If you’ve never had a fish finder before, you’ll be overwhelmed by all models available on the market. Many of these fish finders have different features that are somewhat confusing to beginners.
But if you’re an everyday fisherman, then you know that an average fish finder has Side Imaging with a unique transducer featuring one sonar beam on each side of the boat.
These are aimed at the specific angle from the path of the vessel and cover up to 300ft on each side. Most models operate at 800 kHz and 455 kHz.
Continue reading if you want to find the best side imaging fish finder of 2021.
What are the significant advantages?
Side Imaging is advanced technology that’s highly beneficial. In no time, the feature shows you the best view of the structure and contour of the bottom.
SI (side imaging) allows you to know where the reading is located. For example, Down Imaging tells you there are trees somewhere but not exactly where. Side Imaging tells you what is where and that’s the most significant benefit of the feature.
Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2
Best for Beginners
Lowrance HDS-7 GEN3 Insight
Best by Budget
Garmin Striker 7SV
Side Imaging Fish Finder Reviews
- Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2
- Lowrance HDS-7 GEN3 Insight
- Garmin Striker 7SV
- Raymarine Dragonfly Pro CHIRP
- Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 73sv
- Lowrance Elite-9Ti
- Garmin Striker Plus 9SV
Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2
This fish finder is our number one choice as it comes with an XNT 9 SI 180 T transducer that features a transom mount and 20’ of cable. The device can show the temperature of the top layer of the water you’re in.
This Humminbird fish finder uses CHIRP technology, and it’s capable of multiple frequencies. With its transducer, it uses 83/200 kHz for 2D, or 75-95 kHz / 175-255 kHz via CHIRP. For Side Imaging and Down Imaging, the unit can scan at 455 kHz or modulate between 420-520 kHz via CHIRP.
DualBeam Plus is the 2D sonar used in this case. It means you can use both beams simultaneously. The transducer offers quite a good coverage for 2D. The beams used for 2D are conical. One used for 83 kHz has a 60 degrees angle and better coverage while the one used for 200 kHz has a 20 degrees angle for better focus.
Lowrance HDS-7 GEN3 Insight
This is the most affordable model in the Gen3 series. Much like all others, it comes in several bundles, with or without transducer, with different map packs, etc.
It has a display of 7 inches diagonal with keypad and multi-touch for fast access. Its pixel matrix is 800 x 480, with a 16:9 ration. The fish finder also has a LED backlight for better visibility in sunlight or poor lighting.
It features two micro SD card slots for maps, waypoints, and sonar recordings. The HDS-7 comes with two transducers; the 455/800 kHz and 83/200 kHz thanks to which you get DownScan imaging and SideScan imaging.
This fish finder has a Temperature Graph feature that provides the temperature variations. The broadband sonar uses CHIRP technology, too. Another great feature is the GoFree wireless connection that allows you to use your tablet or smartphone to control the fish finder.
Garmin Striker 7SV
For traditional sonar, the 7SV is capable of 50/77/200 kHz, while the DownScan and SideScan is capable of 260/455/800 kHz. The CHIRP Technology & transducer that comes with it is considered the best on the market.
The image you get on the screen is quite clear and without any clutter. All the targets are well-contoured making the image easy to read.
Both CHIRP sonar technologies are great for observing structure. Still, you’ll also see bait clouds and fish targets on the screen. Side Imaging helps you understand the position of the target about other objects or the boat itself.
The fish finder has a range of 750 ft. on each side. DownScan scans underneath your boat and helps you see the shape of the target as well as how far in the water it reaches. SideScan uses two beams for every frequency; one on each side.
I would say that the Garmin Striker 7SV is also one of my favorite choices when it comes to side imaging fish finders.
Raymarine Dragonfly Pro CHIRP
The transducer that comes with this fish finder is the CPT-60, a transom mount transducer. It’s made of urethane material that’s also found in the water temperature sensor.
The cable that’s included is 20 ft. long. The transducer supports both DownScan and SideScan. For Down Imaging, the unit uses a thin beam with a 60 degrees angle. For 2D, it uses a beam that’s conical and under an angle of 25 degrees.
This fish finder features CHIRP sonar technology for both Side Imaging and Down Imaging. Therefore, the frequency range for 2D CHIRP is 170-230 kHz, and for CHIRP DownVision the frequency range is 320-380 kHz.
This CHIRP modulation is better than the standard regular frequency sonar because the images on the display are much clearer, and with better target separation. This means that if your sonar comes across a group of fish, they won’t appear as a huge stain of color but as individual targets.
Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 73sv
The 73sv comes with a GT52HW-TM transducer with a 12-pin connector. It features 20’ of cable and a temperature sensor. It also comes with a transom mount and a trolling motor mount.
For 2D, the unit is capable of 50/77/200 kHz frequencies and 260/455/800 kHz for Side Imaging and Down Imaging. Still, the transducer that comes with the unit doesn’t cover all those frequencies. For 2D, you can use the 200 kHz frequency, or in the CHIRP mode, frequencies between 150-240 kHz.
