Have you been struggling with catching fish lately? If so, you might need a fish finder.
Fishes are known to be experts at hiding themselves from other anglers, and your current equipment might not be enough to track them.
However, a fish finder can do that for you!
For example, if you’d try to look into the water to see your target, you’d only see a murky lake around you. You can’t tell where your target is or where to look for it. This is where a fish finder comes to play.
It’s a unit that locates and tracks fish in whatever location you are. It can scan the waves and show you exactly where the fish is. Some can even tell the water temperature and depth of individual spots.
There are many different models on the market, and while most offer the same essential things, they are somewhat different. Fish finders can have a few other useful features depending on the model.
Maybe you’ve heard of such device, but you aren’t sure you know enough about it. We’ve done some research on your behalf to bring you the best and inexpensive fish finders.
These are the best on the market, and we’ll discuss all their features, pros and cons.
Fish Finders Reviews – Best by Features and Budget
Garmin Striker 4 with Built-in GPS
Garmin is one of the best brands when it comes to the navigation system. Thanks to its built-in GPS, it allows you to mark all the hot spots so you can return to them with ease. Regardless of whether it’s a river or open water, this is one of the best ones to track your progress with.
It has a relatively small screen of 3.5’’, but it also comes in 5 and 7 inches. It’s a full-color display that has high contrast. It allows you to see everything in a crisp and clear image.
However, it doesn’t have a split screen option, so you’ll have to switch in between menus. Though this isn’t a significant setback, it might be a reason for you to opt for the one with a bigger screen.
It offers CHIRP technology providing 200-watt RMS signal. This allows you to reach down to 1600ft. in freshwater and 750ft. in salt water.
- Built-in GP
- CHIRP technolog
- Water temperature
- On-screen speedometer
- No split screen
Garmin Striker 4cv with Transducer
This compact unit has a 3.5-inch color screen. It features high-sensitivity GPS that allows you to mark hotspots, docks, and other fishing areas. Use its high-speed technology to find all information you need at that time.
The 4cv also has Garmin’s Sonar that uses CHIRP ClearVu scanning. It also comes with a transducer with CHIRP. It puts out 500 watts of power.
It’s IPX-7 waterproof, meaning it can withstand a little water here and there. It also features a built-in flasher.
The device measures 91.6 x 150.8 x 42.8 cm in total. It’s screen is 4.9 x 7.3 cm with a display resolution of 480 x 320 pixels. This portable unit weights about 230g, which makes it one of the most lightweight finders on the market.
It goes as deep as 830 ft. in salt water and 1750 ft. in fresh water.
- Compact and portable
- Uses CHIRP and CHIRP ClearVu
- Bright and colorful screen
- A little hard to read in direct sunlight
Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS Combo G2
Regardless if you’re a pro or a beginner, the Helix 5 is one of the best in providing the ultimate fishing experience. Its imaging sonar, CHIRP technology, and Reflex interface are only a few of the things that make it stand out.
It can chart maps using Auto Chart Live. If you’ve come across Helix 5 and thought it was great, check out the Helix 5 Combo G2.
It has a 5-inch display packed with 256 colors. It’s also backlit allowing you to read all the info with ease even in direct sunlight or during nighttime.
The CHIRP sonar featured here is one of the best on the market. It provides a clear image of whatever is beneath your boat. It also gives you measurements of the very floor and all the locations.
The Humminbird Helix 5 comes with an SD card slot which means you can easily save up all the waypoints of significance. The slot makes it possible to upload any additional maps.
- CHARP dual beam and sonar
- Internal GPS
- SD card slot
- Features reflex interference
- Doesn’t have a screen cover
Garmin Striker 7SV with Transducer
Featuring one of the best scanning sonar, the 7SV gives you the best image of what’s around and underneath you. It tells you how deep are the fish in real time and in detail.
It uses superior navigation, and it’s easy to use. This makes it ideal for beginners.
It features the Garmin GPS that allows you to save waypoints, mark stumps, docks, etc. Say you wish to upgrade; transfer all the map information to any other Garmin device.
The unit has a rechargeable battery helping you stay out on the water as much as you like. Also, it features CHIRP sweep sonar giving a wide range of sonar profile info. This allows you to find fish with more accuracy.
It comes with a transducer that provides a side view sonar for a clear image of everything that’s under and around your vessel.
It’s available in several screen sizes, and it’s IPX7 waterproof.
- Comes with a transducer
- Features a side view sonar
- Packed with navigational features
- Not a touchscreen
- No SD card slot
Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP DI GPS G2
This model is a bit more advanced, using side-by-side dual imaging technology. It allows you to map structures and view both Switchfire sonar and Down Imaging at the same time.
