Top 3 Sounder Settings You Should Know About

A “depth sounder” is used to determine the bottom depth, structure, water temperature, rock location, bottom hardness etc. All these factors come into play when finding fish, especially with the style of wild Bass fishing that I do where finding the fish isn’t as essential as knowing exactly where structure is located under the water. It is also important to know the depth and temperature of the water.

There is so much to learn about understanding how a sounder works and its many settings. Most anglers get overwhelmed with all the settings available.

The way I look at it is, you spend money to assist you in finding fish so you owe it to yourself to get the most out of your sounder. Yes, it can be a little daunting for a beginner. Even intermediate users can have trouble sometimes.

This article will be broken down to list the common settings of Lowrance sounders, from Sensitivity and Ping Speeds all the way through to Chirp and Overlaying DownScan. Read on to find out how you can get the highest quality images for the type of fishing you do.


Think of hearing aid as a metaphor for sensitivity. If you turn up the hearing aid, you’ll be able to hear well. However, if you turn it up too high the noise will be too loud and you won’t be able to determine what is said. The reason I use a hearing aid as a metaphor is that sounder sensitivity adjusts the way you get waves back to the unit.

The sensitivity on a sounder needs to be above 50 percent to view anything of recognition, so when you turn it up above 50% you’ll start to realize that the images on the screen get clearer, but there is a such thing as too much sensitivity. If you turn your sensitivity up to much, it will start to blur the images and you won’t get a clear view of the bottom, structure, and fish arches.

There are a few pointers you can follow; generally though, it is a matter of experimenting with different sensitivity settings in order to find the right image quality. Shallower water, for instance, will not have the same sensitivity as deeper water columns. If you are fishing in 20 metres depths, you would not set the sensitivity at 95%, this will cause the image on the sounder screen to clutter. Start by easing down the sensitivity by small increments of around 3-4%, soon you will begin to realize that the screen is beginning to clear up from the bottom. Keep backing off the sensitivity until your bottom of the screen is completely visible and clutter-free. This will mean that even the smallest of bait fish will be visible as they begin to move into the transducer cone angle. They will be visible as either singular fish or schools of bait.

Sensivity on this image is too low

Most of the time you will be left with a heap of clutter across the top of the screen. If you are fishing off the bottom or roughly close to the bottom, then I would suggest putting up with the clutter on the top half of the screen. If you need the whole water column I would suggest clearing up the top half of the screen using your surface clarity function which I will cover further below.

As you begin to fish deeper depths of water repeat the process for the optimum setting for that depth of water column.

You will find that if you make your sensitivity higher, may have to back off your contrast to give the image some depth and shadows, it really is a trial and error game, as I mentioned. The more you experiment with these settings, the more it will become clear for you. Also, take note that if you’re constantly changing depths in your drift, it can be easier to set it to auto so you actually spend more time fishing and less time adjusting the screen.


If your screen is clear on bottom half of the screen and your top half of the screen is cluttered, but you want to fish the top half of the water column for pelagic or you see whole depth, I would suggest to having surface clarity set to high. This will begin to clear up the clutter in the top part of the screen giving you a clearer view of what’s in the higher parts of the column.

Surface clarity settings also helps clear up the clutter caused by nearby boats and waves. Bilge pumps and engine vibration can also give you clutter on the surface and interfere with image quality. If you are experiencing these problems, turn your surface clarity to a higher setting and you’ll end up getting a much clearer image to a point that if you are fishing vertically, you will see your lure as you drop it passing through the transducers cone angle. This is really fun, you now have a fully functioning sounder that is set-up to get the fish to react to your lure on screen and work out a tactic that gets them to bite.

Surface clutter

Surface clutter is cleared

A big variable factor to remember is personal preference. Some shades and colours are better for certain anglers but not for others. The more colours that are displayed in my opinion, the more detail you will be likely to see. Different colours displayed represent different shades and depths of objects with the right settings. I find myself using (but not restricted to) the colour palette 13 with a brown bottom due to its simplicity and ease of viewing.


When we cruise or troll at high speeds, I recommend turning the “Ping Speed’ settings up. That makes the transducer distribute more sound waves to echo from its target. When travelling at higher speeds, sometimes bait fish or a small bait school can appear on the screen as a dot. When the ping speed is turned up, these targets would give off a more solid returns.

Turning ping speed up

Changing the ping speed also changes the scroll rate of the sonar chart. Changes in the ping speed should only be made to provide the best possible image on the chart sonar screen at the time of your application. In other words, don’t turn your ping speed up unless it actually helps you get a better visible image of the sonar. It is sometimes necessary to try different ping speed settings over some known targets and stretches of waterways to better understand how some ping speed changes can affect your sonar chart.

Another known issue that may rise with image interference is that some boats can give off what is known as “Noise” which can be a series of clutters and interference in image quality given off from boats. In some cases, other electronics such as live wells and bait tanks can also give off noise on the sounder screen. You can do one of two things: Turn the ping speed down or you can turn your sonar chart noise rejection on. By doing this in most cases illuminates or helps reduce noise and interference cause from other sources like an electric motor and or live wells. Dale Ward


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