UPGRADE - Lowrance TotalScan All-In-One Transducer

I've been using the Lowrance HDS Gen3 combo fish finder/GPS for some time now. Several months ago I rigged both my Hobie Outback and Adventure Island for Side Scan (Lowrance Structure Scan) using the LSS2 Structure Scan transducer fitted to a deployable swing arm. Historically I've always hated the idea of having to deploy a swing arm over the kayak. It's another thing to rig, wires lying around the kayak, something to snag an underwater obstructions, etc. They're not my thing at all, though I was forced down that route in order to utilise the Structure Scan.

My dislikes for using the swing arm became very apparent as I often found myself not wanting to take it along, only to find myself afloat wishing I had Structure Scan available to use. It was a bit of a love hate relationship to be honest. I loved using it, but I rather disliked the way I'd been forced to rig it. However, with the recent release of the Lowrance TotalScan LSS2 transducer I was presented with the option to re-rig the kayaks and lose the swing arm assembly!. I'm sponsored by Lowrance and they very kindly sent me a new TotalScan transducer to upgrade my system to the latest specification.

So what is the TotalScan transducer?. It's exactly what it says on the tin as they say. Its one transducer that integrates broadband sonar (83/200Khz, CHIRP (Med/High), DownScan and StructureScan. This sounded perfect for me, though we all know that nothing is perfect!. It's a rather large transducer measuring in a 10" (L), 1.5" (H) and 2.5" (H), very similar in size to the LSS2. Though one thing was for sure, it was not going to fit into the Lowrance ready scupper hole that was currently occupied by the current 83/200Khz transducer in my Hobie Outback, it was just way too long.

I'd recently seen a some photos on Facebook where a couple of kayak anglers had mounted the TotalScan transducer to the removable cover of the Hobie Lowrance ready scupper. They'd also fitted a guard just ahead of the transducer to protect again impact damage when underway. I really liked the look of this setup and decided that I'd follow the same route.

Firstly its worth having a quick look at the current setup on my Outback, with the Lowance HDS Gen3, swing arm, electrical connections and cabling that live outside of the hull. The current configuration has 3 connections to the head unit (Power supply, Broadband Sonar and StructureScan). Then there's the swing arm, LSS2 transducer, coils of cable that reside beneath the seat and the cable that runs forward from the seat to the head unit.

Fitting the TotalScan transducer would result in the loss off the swing arm assembly, LSS2 transducer plus its cabling and the 83/200Khz Broadband Sonar plus its associated cabling. Clearly the upper deck of the Outback was going to get a lot tidier and that's a great thing.

First thing was to gain access to the inside of the kayak in order to remove the old Broadband transducer as well as to route the cable for the replacement TotalScan unit. The right hand rubber side pocket was removed, the rectangular centre hatch and centre storage bag and Lowrance scupper cover.

The old Broadband transducer was easily removed, though it was interesting to note that the Hobie cable gland in the right hand pocket had loosened off slightly. Probably due to compression of the rubber seal over time?. I checked the others and they had also loosened slightly. A quick tighten and all was good, though it's worthy of a mention.

It didn't long at all to gain the access and remove the old transducer and cable. The swing arm was already off the kayak, though the mounting post will always remain, perhaps it may be utilised in the future. When I designed the mounting post I ensured that the positioning of the four bolts were in the exact same pattern of a RAM ball, so that may re-appear in due course. With a pile of removed items now sitting on the ground it was time to progress with the upgrade.

The first job was to look closely at the new TotalScan transducer and to sit it against the scupper transducer cover to see how it lay against the hull of the kayak. I was pleased to see that rear portion of the transducer that passed over the rear edge of the scupper cover lay flat and tight against the hull of the kayak. So at a glance I only had to fit the transducer to the scupper cover and that part was done. There was of course the issue the sonar cable that emerges from the front edge of the transducer.

I'd decided to utilise screw that secures the front edge of the scupper cover to fix the guard that would protect the transducer from frontal impact as well as permitting the hull to rest on the ground whilst not placing the hull weight directly onto the transducer. I therefore needed to route the cable through the cover before the guard itself. Simple enough and this is what I did.

The scupper cover has two vertical mounting arms that secured the old transducer into position, these weren't required so I removed these as well as their strengthening webs at the base. I used a hacksaw to remove the bulk and a Dremel tool to remove the webbing as required.

