It took decades for that old flasher to morph into an LCD screen fishfinder, and another decade for color screens to become common and inexpensive. But in the past few years we’ve seen the rate of technological advances explode, with goodies like sideways-looking fishfinders, multi-frequency pings (commonly called CHIRP or Spread Spectrum fishfinders) and high-resolution imagers. This year Lowrance will be introducing yet another techno-wonder, the SpotlightScan. And boats.com got a chance to test out a pre-production unit on a 24’ Yellowfin, while prowling around the Florida Keys in search of snook, grouper, and tarpon.
I have to admit, Spotlight Scan sounded a bit gimmicky to me at first. After all, it’s pretty obvious what Lowrance did here: they took the StructureScan technology, packaged it into a 30-degree forward-looking 455/800 kHz beam, and mounted it to the bottom of a trolling motor. Technology-wise, there isn’t much “new” going on, here. But the application is quite different, and it does give you new ways to find fish.
The unit’s utility struck me when we used the trolling motor to ease down a canal, while scanning the drop-off along the port side. I found it easy to aim the beam, and just as easy to understand where the beam was pointing when it showed me fish—not always the case with a down or side-looker, mounted on the transom of your boat. The results were verifiable: one time we spotted a cluster of fish on the Spotlight Scan, then looked up in the appropriate direction and saw the fish—a school of jacks—with our own eyes. Another time we idled about 50 yards off the shoreline, saw a cluster of fish on the screen, and proceeded to catch several grouper in that exact spot.
Though I liked using the SpotlightScan you won’t find one on my boat, because I don’t have a foot-controlled cable-steered electric trolling motor. The biggest weakness of this system is that it simply isn’t an option, without one of those motors. Fortunately, the majority of the boats out there with bow-mounted trolling motors (read: bass boats, bay boats, and some flats boats) do utilize this type. A second potential gripe is a lack of history; the SpotlightScan paints a picture as you move it, but the picture is static until you move the unit again. When you do, it erases the old shot on the screen and creates a new one right over-top. I call it a “potential” gripe because in many cases, such as a bass angler casting to a stump 40’ away, fishfinder history is more or less irrelevant, while an instant snap-shot of what’s all around that stump could prove invaluable.
In use, I found the lack of history both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because you always know exactly where the fish are when you turn the spotlight and mark something, as opposed to looking at a fishfinder’s history and judging where a fish is, which can get confusing at times. On the other hand it’s something of a curse because it requires fairly constant attention to make the best use of this new ability; when you don’t move the motor and look at the screen, all you see is old news. Check out this short video of the SpotlightScan in action, to see what it looks like for yourself.
How does this translate into fishing? Open-water anglers who apply tactics like vertical jigging, trolling, or bottom fishing won’t find much use for it. When you’re working down a shoreline and making cast after cast to cover everything from point A to point B in search of scattered fish, you may gain a slight advantage from it. When fish are gathered around structure and you’re looking for very specific spots to pin-point cast at, it’ll give you one heck of an advantage. Potentially even more of an advantage than StructureScan, since you can point the beam without moving the boat or forcing a change in boat direction. It’ll also prove quite helpful when prospecting new areas, as long as you consistently pay attention and work the beam. In other words, the SpotlightScan will best serve the angling demographics it was specifically designed for: bass anglers, backcountry fishermen, and potentially some flats fishermen.
The SpotlightScan will hit the market in a few weeks with an introductory price of $499, and can display on Lowrance HDS Gen2 and Gen2 Touch units (Gen2 without touch requires a Sonar Hub module). Installation is do-it-yourself easy
For more information, visit Lowrance.
To read a full comparison of different fishfinder technologies including traditional, Scanner-imager, and CHIRP units, read Sonar Smack-Down: Traditional Fishfinder vs. Down-looking Scanner-Imager vs. CHIRP.