Whether you’ve fished for 40 years or 4 years, someone you know is out there catching more fish because they’re using the best fish finder. I’ve been fishing with and without fish finders for decades, and I’ll tell you what, having a crappy one will hurt you more than having none at all. The Garmin Striker Plus 4 offers the features, simplicity, and quality we’re all seeking.
If you’re a fan of the endless goose chase of tailing fish all day, then, by all means, proceed. If you want an honest review of the best fish finders so you can catch more fish and catch them faster, then keep reading!
Our Reviews Of The Best Fish Finders
Garmin Striker Plus 4
The Garmin Striker 4 is one of the most popular fish finders on the market. It comes with a dual-beam transducer and a chirp technology. The finder creates great images of fish under the water, and it maps up to two million acres, which you can store on the device. With Garmin’s Quickdraw Contours feature, you can develop and store maps as well.
I personally like the design of the fish finder, I think it’s durable and long-lasting, and most people don’t seem to experience any problems with it, even after prolonged use. The Garmin Striker is one of the best on the market today.
Humminbird HELIX 7
My favorite thing about the Humminbird Helix 7 is the two different visualization modes. You can narrow it down and search a smaller area, but you’ll get exceptionally fine detail. You can also spread the coverage out wider with less detail. These two settings help you locate more fish with ideal target separation, narrow down, and find out exactly what they’re doing and where they are. The Helix 7 is a great choice for down-imaging.
Lowrance HOOK2 5 5-Inch Fish Finder
While this fish finding device might be a bit more expensive than some of the previous options for what you’re getting, you’re picking up an exceptional fish finder. It comes with side and down mapping, which is ideal for getting underneath structure like docks and bridges.
This one also has an autotuning sonar, so you don’t have to adjust anything as you’re using your trolling motor to slowly move along. While this is a plus to some, others actually saw it as a downside because you can’t shut that feature off. If you don’t like the contrast or visibility of what you’re seeing, you’re out of luck.
The main feature that makes this fish finder stand out is the built-in mapping that comes with it. You get access to over 3,000 lakes throughout the country. They’re already mapped, built into the GPS system, and ready to explore.
Humminbird 410150-1 Piranhamax
If you’re dabbling with fish finders and you’re thinking of trying something out, you’ll want to get this one. You can get it for less than $200, and while it won’t show you a whole lot, you’ll get an idea of how to tell differences in elevation and how to pick up a fish on sonar.
Don’t let this fish finder discourage you if it doesn’t help you as much as you’d like. Some of the other options here are much more accurate.
Deeper Chirp Smart Sonar
This castable fish finder is a pretty cool change to what we normally see in the market. The top fish finders offer versatility and user-friendliness, and this one offers both of those things. Some people don’t like the fact that you have to download an app. There is also the upgraded model, the Deeper Pro
Another issue that I see is pertaining to ice fishing. Most people will always use a fishfinder when ice fishing because it’s incredibly difficult to locate fish otherwise. Sometimes the weight of your body on the ice causes misreadings on the finder.
Humminbird SOLIX 10 G2 Fish Finder with Chirp
This down scan fish finder is the Rolls Royce of its kind. It comes with optimal display size with both side and down imaging. The chirp displays arches and offers clear views of where they are and what they’re holding out in.
If the price is an issue, you won’t want to get this fish finder. It’s really expensive, but for those who purchased it, they aren’t complaining about all the fish at the end of their line!
Lowrance HOOK2 7 7-Inch Fish Finder
Having a high-quality screen on your fish finder is an important factor. This one offers high visibility and perfect contrast, which helps you see what’s happening under the water more efficiently.
I find that having options is also a nice feature. In some cases, you might prefer a down image from the split shot, and in other cases, you might want a more broad view from the chirp. If you’re unsure about what those mean, I’m breaking it all down in the buyer’s guide below, so check it out!