Time needs to be taken to decide on the exact placement of the cable hole and the transducer mounting holes that are to be drilled into the cover. Get it wrong and you'll be buying a replacement cover. It's placement is going to be central looking fore to aft, though were it's placed along the length of the cover is dependent upon the design on the guard. Here's a couple of photos of the modified cover and cable access hole.

As it happens the cable hole was slightly smaller than I'd anticipated and actually sat within the plastic support arms that I'd chopped off, so they could have stayed. Though it's unlikely that I'll ever revert to a standard transducer, plus the hole would permit dirt to enter and gather around an internally mounted transducer. I'd just buy another cover if I ever reverted to a basic setup.

Here's the transducer mounted to the scupper cover. I used a little medium strength thread lock when securing the transducer to the cover. Note, only 4 out of the six transducer securing bolts were used. This still provides a very strong connection.

With the transducer mounted to the scupper cover, checked for alignment and secured into place, it was time to produce a suitable guard to protect the transducer. I had a few pieces of thick and thin HDPE lying about in the garage so I decided to utilise these. The front edge of the scupper cover was recessed beneath the hull so I required the guard to be stepped, permitting it to sit flush against the hull whilst sitting correctly against the cover to permit effective attachment with the single screw.

After checking my stock of HDPE and comparing thicknesses, I decided to use a thin section to fill in the recessed area and the thicker material for the main guard itself. I hacksawed the thick material to the overall size I wanted and then sawed sloped edges to the front and sides.

With the main guard cut to a suitable profile, I rounded off the edges a little before fitting the thinner HDPE spacer to take up the space between the scupper cover and the main hull profile. I did originally use Mitre Glue, and as much as it appeared highly effective, it wasn't!. The last thing I needed was to return from a trip to find the guard missing!. I decided to use 4 stainless self tappers and Marine Goop to secure the spacer to the main guard. It's certainly not going to detach anytime soon!.

An access hole is clearly visible to allow a screw to be fitted to permit the guard to be attached to the hull of the kayak. The original screw for the scupper cover is not long enough, regardless of how deep that holes is drilled, so a longer screw was required. I found something suitable in my spares box and that dictated how deep I drilled into the guard block. The upper hole is large to permit the screw head to be recessed into the guard, though this then reduced to the diameter of the screw thread itself.

Note the notch at the rear of the guard. This it to allow the transducer cable to pass through the rear edge of the guard block whilst permitting the guard to be positioned close to the front edge of the transducer itself.

It was now time to fit the transducer and guard assembly to the hull. The scupper cover assembly was attached using the rear two screws only as the guard was to utilise the front screw.

With the cover assembly secured, the guard was attached next as previously mentioned, utilising a screw that picked up on the front thread for the scupper cover. I did a trial fit and it secured tightly against the hull with a good amount of effort required to cause any rotation to the guard. Though, to ensure that the guard remained in place regardless of knocks, I applied a liberal amount of Marine Goop to the base of the guard prior to fitting it.

The guard was then fitted, again with a small amount of medium thread lock being applied to the screw. Any excess Goop was wiped away, producing a neat fillet along the edges of the guard.

That was basically it, here's a few photos from different angles.

Looking from the front of the kayak, the guard provided excellent protection to the transducer and should hopefully prevent long term damage. A little caution and thought will always be required.

As mentioned earlier I had noticed that the Hobie cable glands had loosened slightly over time. I'd noticed small amounts of water in the hull after trips in choppy water and I feel that' there's a chance that water had entered the kayak via the transducer cable gland. To ensure that this couldn't happen I applied some Marine Goop around the rear cable gland.

All that was left to do was to route the transducer out through the front pocket. Easy right?...  wrong!

I was unable to pass both the existing power lead and the new TotalScan plugs through the locking ring for the rear of the Hobie cable gland. I quickly realised that there was no quick fix and that another gland was going to be required. The next problem was the base of the right hand pocket was shaped to permit the fitment of only one factory cable gland. The profile of the remainder of the pocket just wasn't quite right, close, but not quite suitable.

The thickness of the material in this area was good, so I found a large socket that matched the diameter of the cable gland and heated it up.... hot!. I gently pressed this into the area of the pocket where I wanted the additional cable gland to sit and CAREFULLY pushed to the hot socket into the hull. The radius edges on the hull pocket base were pushed flat forming the perfect recess for the cable gland. Job done!. With an additional cable gland fitted, the power and TotalScan cables were routed from inside the kayak, via the pocket cable glands to the head unit. The rubber pocket was re-attached later.

With the upgrade completed it's important to ensure that the software on the head unit is updated to the latest version. This is especially important in this case as the TotalScan transducer will not show when re-installing the sonar. I connected the HDS via WIFI and the unit was fully updated within a couple of minutes.

