It has certainly been a not so typical winter this year. Temperatures have been spring like at times, ice fisherman have had little to no hard water for most of the season, but as we creep into the first week of March winter temperatures have emerged. What this has provided me is a lot of time to think about the spring, the upcoming tournaments I hope to attend, and the time to tinker with my kayak rigging. Specifically I have had the opportunity to finish my installation and complete an on the water test of my Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro.
This being only my fifth year of angling I have faced numerous learning curves in the nuances of fishing from a kayak. The most challenging of those curves has been figuring out how to maximize my fishing experience by using electronics. On my original kayak set up I went with a portable Humminbird 370. It didn’t have any bells or whistles by today’s standards but it provided me with the eyes to really start breaking down the water I was fishing. In my Native Ultimate I made a DIY dashboard that allowed me to remove the sonar and still maintain the kayaks diversity in transforming from a solo to a tandem kayak. When I graduated to the Jackson Cuda, I thought long and hard about the placement, watched countless hours of You Tube before drilling my holes and ran into the goofs one might expect in doing a job without having the right equipment ahead of time. Needless to say, I was clear with my planning for the Big Rig that I would not repeat those same mistakes. So after suffering through a season without a sonar, and relying on my other fish senses to find the fish I committed to exploring the addition of a sonar unit to the Big Rig.
So why the Raymarine unit you ask? Well for a couple of reasons, that have through the course of my experience, proven to be critical in the decisions that I made. First and foremost, after all my hours of research and given the price range I was working within, the Dragonfly 4 Pro offered me the most sonar for my buck. It’s stacked with features such as traditional sonar, downscan, GPS, Navionics card, Wifi connectivity just to name a few. Compared to the other units within its class, I found it to be the most user friendly unit on the market. The final and most critical feature, that has proven to be the most important aspect of my purchase, is that Raymarine worked closely with Jackson, and designed the Dragonfly to specifically fit the Jackson’s, most specifically the Big Rig.
Once I decided which unit I was going with, finding the right place to purchase the unit was the next step. Given my geography the closest retailer was SAIL and their price was higher than I had expected. After doing a bit of online research I tripped across the knowledge that Bass Pro was carrying the unit, it happened to be $100 cheaper than at SAIL, and that Raymarine was offering a Bass Pro specific $50 mail in rebate. I raced to Bass Pro where they were holding the last unit and opted for the extended warranty, something I do for all my electronics. I could barely wait to get home and test the unit.
The next par of my experience, was one of the most disappointing moments of unboxing a new purchase I have ever endured. I raced home excited about my purchase, contemplating all fish I would mark and the tournaments over the years ahead I would win as a direct result of this sonar. What happened next seemed like slow motion, as I opened the box and was faced with the reality that after months of research, and hours of You Tube, the transducer did not fit the scupper as I had been lead to believe. My heart stopped and I looked for answers in the box that were not there. I tried to think creatively wondering if I had assembled the housing incorrectly. No matter what I did, that transducer was not going to fit the scupper hole. Earlier I had mentioned that my experience in choosing the Dragonfly was reaffirmed during the unboxing, this is where all of that came to light.
Stricken with a sense of dread I Facebook messaged Jim Sammons of the Kayak Fishing Show. I had corresponded with him years ago when I was considering my initial kayak purchase, and I found his guidance both objective and helpful. I figured he endorsed the unit maybe he could offer me some suggestions. Not only did he respond, but he directed me exactly on what I needed to do. Raymarine had upgraded their design for 2016 and changed the shape of the transducer. In doing that, the design of the transducer no longer fit the Jackson kayaks, but they had built in a solution. He directed me to call the not just customer service, but the actual person assigned to deal with this problem. After a few days of waiting, I received a cheerful call from New Hampshire stating that Raymarine had the part, and would next day ship it to me at no charge what so ever. As I stared at my phone in disbelief I realize that there are companies out there that still pride themselves on customer service, and this company was dedicated to making me and others in my position happy. After a 24 hour wait the transducer was delivered directly to my front door as promised. I thought to myself, if the unit is as impressive, as their customer service, I made the right choice.
I opened the packaging and was immediately relieved to see the transducer that I knew would fit the scupper hole and jumped right into the testing of the unit. I had planned to do the scupper mount, but only had a few of the necessary components, but I was determined to partially install the unit so that I could determine the best placement for the dashboard. The Big Rig offers three gear tracks in the cockpit of the kayak so I wanted to get out and explore the placement options before drilling the holes. My friend had happened across the specs online for a transducer mount, and was able to fabricate me the part with a 3D printer. I immediately mounted the transducer and was impressed with how nicely it fit into the scupper hole.
I was blessed with the good fortune of a mild December, and there was one day before the closing of bass in my Zone. So, I took my birthday off and headed out for a test of the unit with the hope of tagging into either some bass or possibly pike. It was mild for this time of year, but still quite cold and as I powered up the unit for the first time, I took note of the water temperature of 6 degrees Celsius. These were by far the coldest water temperatures that I had fished in, and I did not want to go swimming in water this cold. On went the dry suit and I paddled to where I thought the fish would be at this time of year. My first impression of the unit was the vibrancy of the display. Reading the screen was easy and as I adjusted the settings I started picking up fish. I admit that there were way more options than I realized, and even at this point I had not discovered some of the most amazing features of the unit. In part 2 of this blog I will continue with my initial on the water review of the unit and walk through the rest of the install.
I can say that I am very pleased with the purchasing experience of this unit, I have subsequently returned to Bass Pro and I have found the staff to be well informed on the operation of the sonar. I was mailed the $50 gift card from Raymarine, and stopped at the Raymarine booth at the recent Spring Fishing and Boat Show. I am looking forward to many fruitful years of enjoying this unit and hope that it lives up to the online hype.