Raymarine Axiom 7 with Built-In GPS
If you’re looking for a fish finder using incredible fish finding technology to produce crisp underwater visuals, then this is the right option. I find that products like these are a bit unnecessary because they’re more “smoke and mirrors” than they are things that will actually help you.
That said, the Real Vision 3D imaging is no joke. It also comes with side and down vision and an operating system that is easy to use despite its complicated appearance.
LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder
This fish finder brings us back to the basics and the reasons why we want one in the first place. We need a fish finder to find fish, and this one does a good job of it without all the frills. It’s affordable and one of the top portable fish finders on the market.
Deeper Start Smart
If you like the castable fish finders, here’s another one for you. You can sync it with the Deeper App, hook it up using the included swivel, and cast it out on the water. It comes with wi-fi enabled, so you receive updates in real-time.
The Deeper Start charges using a USB port, and it runs for a total of six hours on a two and a half-hour charge. The app is easy to use, and the sonar is accurate and efficient.
HawkEye Fishtrax 1C
This fish finder might be simplistic, but it gets the job done. It’ll locate and display the location of fish up to 240 feet, and it comes with an LED backlight to reduce glare and also help provide increased visibility at night.
The HawkEye also offers a wide assortment of fish finder mounting options. It comes with an extender arm that makes it a great kayak fish finder. The many mounting choices will also work for small boat, Jon boat, and the likes.
Lowrance HOOK2 9 9-Inch Fish Finder
If you can look past the price tag, you get a lot for your money here. This fish finder is incredibly easy to use with autotuning scanning sonar and simple to navigate menus. If you don’t have a lot of experience with technology, this finder won’t hurt you too much. (I figured it out, and I’m not tech-savvy either)
You mount the transducer on the side of your boat and choose split shot, down scan, or chirp. It’s great to have these options because what you need with change based on where you’re fishing.
Garmin echoMAP Plus
This high-performance fish finder from Garmin does a great job of providing high-quality visuals, pinpoint accuracy, and a highly functioning device. The EchoMAP Plus has got a hefty price tag, but with that comes great performance that is sure to help your fishing game.
Types of Fish Finders
When choosing the right fish finder, what a lot of people don’t realize is that it has a lot less to do with the design, screen, and appearance of the unit itself. Having to choose the best fish finder transducer is what will separate the top-rated fish finder from a scrub you find on clearance. Let’s break down the types of sonar.
The types of fish finders I used originally were conventional sonar. This meant that the waves went down into the water until they bounced off of something. When they bounced, it would usually indicate a fish or some sort of structure.
Based on that, this is how you would determine where to throw your line. While this worked to a certain extent, you can probably tell why it isn’t the best option. First, it doesn’t tell you what you’re bouncing off of. It could be a rock, stump, patch of grass, or a prize-winning fish.
Another problem with standard sonar is the accuracy of location. They’ll tell you the depth of the fish, but there’s no guaranteeing how accurate that will be. The screens on these types of fish finders aren’t usually very detailed, so you don’t get a lot of information.
It’s generally a toss-up of whether you’re casting perfectly into a school of fish or a patch of weeds.
Chirping is the same as standard sonar, and much of the operational function is the same. The main difference is the sonar frequencies. Instead of sending equal waves in a pattern down into the water, the chirp sends quick bursts of sonar waves, which helps detect fish quicker, but it also helps increase accuracy.
These types of fish finders can also tell you more about the water structure because certain things will move (fish), and others won’t (structure).
This type of fish finder is much smarter and ultimately much more expensive as well. Instead of creating images based on where the sound bounces off, this type of sonar will paint a vivid picture of what to expect beneath the water based on the frequency.
Down imaging sonars provides an elaborate picture of underwater structures such as trees, stumps, and greenery. It also refreshes constantly, so it will continue to pick up the movement of fish as they move around beneath you.
These are much more accurate, and they keep you hot on the trail of fish. The problem is, they can only tell you what is directly beneath the boat. For that reason, you’re limited with what you can do with a down image fish finder.
