Don’t Pass The Buck

Buck Taylor's The Complete Guide to Using Depthfinders, Revised Edition 1985.

Buck Taylor’s, The Complete Guide to Using Depthfinders, Revised Edition 1985.

In 1981 I received a nice present from my mother for Christmas. It was probably one of the most useful presents I ever received and one that would shape my fishing for my entire life – in fact it still does so today. That present was the book you see in the opening picture of this article. It’s a book you may know, but only if you’ve been seriously using depthfinders for about 30 years or so.

A few months ago I saw the book for sale on Amazon and went to look for my copy. My luck wasn’t good as it’s located somewhere in my storage unit with who knows how many other books I want to write about. Anyway, a few weeks ago I ran across another copy on eBay and bought the thing. Last week it arrived and for the past few days I’ve been reacquainting myself with Buck Taylor and the wisdom he wrote between the covers of this unbelievable book.

Signal Interpretation. Buck Taylor's Complete Guide to Using Depthfinders, 1985.

Signal Interpretation. Buck Taylor’s, The Complete Guide to Using Depthfinders, 1985.

It’s obvious that this particular book I bought on eBay was well used. The color on the cover has been worn down and the binding is cracked from others reading it so much. The unfortunate thing, though, is the book was a discard from the Paramus Public Library (where’s Paramus?) and had probably been discarded from lack of use in recent years. The fact the book was discarded doesn’t reflect its value or the fact this book was used and used well in its time. The probable answer to the book’s demise was no one had checked it out for 20 years or more and, therefore, it was removed from the stacks.

I know this day and age is all about e-books, You Tube and the quick solution – but there’s just something about holding a book in your hand and being able to take that book with you on your fishing adventures. This book had so much useful information in it it went with me in my boat on nearly every trip for six months. This book taught me how to use a paper graph and use it well.

Today there isn’t anything of its caliber out there on how to use graphs and interpret their signals. Here’s just one example of why this book is so important and should be a must-read for all anglers.

Hard Bottom Echos. Buck Taylor's The Complete Guide to using Depthfinders, 1985.

Hard bottom echos. Buck Taylor’s, The Complete Guide to using Depthfinders, 1985.

Without a doubt today’s graphs with down imaging and side scan are light years ahead of what we had back in the 70s, 80s or even the 90s but the basic technology is exactly the same. What we see on our graphs today doesn’t leave much to the imagination – we see actual pictures of trees, sunken boats, rocks and even fish. But one thing that the graphs of today do that the old ones didn’t do – and I’m specifically talking about vertical imaging here folks – is adjust for depth automatically so you have the entire water column, from top-to-bottom, on your screen. Yes, it’s nice to see that big picture of what’s below the boat but so much is lost when you use your finder that way.

Hard bottom and soft bottom echos. Buck Taylor's, The Complete Guide to Using Depthfinders, 1985.

Hard bottom and soft bottom echos. Buck Taylor’s, The Complete Guide to Using Depthfinders, 1985.

I didn’t know this until I read Buck’s book back some 30-odd years ago. You see, he said in his book to always adjust your depth so that the bottom was displayed, at the most, within the upper half of the paper (in today’s talk that would mean the upper half of the screen). The reason for this is an angler can tell exactly what type of bottom he or she is over. A hard bottom will display an echo exactly at twice the depth you are over, while a muddy or soft bottom had no echo. A really hard bottom will actually display a third echo. What’s this mean? Well, we all know fish like hard bottoms and transition areas. If you can see these transition areas you are that much closer to catching fish.

Unfortunately many of today’s anglers don’t know this and run their units in “Auto-Depth mode.” If they’d just turn off the “Auto-Depth” feature and reset their depth to twice the actual depth that they’d see what I mean.

Taylor’s book goes into so much depth about image interpretation it blows my mind it’s out of print. Even with today’s high-tech units, all of the information provided is still useful and much better than anything else out there. Yes you can pull up YouTube on your phone or bring your Nook with you on the boat but how often do you fish in places that don’t have signal and when was the last time you saw an owners’ manual on your e-book?

If you’re serious about really understanding sonar, you might want to hit up eBay or Amazon and buy this “out of date” book. Yeah, it’s old school but you might be surprised what the old-school teachings can do for your fishing.

  • Thanks Terry, just got a copy off eBay, looking for any help I can find regarding electronics

    • Chris, I think you’ll be impressed. Even though the technology back then isn’t what it is today the theory behind it all is the same. Let me know what you think of it after you read it.

  • cc

    “Old school” often means fundamentally sound. They aren’t called fundamentals for nothing. I bought a copy of this book back in the late 80’s and still have it and it’s a great resource. Today’s sonars with all their various features (and they are nice) are really in effect promising something for nothing. That is, the idea that you don’t have to do the dirty work – back to fundamentals. Power and pixels (IMO) are what really matter and if you know how to use your sonar in conjunction with your boat – you’re on your way. Don Iovino made a sonar video years ago with Don Siefert that is very good as well.