78 | BoatU.S. Magazine APRIL | MAY 2014
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CHIRP Though the term CHIRP has become
an accepted acronym, it’s somewhat deceiving to use when talking about fishfinders; it
stands for “Compressed High Intensity Radar
Pulse” and we aren’t talking about radar.
But there are similarities in the technology.
In both cases, the waves they send radiate through different frequencies, instead of
remaining at one or two frequencies. Think
back to that placid pond for a moment. This
time, you’re going to line up a number of
rocks by size. The first is your pebble, the last
is your boulder, and there’s a whole bunch
in between. With super-human speed you’ll
toss them in one at a time, in order. That’s
a CHIRP – the pings go out through a series
of frequencies in quick succession, to utilize
low frequency, high frequency, and everything in between.
PROS: CHIRP (also called Spread Spectrum,
ClearPulse, and TruEcho by different manufacturers) offers incredible detail at astonishing depths. Bottom readings can be had in
water that’s measured in miles instead of
feet. It’s also excellent at marking and differentiating structure and fish. If you’re a die-
CHIRP sonar sends out a series of pings
at different frequencies, which gives you
the best of both worlds, high resolution,
and great range, all in one unit.
hard blue-water angler who regularly patrols
beyond the edge of the continental shelf,
there is no substitute.
TRADITIONAL CONS: This technology is among the most
expensive. If you already have a high-end elec-
tronics suite, you may be able to add a black
box, but even then, you’ll have to upgrade to a
CHIRP-capable transducer, which is both large
and expensive. In most cases it’ll cost several
thousand dollars, and starting from scratch,
full-blown high-end CHIRP systems can easily
go beyond the $10,000 mark.
FUTURE TECH In the past two years, we’ve
seen the introduction of mini-CHIRPs that
offer limited multi-frequency pings combined
with high-frequency adaptation (Raymarine’s
Dragonfly), side-finders that allow the transducer to be rotated for multi-angle views (the
Lowrance SpotlightScan), and units coupled
with adjustable transducers that can look 360
degrees around the boat (Humminbird 360).
And we’ve seen the prices of these technologies
fall dramatically as well. No matter what the
future holds, right now it’s a good time to be a
fisherman and a bad time to be a fish.
Lenny Rudow is BoatU.S. Magazine’s electronics
editor and Boats.com senior editor. He has won
31 Boating Writers International awards.