These work well if you’re throwing out a split shot or a drop shot, but if you’re trying to cast long distances underneath a dock, you won’t have any idea what’s out there.
Hey, would you look at that? We have a solution to the problem. If you read some of the fish finder reviews above, you know what side imaging exists, and it helps you see what’s around the boat rather than right under it. This is helpful if you’re trying to fish structure around you or in shallow waters.
Each side imaging fish finder will have a certain radius that it can read, and the best fish finders will offer a combination of all of these in one. You’ll get chirp, down image, and side image in one convenient package to hook up to your boat and roll with.
Features to Look For When Choosing a Fish Finder
When you’re looking for the ideal fish finder, there are many primary features to keep an eye out for. Here are some examples.
The transducer is an essential component because it will determine the quality of the image you receive. If you don’t have a high performing transducer, you won’t have the accuracy you need to find anything.
The transducer sends the sonar waves into the water, and those waves bounce back, that’s what provides you with the image of a fish underneath the boat. So, how do you tell that you have a high-quality transducer?
First, I look at the brand. If it’s a popular brand like Humminbird or Garmin, I know I’m getting a product with a successful reputation.
The next thing I look at is the build of the device. Does it appear durable? Does it look like it can withstand some abuse? Keep in mind that this piece will usually get mounted on the underside or side of the boat. There’s a chance that it might take some damage in the water. It needs to be able to hold up against all the odds.
Another important factor to consider is how the transducer gets mounted to the boat. The typical type of mount is a transom mount transducer. These are mounted to the back of the boat, by the trolling motor so they don’t have to take a heavy flow of water.
Due to the nature at which you mount these transducers, they are usually the most fragile but the most affordable.
Through-hull mounts usually go on the side of the boat, and while they’re more durable and offer more flexibility as to where you mount them, they’re more expensive. These are designed for longer fishing trips in deeper water on higher speed boats.
An in-hull mount goes inside the boat as the name suggests, and they’re easy to install. The downside here is that you need to have a boat material that the transducer can penetrate. You’ll need to mount it using bronze, stainless, or plastic based on your boat’s material.
The cone of your fish finder refers to the width of the sound wave it offers. The wider the cone, the larger the area. It’s important to understand that larger doesn’t always mean better. Some of the fish finders we looked at above have a wide radius, but that results in a poorer signal.
I’ve noticed that fish finders with a smaller cone provide a much clearer and more accurate picture of what’s going on under the water.
Where you really want to pay attention is the depth of the cone. Some will only provide signals up to 100 feet at the side but 150 feet if you’re directly under the boat. If you don’t understand this, it can lead to distortions and confusion, which can cause you to cast in places where you won’t catch anything.
The angle of the cone is critical too, and you’d like to find one with at least a 20-degree angle. These are most common, and you shouldn’t have to pay a whole year’s salary to get one that offers it. Many of the fish finders I reviewed above also offer dual spectrum chirp, which will cover more area at a lower depth.
The display and screen that you get with your fish finder are important because it helps you see what’s going on beneath you. An important feature that I look for is a fish finder with a display that is easy to navigate. Split screen is also an ideal feature.
I’m looking for simplicity, and so should you. All I need is a fish finder that will help me find fish. It’s all part of the user experience. Even though simplicity is important, you still need the right number of features. Having depth finders, will help you scope out the water and identify ideal fishing locations.
Something else you want to look for with your display as well is the type of screen. Some are monochrome, while others are color. Most of the fish finders we see today will use full color displays to signify changes in elevation, this feature is incredibly useful, and it helps you get an idea of what you’re looking at faster.
You also want to look for a display that offers some sort of glare protection on the user interface. This will make it easier to see regardless of the conditions. A backlight is convenient for night fishing as well.
The resolution of your screen is always an important buying factor because it determines how much time you’ll have to spend looking at the fish finder to figure out what you’re looking at. While there’s no “set in stone” requirement for screen resolution, you want something with high-resolution that allows you to view what’s happening underwater clearly.
