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If you haven’t heard the news yet, Humminbird has entered the ice fishing flasher market with their ICE series. I’m what my wife calls a “gizmo gadget” guy, so of course, I just had to pick one up! I went with the ICE 55 model (because it’s got the most gizmos and gadgets on it).
Disclaimer: I’ve only ever owned one other ice flasher, the Vexilar FL 20 Pro Pack. I used the FL 20 quite a bit over the last 2 seasons and was extremely happy with it’s performance. I’ve seen the Marcum LX-5 in action a couple times but have never actually used one myself, so I can’t really comment or compare on the Marcum.
I did a quick search last week and found a good price online. The unit arrived on-time and in relatively good shape:
Unpacking the box you’ll find that there’s some assembly required:
Assembly was straight-forward and revealed a couple observations, a few pros and a few cons.
- The familiar transducer “float” that comes with the vex is there, same exact thing but it’s black and there’s a different sticker on it.
- A short cable is included that seems to do nothing, we’ll get to that in a bit.
- The main unit seems well built, has a little weight to it and the controls are laid out nicely.
- At no extra charge, you get a heavy duty, zippered case to keep out the gunk. I never bought the vex canvas case so I can’t compare ‘em…
- There’s a nice spot to wrap the cables, on the front of the unit. The two small “fingers” that you wrap the cable around are spring loaded, allowing you to lift up, turn at a 90, then easily slip off all the cable in one shot. Kind of handy.
- There’s actually assembly required. I don’t remember exactly how much I had to do on the FL 20 but I know it wasn’t this much.
- The plastic case or “pack” that holds everything together doesn’t feel as solid as the Vex Pro Pack.
- The battery charger is the old, “heavy” style deal. In this day and age, knowing energy conservation is on many people’s minds, you’d think they would’ve stepped up and included the newer, more energy efficient style charger (like the vex charger). One good side to this though, if this winter you find your hands are a bit cold out in the garage, just place them on the charger and warm ‘em up
- The “status” indicator for the batter charger is a separate module that rests about 6 inches before the connectors. IF they had used the newer style charger, that could be built-in (like the vex). Also, the indicator LED itself is difficult to read. The module has text on it indicating, Green = Charged, Yellow = Charging and Red = Short/Reverse. Well, I plugged it in and off the bat it looked like the LED was Red, indicating a short or reverse hook-up. Consulting the manual, you’ll find this note: “The battery charger uses a yellow LED to indicate it is charging. On some models, this light might appear closer to orange than yellow. When this happens, the battery is still charging properly and should be left to charge until the LED becomes green. (They should note that the light looks red, not orange!)
Now to good stuff, turn the ICE 55 on one click and the first cool feature greets you, Auto Range. The unit will automatically determine the proper depth range for the location and lock you in. You also are introduced to what I believe has been a long time coming for flashers, a LCD, digital depth display. At a quick glance, it’s nice to just see what the depth is.
Next, the ICE 55 is virtually silent. If you get close, you can hear (and feel) a slight hum from the fiber optic wheel spinning and the normal “clicking” sound that all flasher units emit.
I wanted to show some “real world” shots of the flasher in action for this write up but didn’t really feel like heading out in the boat today and the end of the dock is only 5 feet deep, so not much action there. After reading the manual a bit, I find that the ICE 55 has a “Simulator” mode which “simulates on-the-water operation, providing a randomly-updated display.” Enabling you to better understand all the features of the unit while you walk-through the manual. Great idea!
Now a little run down of the controls:
1. The large knob located on the bottom-right of the unit is the Power/Range Dial. Everyone who’s used a flasher knows what this does, only thing different here is the “Auto” setting.
2. The large know on the top-right is the “Selection Dial”. You’ll use this to adjust gain, move the zoom area, change noise filter settings and move the target cursor.
3. The “Color” button is just to the left of the Selection Dial, on the ICE 55 you have 3 choices: RED/YELLOW/GREEN (the standard), RED/GREEN/YELLOW (don’t know why you’d want to confuse yourself with this one) and the COOL one, RED/ORANGE/YELLOW/LIGHT-GREEN/GREEN/BLUE.
