulator, and Date and Time settings. I have to admit that the date and time settings are a bit confusing as they operate on a +/- on GMT. Given my location in the Eastern Standard time zone my setting is -5.00. It took a bit of Googling to figure this out but once it’s set, it won’t require any adjustment.
The Alarm setting is pretty straight forward as well. There are various alarms indicating Deep Water, Shallow Water Arrival, Fish Alarm, and Water Temperature. Having used the Fish Alarm on my previous unit and finding it fairly useless in the sense that the alarm became and ambient annoyance, I opted to keep the alarms off for the time being. Folks with larger watercraft would benefit from the Shallow Water alarm, but given my ability to move around safely in six inches of water I think I am good.
The WiFi option allows you to set up a customizable and WAP2 protected WiFi network. This will allow any WiFi ready device to receive the Raymarine signal and double as a display. The real advantage that I discovered was the Sonar Chart Live that maps the structure real time and updates the Navionics Live mapping on your device. After numerous attempts, and a bit of research, it does not appear that the Sonar Charting Live feature updates the units mapping until after you submit the charting for review through Navionics online. Although, I was initially disappointed upon this discovery, having never had a GPS in my previous unit every new find is a bonus in my opinion.
After adjusting the settings to my initial liking, and having not read the instructions, I ventured forward onto the water feeling that the unit was basic in its offerings. I battled feelings of disappointment and regret, believing that perhaps I should have considered sticking with Humminbird due to my familiarity with the design and the available features. Having fished most of last season relying on my phone while utilizing the Navionics app, I had grown accustomed to the Sonar Chart Live feature. I followed all the online instructions in the updating of my firmware and the card itself and I was still left with what appeared to be a very basic map in the charting feature. The Sonar Live Chart was not being displayed and as my frustration rose thoughts of returning the unit built in my mind. In an act of desperation I held the OK button and discovered an access point to all the features to the charting. My heart skipped and I starting hooting with excitement. As I drifted across the bay I discovered the rich features embedded within the menu of the chart. With a bit of searching I happened across the Chart Selection and quickly changed to the Sonar Live option. My chart came to life and as I slowly blew across the bay I started marking fish holding to the bottom. I toyed with the options a bit longer before deciding to fish for a bit and opted to leave my further exploration of the unit until I was off the water.
Each of the main screens has their own specific access to customizable menus. where other units have more buttons with clearly directions the Dragonfly opts for simplicity in its layout with deep menus filled with many options. Having grown accustomed to the Humminbird layout I admit the learning curve for the Dragonfly was not entirely intuitive, but having explored the options in full, I am quite comfortable in navigating the units many options.
Once the chart has been set to the Sonar Live the depth charting is full of details that have been added through a network of Community Edits. Zooming in and out accomplished with the large +/- buttons on the display. Marking waypoints opens up a slew of icons that can be used to represent various underwater scenarios. Saving tracks allows you to choose a multitude of colours in the event that you are frequenting the same water a number of times. The biggest challenge I foresee in my future, is remembering to mark the locations once I actually get hook ups so that I can build a decent library of my hot spots.
Jumping into the HD colour Sonar was certainly a transition from my previous unit’s black and white display. The vibrant screen can be easily viewed in any lighting conditions. Hard bottom returns are vibrant reds and yellows, where softer returns are on the lighter side of the spectrum. With simple touches to the buttons you can pause the screen and place waypoints on sections of the screen that you have previously passed over. Diving deeper into the options allows you to choose preset colour schemes, which are designed for different lighting conditions including a night time pattern intended to draw fewer bugs.
Downscan provides underwater photo quality images, that after initial reaction to what I was looking at is more beneficial in reading complicated structure patterns vs school fish. I will admit however that fishing in 8 feet of water isn’t ideal for spotting fish. Given the lack of underwater structure because of the time of year I have not really had personal experience in reading the information provided through Downscan, but I anticipate I will have plenty of opportunity in my travels this season.
Splitting the screen and using two of the three features at once is where the unit truly shines. Given the size of the unit I feel that having three screens open simultaneously would be crowding. I found given my comfort with Sonar and the conditions pushed me to favour the Chart/Sonar combos, but the Downscan/Sonar are stacked vertically rather than being placed side to side. Once again, I accidentally discovered that there are zoom features in the Sonar and Downscan which allows you to focus the view on specific sections on the water column.
Having had the opportunity to fully explore the features offered within the unit, my initial impressions are quite high. Having said that I do not have a unit to compare the Dragonfly to so my opinion is fairly one sided. But as a newbie in the world of more complex electronics I find the features of the Raymarine Dragonfly to be exactly what I need. The ease of installation, and the perfect fit for my kayak were huge selling features. Beyond the comfort of knowing my transducer is safe in the scupper, the display is easy to use and to navigate. The colours are vibrant and pop in varying light conditions. Once figuring out the navigation of the unit I am quite pleased with the options and the ability to customize the setting to my style of fishing. Only time will tell whether I get the bang for my buck that I believe I have in this very packed unit. I hope that I can use the information I gather from this unit to put some big fish in my yak in the coming years.