Humminbird Ice Helix 7: Best Settings for all Situations

Without a doubt, the Humminbird Helix 7 is a powerful tool for ice fishing.  You may think the Helix 7 shines brightest on open water but with the right setup and settings, you’ll be pulling more fish than ever through the ice.

To get the most out of your sonar unit, using it straight out of the box probably won’t cut it.  You’ll need to tweak and fine tune the settings for each ice fishing situation and location.

But don’t worry.  While there are plenty of buttons to push, getting your Helix 5 or 7 dialed in for ice fishing is simpler than you think.  We will go over the most important settings you need to know and the settings you can ignore.

Without further ado, here’s how to get your Humminbird Helix 5 or 7 ready for ice fishing and the best settings to start with for any lake.

Setting up your Helix 7 for ice fishing

For those of you that use a Humminbird Helix control unit for open water on your boat or kayak, converting it to an ice fishing tool is simple.  You just need to buy the Helix 5/7 ice fishing conversion kit.  It comes with the ice transducer, carry shuttle, bag and all the necessary hardware and battery connections.  

We have an excellent review and setup guide for the Helix Ice Conversion Kit, so be sure to check it out.

You can also buy the Helix 5 or 7 control unit pre-bundled with the ice transducer and all the equipment that is included with the conversion kit.  Be aware that a battery is not usually included.  If you need to purchase one, the choice is easy.  Lithium ion batteries are the way to go.  They are super light and provide twice as much power as a standard lead acid battery.  We like Dakota Lithium batteries.

Once you have everything you need for the Ice Helix 7, it’s time to start it up.

The first thing you need to do is connect the ice transducer and your power supply.  Then power on the unit.  If the last time it was used was in open water, it needs to be toggled into Ice Fishing Mode.

To do this:

  1. Power on the unit and cycle through the start up screens.
  1. Now press the Menu button two times.  
  1. Arrow over to the Sonar tab and arrow down to the Ice Fishing Mode selection.
  1. Press the cursor button to the right.  A confirmation window appears.  Push the right cursor again to confirm.

You are now officially in the manufacturer’s default ice fishing mode.  The Helix 7 is certainly usable for ice fishing with the defaults but you’ll get way more utility by tailoring the settings to the lake you fish.  

Important main menu settings to change

Most of the settings on your Helix 5 or 7 don’t need to be fussed with for ice fishing.  We will focus on the key main menu settings that we recommend changing from the manufacturer’s default and using as your starting point each time you fish.

Screen views

The very first thing I like to change is the number of Views visible.  As a default, several combo window views, along with the standard flasher, sonar and chart view are present.  This makes it a pain to cycle through all the views just to get to the one you actually use.

I prefer using only 3 primary views:  

  • Flasher View
  • Sonar View
  • Chart View (GPS and Lake Maps) 

All other combo views are not necessary in most cases.  The only combo view I might consider is the Flasher/Sonar combo.  Of course, it is entirely your call and a matter of personal preference.  Start with the few I mentioned above for simplicity and add other views later.

To hide the extra View screens, press Menu twice and select the View tab.  Now, just arrow down to the views you want to hide and push the cursor button to the left.  Repeat this for all views you want to hide.  Push the cursor button to the right to make a view visible again.

2D SwitchFire

Humminbird incorporates two different sonar settings called SwitchFire.  Choose from Max Mode or Clear Mode.  When you power on the ice fishing unit for the first time it defaults to Clear Mode.

Max Mode shows the highest level of sonar detail possible so you can see thermoclines, small bait fish and your jig.  Clear Mode, on the other hand, filters out weaker signals and only reveals larger objects like structure and fish.  

For general ice fishing situations, use Max Mode to get the best signals in depths over 8 feet.  

Change the SwitchFire setting from the default by pressing the Menu button twice.  Arrow over to the Sonar tab and arrow down to the 2D SwitchFire selection.  Press the cursor button to the left to toggle it into Max Mode.

