There are all sorts of fish finder manufacturers on the market today, but very few have focused exclusively on ice fish finders. Vexilar has honed in on the ice fish finder market—it makes flashers and very little else. (No surprise—it’s based in Minnesota, where you can go ice fishing for about 6 months every year).
The FL-8SE is its flagship model—a simple flasher designed for ice fishing with no bells or whistles. The model we’re reviewing today comes in the “Genz Pack”, named after (and originally designed by) Mr. Ice Fishing himself, Dave Genz.
|Max Depth||120 feet|
|Transducer||19° Vexilar Ice-Ducer|
|Screen||525-segment LED flasher|
The Vexilar FL-8SE is an old-school piece of technology. Forget about touch screens—back in our day, we had analog fish finders with knobs, and we liked it. We had to walk uphill both ways to get to the frozen pond and catch fish, too.
These knobs control two things—gain and depth. The gain knob is intuitive enough—the more you turn it, the more gain you’ll get—that can lead to junk signals and echos, but it can be useful if you feel you’re not getting enough power to see down to the bottom with clarity. Play around with it to fine-tune it to the water column you’re fishing in!
The depth knob is not intuitive, but it’s simple once you know how it works. There are two rings within the Vexilar FL-8SE’s display—an outer white ring and an inner golden ring. These rings have numbers along them, with the white ring maxing out at 20 and the gold ring maxing out at 30.
The depth knob acts as a multiplier (and also an on-off switch). Twist it to the left, and you’ll be multiplying the depth of the outer ring by 1, 2, or 4 (20 feet, 40 feet, or 80 feet of max depth). Twist it to the right, and you’ll multiply the inter ring by 1, 2, or 4 (30 feet, 60 feet, or 120 feet of max depth).
There’s also an interference rejection button with 10 total settings. You shouldn’t need this unless you’re fishing with friends who are also using sonar.
Here’s a good rule to remember—always limit your depth to the lowest number that covers the actual depth of the water column. In other words, if you’re fishing in 10 feet of water, choose the 20-foot depth—if you’re fishing in 25 feet of water, choose the 30-foot depth.
You may also find there’s echo, even at the lowest level of gain—you can purchase and attach a suppression cable (s-cable) to reduce the power of the signal and limit junk data.
The Vexilar FL-8 has a simple backlit display—it’s very bright, and you’ll be able to use it in all conditions. Here’s how the flasher works:
Generally, you’ll want to look for moving green and orange lights—these are probably fish. Red lights are usually bottom—a longer red light at the end of your display usually means soft bottom, while a short red light indicates hard bottom.
Other than that, there are really no features on this unit—no zoom, no variable colorways, no bells, no whistles. Simple stuff.
The Vexilar FL-8 comes with a 19° ice-ducer. The ice-ducer is equipped with a float and fits perfectly into the Genz Pack’s built-in transducer holder.
This is not a super sophisticated transducer—it’s designed for depths not exceeding 30 feet. The 19° wide angle cone is a nice touch—it gives you a much better look at all of the fish around your fishing hole, and if you’re not getting a lot of bites but you’re seeing a lot of activity, it can be a good indicator that you need to move over a bit.
You won’t be getting imaging or CHIRP sonar with the Vexilar FL-8. The lack of imaging is easy to understand—this is a no-bells-and-whistles ice fishing flasher, and imaging would cost a heck of a lot more.
The lack of CHIRP sonar is a bit more confusing, but Vexilar says it has omitted it intentionally—the wide spectrum of sonar sent out by CHIRP would end up causing too much interference with other sonar under the ice.
We recommend getting a different ice-ducer if you plan on fishing in deeper water, given the 30-foot depth limit of the 19° transducer; all of Vexilar’s ice-ducers fit into the Genz Pack, and they’re all compatible with the FL-8.
All in all, we wish that the transducer offered a bit more depth, but we’re happy with how durable it is and how nicely it floats in the water.
There’s no imaging available with the FL-8—but we’re leaving this section in because we like to keep our reviews standardized across all of our pages.
As with imaging, there’s no mapping available with the FL-8; you’ll have to bring your own GPS (or use your phone) to mark down all of the great ice fishing spots you find.
The only networking here is interference rejection, which is technically a way for your FL-8 to interact with other fish finders (if you consider that networking).
The Genz Pack comes with a number of pre-drilled holes to help you fit Vexilar accessories like the Flex-light; it’s also designed to hold accessories like the Glo-ring for holding your rods.
Most importantly, the unit comes with everything you need in one package—the fish finder, the Genz pack, the Ice-ducer, a 12-volt, 9-amp-hour battery, and a charger. Buy it, and you’re ready to go catch fish—as long as you’ve got a rod and an auger.
All in all, the Vexilar FL-8 is a good unit for the money; it’s very durable and fairly accurate (though we would like better target separation). It’s a great unit as is for ice fishing in shallow water, and the fact that you can attach different ice-ducers to the fish finder without too much trouble gives you some flexibility.
There are problems, though—we really wish it had standard features like zoom so we could focus on specific points of the water column, and we’d have liked it to come with a better transducer out of the box.
The package deal is really where this unit gets its value—you’re getting a fish finder, a transducer, a battery, a charger, and a protective pack all in one.
In our opinion, the FL-8SE Genz Pack is a perfect budget pick for anyone looking for an all-in-one ice fishing kit with no bells and whistles. We recommend higher-end models if you’ve got the budget, but for the price, this one is hard to beat.