Check out the new website from YakAttack, fully updated with the full product line up whilst featuring a fresh new look.
I purchased a pair of these reels in October 2012 in anticipation of fishing the Hobie Worlds in Texas the following month. I wanted a mid-sized fixed spool reel that was capable of handing the Largemouth Bass that I was hoping to encounter during the competition as well as being suitable for chasing Bass and Pollack on my return to the UK. I have a couple of Shimano baitrunner reels, and as much as I like them, they’re rather heavy and bulky for general lure work.
When the Exceler-X 3000 arrived I was impressed with its overall appearance and it was pleasantly light for a metal bodied reel. I loaded it up with some nylon backing, before filling it up with 30lb Daiwa 8 Tournament Braid. This is a particularly fine braid with a diameter of 0.16mm, equivalent to monofilament line with a breaking strain of 8-10lb. With the reel fully loaded it weighed in at 295g. Capacity is quoted at 170 yards of 12lb monofilament line (0.32mm)
As mentioned, I found the finish of the reel excellent. It comes equipped with Daiwa’s Airbail (hollow bail arm) which appears robust and features a chunky tapered line roller which is designed to reduce line twist. The reel action is exceptionally smooth and the line lay onto the spool is even. If anything, it tapers outward very slightly towards the lip of the spool, though I’m being a little picky mentioning this.
The machine cut handle is quite a work of art, to which a comfortable rubberised knob is mounted. The anti-reverse is of the infinite type and is toggled on and off with a small lever situated on the underside of the body. Operation is quick and simple, no complaints there.
Internally the Exceler has four corrosion resistant ball bearings (CRBB’s), allied to Daiwa’s ‘DigiGear’ close meshed gear system, it provides an exceptionally smooth action. Daiwa’s CRBB bearings are specially treated stainless steel and quoted to last up to 12 times longer than standard stainless steel bearings in a corrosive saltwater environment. They are also sealed to shield out sand, fine grit, salt crystals and other abrasives.
I like to strip my reels every 1-2 years, depending on the amount of use they’re subjected to. I also open them up well delivered to assess the level of factory lubrication. This varies greatly from reel to reel, some are supplied worryingly low on lubrication. With the reel opened up the lubrication was adequate, though as with all my reels I added additional grease whilst ensuring that all bearings were treated to some fresh oil.
The drag has proved particularly effective and it’s easily adjusted via the front drag control. I’ve caught many fish into double figures and the drag operates smoothly, its adjustment is progressive and it’s easily changed whilst playing a fish.
The reel comes supplied with a spare spool, with the front drag knob unscrewed and removed the spool slides straight off the spindle. Changing spools whilst afloat is quick and simple.
The operation of the bail arm is smooth and it resets after each cast without issue when rotating the handle. It perhaps needs a little more effort that I’d like, though as I tend to manually reset the bail arm I’ve never given it much consideration.
So after a year of using this reel in anger for pollack, bass and pike, how do I rate it?. Well considering the overall quality of the reel its retail price of £99 is quite reasonable. However, it can be purchased for considerably less if you shop around, with an average shop price of £80. After a year of use both the mechanical mechanism and the drag system still operate very smoothly.
Despite being used in a saltwater environment, they’re showing no signs of corrosion. That said, I am quite fastidious when it come to caring my my tackle. My reels are always partially stripped and freshwater washed post each trip, before being allowed to dry thoroughly before being stored. They’re periodically treated to a light spray of WD40 for additional corrosion protection. The finish is proving to be durable with only a few visible signs of wear.
Overall, a quality reel at a good price that should provide many years of faithful service.
I finished rigging up the Elite 7 HDI a few days ago, though I’d not managed to get onto the water to have a play with it due to the extremely poor weather that we’ve experienced this past week. Today saw a break in the weather with the high tide nicely aligned with the time slot that my kids were at school. It was a case of all systems go!
As I wasn’t fishing it only took a few minutes to load up the car and hit the road. As I was launching locally into the upper reaches of Portsmouth Harbour, the journey only took 5 minutes. Rigging was equally as quick, battery, Lowrance 7 HDI, paddle and a bottle of juice.
I had played with the unit in the garage and taken a few moments to peruse the instruction booklet. Perhaps I should have taken it along?, though I reckoned that I could fumble my way through things as requied.
