Off the Porch: Great additions for your boat, old or new

Aug. 12, 2014 @ 11:43 AM

A boat is only as good as it’s equipped. It’s true that for some pursuits, having a simple tiller powered waterborne conveyance is all that’s needed. To have a boat that’s focused on one task or one that’s versatile enough to accomplish several things well, you must accessorize. In the last few years, we’ve come up with so many great products to make boats safer and easier to use. A big part of this is the advances we’ve made in electronics and technology.
This week, I tested the Minn Kota Talon. The Talon is a replacement for an anchor that’s designed for shallow water and it replaces the stake out poles that were so popular in shallow water fishing a few years ago. The Talon is a mechanical device that inserts a spike into the sand or mud bottom to spot a boat in place. Since the Talon is an electro mechanical device, it only requires the push of a button to activate and within a few seconds, the boat is quietly secured in one spot. In situations where it’s likely that wind or current would spin the boat on the single spiked spot, a conventional anchor can be used in conjunction to the Talon to keep the boat in the same orientation. It’s also possible to install two Talons that will stick the boat in position with the push of a button.
I tested the twelve foot silver and white model on a 24’ Sea Hunt my son in law, Jeff Jordan has just recently bought. The installation is fairly complicated, and unless you’re really handy, it’s best done by a professional. Boats Unlimited in Greensboro, did a great job with the installation in getting the depth set so there’s a few inches of the unit in the water at rest, but it’s out of the water when underway and on plane. With this installation, there are three locations on the boat to activate the Talon. It can be activated on the unit with blue LED lights to indicate how much of the spike is extended. It can also be activated with a remote control on a lanyard to be worn around the neck or wrist, and it can be activated from the helm with another remote mounted to the panel with a special mounting bracket.
The Talon is available in 6, 8, 10 and 12 foot models and uses an extremely strong looking three piece mounting system. The whole unit extends only a few feet above the deck of the boat. The newer 10 and 12 foot models are no larger than the earlier 6 and 8 foot units. As the spike extends into the bottom, it uses Autodrive, Minn Kota’s name for their auto extension system, to pound the spike in to get a better purchase. As the spike reaches full extension, you can feel the stern of the boat rise.
There are three different anchoring modes, Auto Drive powers the spike into the bottom with three aggressive hits. Soft Bottom Mode is a more soft insert for muddy bottoms where a hard push isn’t needed, and in rough water, or when the tide level rises, the owner can activate the Rough Water Mode switch, which gives three Autodrive extensions at ten second intervals to get a better bite.
Much more effective and easier to use than a conventional anchor, the Talon is an asset to any boat that needs to spot in one place. The addition of the 10 and 12 foot models to the Minn Kota line put the system past a shallow water anchor system to a mid-depth anchor system.
My first experience with a Lowrance product was in the form of a Lowrance Global Map 2400 GPS unit for my 2000 Carolina Skiff. I’m really not a high tech guy and I was a lot less of one then, but I downloaded the maps for the Eastern United States in that GPS and used it in both my boat and pickup for years. I used that old GPS with the map system in my truck to find hotels, restaurants and negotiate the roads in my days as a road warrior. It even had an application to help my find gunshops and hunting and fishing locations in the days before Smart Phone apps. In fact, that same GPS unit is still in that Carolina Skiff, and I use it every year when I’m guiding on the Roanoke River during striper season.  Jeff and I had a lot of adventure navigating around the Pamlico sound with that old Lowarnce, and after all these years of exposure to sun and weather, that little five inch screen GPS is still working.
Jeff’s new boat also sports a new and much improved version of that old Lowrance, the HDS Gen 2. While my old GPS was only a GPS, the new unit is also a Sonar unit, with a color screen, much more computing power and if you figure in inflation, it’s a remarkable bargain compared to the old unit.
The HDS Gen 2 I decided on has an eight inch color screen, and a high speed processer. The GPS detail and accuracy exceeds anything I could have imagined, and it’s all on an easy to see color screen. Of course, almost all marine chart plotter units also do double duty as depth finders but to call this a depth finder or simple sonar hardly does it justice. There’s a Broadband sounder, HD sonar imaging, a much more accurate internal antenna. There also is side imaging, and the detail is beyond anything I could have imagined with my old Lowrance Fish Finder.
The much faster processer makes changes instantly, there’s no more waiting for things to happen and the color screen is so much easier to see even in broad daylight. The most impressive feature is structure map which overlays gps information with the imaging of the sonar unit. Another impressive feature is that you can review the sonar screen and when you select an interesting area, the GPS unit will give you a waypoint to take you back to that exact spot. When I’m drifting the Roanoke, I often find a school of fish over a drop off or simply hanging in one spot. Using this feature, I can run the boat back up river and set up a drift that will carry me directly over that same structure or school of stripers.
Alright, so I know my old equipment was from the dinosaur age and color screens have been around a while, but here’s the impressive part. When I bought my old Global Map 2400, it cost about $600, if my memory serves me correctly. While I chose the HDS 8, with an MSRP of $1,249.00, for my new boat, the MSRP of the HDS 7 Gen 2 is $849.00. When I do the inflation calculation for my original purchase in 2000, the inflation factor puts the purchase at $830.46, less than $20.00 more than I’d have paid for the non-color gps, only with a much smaller screen, with almost none of the features of the new unit. It’s simply amazing. Looks like I need to upgrade the Plotter/sonar on the old skiff.

Dick Jones is an award winning freelance writer living in High Point. He writes and blogs about hunting, fishing, dogs, and shooting for national magazines and websites.  He recently finished his first book, Off the Porch. If you’d like to have him speak to your group, or would like a copy of his book, he can be reached at offtheporch52@yahoo.com or offtheporchmedia.com.