It’s the finder that gives you the complete image of what’s under water. Featuring a large 7-inch 16-bit display and GPS, it’s clear why it’s so popular.
You can save up to 50 routes and 2500 waypoints marking all of your favorite coordinates.
Use a MicroSD card to integrate maps and navigational data. For this, use its Auto Chart, Auto Chart Pro, Lake Master, and Navionics. These help you know where and how deep is your target.
This fish finder has all you’d need in such a device. It has underwater sonar transducer and mounting hardware for quick installation. Its maximum depth for standard and CHIRP sonar is 600 ft.
- Complete and accurate images
- Integrated GPS
- Large screen
- Easy installation
- SD card slot sold separately
- CHIRP transducer not included
Deeper Pro Plus Smart Sonar (With GPS Portable Wireless Wi-Fi)
Not many fish finders use Wi-Fi, which is what makes this one stand out. This simple feature allows you to connect the device to your tablet or Smartphone. It’s great for communicating with people while you’re out fishing.
It features a GPS mode that allows for quick and easy navigation. Whatever water you’re in, the device will show you the best spots for casting your bait. Being that it’s the only portable sonar on the market that uses GPS, it’s a good idea to consider.
Using dual frequency, it’s excellent for fishing in the shallow or deep water. Also, it doesn’t matter if you’re on the shore or in the water; you can still track how the fish moves around.
Use it in both salt and fresh water as it allows you to mark anything as deep as 260 ft. under the surface.
- Only portable sonar with GPS
- For both salt and fresh water
- Will enable you to try many fishing methods
- Features Wi-Fi
- Drains your phone battery after a while
Lowrance HDS-9 Gen2 Touch Insight Display
Its charting technology is super advanced, which is why this isn’t the most affordable option. However, it’s top-quality which justifies the price.
It allows you to find your location and scan the area. The result comes in high-quality 3D reading that’s hardly seen in any other devices with such features.
The Lowrance HDS-9 features ultimate technology. Its large screen makes finding fish quite easy, too. It’s also touch-screen for extra convenience.
Because it has a wide screen, you can chart two maps simultaneously. Being that it’s high-definition, the unit allows you to create quality three-dimensional models of any lake or river bottom.
Its total dimensions are 14.8 x 13 x 10.7 inches, but it comes in different screen sizes. This finder is made of durable materials, so it’s long-lasting and reliable. It’s one of those models that make fishing much easier thanks to its quality, features, and specifications.
- Comes with GPS
- HD images
- Dual mapping
- Not as affordable
Humminbird HELIX 9 Sonar GPS
This could easily be called an upgrade compared to the Helix 7. It shows more information at once since its screen is 9 inches and looking a bit like a tablet.
One of its most significant features is the intuitive control panel making fish finding easy.
It has a built-in GPS system, but you might need to download maps to use its maximum. Still, having GPS means easier pinpoint of different locations on open water. Also, you can mark all the hotspots and remember them for the next time you come.
Like many other models, this one shows you all that’s under your boat. However, since it’s a high-end unit, it also provides a clear image of what’s at each side of your boat, too. This simple feature means a lot since it makes it easy to catch the fish from wherever you are.
It has 4000-watt power output, and it’s programmable.
- Large backlit screen
- Intuitive control panel
- GPS system
- Upgradaeble software
- Doesn’t feature the 360-degree transducer
- Some GPS stuff needs to be downloaded
Raymarine Dragonfly Pro CHIRP (With built-in GPS and WiFi)
This unit features dual-channel sonar that gives you a full image of whatever is around your location. Thanks to its CHIRP DownVision sonar, all the photos are crystal clear. The other CHIRP sonar puts all focus on the fish giving you all the info you’d need.
The Dragonfly unit has a 4.3-inch display that’s LED backlit. It’s easy to read in the nighttime as well as in direct sunlight. It’s also optically bonded which means that all its colors pop nicely.
This device streams sonar data to your phone live. You can also download the app called Raymarine Wi-Fish if you want to track all the information in detail. Save, rewind, and share the fish you caught.
Plus, the unit comes with a mounting ball that’s removable. This allows you to switch between boats and customize your options. It’s compatible with many sockets mounting system which makes the matter more accessible.
Its storage allows saving up to 15 tracks and 3000 waypoints.
- Bright screen
- Clear images
- Easy to read
- Removable mount
- The screen is a bit polarized
Lowrance HDS-7 Gen3
With a 7-inch touchscreen, the HDS-7 Gen3 is one of the most high-end products out there. It features an ergonomic design, and it’s quite user-friendly.
