Fisher Gold & Treasure Detectors | Field Test Reports

Gold Bug Pro Field Test
Mark Gillespie

Recently I had the opportunity to borrow a Fisher® Gold Bug Pro from Gene Scullion, an expert in the field of metal detecting. I agreed to return the machine in two to three weeks so I was very anxious to get started using it in some of my bad ground areas. Even though there are not gold nuggets in my area, I wanted to see how it would perform as a gold jewelry and coin hunter. Before I get started with my review of this detector, I would like to mention I did not read any reviews beforehand and was only going on the Fisher® Research Labs advertisement and the information in the user’s manual. The reason being, I wanted my review to be based on my experience and not what someone else said.

Prior to receiving the Gold Bug Pro, I read and studied a downloaded version of the manual three times. With this knowledge I was confident I could accomplish an honest review based on what I would find. I had two goals I wanted to achieve with this machine: First was to find gold and second was to see how the detector did as a coin hunter.

The first thing I always do with a new machine is visit my test garden. I was expecting the higher frequency machine to hit better on nickels and it did. In fact, it hit as well as a couple of other machines I had paid almost double for in the past. However, the nickels had a louder, more pronounced audio when compared to other coins at the same depth. I checked this with a quarter and a nickel, both buried at exactly 6” deep, and could easily hear the reduced audio volume of the quarter compared to the nickel. Nevertheless, the voltage controlled oscillator (V.C.O.) feature of the Gold Bug Pro is a plus when hunting the deeper coins or relics. The deep or smaller targets will give a very soft, low volume audio over the shallow ones. I experimented with different settings that evening in preparation for a real hunt the next day. After an hour or so I felt very confident that I had a full understanding of the machine’s capabilities, but that assumption was proven wrong by the third hunt.

There are two things I really like about this machine. First, the Gold Bug Pro is extremely fast at giving an audio on buried targets close to each other. I have several coins in my test garden that are buried very close to both iron nails and aluminum pull tabs and the machine could easily detect each target even with a very fast coil sweep. Secondly, the display screen is large enough to see even in full sunlight and surprisingly visible at very low light.

The first hunt was almost a wash out. Dark, threatening clouds kept me close to the vehicle, but I got a little more than an hour of hunting before it rained. I had determined beforehand to not just hunt and dig, but to experiment with each target to find the most efficient settings for the site before digging and it paid off very quickly. I was detecting in an old school yard where we all know the metal pencil eraser ends are a common item to find. Well, after digging a few I noticed two things. The audio would always be a little scratchy sounding compared to a nickel and the ID numbers always bounced from 54 to 59 where the nickels range was from 56 to 58. Suddenly I had an idea. Why not set the tone break to a level where a nickel would just give a high tone? This allowed me to identify those annoying pencil erasers from nickels. Discovering this setting was a very exciting moment of the hunt. Now I knew the machine could be a very good coin hunter too. Even though I did not find any deep silver or gold, I was well pleased with my first time out. I ended the hunt with a meager 6 nickels, 2 dimes, 1 penny and a lot of trash, but happy nonetheless.

Prior to my second hunt I air tested several different gold rings just to see where the ID numbers were and tried to make mental notes of the most common ones. I also tested a $1 and $5 gold coins just in case I saw numbers close to them while hunting and that really paid off on my second hunt.

My next hunt was also in an old school yard where I had purposely gridded off with another machine prior to getting the Gold Bug Pro. I was very excited about this particular hunt because of the trash in this small area. I knew from experience, when I find an area with a lot of modern trash like pop pull-tabs and can slaw, then other hunters have skipped these areas and that is where I usually find gold and this time I was right. After hunting about an hour, I came across a very soft repeatable target that locked in on 55. I had been detecting many pull-tabs in the area but the numbers always read a little above 57, where nickels register. Now before I go on, I must admit the reason I stopped to investigate this target was because the ID of 55 was exactly where the $1 gold coin registered. I got very excited as I dug a very careful plug and turned on my pinpointer to discover where the target was located in the hole. At this point, I caught the glimpse of a horse’s head in the bottom of the hole.

Being very cautious not to scratch whatever it was I extracted small sections of dirt around the target until I could see it was a ring, not just any ring, but a gold ring. As anyone can imagine, that made my day. I had met one of my goals mentioned in the beginning of this review. Now anything else found would be a bonus. I took the ring to a local jeweler a few days later and it was confirmed to be 10K even though there were no markings on the inside of the ring.

A few days passed before I could go hunting and it just happened to be the hottest day of the week. The high temperature was to be around 90 degrees with no wind. Now I must admit, when the temperature gets in the 90s metal detecting becomes a second option of outside activities for me. As many hunters know, using a full-size set of headphones in cold weather helps retain body heat, but in 90-degree weather, it’s not a plus. \

This brings me to a unique feature on the Gold Bug Pro. It provides two options for headphones, a traditional 1/4” and an additional 1/8” jack for headphone and ear bud uses, which is a pretty ingenious idea. That being mentioned I thought it would be the perfect time to try out a lightweight set of headphones using the smaller jack option. These phones made hunting tolerable in the heat, but did not complement the detector’s capabilities. Within an hour, I had started digging the pencil eraser tips. At that point, I thought I might not have the machine setup as I did a few days earlier, but that was not the case. The audio had changed. I could not hear the subtle differences I had in prior days. After several minutes of testing, I realized the problem was not the detector but the cheap headphones. This machine demands a good set of headphones in order to take advantage of all the audio nuances the Gold Bug Pro can provide to the user.