The unit takes a good thirty seconds to power up, then the Lowrance logo is replaced with the display screen. Firstly, the screen is bright!, I turned it down from the max level of 10 to 8, though this will be darkened right down for night use. There is in fact a night mode, though I’ve only tried it briefly. The screen can be viewed in multiple customisable formats, basically triple page screen, split screen, single screen and the steer screen. The chart, broadband and down imaging (DI) sonar can be viewed in the various screen formats, either alone in single screen format, or combined within split and triple screen (combo pages).
There’s a ‘setup wizard’ which guides you through the initial setup, asking questions such as do you fish lakes, what depth, type of fishing etc. However, it’s worth mentioning that despite this, it states in the instruction booklet to use ‘freshwater mode’ in less than 100’ of water to avoid problems tracking the bottom. Most of my fishing takes place in water shallower than that so it was duly set to ‘freshwater mode’.
With the unit up and running I peddled out into some open water. I decided to setup the overlay data first, placing the time, voltage, speed, depth and water temperature onto the display. That was easy enough, positioning and re-sizing the various data items was very straightforward. Anyway, I initially set the display to the three panel page and pedalled off to a pair of derelict ammunitioning cranes.
Chart, broadband & DI sonar in triple screen
Mmmmm, well the cranes were there last time I was here!, sadly no longer. They are still showing on the Navionics charts, it’s a real pity and they provided some excellent structure to fish. There was still evidence of their foundations on the sonar, though to all intense and purposes they were gone.
The sonar setting needed a little tweaking, I founding turning up the surface clarity on the DI reduced the noise dramatically, whilst targets were still clearly visible and had not noticeably degraded as a result of changing the settings. There was a lot of weed pushing through on the flood tide and this considerably cluttered the broadband sonar display , whereas the DI display only shows the weed as much smaller returns providing a far clearer display. The DI defaulted to 455Khz, though it can be selected to 800Khz to provide better definition. I didn’t compare the 800 to 455khz during this trip.
On the DI, fish are displayed as a return according to size and profile. This may be a simple dot or a larger sized return. It takes some practice to discern fish returns on DI and I’ve been gathering some experience over the past few months whilst using my Elite 4 DSI. On the broadband sonar fish returns show as ‘arches’, so it’s quite handy to have the broadband and DI side by side for comparison. You can also overlay the DI onto the broadband, though I didn’t try that out in anger on the water today.
DI excels when is comes to accurately imaging structure. Below are a couple of photos, the first showing an underwater piling, the second a series of wooden piles that were part of an old wooden pier. The upper photo shows some fish returns to the left of the piling, possibly some small fish to the right as well (more noticeable on the broadband). Though it’s the clarity of the DI structure returns that really stand out.
Broadband & DI sonar in split screen
Broadband & DI sonar in split screen
I pedalled around the stern of an anchored warship awaiting disposal, coming close to a large metal mooring buoy. This was secured to the sea floor with a very heavy gauge metal chain and gave a very strong return. However, the broadband return is very cluttered with the structure being rather unclear, whereas the DI provides a very different picture (see image below).
Broadband & DI sonar in split screen
I played with both sonars in single page view, though I immediately missed have the direct comparison that the side by side display provided. Perhaps having both sonars overlaid when in single screen will work better. I’ll try this in due course and provide some feedback later. The two photographs below were taken within seconds of one another, permitting both boroadband and DI in single screen to be compared. Again, the difference is extremely noticeable, with the broadband being far more cluttered and lacking in structure definition. However, fish returns (arches) are clearly visible either side of the buoy rope compared to the much smaller, harder to distinguish, returns on the DI.
Broadband sonar return
DI sonar return
I moved on and began to have a play with the Navionics Gold charts that I’d just installed. When viewing multiple screen you are required to press the ‘page’ button twice to switch between the split panels. For example if you press the zoom button, it’ll either zoom in/out on either the broadband, DI or chart depending on which segment of the display you have selected. This is where I wished I’d bought the instruction book along as it took me five minutes to work out how to select the separate panels within a split/tri screen display.
Chart screen (fitted with Navionics Gold)
I had ‘tracks’ selected on, the track colour can be changed to suit the user. Setting a waypoint is simple enough, just hit the ENTER button and edit the details as required before saving it. Accessing saved waypoints is straightforward via the menu options. What I really do like is the Lowrance ‘track back’ feature which allows the user to use the cursor to scroll and look back as the historical sonar data returns. You can then save a waypoint from a mark than has been passed over and lies some distance behind. There’s also the option to immediately select navigation back to that mark… very handy!
Lastly is the ‘Steer’ screen. This displays shows your current track, direction to waypoint and additional navigational data. What I don’t like is that is states your ETA as ‘clock time’, as opposed to time remaining. The problem being that there is no ‘real time’ clock to compare to the ETA. I’m hoping this ETA can be changed to time remaining, I’ll report back on that at some point. You can also follow the ‘navigation course line’ that appears on the chart page when navigating to a waypoint, my preferred method of navigation.
You can set parameters that will set off alarms, these include off course, drag anchor, shallow water, etc. I deliberately steered well off course and once 100’ off course (value can be changed) the alarm sounded.
It’s my first day at using this unit so I was at times fumbling through the menus, though this will no doubt improve with use!. The Navionics charts themselves look great, though not noticeably better than the Bluecharts that I have loaded to my Garmin 60Csx. What I didn’t like was the difficulty that I experienced in locating the tidal information. On the Garmin it a couple of button presses and you’re presented with a list of local tidal stations. It appears that it’s more difficult on the Navionics, with the user having to zoom well out in order to locate a tidal marker (something that I failed to find!). I’ll have a good play with this and provide some better feedback when I’m more familiar with the software.
Ok, that was a very short introduction to my brief experience with the Lowrance Elite 7 HDI. Once I really get to grips with this unit and clocked up a few fishing trips, I’ll come back and provide a longer term review to how this unit and the Navionics software perform. That said, first impressions are very pleasing and the unit appears to be very straightforward to use. The location adjacent to the foot well works very nicely for me, I cant see it’s position being an issue at all whilst fishing. It’s very easy to reach and operate whilst afloat and underway.
The cod season is beginning so I hope to be out there fishing within the next couple of weeks, weather permitting. The temperature is dropping so I’ve been checking through my winter clothing, enduring that I have sufficient layers and thick socks in my clothing box ready to go!
The Lowrance Elite 7 HDI has a memory card slot to accept a blank micro SD card. This permits the recording of a sonar log if required so custom map sets can be created using Inside Genesis. The Elite 7 HDI came with a base map loaded, though this is extremely basic and not suitable for my fishing and navigational needs.
I decided to purchase a Navioncs Gold card that covered the whole of the UK and Ireland. They’re not particularly cheap, prices vary with some retailers charging over £200. However, after a little surfing I purchased one from Redcar Marine Electronics for under £170. Free delivery took under 48 hours, good service indeed.The micro SD card came well packaged, mounted into an SD adapter which is not required for the Elite 7 HDI.
The SD card adapter can be used to mount the micro SD card into the PC when refreshing the maps (“Freshest data”) via the Navionics website. These map updates are available for the first 12 months after purchase. I’ve already refreshed the maps and the process was relatively quick and totally painless. Navionics provide good step by step instructions, so screwing up the card is not a concern. However, it is stated that you card cannot be copied or modified in any way as the data will be corrupted. I’ve read of a few people being unfortunate enough to have experienced this – BEWARE!. You can purchase a dedicated card reader for the Navionics card that will permit it to be interfaced with a PC, permitting its interface with map reading software such as Fugawi Marine.
I also took the opportunity to upgrade the operating software for the Elite 7 HDI itself. Again, it was a quick and painless process. The latest software was downloaded from Lowrance and copied onto a blank micro SD card. This was inserted into the Elite 7 HDI and the unit switched on. The upgrade is automatic with no notification of a successful update being given. If you want to confirm the latest software state you need to go into the system menu.
The Navionics Gold card was duly inserted into the Elite 7 HDI and the unit was powered up. You need then to go into the ‘chart menu’ and select the Navionics option. The charts immediately appears, it’s as simple as that.
The memory card is concealed behind a hinged door which has a rubber seal and is a push fit. There is NO positive locking on the memory card door. As much as the door is quite a tight push fit, there’s always a slight chance that the door may take a knock whilst in storage or whilst afloat, causing the seal to be compromised.
Elite 7 HDI memory card door
Memory card door open (note roughened area of plastic to the far right)
The last thing anyone want is for the memory card to be contaminated with water, especially saltwater. To that end I decided to provide some additional waterproofing and improved retention of the door itself.
With the card inserted, I slightly roughened up the plastic surface to the far right of the card slot. A little Marine Goop was applied to this ‘keyed’ surface, enough to retain the door in a firmly shut position and make it very resistant to accidental opening. If the door does need to be opened to refresh the card data, it shouldn’t prove to much of a problem to overcome the small amount of Marine Goop that’s securing the memory card door. I also applied some silicone grease to the rubber door seal on the rear of the card door. The photo below shows both the silicone grease and the Goop applied just prior to closing the door.
Silicone grease and Marine Goop applied
I taped the door firmly shut for a couple of hours to permit the Goop to set. With the door secured shut I also ran a bead of silicone grease around the edges of the door itself, wiping off any excess.
Elite 7 HDI card door – sealed and secure
One thing is for sure, the memory card slot is not only fully waterproof, the door itself is also securely locked and cannot be accidentally opened from knocks, etc. The changes are barely visible to the naked eye, though it gives me peace of mind. Am I saying the the standard door is not up to the job?. I think it’s ok, though for saltwater kayak use and the constant fitment and removal of the head unit to and from the kayak, I reckon this improvement is worthwhile.
When I originally rigged my Hobie Outback kayak for fishing I fitted a new Lowrance Elite 4 DSI fish finder and my existing Garmin 60Csx handheld GPS. The 60Csx is a well proven unit, one I’ve been using for several years now. It’s been used on and off the kayak and is loaded with Garmin Bluecharts, Topography maps and City Navigator, providing full coverage of the UK and Eastern Europe in all areas. It’s survived capsizes, waves and heavy rain, no complaints whatsoever. The Elite 4 DSI has performed very well and I’ve continually been impressed with the picture quality. I fitted the transducer externally which required a little improvisation, though it ensures the best performance and it’s well worth the additional work.
Garmin 60Csx with Lowrance elite 4 DSI and associated transducer
A few months ago I was offered a sponsorship deal from Lowrance. I was already impressed with what I’d experienced with the DSI, so I decided to take them up on their offer. I was asked what I’d like to fit to the kayak so I requested the Elite 4 combo, however, they came back and offered me the Elite 5 HDI combo. Wow!, that was more than I had dared to ask for, so I sat and waited patiently for the unit to be released in the UK (Sept 2013). I received a phone call from Lowrance whilst I was working on the Hobie stand at the Southampton boat show, asking me to pop to their stand and collect my new unit. On arrival I was told that they’d upgraded me, yes, they’d mentioned this previously. Nope, they’d upgraded me again!... sat there waiting for me was an Elite 7 HDI!, and it looked big!.
As much as I was extremely pleased and feeling very grateful, I couldn’t help but feel worried that the unit was too big, where was I going to fit it?!. Once back home I rummaged around the box, checking out the contents. There were clearly some issues to overcome if this was going to work and they were as follows:
- Where to mount the head unit
- How to mount the head unit
- Where to mount the transducer
- How to route the wiring
With regards to mounting the head unit I spoke to Bram Hullekes in the Netherlands, as I’d heard that a couple of the Dutch guys had already utilised this particular unit on Hobie kayaks. Some photos duly arrived in my inbox a couple of days later. On inspection, they’d mounted the head unit forward, ahead of the user’s feet. As much as the unit is large, this made it a real stretch to reach the controls and even though the display was large, it perhaps wasn’t ideal to have the unit at a distance when using the display in a split-screen mode. I’d really liked the Elite 4 DSI positioned on the starboard side on the foot well, attached to the kayak with a RAM mount affixed to a length of YakAttack’s GearTrac 175. However, the equivalent RAM mount for the Elite 7 is stupidly expensive, importing one from the USA would set me back over £60!. Could I make the same setup work with the Elite 7 HDI ?.
The head unit came supplied with a solid bracket designed to be mounted to a wide flat surface. After a little thought I decided that it could be quite easily modified to accept a 1.5” RAM ball. I loosely rigged it up to a RAM ball using some ty-wraps just to see how it would look.
I used a short RAM double socket joint to move it away from the foot well do avoid being in the way whilst peddling. It appeared that it would be a solid mount that would permit plenty of adjustment fore and aft along the Geartrac as required, whilst remaining within arm’s reach. It seemed to just what I wanted so I went ahead with the modification to the mount.
Modifying the factory head unit bracket turned out to be simple enough. I made a small adapter plate from nylon cutting board to permit the attachment of the 1.5” RAM ball. The holes were recessed as required to prevent the nuts from fouling the underside of the bracket and from looking too ugly. Part of the moulded structure was removed from the bracket to allow clearance for a nut. That was it, a straightforward and simple solution.
With the modified bracket fully assembled I took the opportunity to try it out and the result was a very solid mount. Considering the size and weight of the head unit it’d worked a treat.
That was the easy part of the rigging, the transducer had the potential to be a major headache!. It’s highly recommended that a down imaging (DI) transducer is mounted externally. Using a ‘shoot through the hull’ configuration degrades the performance. If you’re unsure about this, here’s a great article to read on the subject.
The Elite 7 HDI has the option of two transducers, the 83/200~455/800 & 50/200~455/800. They basically permit operation in different water depths.
Note! - there’s a big difference in the physical size of these two transducers!.
The 83/200 gives broadband sonar capability down to 305m, whereas the 50/200 gives extended range down to 762m. Both give DI performance to 91m. I’ll rarely fish in water much over 100m deep, so it made sense to use the smaller unit. Also the mounting bracket of the smaller transducer is removable, whereas it’s fully integrated in the 50/200 transducer.
I’d mounted the transducer for my Elite 4 DSI through the seat scupper hole. This had required a little rework, the thread for the drain plug having being carefully removed with the use of a small sanding wheel mounted in a Dremel tool.
Ideally I wanted the HDI transducer mounted in the same location where the DSI transducer had been located. However, there were big problems! . The HDI transducer was much larger than the smaller cylindrical DSI item, and with it sat within the hull contours of the Outback it was offset considerably from the scupper hole. I needed the transducer mounted hard up against the hull for maximum protection, so I couldn’t move closer to the scupper hole with adversely affecting this. There was another problem, the electrical plug for the transducer was too big to fit through the modified scupper hole by 3-4mm. Now on paper that would have been the end of that plan, though there was a potential (risky?) solution to the latter problem.
If the outer locking nut of the electrical plug was removed, it appeared that the lead would pass through the scupper hole. The problem was that the locking nut was not removable, the lead would need fully dismantling to remove it intact. On closer inspection I decided that the locking nut could be carefully cut off, a narrow slit along its length would permit it to be opened and slipped over the connector. It would of course require repairing once re-assembled. I decided to risk it, carefully cutting the locking nut and removing it from the lead. Sure enough, the cable was then able to pass through the scupper hole, but only just!. The locking nut was repaired later with a little plastic welding.
That still left the problem of mounting the transducer below the scupper hole. The DSI transducer had been much smaller and sat directly below the scupper hole. Some cutting and gluing of the mount had allowed the transducer to be mounted without too much difficulty, though this HDI transducer was going to need something very different!.
After a lot of head scratching I hatched a plan. The transducer was to be mounted directly to a custom stainless steel bracket with an offset mounting stud. The original plastic mount was ditched. The basic material was 3mm stainless steel plate, the mount itself being constructed from two pieces.
The smaller piece was required to slide into the slot where the original plastic mount had been located. Two raised plastic guides had to be filed out first. The lower mounting plate needed to fit into the grooved slot and this profile was carefully milled into the plate.
The upper mounting plate was drilled to allow it to be welded to the lower grooved section. An 8mm stainless stud would then be welded into the upper mounting plate. There was some tweaking required during construction and the upper mounting plate was contoured to fit snugly within the opening of the scupper hole.
The result was extremely pleasing, probably better than I’d hoped for!. The transducer sat hard up against the scupper hole, sitting well within the profile of the Outback’s bulbous hull. It tightened up easily and I used a small section of foam to ensure that it sat horizontal to the deck. The contoured plate had fitted so well that there was absolutely no gap to pass the transducer cable through. Out came the angle grinder and a minute later a nicely shaped slot existed to pass the cable through, job done!
I’d previously fitted a side-exit cable gland in the seat area to permit the DSI transducer cable to re-enter the hull. I re-used this gland in exactly the same manner, though it needed a slight re-work due to the thicker HDI transducer cable. The cable re-appears on the starboard side next to a length of 8” GearTrac where it emerges and connects to the head unit.
The power lead to the head unit also uses this exit point and is connected to the main wiring loom within the hull.
I’d originally used a 12aH SLA battery on my big Game kayak, though I’d downgraded to a 7aH battery on my Outback. As the current draw of the Elite 7 HDI would no doubt be considerably higher than the Elite 4 DSI I’ve swapped the battery back to the 12aH unit.
So that’s the installation completed. The loom is protected with heat shrink and sealed with Raychem S1125 adhesive. This creates a fully watertight, yet flexible loom. The main battery also supplies power to a bilge pump and navigation light, hence the additional amperage of the battery. The finished result is clean and tidy, the head unit is mounted solidly to the kayak, with the transducer is mounted externally and well protected up against the hull of the kayak.
As I clock up some time using this unit I’ll provide some feedback as to its performance on the water. It’ll be nice to have the GPS and fish finder fully integrated as well as being able to compare broadband and DI sounder readings side by side. I’ll be purchasing a Navionics Gold card to cover the UK to make the most of the chart plotter facility.
Watch this space for a full review of the Elite 7 HDI in due course.