For shallow water less than 8 ft, use Clear Mode instead.  Clear Mode eliminates a lot of sonar interference and shadow returns making it easier to see your lure or bait as well as fish.

Main menu settings to ignore

Not all settings need to be used to catch fish out on the ice.  In most cases, besides the setting I listed above, you can ignore everything else.  

For Alarms, Navigation, Charting, and HB Chart, leave the defaults unless you need to actually use the maps beyond just seeing the contours on the lake.  Under the Setup tab you can change your time zone and daylight savings selection as well as depth measurement units.  It defaults to feet in the US.

The most important setting to leave off is the Fish ID.  In most cases, this is completely useless and will only serve to confuse most anglers.  

Flasher settings

When you have the flasher screen visible, pressing the Menu button once pulls up the setting specific to the flasher.  They are as follows:

  • Gain:  Increase or decrease the signal strength.  Increasing gain will give the bottom, fish and your jig a harder return signal but it will also increase some noise if you increase it too much.  If you want to make your flasher marks more visible without increasing the gain, try adjusting the contrast instead.  Adjust contrast from the Main Menu under the Sonar tab.  Contrast defaults to a middle value.  Start with Gain at 10.
  • CHIRP IR:  There are 6 CHIRP IR settings designed to eliminate interfering signals from other nearby anglers using a flasher or sonar, as well as interference from your own sonar signals.  IR settings 1, 3 and 5 have narrow cone angles and IR settings 2, 4 and 6 have wide cone angles.  Start with the CHIRP IR off.
  • Cone Angle:  The Ice Helix 7 has three cone angle options.  15°, 15°-21° and 21° angles.  The Humminbird default is the 15°-21° cone angle which is a blend of frequencies that balance well in most situations.  When you need more detail or you have a dead zone at the bottom, use the narrow cone angle.  Start with the 15°-21° cone angle
  • Upper and Lower Range:  The upper and lower range selections allow you to tighten your view on the flasher dial to a particular depth in the water column.  This can be useful for suspended fish like crappie when you know they are holding at a specific depth.  However, for most fishing scenarios, I don’t mess with the upper range setting.  The lower range setting is more useful.  It defaults to Auto but I noticed from experience that the depth randomly adjusts and the flasher bottom mark moves around too much.  Now I always set the lower range to a foot or two deeper than the depth reading to lock the dial in place.  Start in Auto but adjust the lower depth range every time you move holes to lock it in. 
  • Surface Clutter:  The default is right in the middle and honestly, you seldom need to mess with it.  If there is a lot of noise at the surface and you are targeting bottom dwelling fish like perch or walleye, turn down the surface clutter if it bothers you.  I sometimes turn up the surface clutter when fishing for rainbow trout so I don’t miss fish swimming just below the ice.  Start with surface clutter set to the middle (5).
  • Flasher Style:  There are two flasher styles on the Helix 5 and 7.  Full and A-scope.  The Full flasher style shows marks that span the entire width of the flasher window.  Most flashers use Full markings as a default.  A-scope mode causes the marks to have a width proportional to the strength of the sonar return.  Therefore, your jig shows up as a small circular blob and fish show up as larger blobs.  As a result, A-scope gives a precise interpretation of a fish’s location relative to your lure.  Start with the A-scope flasher mode.
  • Sonar Colors:  Sonar color is entirely personal preference.  There are 19 color combos to choose from.  We recommend using a color pallet that provides clear contrast between the background and your jig.  Color number 1 has excellent contrast with a white background and is bright enough for easy viewing on sunny days.  Color number 6 with a black background is ideal for inside an ice shelter or in low light conditions.  It also conserves battery life.  Start with Sonar Color 1 or 6.

Sonar settings

Most of the sonar setting choices are the same as the flasher view.  For the shared settings, changing something on the flasher view also changes it on the sonar view and vice versa.