In my opinion, I want something that isn’t intrusive to my fishing. I find that some of the fish finders reviewed above appear incredibly fragile, and they also take up a lot of space in a small boat. Nobody wants something that gets in the way, especially if you’re fishing on a small boat.
That said, the smaller you go, the smaller screen size you will get, which may make it more difficult for you to see what’s happening underwater. You’ll want to weight the pros and cons here. If you have a small boat, you’ll have to either sacrifice some space or get a smaller fish finder.
When I refer to power, I’m talking about the power of the transducer. The amount of power you have will determine how deep your finder can display images. A powerful device will allow you to work better in deeper water, but it will also help you in less than desirable conditions. If the water is murky, a low-quality fish finder will prevent you from getting a clear image.
The power of your transducer is calculated in something called RMS or root mean squared. It’s similar to wattage. Most fish finders aren’t any less than 200 RMS, and the ideal power is 500. If you have a 500-watt device, you will be able to get a clear image in any condition.
Sometimes it’s not even about the image. Many finders can display water temperature and they have depth finders.
Another factor that will determine the quality of your image is the frequency. All of these factors work together in perfect harmony, and you can’t have one without the other. Higher frequencies mean more detail.
The primary thing to understand is that, with a high frequency, the water depth and power decreases. So, ideally, you want to find something with a nice middle ground. Quality frequency and moderate power are essential to getting a high-quality picture of the water.
You want a GPS fish finder because this is a feature you won’t realize you need until you need it. If you’re out on the water and a dense fog comes rolling in, you won’t know where you are.
I’ve drifted too far down the river on multiple occasions that I can’t determine how far it is back to the launch site. If that happens, I can check out the GPS and keep my peace of mind.
A GPS fish finder also allows you to create waypoints and many have chartplotter features so you can document your best fishing spots for next time.
The only problem with the GPS fish finder combos is the price. These are more expensive and sometimes a little bulkier, but you can’t sacrifice the security you have in always knowing where you are. (unless you have GPS on your phone, which most of us do)
You might still have some questions, and that’s okay. Here are some of the most popular questions we’ve received regarding fish finders.
A fish finder is a device that uses sonar waves underwater to identify disturbances in the water. These waves bounce off whatever it is, and the device then determines if that is a fish or a structure. Some high-quality fish finders even identify the size of the fish.
The method of installing a fish finder depends on many different factors. The type of boat you have, the type of finder, your fishing style, the material your boat is, the type of mount you have, and more.
Your finder will usually come with a few different methods of reading. One is similar to a topographical map. Many come with full color displays to identify changes in elevation below the water. This helps you determine drop-offs and changes in the bed to help locate ideal fishing locations.
Another method will use the sonar waves, which will display ripples on the screen. These ripples or “waves” are fish. Some have a picture of a fish, while others show waves or curves.
Finally, having to choose the best fish finder requires you to understand how to read them properly. Make sure you know what you're doing so you can get the most out of your device.
Most fish finders are not waterproof, but they are water-resistant. You can not fully submerge them underwater, but if they get wet, it will not hurt them. If you have a castable fish finder, then you know that they have the highest water resistance based on depth and pressure.
The transducer that comes with your fish finder is waterproof because a portion of it will be continually submerged underwater.
Choosing the right fish finder is not easy. It’s an expensive purchase, and it’s something that you hope will last you a long time. Many factors go into this decision, and a lot of technology behind how they work is not easy to understand. I hope this guide cleared up some of your confusion and pointed you in the right direction.
All of the fish finder reviews above are great options; it’s just about choosing the one that makes the most sense for you. I recommend the Garmin Striker Plus 4 because it offers the most features for an affordable price.
If you’re like me, you just want something to perform its duty without all the smoke and mirrors. That fish finder will do the trick. Good luck out there!