With this update completed it's simply a case of going into the main settings, then sonar settings and configuring the installation. The transducer type can be changed from the drop down menu and TotalScan can be selected, it's a bizarrely good feeling!. With the settings saved, that's it!. I also added a keel offset of +0.1m to ensure the most accurate depth reading (not shown).

With the installation completed what are the benefits?. Well firstly for me, the transducer swing arm and the LSS2 transducer are history. That results in a notable weight saving and the upper hull of the kayak is now much less cluttered. The parts below are now history... GOODBYE swing arm!!!

The connections to the head unit itself are now simplified. It's now possible to leave the head unit permanently attached without any additional electrical connections to be made (I always removed the swing arm after each trip).

Below is the older setup with the swing arm, LSS1 transducer and three connections to the head unit.

Below is the updated setup with the TotalScan transducer installed. The swing arm and StructureScan LSS2 transducer are gone, the Broadband 83/200Khz transducer is gone, the excess transducer cable cluttering the upper deck is gone... it really is GREATnews.

Downsides?, well the cost of upgrading to the TotalScan transducer isn't cheap and a little additional thought as to handling the kayak is now required. However, to me, these are TINY disadvantages, with the gains FAR outweighing them.

My understanding is that the TotalScan transducer also has upgraded ceramics that should provide improved performance. I'll find out very shortly as I've trips planned for the next month already, I just need the weather to be kind and I'll be able to report back very shortly.

First competition of the year!

I keep rambling on about how I'm getting back to my saltwater roots this year, only to find myself floating around in the fresh stuff. Trust me, it will happen!. However, last weekend saw me back on.... ummmmmm, freshwater, hey ho.

The competition had been organised by my good friend Ian Harris in a location that must remain secret I'm afraid. I was told that it held predators in the shape of Pike and Perch, with the water holding some very large Perch, potential record size. Ok, I was hooked. It was also to be an invite only competition with many notable names appearing on the list. I'm still very much a learner with regards to freshwater angling, but I persevere.

I was out of bed by 0330 on the morning of the competition and parked outside the house of another good friend, David Morris, by 0500. Two hours later we'd arrived at the secret location!. The competition wasn't due to kick off until 0900 (earlier would have been nicer), though it provided a luxurious amount of time to rig the kayaks and to catch up with the multitude of kayak anglers that were milling about. Faces both old and new.

The launch was quick and uneventful with all anglers keen to get fishing.

I think that there was 29 kayaks afloat with almost half of those being Hobies. It's interesting to watch the Hobie brand grow here in the UK. It's been well established overseas for a long time. Though if I look back three years or so, there were only a handful of anglers fishing from Hobie kayaks here in the UK, that is changing very quickly now.

I'd decided to take three rigged rods to fish, trolling, spinning and dropshot. I'm still not a big fan of the latter method, though it's caught me fish in the past when all else has failed.

I have a couple of fish measures that I use, my favourite being the Hawk Trough as it's lightweight and easily stored. Though it's limited to fish of 75cm which is far from ideal when there's the chance of catching larger fish!. I decided to do a 'hack job' and extended the Hawg Trough by cutting a length of another I had spare. Drastic perhaps?, but it worked. I used some mitre glue for the join, with some re-enforcing plastic added to the rear for additional strength. Here's the result...

The centimetre and inch scales obviously don't align along a measure so I had to choose one or the other to use when extending the measure. I went with centimetres. I used a 'Dremel' tool to modify the numbering on the extended portion. It's not perfect, but it's very useable. It now measures up to 125cm accurately, though I've lost 1/2" (see the 29/30" mark), so the inches scale won't be used after 29", if at all.

Anyway, back to the fishing. The competition started promptly at 0900 and I went directly to a small feature along one bank to cast a few lures. Now I'd been using 30lb on that particular reel the previous week, though I'd re-spooled with 20lb the night before. Not really thinking I cast out and looked in amazement as my lure flew effortlessly into the distance. By the time I 'hit the brakes' my lure was parked in a tree!. A superb start to the session. I actually had to exit the kayak to untangle the mess, say no more.

Despite the number of anglers on a small water, I was still able to troll in several areas. Within 45 minutes I'd landed my first fish, trolling a small Rapala diving lure running at around three metres. At just over 56cm I think it's the smallest Pike that I've ever caught!!, though as the competition was for overall length (max 3 Perch and 1 Pike) they all counted.