This means that you can only scan in High CHIRP mode. However, the fish finder is capable of using dual frequencies. This allows you to use both frequencies simultaneously and view both images on split-screen.
CHIRP technology stands out the most here because it offers less clutter in the images, better target separation, and a better view and definition of the bottom and structure.
For 2D, this Lowrance fish finder uses 50/83/200 kHz frequencies. For Down Imaging and Scan Imaging, the device uses 455/800 kHz. Its sonar works with CHIRP technology that provides better quality and more detail in images as well as better target separation.
The fish finder comes with the TotalScan transducer that covers both StructureScan and 2D sonar. The transducer features a 9-pin connector and a temperature sensor.
It uses High CHIRP and Mid CHIRP thanks to the fact that it operates at 83/200 kHz. However, for using Low CHIRP, you will need a 50/200 kHz CHIRP capable transducer.
The unit can reach as far as 1000 feet for 2D and 300 feet for DownScan and SideScan. It’s important to remember that with SideScan, the beams can extend up to 300’ on each side at 455 kHz. At 800 kHz, the beams extend up to 100.
Garmin Striker Plus 9SV
The Garmin Sriker Plus 9SV is the latest addition to the Garmin fish finders and the larger unit in the Striker Plus series. The unit is sturdy and suitable for all environments. It’s about 11.1 x 6.5 x 2.4 inches in size and weighing about 2.4 pounds.
It has WiFi that allows you access to the Garmin website and apps for a better experience and more success.
The fish finder has an LCD screen that adjusts automatically to provide the best image. The screen is 9 inches big and gives you a nice, big picture of whatever is near your boat. All photos are bright thanks to its 800 x 400 resolution and a full range of color. It displays water temperature and images of fish targets at any speed.
For Side Imaging, the screen shows a 180-degree image of what’s in the water. The beams scan everything around your boat that’s up to 240 ft. to each side.
How To Read Side Scan Sonar Images
Below are a couple of points on learning a few necessary steps on how to read the sonar images.
- Contrast and sensitivity – this is called “white level” and it’s actually the image processing that’s adjusting the ratios between light and dark colors on the screen. This helps you tell fish apart from other objects in the background.
- Speed – the scroll speed should be left at default settings. With time, you can adjust it up or down.
- Range – this is what sets the distance of each side that’s displayed. Keep in mind that a wide scale has to squeeze in the sonar data into the same pixels as a narrow range. For this reason, a close range will show in more detail.
- Contour mode – this feature removes the water column from the side image screen. It then stitches the right and left image together for a high style of the water bottom.
- Right side/left side only – your fish finder can display only the right or the left image in the screen space that’s available at the moment.
- Color palette – the unit processes sonar data and depending on the strength of the signal it applies a color palette to it.
Buyers Guide – Things To Consider
It’s crucial that your fish finder comes with a transducer; otherwise, you’ll have to buy one separately which is a struggle. Plus, buying the devices separately usually costs more.
Pay some attention to the kind of transducer you’re getting, so that you know its quality and will do its job well.
There are 455 and 800 kHz frequencies. These two usually work for Side, Down and 360 imaging. In some cases, both frequencies are available while others are limited.
455 kHz gives you a more extended range than 800 kHz and the collection is usually shown at the top and bottom. The 800 kHz Side Imaging is generally demonstrated through the middle. The 800 kHz frequency will display cleaner images of much higher resolution than 455 kHz.
This is best for searching for structure because these images appear more defined when you’re using 800 kHz.
The kind of boat you use your fish finder with is crucial. Most side imaging units work with bass boats, motorboats or other similar vessels. Still, some boats may not allow you to install side imaging sonar beams on them for various reasons.
These boats are a bit expensive to deal with because you’ll have to pay extra money to mount the fish finder on it. Before you buy a specific fish finder make sure it’s mountable on your boat. This will save you a lot of time, effort, and money.
Related Post: Best Side Fish Finders for Small Boats
Depth And Range
Another important thing to pay attention to is the bottom range of a side imaging fish finder. Side Imaging fish finders are used to fish in shallow waters in most cases. For this reason, most devices with Side Imaging technology go up to 1500 depth range. In some cases, this can vary a little depending on the device itself.
However, if you want to fish in deeper waters, you should consider a device with Side Imaging and Down Imaging option. The variety will come in handy before you know it, so it’d be a good thing to give it a thought.
As technology grows, so do the display features of almost every fish finder. Display size is what matters the most even with Side Imaging features. You’ll get the most precise and accurate readings on a large screen.
Other things to consider are the color and resolution of the display. A screen with high resolution will show a better image and more detail. Some color displays show different depths that allow you to see the bottom composition in a much easier way.
As you can see, all devices in this review are different in their way. Many offer different things that would be exciting to most fishermen and anglers.
However, Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2 is the one that stands out the most. This device has Side Imaging and Down Imaging which are the sonar technologies of the highest quality. It has a large display, high resolution, and GPS Chart.
Overall, it has a nice combination of features, specifications, and quality worth your attention if you’re looking for a serious Side Imaging fish finder.