Below are the settings that are specific to the sonar view only.  View these setting by pressing the Menu button once on the sonar view.

  • Chart Speed:  Unlike the flasher, the sonar view gives you a scrolling history of everything that happens in real time.  Whereas, the flasher only shows a real time view beneath the ice and if you look away there is no history to show you that a fish swam by.  To prevent a lag in what you see on the sonar to what is actually happening in real time, you need to increase the scrolling speed.  Start with Chart Speed set at Ultra. 
  • RTS Window:  The RTS (Real Time Sonar) window essentially shows you a vertical representation of the flasher on the right side of the scrolling sonar.  It’s not necessary to use but it sometimes helps with learning to interpret what you see on the sonar history.  Start with it on and use either A-scope or Full.
  • RTS Mode:  The RTS mode is just the width adjustment for the RTS window.  Start with the RTS mode on Narrow. 

Best settings to start with

We pretty much reviewed all the key settings on the main menu, plus the flasher and sonar specific settings.  Now, we’ll put it all together to provide you with a concise summary of the setting you should start with before you even get on the ice with your Humminbird Helix 7.  

Here are the best Ice Helix 7 settings to start with:

  • 3 primary views – Flasher, Sonar and Chart views
  • 2D SwitchFire – Max Mode
  • Contrast – Default middle setting (20)
  • Gain – Default middle (10) setting
  • CHIRP IR – Off
  • Cone Angle – 15°-21°
  • Upper Range – 0 ft
  • Lower Range – Auto, adjust once you know the depth
  • Surface Clutter – Default middle level (5)
  • Flasher Style – A-scope
  • Sonar Color – 1 or 6 (personal preference)
  • Chart Speed – Ultra
  • RTS Window – On (A-scope)
  • RTS Mode – Full

Once you are on the ice there are a few common scenarios you may encounter that require more fine tuning of the Helix 7.  Everything from the bottom contour to water depth will effect the settings you choose.

Best Helix 7 settings for deep water

Water deeper than 40 feet poses only a few additional challenges for the Helix 7 but you can easily refine your flasher and sonar picture with a few easy tweaks.

Ice Helix 7 settings for deep water:

  • 3 primary views – Flasher, Sonar and Chart views
  • 2D SwitchFire – Max Mode
  • Contrast – Default middle setting (20) but bump it up to see detail better
  • Gain – Default middle (10) setting but increase your gain when using small jigs
  • CHIRP IR – Off
  • Cone Angle – 15°-21° to start but use the 15° cone angle to increase the signal strength in deep water
  • Upper Range – 0 ft to start but adjust to zoom down to the depth fish are feeding
  • Lower Range – Auto, adjust once you know the depth
  • Surface Clutter – Default middle level (5)
  • Flasher Style – A-scope
  • Sonar Color – 1 or 6 (personal preference)
  • Chart Speed – Ultra
  • RTS Window – On (A-scope)
  • RTS Mode – Full

Best Helix 7 settings for shallow water

Ice fishing in shallow water is one of the most challenging places to use the Ice Helix 7.  When you get to depths 8 feet or less, interference becomes a problem.  A much smaller cone diameter also adds to the difficulty of setting up the Helix 7.

Ice Helix 7 settings for shallow water:

  • 3 primary views – Flasher, Sonar and Chart views
  • 2D SwitchFire – Clear Mode reduces noise
  • Contrast – Default middle setting (20)
  • Gain – Default middle (10) setting but decrease if excess noise is present
  • CHIRP IR – Off, cycle through the wide angle IR settings (2, 4 or 6) to dampen sonar echos
  • Cone Angle – 21° gives the widest view in shallow water
  • Upper Range – 0 ft
  • Lower Range – Auto, adjust once you know the depth
  • Surface Clutter – Use a low setting (2 or 3) to clean up your view
  • Flasher Style – A-scope
  • Sonar Color – 1 or 6 (personal preference)
  • Chart Speed – Ultra
  • RTS Window – On (A-scope)
  • RTS Mode – Full

Best Helix 7 settings for uneven bottom

Steep bottom contours, large boulders or any structure like submerged stumps or trees mess with your ability to get a full picture on your sonar of the very bottom.  

