W hen it comes to gold prospecting its hard to deny the key role Fisher Electronics has played in promoting this aspect of metal detecting. In 1987 Fisher rocked the industry when they released a black and gold detector that operated at 19.17 kHz, this machine was none other than the Gold Bug. From the US clear down to the outback of Australia, the Gold Bug quickly took a commanding lead as the worlds premier gold machinea title it would proudly hold for nearly a decade. Building upon the success of their now legendary Gold Bug line, Fisher has again unveiled another gold detector. Weighing in at just 3.5 lbs., the new Gold Strike (GS) is a far cry from the original M-Scope Dr. Fisher crafted in his small garage nearly 70 years ago.
This 30 kHz detector is the first Fisher to provide operators with constant control readout. It boasts a digital LCD display, fast automatic ground balancing, two-tone ID system, advanced digital signal processing, and a 10.5 elliptical coil. Some of the other exciting features include: An automatic low battery warning, automatic signal overload warning, F.A.C.T. (alerts the operator when the coil is not properly installed), three memory locations to store your favorite settings, and an LCD backlight for hunting in low-light situations. The GS is powered by two 9V batteries and can be used as a pole mount, hip mounted or worn on the chest.
As mentioned above, the GS is packed with new features, however due to space limitations only those of utmost importance will be discussed in this article.
The menu button is used to navigate through the GSs control panel. When pressed the user enters the menu mode, allowing adjustments to be made to any of the detectors six different controls. Like most gold machines on the market today, the GS features a true ALL METAL mode and a DISC (discrimination) mode. When in the All Metal mode, the detector will sound off on any metallic object which passes beneath the coil, regardless of its composition. The DISC system works for ferrous objects only. The level of discrimination can be varied from 0-99 using the UP/DOWN arrow buttons. A setting of 0 will allow all metal targets to activate the high tone; a setting closer to 99 will discriminate out most ferrous objects, allowing only non-ferrous targets to activate the high tone. The DISC setting will have no effect if the GS is in its All Metal mode.
The GS offers three options for handling ground mineralization; these are auto ground balance, manual ground balance, and fast auto-ground tracking. Unlike traditional ground balancing methods that require the coil to be repeatedly pumped above the ground, the GS uses a new, faster system which Fisher claims, will provide ground balance accuracy that exceeds any setting achieved manually. To take advantage of this feature simply lower the coil to the ground, then press and hold the auto ground button for a few seconds. While still holding the button down, lift the coil about 6 inches off the ground, hold for a second and release the button its that easy!
The track button is used to activate the Fisher Track AFS (Adaptive Feedback System), enabling the detector to adapt to changing ground conditions. This system was designed to track only on mineralized soils and hot rocks - not metallic targets. If you encounter a hot rock with a good target beneath the secondary high tone will be produced.
For general detecting you will find that the Auto and Fast Auto-Ground Tracking options produce excellent results, however those that prefer to do it themselves will be pleased to know that the GS still retains the ability to ground balanced manually. To do this, enter the Menu mode and select the icon. Then use the UP/DOWN arrows to make adjustments as needed. Please see the instruction manual for information on this procedure.
The thresh (threshold) can be adjusted between 99 and +4. Large, negative numbers make the detector less susceptible to ground mineralization, but at the same time hamper its ability to locate small or deep targets. This type of setting is best used in noisy ground. Small, positive numbers allow more ground noise to come through, but the detector will be more reactive to small or deeply buried targets. This type of setting is best used in lightly mineralized soils. If you prefer to have an audio threshold while hunting, you will need to choose a setting between 0 and +4. If you plan on utilizing the fast automatic ground tracking feature, a threshold setting between -5 and 10 (or even lower) will be needed for stable tracking performance.
The sens (sensitivity) control can be varied from a setting of 0 to a maximum setting of 10 using the arrow buttons. Sensitivity will greatly affect both the size of targets the GS will find and the depth with which they can be detected. It will also affect the detectors ability to cope with varying levels of ground mineralization. A high setting (>5) will enable the location of small targets at greater depths, however the machine may become unstable in harsh conditions. A low setting (<5) will provide the best performance in highly mineralized soils, however some sensitivity and depth will be lost.
I decided to field test the GS near Stanton, Arizona, an area that has become quite popular among metal detectorists. This historical region located some 60 miles northwest of Phoenix has yielded thousands of nuggets since its original discovery in 1863. This particular goldfield had always been good to me, and despite its recent bombardment by detectors, I was fairly confident that the new Fisher would be able to sniff out a nugget or two.
