Best Fish Finders: Pro Buying Guide and Comprehensive Reviews

Last Updated on April 14, 2022

We independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here.

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.

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!

Comparison Table – Best Fish Finders on Today’s Market

ImageProduct TitleRatingPrice
Best Overall
Garmin Striker Plus 4
Garmin Striker Plus 4

Type: Dual-Beam Transducer
Display: 4.3”
Dimensions:  3.9 x 1.8 x 6.9”

9.8
Bass ProCabelas
Best Down Imaging
Humminbird HELIX 7
Humminbird HELIX 7

Type: Down Imaging Fish Finder
Display: 7.0”
Dimensions: 10.5 x 3.6 x 5.8”

9.6
Bass ProCabelas
Best New Technology
Lowrance Hook Reveal
Lowrance Hook Reveal

Type: DownScan, SideScan, TripleShot
Display: 7″
Resolution: 800 x 480 pixels

9
Bass ProCabelas
Best Networking Fish Finder
Lowrance Elite FS
Lowrance Elite FS

Type: Active Imaging 3-in-1
Display: 7-9"
Dimensions: 3.05" x 7.04" x 11.02"

9.5
Bass ProCabelas
Best High-End Unit
Humminbird Solix 10
Humminbird Solix 10

Type: Mega DS + SI
Display: 10.1"
Resolution: 1280 x 800 pixels

9.5
Bass ProCabelas
Best High-Resolution Screen
Lowrance HDS Live
Lowrance HDS Live

Type: DownScan, SideScan, StructureScan
Display: 7.0"-16.0"
Resolution: 1280 x 720 pixels

9.3
Bass ProCabelas
Best Fish Finding Transducer
Garmin Panoptix Livescope
Garmin Panoptix Livescope

Type: DownScan, SideScan, Structurescan
Display: N/A
Resolution: N/A

9.5
Bass ProCabelas
Best For Saltwater
Garmin Echomap UHD
Garmin Echomap UHD

Type: CHIRP, Clearvu, Sidevu
Display: 4.3" - 9.0"
Resolution: 800 x 480 pixels

9
Bass ProCabelas


In-Depth Reviews Of The Best Fish Finders

Garmin Striker Plus 4

Garmin Striker Plus 4

BEST OVERALL

Specs

  • Model: Striker Plus 4
  • Type: Dual-Beam Transducer
  • Display: 4.3”
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 1.8 x 6.9”

FEATURED SPECS

  • The GPS fish finder features a highly sensitive GPS that maintains a position everywhere you go. It makes maps of places you’ve been and allows you to create marks in the event that a fish bit there.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • The highly visible display makes it easy to see even in bright sunlight.

BUYING ADVICE

  • This is one of the best ice fishing fish finders, too if you purchase with the portable kit. It comes with a cover that you can set down and secure to the ice.

Pros

  • Great fish finder for the money
  • Mounts well on the boat
  • Creates maps quickly

Cons

  • Not for use with saltwater
  • Limited display options

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.

If you’d like to learn more about it, give my complete Garmin Striker 4 review a read.

Humminbird HELIX 7

Humminbird Helix 7

BEST DOWN IMAGING FISH FINDER

Specs

  • Model: Humminbird HELIX 7
  • Type: Down Imaging Fish Finder
  • Display: 7.0”
  • Dimensions: 10.5 x 3.6 x 5.8”

FEATURED SPECS

  • The mega down imaging of this fish finder is incredible. You’ll get views of the lake floor like you’ve never seen it before.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Features two modes that allow you to have control over how much or how little detail you have. There is also the GPS G2 upgrade.

BUYING ADVICE

  • The Helix 7 has a highly visible screen, which makes it ideal for use on bright sunny days. Upgrade to the GPS G2 for mapping and triple shot transducer.

Pros

  • Great screen
  • Down imaging
  • Exceptional underwater detail
  • Low chirping transducer

Cons

  • Doesn’t come with an SD card (includes micro SD card slot)
  • Does not contain side imaging capabilities

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. 

If you’d like to learn more about this model, give our Humminbird Helix 7 review a read!

