S5100 Sonar Module: "The most valuable tool"

March 25, 2018

Rod Findlay, co-captain of Murrifin, was one of the first to trial the S5100 sonar module. A year on Rod shares his thoughts on the module's performance and offers a few tips on tuning your sonar settings to find more marlin.

The NSW Game Fishing Association's State Championships held out of Port Stephens in 2018 also happens to mark one year of fishing with Simrad’s S5100 sounder module. We were lucky enough to test the prototype of the module in the 2017 tournament on our boat Murrifin. The production model of the unit continues to impress us every trip and in my opinion leads the market in driving wide beam chirp transducers.

Two 80Kg black marlin feeding on deep bait, this is the quality of target seperation between bait and marlin delivered by S5100. 

I was apprehensive when Simrad approached us to trial the new prototype unit in the 2017 tournament as playing with your main piece of fish finding equipment at the same time you’re trying to get the most out of it is not ideal. What made matters worse was 2017 was one of the toughest years for targeting Billfish in Port Stephens for a number of years so locating fish would be even tougher. Long story short we managed to fish all the wrongs areas till the last day of the event and fishing in conditions that had the majority of the fleet still tied up at the wharf. We found an area with a few marlin marking in it on the S5100 and during the afternoon tide got the bite out of the largest marlin for the 2017 event and subsequently took out the champion capture boat.

Locked and loaded to a rampaging black. 

The rough weather performance of the prototype module compared to the previous unit was very exciting and I knew that Simrad had finally built what there development team had been working towards for the previous 3-4years.

What the above leaping black marlin looked like stalking a deep bait school before hookup.

Fast forward to the 2018 tournament and the whole NSW coast was alive with great marlin fishing reports and the famous carpark area loaded up with fish and they fired for the 3 days of the event. With a year’s experience using our Airmar R509LH-W transducer, the S5100 module and NSS evo3 headunit we found this equipment to be the most valuable tool no the boat for locating the right areas to focus our fishing effort.

Backing down hard. 

Our basic settings during the last year when trying to locate bait and marlin have hardly changed. I like to use the High chirp with bottom range set and fixed at no deeper than 100 fathoms. We leave the depth fixed and not in auto so while fighting a fish the bubbles don’t confuse the sounder into looking for the bottom and changing the range. Our colour gain setting is around 80-85 and our main gain 88-90. I like to have all these in manual mode for the main reason that if the water quality drops away or a thermocline appears or dis-appears the unit won’t automatically compensate and hind the changing conditions. Our ping speed is 18-19 and having it at this setting seems to help with rough conditions. Our scroll speed is x3 or x4 this is a fast scroll and with wide beam transducers if your right over a marlin it will make a huge long mark but if you happen to be off to one side and just scratch the fish with the transducer you know immediately to turn around and work over where you have just trolled.  

Multiple fish in feeding mode, note how the bait is shaped around the predators. 

During the start of our Port Stephens season we caught a few marlin bombing the fish we marked with a live bait with a lead attached, but as the bite intensified we soon realised the volume of Marlin around meant when you found a patch and marked a couple of fish deep there was most likely another dozen surrounding you so fishing the surface and moving around certainly started to out fish the guys drifting deeps baits. It also meant you were actively searching and fishing bait schools as opposed to just waiting over the top of one for a marlin to swim by and to me the hunt is what marlin fishing is all about. 

-Rod Findlay


Immerse yourself in the marlin action with Rod's video from this year's tournament: