Gear Review: Garmin LiveScope XR

Wish you had superpowers? You’ll spot fish like Superman through a wall, with the Garmin Livescope XR.

My gaze was transfixed on the dash-mounted Garmin display as I watched a school of bait flutter up off the artificial reef some 50 feet below the boat. The movements on the MFD were much like the ones I saw on ultrasounds when my wife was pregnant. But instead of looking at heartbeats and baby toes moving, we were spotting bait and bottom fish.

We were off Fort Pierce, Florida, with Capt. Eric Davis, who has been using Garmin’s LiveScope transducer technology since it was introduced in 2018. Our mission was to test the newest iteration of LiveScope, the XR, which stands for extended range. The XR utilizes a larger, more powerful transducer than the original LiveScope to see farther around the boat and deeper below. Garmin says the XR can see up to 500 feet forward or below the boat in fresh water and 350 feet in salt.

LiveScope XR system includes a compact GLS 10 black box with a LiveScope XR LVS62 transducer. The system starts at $2,500.

When LiveScope first came out, it was used predominantly by freshwater anglers, especially tournament bass pros, who attached a transducer to their trolling motor and had a screen (or two) on the bow showing real-time imagery. With LiveScope, anglers could find structure and see if there were active fish on it. Using a trolling motor mount had another advantage, as you could change the direction of the sonar beam to zone in on fish. Basically, wherever you pointed the motor, you could see what was happening below the surface.

With LiveScope XR’s extended range, the technology can be used in more fishing applications. You could use it to see what’s lurking under an offshore weedline or scan the water ahead as you slow-troll live bait, but by far the largest advantage I see is bottom fishing or any type of structure-oriented angling.

Davis, who has fished these waters for 27 years, says LiveScope has changed how he fishes, especially when it comes to finding new structure and catching bait. LiveScope saves him time that he used to spend wandering around searching.

“I’d put this technology right up there with GPS,” Davis says, referring to the impact it could have on fishing and boating. “I can look at the image and say, ‘Oh, that’s pilchards, those are sardines, and there’s a grouper.’ It’s really been a game-changer.”

While testing the Garmin LiveScope XR, the crew found a manta ray with a pair of nice cobia swimming alongside it.

LiveScope works best when drifting or moving at trolling motor speeds. On Davis’ 25-foot Pathfinder, he has an original LiveScope fed by a transom-mounted transducer. He also has a conventional, through-hull transducer placed in front of the hull step for the fishfinder. This second, CHIRP transducer displays the boomerangs we’re more used to seeing and can also pick up a good, clear picture when running or trolling. Davis was in the process of upgrading his LiveScope transducer to the XR.

To test out the LiveScope XR, Garmin’s Dave DeVos brought along a portable mount for the XR’s transducer that he and a friend created. The mount is made of aluminum pipe and bent in a way so it fits into a gunwale rod holder. But the best part of the mount is that DeVos can turn it and point it in various directions, like the trolling motor mount. That flexibility really helped us get a full picture of the artificial reef we were parked above. We could figure out which side of the reef was holding fish by just taking one loop around the structure. In that regard, LiveScope XR made scouting much easier.

LiveScope’s beam angle is 20 by 135 degrees and provides a very wide view. Even with a transom-mounted transducer, it’s so wide that you can see forward, below the boat, off to each side and even a bit behind the boat. LiveScope is offered in three models: the original, Plus and XR. One doesn’t replace the other; the XR offers more range and more power, but the clarity is the same. The Plus has a cleaner image.

DeVos says LiveScope sensors constantly adjust the sonar beams to compensate for boat motion. This helps to stabilize the image as the boat rocks. I was also impressed by the unit’s ability to display sharp images at both close and long ranges. The Compress Range feature displays a live view in sharp detail up close as you keep an eye on targets farther away at the same time. It’s pretty cool. The only downside was that I found my gaze transfixed on the display and less on the horizon.

The LiveScope XR system includes a compact GLS 10 black box with a LiveScope XR LVS62 transducer, along with a trolling motor barrel and shaft mounting kit, perspective mount bracket and a plug-and-play Garmin Marine Network connector for installation and integration with a compatible MFD. With a free software update, the LVS62 transducer can be added to an existing LiveScope black box for users who want to upgrade.

The LiveScope XR system and the LVS62 transducer are available now, with suggested retail prices of $3,000 and $2,500, respectively.

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This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.