It's always good to catch quite early on, or to even just get a bite or two, as it boosts one's confidence no end. With no more fish coming to trolling over the next 30 minutes or so I decided to swap over to the dropshot.

I rigged up with a small reflective needle tail lure running about 12" above the weight. Due to the breeze I was using a weight of around 18g whilst drifting in 4-5m of water. Frustratingly, the bed of the lake was clearly soft mud, with the weight sinking into the mud almost immediately. A lighter weight was marginally better, though caused the line to lift far to much for my liking whilst drifting. I put up with the heavier weight, lifting it out of the mud ever few seconds. Far from ideal, but I persevered.

I actually didn't have to wait too long for a solid hit and hook up. It was clearly a Perch and it was soon visible a couple of metres beneath the water. As ever with Perch, I only risk a smile once it's slipped safely into the landing net. With the fish safely aboard it was simply a case of measuring and returning it. At just over 42cm it was a very respectable fish and from what I'd seen and heard around the lake I was fairly well placed at that time, though there were still several hours of the competition remaining.

Despite there being 7 hours of the competition remaining, that turned out to be my last fish of the day. Despite trying several different lures, trolling, spinning and dropshot, I didn't get some much as another bite!

There was the odd fish being caught around the lake, though it was slow. That said, the quality of some of the Perch that were being caught was simply outstanding!. Here's a couple of the larger specimens that were caught during the day.

This is Charles Halliday with a fish that was 49cm and weighed in at over 5lb!

Here's Dane Wood with another Perch of 5lb, these are really cracking fish!

I persevered at the fishing as I was aware that no one had more that two fish to submit by mid-afternoon. Though it was utterly dead and I was struggling to remain motivated. I did in fact doze off for 30 minutes when the sun came out and warmed my dry suit up a treat. I was still holding my drop shot rod just in case!

Despite the quality of some of the fish that were caught that day, I somehow managed to secure myself 5th place and walked away with a Hobie H-Crate. Bizarrely, if I could have picked a prize from the lineup, that's the one I'd have picked!, lucky me.

Of course it always nice to win a prize, though the main enjoyment has to go to the social side, meeting faces both old and new. Plus it was a new venue, that's something that I always find exciting. It's not all about the fishing, far from it.

Many thanks to Ian Harris for organising the day, it ran smoothly and it was certainly on par with some of the better competitions I've fished over the years.

Dutch Trip - you can't book the weather!

I'd been looking forward to this fishing trip to the Netherlands for some time. Though like any trip booked in advance you're always at the mercy of the weather. I've been bitten once or twice before and poor weather unfortunately featured rather heavily during the few days I was abroad. When a kayak fisherman talks about poor weather, it's almost guaranteed that they're referring to excessive wind. Cold, rain, snow and heat doesn't bother me at all, but fishing in strong winds removes the enjoyment factor for me. After all, we fish for the enjoyment right?

The target species for the week were the usual predators, Pike, Zander and Perch with a potential later in the week for some Trout fishing.

The first day was reasonable weather wise and I covered a large area on the drift, spinning as I went. Casting from deeper to shallow water, covering as much ground as possible before repositioning and repeating the action. It felt as though it was going to be a slow day, though I hooked into a fish quite early on which is always provides a good boost to morale. It was an exceptionally light bite that resulted into me hooking into a Zander. It was an average size, though it provided a very pleasing start to the day.

Was did prove most frustrating early on was finding that the internal battery on my HDS7 had discharged causing all my custom settings to be lost. I only had myself to blame, I'd not fished for way too long. That said, it's highlighted a good point that these modern units that permit such huge customisation do require operating ever month or two to ensure that the internal battery remains charged. Failing to do so will require the user to spend quite some time getting their unit back to their preferred settings, lesson learned!

Despite the promising start, that turned out to be my only confirmed hookup for the day, though I missed a couple of hits during the session.

That evening saw the weather deteriorate considerably to a point that I didn't really fancy fishing. To fish in highly exposed waters in a steady 20mph+ wind, gusting to 35mph really doesn't excite me. Regardless of the fact that I'd driven several hours to fish this area in the Netherlands, there are days that are best spent relaxing, enjoying a beer and watching the world go by. The next couple of days were in my mind 'pub days'. Fortunately the family were only an hour away so I enjoyed some quality time with them whilst awaiting the bad weather to blow over.