Lowrance Hook Reveal

Lowrance Hook Reveal

BEST NEW TECHNOLOGY

Specs

  • Model: Lowrance Hook Reveal
  • Type: DownScan, SideScan, TripleShot
  • Display: 7″
  • Resolution: 800 x 480 pixels

Pros

  • Newly Upgraded FishReveal Sonar
  • TripleShot 3-in-1 transducer offers everything you need
  • Highly customizable sonar settings make this beginner-friendly
  • Great price tag for the average angler

Cons

  • No networking or Bluetooth
  • No touchscreen (not that big of a deal)

Why We Chose It

The Lowrance Hook Reveal hit the market in early 2020 with the main flagship upgrade being to their sonar technology. They added FishReveal technology which is really something we’ve never seen for a fish finder sub $1,000. The feature offers great target separation, imagery, and more accurate fish arches.

The goal here is to help you better separate the fish from everything else. Ideally, you’ll have an easier time identifying pockets of fish as well as the structure around them to verify why they might be holding to a specific area.

In addition to that, you also get Genesis Live Mapping which is very similar to the aforementioned Humminbird AutoChart. The mapping offers great contouring with a variety of different displays so you can play around and see which one you prefer.

The granddaddy feature of this fish finder is the optional TripleShot transducer which you’ve likely heard of before. Essentially, you get the choice to decide whether you’d prefer downscan, sidescan, both, or all of them including dual scanning CHIRP.

I have to say, for a fish finder that comes fully loaded with all of the best and latest technology, it’s really affordable. Even if you decide to knock yourself out and go with the TripleShot transducer, you’re still coming in around $600 or less.

If you’d like to learn more about this fish finder – give my Lowrance Hook Reveal review a read.

Lowrance Elite FS

Lowrance Elite FS 9

BEST NETWORKING FISH FINDER

Specs

  • Type: Active Imaging 3-in-1
  • Display: 7-9″
  • Dimensions: 3.05″ x 7.04″ x 11.02″

Pros

  • Wide range of networking capabilities
  • Active Imaging 3-in-1 sonar
  • C-Map with Navionics

Cons

  • Hefty price tag
  • Mapping is limited to US and Canada

Why We Chose It

The Lowrance Elite FS is the cream of the crop when it comes to next-generation fish finders. It comes with full networking capabilities so you can share data between fish finders and other compatible devices.

It comes loaded with pretty much any type of sonar you can think of including active imaging, downscanning, and sidescanning. Plus, you get C-Map and Navionics mapping and chartplotting.

Active Target is probably the main standout feature though. This allows you to actually see the fish moving in real-time. A lot of fish finders advertise this but very few implement on it. Lowrance actually offers live sonar in the Elite FS. If you have pockets deep enough, I’d highly recommend giving this fish finder a more in-depth look.

Humminbird 410150-1 Piranhamax

Humminbird Piranhamax

MOST AFFORDABLE FISH FINDER

Specs

  • Model: 410150-1 Piranhamax 4
  • Type: Dual Beam Sonar
  • Display: 4.3”
  • Dimensions: 4 x 7 x 3”

FEATURED SPECS

  • This fish finder with a 4.3” display screen primarily focuses on showing you changes in the structure of the ground beneath you.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • The Piranhamax 4 uses dual beam sonar with a coverage area of 28 x 16 using less than 10 decibels of frequency.

BUYING ADVICE

  • It has low screen resolution and isn’t quite as accurate as some would prefer. As a result, I would recommend this fish finder for beginners who aren’t sure if they’ll actually use it.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Dual sonar
  • Optimal target separation for precise imaging

Cons

  • Not as clear as most options
  • Doesn’t have a lot of accuracy surrounding fish locations

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.

If you’re on a budget and would like more options, then take a look at our article on the best fish finders for the money.

Deeper Chirp Smart Sonar

Deeper Chirp Smart Sonar

BEST CASTABLE FISH FINDER

Specs

  • Model: DEE-ITGAM0631
  • Type: Castable Chirp Fish Finder
  • Display: N/A
  • Dimensions: N/A

FEATURED SPECS

  • This is a castable fish finder that you’ll cast out into the water and use like a bobber. It has a max distance of 330ft and accurate scanning the whole way down.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • You’ll see what’s happening underneath the water by connecting the fish finder to the Fish Deeper app on your smartphone.

BUYING ADVICE

  • This is one of the top deep-water fish finders because of the distance. If you’re trying to see what’s going on towards the middle of the lake, this is a nice option. You can upgrade to the Deeper Pro as well.

Pros

  • Easy to operate
  • Connects to an app
  • Long-distance
  • Create maps and log them using the app

Cons

  • Issues if using it for ice fishing
  • Occasional misreadings

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 fish finder 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. So I would not suggest this model if you plan to be on the ice. 

But with that being said, if you have a small boat this is one of your best options. If you’d like to see what else we suggest for small boats, give our article about the best fish finder for small boats a read!

Humminbird Solix 10

Humminbird Solix 10

BEST HIGH-END UNIT

Specs

  • Model: SOLIX 10 G2
  • Type: HD Down/Side Imaging Chirp Sonar
  • Display: 10.1”
  • Dimensions: 11.81 x 7.89 x 4.45”

Pros

  • 10″ touchscreen
  • Customizable dashboard with a large quantity of combinations
  • Support for Mega SI, DI, and Dual Spectrum Chirp
  • Ethernet and Bluetooth compatibility

Cons

  • Expensive
  • A lot of premium features require additional purchases, transducers, etc.

Why We Chose It

All in all, you’re looking at one of the best fish finders to ever grace the wonderful world of fishing. It’s nothing less than what I would have expected though from a company like Humminbird. The 10″ display is premium and it has one of the best touchscreens I’ve ever seen.

I’m a well-known “touchscreen hater” but the screen is responsive, easy to navigate, and it holds up pretty well in the weather. If you have to get away from it, it also comes with a joystick that I find much easier to use than your traditional buttons or keys.

The sonar is excellent as expected of a fish finder in this price range. You get dual-spectrum CHIRP, down imaging, and side imaging as an optional purchase. If you don’t want to shell out for it, you can pick one or the other which I think is nice. You can also upgrade to the MEGA 360 transducer which will give you a 360-degree angle view around the boat.

The Solix also features the Humminbird Basemap offering over 10,000 inland lakes with a chartplotter and GPS. AutoChart is known as one of the best mapping features ever made. It offers precise contouring, hardness, structure, and vegetation scanning.

As I said, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive fish finder offering the latest and greatest features. The Solix 10 is near perfection, buttoned up with a nice bow on top. It’s geared towards tournament anglers for sure with the hefty price tag. If you have the deep pockets for it, this fish finder is sure to impress.

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 you’d like to learn more about these Solix models then I recommend reading our solix vs helix article which goes more in-depth.

Lowrance HDS Live

Lowrance HDS Live

BEST HIGH-RESOLUTION SCREEN

Specs

  • Model: Lowrance HDS Live
  • Type: DownScan, SideScan, StructureScan
  • Display: 7.0″-16.0″
  • Resolution: 1280 x 720 pixels

Pros

  • Incredible screen size and resolution
  • 3-in-1 transducer standard
  • Live Bluetooth compatibility
  • C-Map Genesis feature

Cons

  • Super pricey

Why We Chose It

If price is of no object and you simply want the best fish finder money can buy, you’ve pretty much found it in the Lowrance HDS Live. The feature that stands out most is the incredibly impressive high-resolution screen.

It comes with a wide viewing angle, super clean display, and the SolarMAX HD screen comes with a backlight that provides a clear view no matter what the conditions are.

You also get a 6-fold splitscreen if you upgrade to the HDS Live 12 or 16 models. This means you can have up to six different views on your screen at the same time.

The 3-in-1 transducer is another great feature and something we would expect of a fish finder in this price range. It comes with downscan, sidescan, and structurescan. Best of all, you get the latest and greatest FishReveal technology just like in the Lowrance Hook Reveal.

Last but not least, the Lowrance HDS also comes with some of the best mapping on the market. C-Map Genesis Live allows you to make changes to the maps and save them to your own personal SD card.

You can also share them between other fish finders, smartphones, and other devices synced with your fish finder using Bluetooth compatibility.

I have barely scratched the surface of what this fish finder can do. If you’d like to learn more, be sure to read the complete Lowrance HDS Live review.

