I'm toying around with the idea of getting a Vexilar or camera but unsure which. I fish almost entirely pan fish is shallow water 6-15 ft of water. The lake were on has a fair amount of weeds. looking for something very simple to use. I'm looking at the Vexilar FL18 but thought i'd see what you guys recommend. The cameras are interesting too but i'm afraid I won't see much in cloudy water.
Vexilar or camera?
I still have one of those Zercom Clearwater Classics in my boat. I gotta take it out for the upcoming open water season as the motor finally seized up and won’t spin. It’s primary function for me was to differentiate hard from soft bottom with the double echo that hard bottom returned. Was a useful tool fishing Winnebago to find the transition zone and then the perch. Same went for ice fishing especially on Winobagoshish.
I agree with you...prefer the MarCum display over the Vexilar. It seems more 'crisp' to me...also, for the money they can't be beat! A base model MarCum M1 gives you 1000 Watts of power, flat screen display, nearly silent BRUSHLESS motor, bottom zoom and a very nice padded soft pack to protect your investment...for $249!?
Compare that to an FL-8se, which will give you the blue Genz Box shuttle, 400 Watts of power, a nice cone around the dial to catch snow/ice/water, NO bottom zoom and NO soft pack case...for $249-279...BUT WAIT! You want to fish shallow water? You will need a $20 'S-cable' so you don't have a ton of clutter on your screen. Oh, and you want to make sure your $300 flasher doesn't get broken bouncing around in your sled? There goes another $30-35! Oh, you can't see those perch hugging the bottom in 35 feet of water? You don't have bottom zoom, so I guess you would have to spend another $100-125 to get an FL-18, which is basically the same as the M1...but it has Low Power mode and most models come with a soft case...So you won't need an S-cable or have to buy a case after the fact!
I have fished with Vexilar, Garmin, Humminbird (both ICE and Helix units), MarCum and Lowrance ice units...I have gone to all MarCum flashers. I also bought an ice transducer and shuttle for my Helix unit that I can take off my boat if needed. I like to have my LakeMaster digital maps when fishing new lakes or scouting, but other than that, I use the MarCum M1 99% of the time. All manufacturers have bad units. I have had fishing buddies that have had issues with their Vexilars with only 10 or 15 hours on them. It happens. That's what warranties are for!
If you are dead-set on a Vex FL-8, save yourself some money and find a used unit from the 1990's...it is mostly the same technology as the current models (with some improvements in the lighting and IR), but you can probably find one for $100 instead of $275-300. Any of the modern flashers will help you catch more fish. My suggestion is to go to a store that has Vexilar, MarCum and a couple other brands and play with them and compare them side by side. Or go fishing with a couple guys that have different units and watch how they are used or ask to use one for a few minutes. I have had complete strangers approach me on the ice and ask to look at my flasher and see how it works. I give them the run-down on it and let them test drive it. Although I prefer my MarCums, if I only had a Vex to use for the day or weekend, I would be fishing with it! They will all help you put more fish topside. I just think Vexilar REALLY leans on their name an reputation from 20-30 years ago while other brands are constantly evolving and improving their units to give anglers the most recent technology at good prices. MarCum didn't have to get rid of the cone on the VX-1 Pro when they launched the VX-1i. Lord knows Vexilar didn't get rid of it on the FL-8se, so it wasn't market competition that made them do it. They probably received feedback from their Pro Staff and customers sharing frustration with the snow/ice/water that gets in there and messes with the display, so they made a minor change. I know some will say 'If it ain't broke...don't fix it!' I'm not saying the cone around the screen on an FL-8 is 'broke', but you are the oldest company in the ice flasher business and the ONLY one that doesn't offer your base model flasher in a flat screen configuration. The FL-12 doesn't count, as you pay another $50-75 for the flat screen. I guess I don't understand this generational loyalty to Vexilar? Guys say 'I bought an FL-8 cuz my dad has had one for 30 years!' YUP! And your 2022 model is almost the same exact unit as your dad's unit from 1990! Time to get with the (changing) times...
I have seen guys last week in a decked out Ice Castle, using Vexilar's and they know the fish are there, but at the same time they have a camera connected to a 32" TV and are watching the fish. They were paying a lot more attention to the TV than the Vexilar. When I was there a good size Pike swam threw the viewing area and EVERYONE got excited. You don't see that with a Vexilar. I still don't understand why guy's will spend Tens of Thousands of dollars on equipment for Ice fishing unless their wife impossible to live with, I have a small portable and a CFish camera, Without the camera I don't think I would waste my time sitting on 14,200 acres of Ice Staring at 2 six inch holes. I live in between Jubilee and Lund's and it is less expensive and a lot less work to just by a couple of Walleye fillets. It is fun to see what's going on under the ice.
the garmin striker 4 and 5 are good units to look into if you want to use both ice and open water.
Flasher first,I like Marcum like the finer lines than a vexilar.That said camera's are a lot of fun.
Fleet Farm has the Vexilar 8 for $249 in the ad today. I have an 8 and and an 18. I bought the low power cord for the 8. Both work great.
Get a vex fl 18 they work great . I had a fl 8 I purchased when they first came out and it was a great unit but over the years it got noisy and hard to read . I sent it in to vexilar and had it reconditioned and I use it as a spare for when I go with someone that doesn’t have one . It’s quiet now and easy to read and only took them a week to get it back to me.
Another vote here to first invest in a sonar flasher, then acquire a camera at a later date if you want.
Vexilar units are seriously reliable. I bought my FL-18 the year they came out (2001/2002 ice season, I believe). It was my first, and is my only flasher today. I love it. Prior to that, I borrowed a friends FL-8 once in a while - which also was great. IMO, the Auto Zoom mode (AZ) and Low Power mode (LP) of the FL-18 is well worth the upgrade.
A sonar flasher improves every aspect of jigging thru the ice. Not sure I would still own a single jigging pole without one. You will not regret it.
Someone mentioned the Vex FL-18 and its low-power option. If you have an FL-8 there is an accessory for it to use in shallow water, a short cable that attenuates the signal. Easy install between the stock cable and the unit. About $20. If fishing deeper, take it off.