Review: Simrad HALO + NSS12 evo2 + B175L & SS175H-W transducers

By: John Willis, Photography by: John Willis & Supplied

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

Simrad HALO radaro on Surtees 700 Gamefisher Simrad HALO radar antenna on the Surtees Gamefisher.
Fish display on Simrad NSS12 A veritable smorgasboard of fish.
Simrad NSS12 display showing pike fish in 17m of water. A school of pike in 17m of water.
Simrad NSS12 showing bait and predators in 18m of water. Bait and predators in 18m of water.
Simrad's Bill Milonas catching huge southern bluefin tuna. Simrad's Bill Milonas with an SBT barrel.
Simrad BSM3 transducer module. Simrad BSM3 module.
Fisherman Hooch catching Tasmanian albacore. Hooch with Tassie albacore.
Simrad NSS 12 marine electronics showing many snapper. More than enough for any snapper fisho.
Fish on Simrad NSS12 display In 19m: the fish get bigger the deeper you go.
Hadley Deegan from Deegan Marine. Deegan Marine's Hadley Deegan swears by his Simrad electronics.
Impressive underwater structure shown on Simrad NSS12 marine electronics display. Tasmania's underwater scenery is as spectacular as the land.

We review an amazing Simrad electronics setup on a Surtees 700 Gamefisher: Simrad HALO radar, Simrad NSS12, and multiple transducers.

There was a time when fish beyond 200 metres used to be as alien to recreational fishermen as space exploration, but modern sonar and fishfiner technology means we can now target deep-drop species right out to the edge of the continental shelf. Species such as striped trumpeter, gemfish, blue eye trevalla, hapuka, tuna and blue grenadier are now targeted by deep dropping in waters up to 800 metres and new equipment makes it possible to identify not only the target zone, but schools and even individual fish.

 

Simrad marine electronics

Simrad Halo3 radar video review

Watch it in action! See the full test Simrad HALO video review (also, squished bugs are a bonus).

For years we’ve known that broadbill swordfish inhabit these deep offshore waters but haven’t had the equipment to target them. The latest Simrad marine electronics fishfinder technology allows us to find the bait and thus the apex predators, and present a suitable offering right under their swords!

Surface trolling and live baiting for other large pelagics is often productive but there are many days where the upper water columns are barren and the fish have gone deep. In days gone past we had to catch baitfish in coastal grounds and transport them live to the deep water, taking pot luck where we placed them and often missing the big bait schools that inhabit the depths. With modern fishfinder technology we now identify the baitfish in the deep water, catch them on weighted jigs and present them straight back to predators in search of an easy meal. Marlin, tuna and shark have been the major target species in southern Australia until recently, but broadbill success is the latest sensation and they’re available right around the bottom half of the country at least.

Simrad NSS12 showing 700m water depth
Clearly defined bottom action - at around 700m depth!

Equally, our fishing boats are much more offshore-capable now. The efficiencies of direct injection and four-stroke marine engine technology for trailer boats have opened the pathway to longer sojourns. GPS has only really been available for the past 20 years so now we combine accurate positioning with chartplotters that can update your own haunts and worldwide marine charts as you travel. Combine all of this with marine radar and not only is your coastal boating much safer but it should also be far more productive.

Whilst radar is far from new, the latest Simrad HALO technology has introduced image range and identification into new territory.

Simrad uses ‘Pulse Compression’ technology to deliver "an unprecedented mix of close and long-range detection, precise target definition and low clutter, combining the best characteristics of our traditional pulse and 4G broadband radar systems".

 

Simrad HALO radar

Fish arches on NSS12 evo2 12in display
Fish stacked up like firewood.

The Tuna Club of Tasmania’s 26th Australian Bluefin Championship provided an ideal opportunity to review a new 3ft Simrad HALO radar unit combined with the NSS12 Evo2 12in GPS chartplotter/multifunction display with built-in GPS positioning, StructureScan HD, CHIRP-enabled broadband sonar, and powerful expansion capabilities.

The package included a 1kW bronze B175L low frequency transducer, a 1kW stainless steel 175 H-W (High-Wide) transducer and BSM3 broadband sounder module, all fitted to a Surtees 700 Gamefisher Hardtop with Evinrude E-TEC 200HO outboard motor.

The beautiful waters off Eagle Hawk Neck are a great testing ground with close proximity to the continental shelf, a quick run south to the Hippolytes and further down the coast to Tasman Island. This was no simulation; it was a true field test over three long days offshore in depths from shallow in the busy harbour out to the 1000-metre line.

I’m getting on a little in years so for me – and thousands like me – technology must be easy to use. That means simple menu and choice systems and a big, bright screen for definition. Multiple screens are okay but the ability to easily read a number of displays on one large screen makes far more sense in the limited space on trailer-boat dashboards. It’s also easier to control when being pitched around in a small boat. I also prefer touchscreens with a manual keypad combination and a rotary push-to-enter dial. In trips like this, the driver often has a number of roles that can produce wet and smelly fingers! Screens get hard to read when wet, filthy fish gut-covered fingers smear them, hence the manual control back-up.

 

Electronics fit-up

Simrad 3 HALO radar aerial
Fitup inside the Surtees 700 Gamefisher Hardtop.

The big Simrad HALO antenna featured prominently on the hardtop roof. It looks quite impressive but you must remember the added 448mm height when towing. The weight is also a consideration with the 19kg pedestal and 4.1kg aerial adding 23.1kg overall.