The tallest return such as the top of a large rock or the high side of a steep slope registers as the bottom even though the actual bottom is a foot or two further down.  As a result, the flasher or sonar won’t show fish or your jig below that level.  You may very well miss a bite because of this.  You can reduce, but not eliminate, the effects of this problem by adjusting a few settings.  You may even need to move spots to make it better too.

Ice Helix 7 settings for sloped or uneven bottom:

  • 3 primary views – Flasher, Sonar and Chart views
  • 2D SwitchFire – Max Mode or Clear Mode depending on depth
  • Contrast – Default middle setting (20)
  • Gain – Default middle (10) setting
  • CHIRP IR – Off, but try cycling through the narrow angle IR (1, 3, and 5)
  • Cone Angle – 15° cone angle focuses your sonar on a smaller patch of bottom which reduces dead space
  • Upper Range – 0 ft
  • Lower Range – Auto, adjust once you know the depth
  • Surface Clutter – Default middle level (5)
  • Flasher Style – A-scope
  • Sonar Color – 1 or 6 (personal preference)
  • Chart Speed – Ultra
  • RTS Window – On (A-scope)
  • RTS Mode – Full 

Best Helix 7 settings for flat bottom

Flat bottom is by far the easiest scenario to perfectly adjust the settings on your Helix 7 for.  Most of the time the starter settings I listed above will be sufficient but you can fine tune it as well depending on other factors like depth and bottom hardness.

Ice Helix 7 settings for flat bottom:

  • 3 primary views – Flasher, Sonar and Chart views
  • 2D SwitchFire – Max Mode
  • Contrast – Default middle setting (20)
  • Gain – Default middle (10) setting
  • CHIRP IR – Off
  • Cone Angle – 15°-21° or 21° since dead space is not a problem
  • Upper Range – 0 ft
  • Lower Range – Auto, adjust once you know the depth
  • Surface Clutter – Default middle level (5)
  • Flasher Style – A-scope
  • Sonar Color – 1 or 6 (personal preference)
  • Chart Speed – Ultra
  • RTS Window – On (A-scope)
  • RTS Mode – Full

Dialing in your Ice Helix 7 

Every day on the ice is different.  Whether it’s a new lake, a new spot or more anglers crowding your spot, you’ll need to get your Humminbird Ice Helix 7 dialed in.  It only takes 5 minutes once you know your unit and it’s well worth your time.

Not every setting needs to be adjusted every time.  Most of the time, I adjust only a few things to get my flasher and sonar showing every detail just right.

Here are the settings you should play with to get the best sonar and flasher results possible.

  1. Switch between Max Mode and Clear Mode first.
  1. Adjust Gain until you see your jig returning a hard signal.
  1. Cycle through your CHIRP IR settings if needed to see what works best but most of the time the 15°-21° cone angle is fine.
  1. Adjust your lower range to lock in the depth of your fishing spot once you know the depth.
  1. Now you can start catching fish.

Want to see these adjustments in action?  Take a look at one of the best videos on the topic.  The Humminbird Helix used is a Helix 5 G2 but it uses the same software and ice transducer as the Helix 7 G2 and G3 units.

Parting words

Electronics help anglers catch way more fish than ever before but it isn’t always easy to make them work every time.  It can be especially frustrating trying to make your fish finder work while sitting on the cold ice.  

Hopefully, you can use the advise in this article to be better prepared and far more knowledgeable with your Ice Helix 7.  

As an important note:  If you ever mess up your Helix 7 and need to reset all the settings to default, press Menu twice and toggle to the Setup tab.  Arrow down to Restore Defaults and press the cursor to the right.  After that, just use this article to get everything set just right again.