4. Just below the color button you’ll find the target key. Hit this key and a tight, purple line appears at the top of the flasher. Turn the selection knob to move the line and the LCD tells you what depth it’s at. Very handy for zeroing in on a target.
5. Next button down is “Zoom”. Hit the zoom key and two blue lines appear on the right side of the flasher. Adjust the selection dial to move the marks, therefore moving the area of the flasher that you’re zooming in on, (2x zoom btw). This will take me a bit to get used to coming from the Vex, where the zoomed area was always on the left of the dial. But hey, you can move it, so cool.
6. Next we have the “Gain” button. Hit the button and adjust the gain, 25 steps. Couple notes here: The selection knob has click-stops so it’s nice to have a bit of feedback on what you’re doing. The gain “level” is also temporarily displayed in the LCD. The gain button also doubles as the backlight ON/OFF function. Just hold the button down till you hear a beep, let go and your backlight turns on or off.
7. Next is the “Noise” button. Same deal hear, hit the button, turn the selection knob to your desired setting, (which is displayed in the LCD, 1-10). This button doubles as the “Units” control. Press and hold to change between feet and meters.
8. Last but certainly not least, the “Beam” button. Hit this button to alternate between the wider (19 degree) 240kHz beam and the narrower (9 degree) 455kHz, higher resolution beam. The LCD has a symbol that is constantly displayed, telling you which beam you’re currently using. This button also doubles as the battery indicator. Hold it down until you hear the beep, release and the battery charge percentage is displayed on the LCD.
Definitely different: the “Support” cable.
Here’s where that mysterious “extra” cable comes into play. The support cable attaches to the top of the transducer via a little clip deally and is meant to take the strain off of the actual signal cable.
In my view, at this point in time, the support cable may be the single biggest draw-back of the ICE 55. It’s bad enough having one cable down the hole, let alone two.
The question is: Is this support thing really needed? I’m sure I’ll find out this season as I for-see much cussing and an eventual de-cabling…
With real-world, icy conditions still about 3 months away I can’t really comment on how the ICE 55 performs while fishing. It will be interesting to see how the LCD and the push buttons handle cold weather. Most importantly, how nicely will the new bird play with the Vexilars and Marcums.
Once the ice hits, I’ll update on how the Humminbird ICE 55 actually handles marking fish…
Here’s a few more pics:
Adjusting the gain, you can see the level displayed on the LCD:
Here’s a shot of the target line (you can see the depth of the target line displayed on the LCD):
This was the best shot of the 5 color pallete I could get, the picture hardly does it justice but you get the idea…
Cost: $ 499.99 MSRP
Cone angles: 9° and 19°
Power level: 2400 watts peak to peak, 300 watts RMS
Interference rejection: 10 levels (steps)
Zoom: Allows 2X magnification anywhere in water column.
Target separation: .5″
Transmit frequency: 240 KHz for 19°, 455 KHz for 9°
Battery: 12 volt/9 amp sealed lead acid
Battery current draw: unknown at this time
Battery charger: included
Display colors(strong, med., weak): Set 1 - Red, Orange, Green Set 2 - Red, Green, Yellow Set 3 - Red, Orange, Yellow, Lt Green, Green, Blue
Depth ranges: 0 - 200 feet, 4 manual settings: 20′, 40′, 80′, 200′ 7 Auto settings: 20′, 40′, 60′, 80′, 100′, 120′, 200′
Warranty: 2 years
Description: Large, 526 segment bright 6-color fiber-optic display delivers excellent sunlight readability. Can choose 3 different color palettes for display. Adjustable Target Line. Digital % Battery status indicator on LCD, 6 backlit keypad control buttons: Zoom, Gain, Noise, Beam, Target cursor color(This is a unique purple target line which ice fishermen can set at a specific depth so they know exactly how deep to lower their bait or lure). Patent-pending backlit LCD display. Soft sided carrying bag. Winner of best new product award for electronics at the 2008 ICAST show.