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Lowrance Active Target – The Power of Modern Sonar

Old Town Bigwater 132 PDL

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Forward-facing sonar is incredibly powerful technology and I am excited to finally get my hands on it. I’ve only had Lowrance Active Target for a few weeks at this point but I’ve learned more about fish behaviour in a handful of outings than I have in the last few years.

The Setup

On Canada Day, I purchased one of the last Lowrance Explorer Ice Fishing Kits on this side of the country. Why would I buy an ice fishing bundle in the middle of summer? Well, because it came with almost everything I needed to to set up Active Target on my kayak. As a bonus, when you are not using the Explorer kit in the winter it doubles as a portable shuttle for summer use in rental/outfitter boats.

Setup was pretty straightforward. The only issue I ran into was the need to purchase longer power and networking cables. The Explorer Kit comes packaged with a short (approximately 2 ft long) network cable as well as a custom wiring harness for the multi-function display (MFD) and Active Target black box. In order to use the Active Target and HDS9 on my kayak, I had to purchase a separate power cable for both the graph and black box as well as a 15ft network cable, all linked below:

First Impressions


I know, I know, everyone says live sonar is a game-changer. But you know what, they are right. On my very first use I put the transducer in the water, turned on the display, swivelled the transducer around to scan the shoreline and saw a northern pike chasing a group of perch about 30 feet away. With only one cast I had caught that pike. The only words I could say was “that is incredible”.

Since nearly the entire Lowrance system is new to me, I wanted to spend some time learning what it is capable of. For a quick look at the power of Lowrance’s sonar and Active Target system, please check out my video below:

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First-Time Lowrance User Experience

Although I am still a new user, the most remarkable part of the Lowrance system is how easy it is to use and how well it works right out of the box. As a long time, and I would say quite advanced, Humminbird user, I spent years learning how to get the best from my Humminbird equipment. What made me switch was the fact that with my Helix units I was constantly adjusting settings while on the water to get the best image. The time spent keying through menu options, adjusting sensitivity, contrast, ranges, etc, could have been time spent on actually fishing.

Lowrance has invested a lot of engineering and development into creating a nearly automatic sonar system. Their marketing department calls this “Auto-tuning sonar” the world’s easiest fish finder. Maybe it is easy to use but I was still skeptical at first. As an advanced sonar user, I have a good understanding of what clear 2D, down scan or side scan images look like and I was prepared to see some compromises made with so-called Auto-tune settings. It turns out my skepticism was unfounded. Not only are the side scan, down scan and 2D images good, they actually seem clearer than what I could reproduce on my Humminbird Helix. This is surprising given Humminbird should have the edge when it comes to side scan clarity with their 1000 kHz “Mega side imaging” vs Lowrance’s current 800 kHz side imaging. I have spent years studying and dialling in Humminbird’s sonar system, only to be beat by Lowrance’s automatic settings right out of the box. I can confidently say Lowrance’s sonar system is the easiest fish finder I have ever used.

Lowrance side imaging detail
Example of Lowrance HDS9 side imaging power.


Live, forward-facing sonar, such as Lowrance’s Active Target, is incredible technology but I understand it isn’t made for everyone. The technology’s biggest criticisms are that it robs the angler of many of the challenges that fishing “should have” and that it is very expensive.

Fishing is challenging and thats why many of us enjoy it. While some argue that new anglers should “put in the time” to improve their catch rate, that may not be enough to keep them interested in the sport. Improving your catch rate is also why this technology is so appealing to the hardcore weekend warrior. The weekends are short and if you only have a few hours to fish you want to spend those hours wisely. Forward-facing sonar undoubtedly puts your lure in front of more fish. While I can see how that instant feedback from a live sonar system can feel like cheating to those of us that have put years into the sport, there is still much more to fishing than spotting a couple dots on a screen. Whether you have the technology or not, the competitive advantage still belongs to those with experience.

It’s hard to argue with the high cost of entry, it is expensive, but the price is coming down. Before covid and the following inflation, a forward facing sonar system was priced around $3500 CAD. Fast forward to 2023, after record inflation, product shortages and high interest rates, the savvy shopper can piece together a very good forward-facing sonar system for less than $3000 CAD. Given advances in the technology and falling price, soon nearly every angler will have some sort of forward-facing sonar system.

So, who is this technology for? Anyone who wants to catch more fish.

Shop the Best Prices

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