Since Lowrance is among the leading brands, it’s no surprise that this fish finder is one of the top ones. Its GPS offers probably one of the best navionics, and many preloaded maps for North America. Don’t worry if it doesn’t have your region, because you can quickly make your own maps as you go.
The mounting bracket that comes with the unit allows you to swivel it horizontally. This means easier adjusting and reading in some cases.
It comes with a Structure Scan 3D transducer, and it features trackback. Plus, the housing of the HDS-7 Gen3 is weather resistant, which is always a good thing to have in a fish finder. Insight mapping is also included.
- HD images
- Maneuverable mounting bracket
- It’s water resistant
- It features a large screen
- Not as affordable as others on the list
How To Pick The Right Fish Finder
Choosing only one out of so many is sometimes a little tricky. More so, the search can become overwhelming if you’ve never had one before.
There are many important things to consider before you opt for a specific model. To make things easier for you, we’ve created this list of things that could help you on your quest.
Frequency is one of the most important things to pay attention to. There are dual, single and multiple, and they come in 50, 83, 192 or 200 kHz.
High frequencies are best for shallow water, while lower ones are best for deep water fishing. However, higher frequencies show more detail on the screen.
To make the decision, decide on the area you’ll use it in most often. Knowing whether you’d be in shallow or deep water helps you determine which unit offers the best options.
When looking at how the finder is powered, pay attention to its wattage. More wattage means better response time. Also, units with more wattage allow you to see deeper into the water.
Again, it’s best if you’d know what areas you’d use it in because that will help you decide on wattage you need. Rule of the thumb is that shallow water needs less wattage since it offers better visibility.
Combine wattage with the frequency range. Remember that at 50 kHz with every 100 watts, you can go as deep as 400 ft. under. At 240 kHz and 100 watts of power, you can read at 100 ft.
The higher resolution, the better. Choose the one that has at least 240 x 160 pixels, but no less. This is too little for most people, but it’s a good starting point.
Better resolution means more explicit images and more detail. Plus, a large screen combined with high resolution offers ultimate experience.
Opt for more resolution and bigger screen size for your fish finder if you want more detailed pictures. In any case, choose according to your preference.
The transducer is what does all the major work. It’s what emits and receives sonar waves and discovers the fish and objects. Ultimately, without this, the fish finder wouldn’t be able to show any data whatsoever.
However, many fish finders come with a transducer, but they aren’t all the best quality. Sometimes, it’s best if you buy one separately.
The after-market transducers often receive data faster and cover areas better. Again, choose according to your preference. If you have a transducer that works well for you, there’s no need to buy another. If you find that it’s missing something, try a different one.
Side Imaging fish finders for example, comes with a special type of transcuder; typically mounted outside of a boat’s transom.
Things like transducer material, beams and cone angles are also important. Look for a unit that’s waterproof and easy to use in sunlight and nighttime.
It’s also good to consider a convenient and portable unit that you can use in multiple boats.
How To Utilize Your Fish Finder
Read The Manual
The instruction manual is often forgotten though it can provide much useful information. There’s no better way to understand your device than to check out the user manual that came with it.
You’ll find out how to use and read it correctly. It’s well-known that this isn’t anyone’s favorite part, but it can help you get the most of your fish finder.
The fish finder should be in the best spot if you want best results. However, there are a few different mounts available.
Transom, hull, trolling or portable are the few most popular options. Still, there’s no way to tell which would be the best, since it’s something you should decide on based on your needs and preferences.
When turned on, the fish finder is usually set in automatic mode. Pre-program settings are also on when you start.
If you want to customize it, switch to a manual mode. It’s recommended you leave it in the automatic mode for a while. When you get on the water, use the automatic mode to see what’s around first before you switch to manual.
Sensitivity is the first thing you should learn your way with. It’s what improves the power and with that, allows you to see more detail.
With lower power, the image quality is also lower. The best way to learn how to manage this is to play around with it for a while. You’ll find the settings that suit you the best quickly.
Adjusting Fish ID
If your device is on the automatic setting, it’s going to identify fish automatically. This is great for beginners and people trying to learn how the fish finder works. Once it’s adjusted, the Fish ID can be turned off.
This feature tells you what’s under the waves, giving you a better view of the water beneath you.
Auto depth should always be on if it’s your first time using sonar. This feature tracks the water floor, telling you how deep it is.
You’ll be able to adjust this setting as you gain more experience.
This line goes across the screen and shows how far down are the fish. This is ideal to help you decide where to cast your bait. It makes fish finding easy since it moves up and down the screen.
This is usually an automatic setting, but you can adjust it to your taste whenever you want. It blocks out all the background noise you’ll sometimes experience. However, it can also block out sonark, so make sure it’s not always on.