The large Simrad 12in NSS12 Evo2 multi-function screen was dash-mounted, convenient for removal in a storage scenario but with very good vision and within easy reach of the driving position.

This was the first time I’d ever seen the two transducers through-mounted inside the Surtees ballast chamber and it worked beautifully. The through-hull transducers are ideal for unobscured flow and being neatly fitted out of harm’s way create fewer snagging points around the transom, making them almost impossible to damage.

 

Simrad NSS12 evo2 Multifunction Display

Simrad NSS12 evo2 Multifunction Display
Simrad NSS12 evo2 Multifunction Display showing full engine diagnostics.

I found the menu system and operation of the Simrad NSS12 evo2 Multifunction Display to be one of the easiest I have used, and to me ease of use is paramount. I have no time or patience for difficult technology with confusing and drawn-out operation. The big 12in screen has terrific definition (1280x720 HD) and features a built-in CHIRP-enabled broadband sounder with StructureScan giving a quite amazing view of the bottom contours and consistency, but also excellent detail on what’s swimming under and to the sides. The broadband technology also provides instant start-up without those annoying long delays.

Simrad marine says the software has been enhanced for widescreen multi-touch display and I not only enjoyed terrific vision of the territory but the touchscreen made it easy to navigate through the menu and zoom mechanisms. We had plenty of screen space to run several windows at a time and the ability to customise the view according to operator wishes. I preferred having full-length zoom sonar combined with a quarter-panel top to bottom sonar, and then a quarter-panel chartplotter with radar overlay.

The drag and drop menu allows you to easily change views and lock in favourites, and at night I’d probably lose one of the sounder screens and expand the radar/plotter overlay to keep a sharper eye out for obstacles. It’s comforting in the dark to confirm your GPS position with radar showing the coast.

The coastline in south-east Tasmania is simply stunning but it doesn’t finish at sea level. Our fishfinder found some undersea pinnacles with peaks rising 30-50 metres out of 70 -100 metres of water that were totally uncharted. They won’t stay that way for long with the optional WiFi-1 module and the new Genesis tracking system recording all your information to continuously update your charts; when you get home – or anywhere with wireless internet – you can share your discoveries and updates with the world. You can even bring your multi-function display remotely to your smartphone or tablet, and control it from a tablet. The wireless capability also provides continuous updates for all of the Simrad modules connected by NMEA 2000 or Ethernet.

Simrad NSS12 showing uncharted pinnacle on ocean floor
Just another of Tasmania's uncharted pinnacles rising from the deep.

You can fully integrate your favourite readouts as well as auto-pilot, switch to full engine and operating diagnostics in both digital and analogue formats, integrate time, date, tide charts, moon phase, engine trim and trim tab position, course, speed, fuel consumption and a multitude of other readouts in the one clear screen.

There is no doubt CHIRP technology has enhanced the graphic capabilities and this translates into a far clearer picture of what lies under and around your boat. You can even plan a whole day’s venture including trolling patterns on a target area with Simrad’s TripIntel, and plan your fuel usage to boot, with the range displayed clearly on the chart overlay.

We ran out wide to the drop-off and found a likely broadbill ground where the bottom quickly dropped from 500 to 700 metres as it slipped over the edge of the shelf. The NSS12 displayed amazing bottom lock and clear definition in such depth, even in quite sloppy aerated water. We set a long bait at 600 metres and hooked up. Let me tell you it’s a long pull from that depth without much feel, particularly on mono line, but I fought a denizen of the deep all the way to around 100 metres where the hooks pulled. Was it a broadie? – I like to think so!

 

Transducers and BSM3 Broadband Sounder Module

Our Simrad NSS12 Evo2 was armed with two 1kW transducers, a B175L Low Frequency transducer and a SS175 H-W (High–Wide) both mounted neatly in the flooding bilge.

1kw Simrad transducers in Surtees fishing boat
How neat is this? Two 1kW Simrad transducers in the Surtees flooding keel.

 

B175L transducer

The B175L is a bronze through-hull CHIRP depth/temperature transducer, ideal for sportfishing and commercial vessels up to 8m (25ft) in length. This single-channel transducer offers Low CHIRP only, for great depth penetration – it’s claimed to enable bottom detection down to 3000m (10,000ft) with five to 10 times greater detail, and resolution that is so precise it’s possible to distinguish between individual baitfish, gamefish, and underwater structures.

I can’t attest to anywhere near 3000 metres but I can tell you that we had very clear bottom definition in 700 metres and could determine individual fish as well as bait schools without interruption.

 

SS175H-W High Wide transducer

The SS175H-W is a stainless steel through-hull CHIRP transducer, ideal for sportfishing and commercial vessels up to 8m (25ft) in size. This single-channel transducer offers High CHIRP combined with a wide beam for the best resolution and coverage in shallower depths.

 

BSM-3 (Broadband Sounder Module) module 

The BSM-3 module was fitted to the rear of the dashboard bulkhead in a very accessible position yet out of harm’s way. The BSM3 works in conjunction with the transducers and NSS12 multi-function screen, enhancing performance. The BSM-3 is designed for professionals and serious sportfishing enthusiasts with high performance, dual-channel broadband sounder with CHIRP technology. Its 3000m (10,000ft) working range means you can venture further offshore, with the confidence to find the fish you’re looking for. The BSM-3 is built for tough offshore conditions, with a rugged all-aluminium housing and new transducer connectors making installation and service easier than ever.

 

 


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