Garmin Panoptix Livescope

Garmin Panoptix Livescope

BEST FISH FINDING TRANSDUCER

Specs

  • Model: Garmin Panoptix Livescope
  • Type: DownScan, SideScan, Structurescan
  • Display: N/A
  • Resolution: N/A

Pros

  • Great range up to 200 feet
  • Image stabilization provides high-quality imaging even in bad conditions
  • Many viewing options

Cons

  • Requires you to purchase a separate unit because it doesn’t come with a screen
  • Compatibility could be a challenge

Why We Chose It

Here we’re taking a look at something a little different than the norm. The Panoptix Livescope is a transducer-only fish finder that you can pair up with a large assortment of Garmin fish finders. The list of compatible devices is seemingly endless with the Echomap being one of the most popular options.

The main thing that separates this unit from the competition is the promise of real “live” imaging. Many fish finders will use the term “live” but they’re not actually 100% live. I can say, this fish finder offers completely live imaging of exactly what is happening beneath the surface, and it’s pretty amazing, to say the least.

It comes with three modes including downscan, sidescan, and structurescan. You’re pretty much left with nothing to be desired besides an actual screen to view this on. Compatibility can be a problem when things don’t work properly and if you’re not the most tech-savvy, you might have a hard time getting everything to work together.

That said, if you have a compatible fish finder already. The Panoptix Livescope is a great way to upgrade your equipment without having to replace everything. To learn more about the Livescope, check out our Garmin Panoptix Livescope review.

LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder

LUCKY Handheld

BEST PORTABLE FISH FINDERS

Specs

  • Model: FFC1108-1
  • Type: Handheld
  • Display: 2.0”
  • Dimensions: 5.9 x 3.9 x 3.9”

FEATURED SPECS

  • This fish finder comes with five different sensitivity modes based on how you’re fishing, where you’re fishing, and what you’re fishing for.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • It comes with a 25-foot cable offering versatility of how you’d like to get it in the water. It’s also one of the best saltwater fish finders because of its durability and portability.

BUYING ADVICE

  • It might not offer the most advanced display other than images of fish and grass, but it’s one of the best portable fish finders. I also think this would work well from the shore if you cast it out with a second rod.

Pros

  • Easy to operate
  • Affordable portable fish finder
  • Solid battery life of up to five hours
  • Five different sensitivity modes

Cons

  • Doesn’t offer advanced imaging
  • Small screen size

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. 

Moocor Underwater Fishing Camera

Moocor Underwater Fishing Camera

BEST FISHING CAMERA

Specs

  • Model: 8541747448
  • Type: Underwater Camera
  • Display: 4.3”
  • Dimensions: 4.9 x 3.3 x 1.5”

FEATURED SPECS

  • Here we have an underwater camera that is quite different from a fish finder. It comes with an HD screen, which is a great option for ice fishing.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Features three high visibility infrared LED lights, so it lights up the water underneath the ice.

BUYING ADVICE

  • I suggest this option if you’re looking for an ice fishing camera or possibly shore fishing if you’re limiting your movement. The camera may draw attention to itself, so you’ll want to keep it a small distance away from the lure.

Pros

  • Great for monitoring fish behavior
  • Excellent for ice fishing
  • Cool for recreational use as well

Cons

  • Limited viewing area
  • Cold water sometimes causes distortion

Deeper Start Smart

Deeper Start Smart

Specs

  • Model: DP2H10S10
  • Type: Castable Fish Finder
  • Display: N/A
  • Dimensions: N/A

FEATURED SPECS

  • The fish finder connects using its wi-fi, so you don’t need an internet connection or data.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • It displays fish icons using these different sizes to indicate different sizes of fish. There’s also an alarm, so you never miss out on a big catch.

BUYING ADVICE

  • This one has a little less of a range than the other castable fish finder we looked at, and it comes with a mount so you can safely secure your phone to your rod.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Provides animated fish display in the water
  • Uses its own wi-fi connectivity

Cons

  • Doesn’t provide a lot of detail regarding vegetation and structure
  • Shorter distance than desired

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.