Advantages Of Using A Fish Finder
Apart from the obvious (helps you find fish), there are other advantages of these devices. Because they feature many different things, fish finders can usually tell much more than just where you could find some fish.
Location saving – most units allow you to save hotspots so you can return the next time. Still, a GPS would be great to have on board in this case because of extra accuracy.
Water temperature – when you know what the temperature in the water is, you can easily guess what fish is in there, too. Sometimes, you’ll find places where warm and cold meet.
Depth finder – again, GPS is recommended here because of charting capabilities it offers. This shows you the bottom of the lake you’re at so you can see all the fish and objects that are there.
How does a fish finder work?
Though there are plenty of different models, they all work similarly. The unit sends an electrical pulse to the transducer that transmits those pulses as sound waves. When this sound wave comes across something, it sends the info back to the transducer.
The sonar is relayed to the fish finder that’s attached to your boat. It shows all the information you need such as shapes, sizes, and compositions. Some even show vegetation and water temperature.
Is it compatible with my Smartphone or tablet?
Some apps allow you to connect your phone or tablet with your fish finder. This is a convenient option because it makes it possible to analyze data you’ve collected over time.
Save maps and hotspots with this feature. Also, you can map the entire waterbed in which case the app would inform you when fish appears anywhere in that area. These are all optional, and not every fish finder supports the feature.
What should I do if my transducer breaks?
You might be able to remount it if it breaks off the mount. If the transducer is broken, you might need a new one.
In the process of dry-docking it’s extremely easy to damage your transducer, and what’s most important, most manufacturers won’t replace it in this case.
However, if you don’t notice any physical damage but it’s still not working, you can read the owner’s manual for answers. Maybe there’s a setting that you adjusted the wrong way. If that doesn’t work, contact the manufacturer for help.
What should I do if my fish finder stops working?
If it stopped working, it’s crucial you source the problem. Charge the unit, and check if your computer can recognize it. If its screen freezes or it’s slow, restart the device.
It’s recommended you download updated firmware for your finder. If it’s a matter of water damage, check back with your user’s manual again. Also, you can always consult the manufacturer for help that’s often the best option.
Sometimes, a simple solution would be to turn in off and on because the unit may be frozen.
What can interfere with my fish finder?
The best way to minimize interference is to separate all cables from one another. If you mount your transducer to a powerful trolling motor, you might experience some interference. Plus, extra complications can occur if the trolling motor is mounted the wrong way.
You can lower your fish finder’s sensitivity to 60-75% to reduce interference. Also, think about using an RF choke on all your transducer cables.
What to do if my charger breaks or gets lost?
You can use pretty much replace any charger with the same output as the original. However, make sure that the power output is the same before you plug in a different charger because you can damage the unit if not.
It’s best if you’d consider buying a factory replacement, especially if you have a high-end finder. This way, you’re sure that the charger you’re using is the right fit and you can avoid any warranty issues.
Can I use the same fish locator for shallow water, deep water, and ice fishing?
In most cases, the answer is yes. However, most people will operate differently in each situation. Because there are many models on the market, you can choose according to where you’d fish the most. Some are best for open ocean, while others are best for rivers and lakes.
When it comes to ice fishing, it’s highly advised that you get yourself a fish finder that’s made especially for this purpose.
How do I update my fish finder software?
Most manufacturers offer firmware and software updates from time to time. They do this to fix some problems and system bugs to help your unit work well.
Brands do this each in their way, and you’ll usually have to download data from your computer. Insert the SD card with the data into your finder and turn it on. The unit helps you install the update and walks you through the entire thing.
Still, it’s best if you do this with patience so visit the manufacturer’s website for more information and detail.
How much should I spend on one and are they Cheap?
This one is mostly up to you and what you’re looking for in a finder. Some are affordable, while some aren’t but it’s important, you decide on your budget right at the beginning of your search.
Think about how often you’d use it and what the features you’re looking for are. This will help you pinpoint a certain price. It’s a matter of your budget, needs, and preferences.
The Final Verdict
Finally, if you want to choose the one that suits you the best, consider the many factors carefully. Many things make a great fish finder, which is why it’s tricky to find one.
Ultimately, we recommend buying the Garmin Striker 7SV as our top choice compared to thers. It comes with a transducer, which is one of its biggest pros. It has impeccable sonar that scans the area around you in real time.
Plus, it’s ideal for if you’re a beginner because it’s easy to use, and all the instructions that come with it are simple.
With its rechargeable battery and CHIRP sweep sonar, the 7SV could be the best unit for you. It’s among the best models, which is why so many people recommend it.
So, if you’re looking for quality, detailed images that can help you locate fish with ease, the Garmin Striker 7SV is the best option.