At this point I would like to share the story of a man I met years ago while hunting in an old park. For the sake of privacy, his name was David and he used an older, less expensive Bounty Hunter metal detector made in the 1980’s. He had used the machine for more than 15 years and had become very productive, or for the lack of a better word, experienced, in finding gold rings and old coins. I was using a detector that cost $400 compared to the $50 unit he used. One day we were hunting together and I took the time to observe how he hunted and what he was finding.

Curiosity finally got control of me and I asked what he had found.

“Money,” he said.
But what else is in your pouch? I asked.
“Just a gold ring,” he exclaimed.
Wow, I have hunted that area many times and never found a ring. Then he asked what I had found and was a little embarrassed to admit, only a few coins and nails.
His reply, “I never dig nails.”
I asked how he could not dig nails with so many in the area.
“I can tell by the sound,” he said.
Before thinking I replied, yeah right.

After that, he found a target in the ground that he believed to be a nail and let me listen to the audio. To my amazement I could not tell anything. It sounded like a beep to me. Then he asked me to listen a little more carefully. Sounded like a beep to me. His years of experience had tuned both his ears and brain to what the detector was telling him and yes, upon digging, it was in fact, a nail.

This real-life story makes a point: The Gold Bug Pro with user experience will provide more audio information about the detected target.
I had noticed one of my hunting buddies ground balancing his machine a little more than usual. I asked what was wrong and his reply was, “my ground balance is not holding on and has to be rebalanced every few yards.” So I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to try out the ground phase monitor on the Gold Bug Pro. I headed to his area and started walking around pumping the coil to check the ground phase. In some of these places the ground was changing 8 to 12 numbers within 15’. This explained why typical ID numbers in this area were so erratic and bouncy, which I proved a few minutes later.

I found what I thought might be a nickel by the ID numbers but the audio was inconsistent and would not settle in on a constant high or low tone, almost like there was other material mixed in with the target. Before digging this target I checked the ground balance and it was off 6 points to the negative side which I didn’t think was enough to cause the entire problem. Next I started reducing the gain from a setting of 95 down and when I reached into the 60’s the audio suddenly cleared up, became very consistent, and actually sounded pretty good.

I carefully dug a plug and to my total surprise I found a 1930 Buffalo nickel. I was guessing the nickel was not carried long before it was lost because the date is the first detail of a Buffalo to go during normal circulation. After extracting the coin I switched to All Metal Mode and checked the entire area and found a lot of deep iron which gave me the answer I was looking for. High gain settings were not only amplifying the good targets but also the deep iron too, which distorted the good target signals. After discovering this I started lowering the gain each time I located a target deeper than 5” and found most could be detected with a gain setting of 30 instead of 95. A very important point to make here is you don’t necessarily lose a lot of depth just because you have to hunt with lower gain settings. A lot of hunters including myself believe more is better, but that is not always the case.

Nearing the end of my time with the Gold Bug Pro I had several spots I wanted to try, but time didn’t permit all to be hunted. So I opted for a chip playground to hunt. I had one thing in mind for this last hunting place and that was to find some gold items. At this site I was running gain at 95 (completely silent operation) with the tone break at 50 so anything above that point gave a high tone. I didn’t find any gold but I did find some small jewelry items that demonstrated the detector’s abilities. The two spacers shown in the photo were between 1½ and 2” deep in the chips. They gave a very smooth, medium volume; high tone which I thought might be some form of gold but turned out to be silver plated. These targets, because of the small size, proved to be challenging to locate even with my pinpointer.

Here’s a summary of my findings after using the Gold Bug Pro for three weeks:

· Remarkable stability at high gain settings
· Extremely fast target recovery speed even in high trash areas
· More sensitivity to the low conductors, which includes the elusive gold items
· Very well balanced, lightweight, and can be used for hours without shoulder and arm fatigue
· Exceptionally fast ground balancing feature
· Superior audio information (once learned) with use of high quality headphones
· Incredibly sensitive to smaller targets
· Robust coil design eliminates the need for a coil cover
· Very simple to operate and quite fun to use

There were, however, a couple of things I had concerns about. The stand could have been a little bit wider to allow for more stability when setting the machine down in sloped areas. I’m very particular with my detectors; I don’t like them to fall over when I set them down. Another concern was the choice of headphone jack locations. It seemed that the constant left-right movement of the jack would pull something loose in the detector. But after 35 hours of use I found no visible damage.

One point I’d like to add: when coin hunting in areas with a lot of aluminum trash, raise the discrimination level until it hits 80. At this setting, most of the trash will be eliminated and everything else will give a high tone. This is a very helpful feature of the Gold Bug Pro especially in locations where lots of trash is found. Now some may say that raising the discrimination will reduce depth, but I found no merit to that assumption. I studied several deeper coin signals while hunting with maxed discrimination and found no reduction in depth.

Even though I have no comment on how the Gold Bug Pro would perform hunting for gold nuggets, I can state from experience that it can find some pretty small pieces of metal that my other detector, which cost over $1,300, can’t detect even with it scrubbing the bottom of the coil. With gold pushing $1,800 per ounce, it wouldn’t take many pieces of gold jewelry to pay for this machine.