I decided to begin my search on a ridge that had once been home to about 200 nuggets. This was an isolated patch, situated away from the main diggings, and although there was very little trash the ground mineralization was unusually severe. The brightly stained earth had become saturated with various iron oxides and I knew from past experience that this was going to be tough ground.
My first attempt to balance the machine was in the manual mode, however keeping the GS stable in this mode proved too difficult a task, as the ground conditions varied dramatically. I opted to take advantage of the fast auto-ground tracking option that produced better results once the sensitivity and threshold had been properly adjusted. After an hour of combing I came up empty handed; the stubborn patch simply refused to give up any more gold.
I abandoned the patch and pushed further outward hoping that other hunters had neglected to hunt the fringes. Here the brush had grown out of control turning this part of the ridge into a dense, thorn-filled maze, and the hot rocks Wow! There was definitely no shortage of these bothersome stones here. Luckily the GS is equipped with a unique two-tone identification system which makes these target imposters much easier to deal with. Unlike most detectors which only produce a single tone for all targets, the GS uses a two-tone system to help the operator determine the identity of a target before digging it out of the ground. A single low tone will sound whenever the coil is passed over a target, be it a rusty nail, gold nugget or hot rock. A secondary high tone will only be produced if the target is actually made of metal; a very useful feature when working hot rock infested areas.
In addition to the two-tone system, the GS helps determine the identity of a target by showing a number preceded by a - or + sign on the LCD. Any target will produce a number between 0 and 99. This number is not an indication of its identity, but rather its size and depth. For instance, a shallow target will produce a large number, while a deep target will produce a small number. The or + sign in front of the number indicates whether the target is ferrous or nonferrous in nature. Generally speaking, a - sign indicates a ferrous target or positive hot rock. A + sign indicates a nonferrous target. While this feature is by no means fool proof, it does provide the operator with additional information about a targets potential identity.
Working in a large circle around the fringes of the patch I finally struck upon a sweet signal coming from deep beneath a clump of brush. I pushed, kicked and fought back the thorny branches until I had enough room to work. Using the side of my boot I scraped away the top layer of soil and rechecked with the detector; the target had moved. I snatched up a handful of the loose dirt and dropped it onto the coil. A loud squeal told me the target had hit its mark. As I bent down to investigate I spotted the culprit. It wasnt very big, maybe 2-3 grams, but this nugget was certainly a pleasant surprise. The shiny bit of metal had raised my spirits and I carefully scanned the ground hoping that perhaps this nugget had a big brother hiding out close by. About 6 feet away I came across what sounded like a faint signal nestled beside a prickly pear cactus. After clearing away a few hot rocks the signal increased considerably; there was no doubt that this was indeed a target. Less than an inch beneath the soil I uncovered yet another gold nugget. It was a baby in comparison to the first, weighing under a gram, but I wasnt about to throw it back. I worked the ridge for the remainder of the day picking up the odd boot tack here or bit of wire there, but as luck would have it no more gold. I finished off the day with a grand total of 2 nuggets, 8 bits of trash, and a few lovely scratches down my arms.
With its large LCD, automatic ground balancing capabilities, and push button operated controls, the Gold Strike is clearly Fishers most advanced gold detector ever. The newly styled pistol-grip handle and 10.5 elliptical coil make maneuvering this detector around rocks and brush a breeze; not to mention its one of the sleekest looking detectors Ive ever used. The Gold Strike carries a suggested retail price of $995.00 and is backed by Fishers limited lifetime warranty.
Although I wasnt able to glean any gold from the old patch, I did manage to snag two nuggets on the fringes. As far as I could tell, the GS has not broken any new depth boundaries. Most of the targets recovered during the field test ranged from near surface to 4 in depth. This is not to say the GS cannot pick up deeper targets, as it most certainly will. It is entirely possible that I never swung the coil across a deeply buried target.
Metal detecting requires a lot of patience regardless of which machine you happen to be using. Dont get discouraged if you dont find a nugget your first trip out. Many people, including myself, went for many months before finding their first piece. If you decide to buy the GS give it some time; experiment with various settings and read the manual. It will find gold but only if you are willing to put in the time and effort. Trust me, your first gold nugget will make all those hours of swinging seem well worth it! I wish you the very best of luck with all your prospecting.
For more information on the new Gold Strike or other Fisher products please contact the factory at: Fisher Research, 200 W. Willmott Rd., Los Banos, CA 93635-5501- (209) 826-3292, or visit them on the web at www.fisherlab.com. Dont forget to mention you read about it in Lost Treasure!