The next trip was to fish a Perch venue, an early start saw me fishing before 0630. The water clarity was very good, with the bottom being easily visible over two metres. Though that does perhaps make fishing rather more difficult. The beauty of these trips is that many of these venues are new to me. I get as much pleasure out of enjoying the surroundings and wildlife as I do fishing. It's just a very pleasant experience.

I didn't have to wait long before my lure was hit hard in shallow water by an angry Perch. They're fun on light gear and I tend to lose more Perch than any other species, so it's always pleasing to watch them slip into the net!.

It was a nice sized fish, somewhere in the mid-40 centimetre range. It had engulfed the lure!. It was quickly unhooked and photographed before swimming away strongly. There's something about these striped fish that always makes me smile.

Despite a few rattles, the remainder of the morning was quite quiet. I lost what I guess was a nice sized Pike whilst trolling, losing it just a few seconds after hooking up. Such is fishing.

At times I just like to place the rods to one side and just drift, taking in my surroundings. There were many species of geese migrating, divers working the water with many noisy Coots scooting around in the margins. I occasionally see a flock of geese passing overhead in the UK in their classic 'V' formation, though at times you can witness a couple of dozen of these formations flying back to back and side to side, passing over these extensive areas of wetland. That's one beauty of the kayak, taking you to these place and permitting you views that most people will never get to witness.

I'm slowly upgrading my tackle this year and it began with the purchase of a pair of Shimano Symetre 2500 fixed spool reels. They're a mid-range reel and I secured a decent price by purchasing from France (http://www.pecheur.com). I cant justify spending crazy money on tackle, especially when freshwater isn't really my forte and I only freshwater fish a few times a year. That said it's a very well made reel, extremely smooth with superb line lay. I've currently go both loaded with 30lb Whiplash braid, though I'll going to re-spool one with 20lb as it'll be better suited for casting lighter lures.

I managed to hook into a small pike towards the end of the session. He may have been small, though he had no problem whatsover in taking the Rapala Deeptail Dancer lure that was running in about 4m of water. I didn't manage to hook into any of the larger Pike that the Netherlands is well known for, but still, it was another fish and that's never a bad thing.

The last day of fishing proved to be the best day. The venue was a small lake stocked with both Rainbow and Brown trout. It had apparently previously been saltwater, though had long ago been closed off, with the water was somewhat brackish. This threw up a surprise as the day progressed.

I trolled my way around this lake, roughly following the drop offs that were somewhat wild and erratic in their pattern. I don't mind trolling for an hour or so, though it can get rather boring rather quickly for me. Despite that, it did produce several fish for me, the first being a nice Brown trout taken on a crankbait running at around four feet.

One thing I do enjoy about trout is that they can get rather lively and provide some great sport. Half an hour later I found myself hooked up once again. Well at first I thought that I was perhaps catching the bottom, though a quick glance at the HDS7 showed that I was well clear with no weed in the water. But no, it was definitely a fish, though it appeared to be swimming along with the kayak?. The biggest surprise was when it came to the surface... a Flounder!. During it's saltwater days, this water held Flounder and some Herring and the Flounder had adapted easily to the change in salinity when the water was closed off to the sea. Apparently there are also still some Herring in the lake.

I took three Flounder in very quick succession, two being to a double hookup!. If I passed over the correct ground, shallow, flat, patchy weed, it was almost guaranteed that the Flounder would have a go at the lure. They were all caught on the same small crankbait lure as the Trout.

Despite the good fishing there's always the opportunity to enjoy the surroundings. The sun was up, the wind was light, it was warm!. I also found a shallow sheltered area where I tied off to a small buoy and just snoozed for 30 minutes, perfect!. Hey, I'm on holiday!

The Trout continued to come, and despite a couple of misses I caught another two Browns. I also caught a beautifully coloured Rainbow Trout that gave a great account of itself, getting airborne at times. I missed the opportunity to photograph it on my lap as it decided to depart the kayak a few seconds earlier than planned!

I managed one last Flounder before I'd decided to call it a day.

After about 7 hours I'd had enough for the day, I'd managed to catch eight fish in total. None were monsters, but it was a really enjoyable session. It was my last fishing day of the trip and it was a good note to finish on.

This weekend sees me travel to a small lake at the Cotswold Water Park. This will probably be my last freshwater trip for 2-3 months as I really must concentrate of clocking up some serious hours on the salty stuff. My boy is really keen to fish with me this year so I expect that the Adventure Island will see a lot of use. I'm going to have to make a pair (or at least one) Haka. These are a wooden bench type of seat that permits a person to sit outboard of the main kayak hull on the AI. I'll post some pictures on here once I've knocked them together.