Lowrance HOOK2 9 Fish Finder

Lowrance HOOK2 9 Fish Finder

Specs

  • Model: HOOK2 9
  • Type: Split Shot Transducer
  • Display: 9.0”
  • Dimensions: 11.8 x 10.1 x 8.6”

FEATURED SPECS

  • Wide-angle chirp sonar helps offer extended coverage of everything going on under the water.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • This fish finder offers multiple picture-in-picture to show you sonar, live imagery, as well as mapping and GPS.

BUYING ADVICE

  • I’m a huge fan of the fact that this fish finder offers 4,000 preloaded US lakes already mapped out into the finder. We’re becoming big fans of the Lowrance HOOK2 brand of fish finders. They’re definitely one of the best fish finder brands, in our opinion.

Pros

  • Large screen size
  • Great visibility and accuracy
  • Easy to set up
  • Down scan or chirp sonar

Cons

  • A little pricey
  • Issues with faulty materials

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. 

P.S. You can learn more about this model by reading our Lowrance Hook review.

Garmin Echomap UHD

Garmin Echomap UHD

BEST FOR SALTWATER

Specs

  • Model: Echomap UHD
  • Type: CHIRP, Clearvu, Sidevu
  • Display: 4.3″ – 9.0″
  • Resolution: 800 x 480 pixels

Pros

  • Offers great mapping capabilities in both fresh and saltwater
  • Wide variety of models, prices, and sizes
  • Various sonar views

Cons

  • Large quantity of models can make it difficult to understand

Why We Chose It

Variety is the spice of life, right? Sometimes, but I don’t know if that’s the case when it comes to fish finding technology. The Garmin Echomap UHD offers a lot of options with a ton of different features.

Sometimes when you have this many options to choose from it can do nothing more than complicate things and make you pass the choice off onto a different fish finder.

That said, the feature that stands out most here is the mapping technology of the Echomap UHD. They offer Worldwide Basemap, US Lakevu G3, and Bluechart G3 which is the one I want to focus on.

Most fish finders offer US Inland Lakes on their mapping but very few fish finders offer coastal mapping and charting capabilities. You’ll get that if you opt for the Bluechart G3 in the Echomap UHD. It comes with access to fishing information and maps for all coastal fishing, canals, and ocean water.

You’ll get data with 1-foot contours off the east and west coast as well as the Gulf of Mexico and Canadian Great Lakes. I’ve never reviewed a fish finder with this feature and I find it to be the main standout and purchase point of the Echomap.

If you’re a coastal, canal, or saltwater angler, you’ll want to give this one a deeper look. You can check out our complete review of the Garmin Echomap UHD here.

Side Note: If you don’t have a ton of money to drop on a fish finder, then I highly suggest checking out the Garmin ECHOMAP Plus. In my opinion, it’s one of the best fish finders under $500.

JOYWEE 3.5” Phiradar Fish Finder

JOYWEE 3.5” Phiradar Fish Finder

Specs

  • Model: FF688C
  • Type: Dual Beam Transducer
  • Display: Full Color 3.5”
  • Dimensions: 7 x 7 x 5”

FEATURED SPECS

  • This fish finder is ideal for beginner anglers looking to start identifying fish on a fish finder.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • It helps show you changes in the contour of the ground beneath the water while also helping you pick up on the location of schools of fish.

BUYING ADVICE

  • It comes with many different sensitivity settings, so if you fish many different lakes and water bodies, you might like this one.

Pros

  • Straightforward to use
  • Great for beginners
  • Easy to mount

Cons

  • Not as detailed as some other options

Types of Fish Finders

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. 

Standard 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. 

Chirp Sonar

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). 

Down Imaging

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. 

Side Imaging

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.

If you’re new to fish finders and need a more in-depth explanation, I highly suggest reading our guide on how to read a fish finder.

Features to Look For When Choosing a Fish Finder

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. 

Transducer

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. 

Mounting 

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. 

Cone Angle

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.  

Display

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. 

Screen Resolution

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.

Size

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. 

Power

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. 

Frequency 

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. 

GPS Capabilities

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) 

FAQ’s

What is a fish finder?

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. 

How to install a fish finder?

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. 

How to read a fish finder?

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. 

Are fish finders waterproof?

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 from Deeper, 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.

Final Thoughts

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!