We know that buyers can get confused when it comes to purchasing fishfinders. That’s why we’ve invested a lot of time in completing a thorough research. We would like to give a helping hand to all users out there who are a little puzzled as to which features are a must and which they can do without.
Since the price of some models can be as high as $1,000 or even more, it is very important to read as many fish finder reviews as possible. Other buyers’ opinions are often unbiased and will tell you exactly what you need to know about one unit or another.
Additionally, we’ve selected a number of models that we think are the best. Do not feel compelled to take our word for it, as we’re only here to help. All of the following information has been collected in countless hours of researching the market, so if you think buying the right fishfinder is a daunting task, just have a look at the buying guide.
What do fishfinders actually do?
Fishfinders are sometimes unjustly frowned upon because the only thing they can’t really do is catch the fish for you. Although they’re pretty complex electronic devices, what you need to know is that they’re basically made of two very important parts: an LCD display screen and a transducer.
As for how they actually work, the easiest explanation is that all of the info that you get to see is produced using sonar technology. The device lets out a sound wave that penetrates the water and forms a beam in the shape of a cone.
Each manufacturer will set a cone angle, but information related to this angular measurement is usually left out from product descriptions.
While some fishfinders come with a single beam, others such as models manufactured by Humminbird feature multi-beam sonar technology. This last detail makes it possible for the unit to send out between 2 and 6 sonar beams, which do a great job at covering a larger area, particularly compared to the ones that come with a single beam.
Cone angles can vary from 20 degrees to 110 degrees. What does this mean for you? An angular measurement of 20 degrees will do alright if you plan on fishing in shallow waters, as the unit can scan up to ⅓ of 10-ft water. By contrast, fishfinders that come with 110 degrees are more than capable of scanning up to 2.85 x depth of the same 10-ft water.
Choosing a particular model is a subjective matter, as the performance of the device generally depends on the type of the provided transducer, but also on factors that can’t be controlled, such as water temperature and water clarity.
What makes the best fish finder the best?
Here’s what you need to look for if you want to get the right unit for your own needs.
When it comes to buying fishfinders, screen size matters a lot. Ancient models come with sizes of screens that resemble the one in old cell phones. They’ll do a good job at detecting fish, but you’ll have trouble actually seeing it. Cheap basic fishfinders come with grayscale screens, and this is another reason why you might have a hard time visualizing your catch.
We recommend considering a color model that features downscan/down imaging, as this function is responsible for creating picture-like images.
Resolution is yet another detail to reflect upon. In this case, the rule is simple: the more pixels, the more detail.
Transducers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but to pick the right model you need to know the material your hull is made of. For instance, transducers made of plastic work great for fiberglass or metal hulls, while the bronze ones are perfect for wood hulls. Some produce a narrow beam that will work for deep waters, while others capture wider displays that are fit for fishing in shallow waters.
Power and frequency
We’ve decided to address the power and frequency matters altogether because they’re closely related. Higher wattage is recommended for people who want to look at clear images that are produced quickly and efficiently. Fewer watts will trigger a slower reading and fuzzy images.
As for frequency, the higher it is, the more detail you’ll be able to see displayed. For example, a 50 KHz frequency at 100Watts will provide readings of up to 400 ft in depth, while a frequency of 200 KHz at the same power will get you readings of up to 100 ft in depth.
All things considered, fishing in shallow waters doesn’t ask for much power, but the opposite goes for deep ones. Consequently, the 50 KHz frequency we were mentioning will be perfect for deep waters. Our advice is to pick a model that comes with customizable frequency, particularly if you ever plan on going on a fishing expedition in the ocean.
This feature is a must for people who tend to fish far away from home. If you live in an area that’s constantly affected by hurricanes and other hazardous natural phenomena, the GPS or a cartography system will bring you back home safely. Weather info is a plus.
What is a good price for a fish finder?
Regular units can traditionally be purchased for as little as $75 or $100. If you want to get the best portable fish finder or just a kayak fish finder, you’re likely to spend somewhere between $150 and $200.
Extra features such as GPS and side imaging will inevitably lead to higher costs, which is why these more advanced models can cost between $300 and $500. If you’re prepared to invest in your game, you can even browse units over $1,000.
Even in the case of fishfinders some brands are more trustworthy than others. We have come to the conclusion that most customers eventually purchase lifelong models manufactured by the following three companies: Garmin, Lowrance and Humminbird. To each its own: units coming from Lowrance and Humminbird are slightly more expensive than the ones coming from Garmin.
However, the first two often offer a set of features that is breathtakingly cutting-edge. If you are not picky about the resolution or the amount of detail you are be able to see, you can always have a look at some cheaper Garmin models. Reading some reviews always helps with making up your mind.
Top products we recommend for the following categories:
Best do-it-all fish finder – The best of the best
Lowrance 000-11448-001 Elite-3X
This is a basic yet appropriately accurate model, that can be purchased from many retailers including Amazon for as little as $99. It features a 3.5-inch color LCD display and a customizable frequency of 83/200KHz. The screen resolution stands at 240 x 360, so this is a pretty small-sized model.
The transducer of this one is transom mount. As for the angular measurement, since the item features a Broadband Sounder, you’ll have the opportunity to accurately visualize your catch. This feature makes it possible for users to have a look at the fish arches, bottom contour and even structure details.
The manufacturers are offering a 1-year warranty on parts and labor.
Buyers had nothing but good things to say about this product. It’s been characterized as the ideal small unit that’s easy to install and use. Some customers emphasized that it offers a great set of functions along with high-quality images.
Best portable fish finder
Deeper Smart Portable
This is clearly one of the most versatile models we’ve come across, as it’s fit for use on tablets and smartphones. It’s a portable fishfinder considering the fact that all you need to operate it is the transducer. It comes with a dual beam frequency of 90/290 KHz which can be used for scanning up to 130-ft of water depth.
The really neat thing about the model is the free mobile application. The app’s responsible for providing info such as maps, weather, calendar and even social media sharing. The transducer features a rechargeable battery that can be used for up to 4 hours of continuous usage. Since it’s so versatile, it can practically be used for any type of fishing, kayak and ice fishing included.
With more than 100 5-star ratings, it would be difficult to say that this item has not gathered some of the best fishfinder reviews out there.
Best ice fishing fish finder
Vexilar FL-8se Genz Pack with 19 Degree Ice Flasher
Things are different when it comes to buying an ice fishing fish finder, as they don’t look or feel the way regular devices do. This particular model can be bought for as little as $325-$350 and comes with a series of features that clearly are hard to say no to.
The product offers a 12-volt 7-amp battery complete with its own charger and a built-in transducer. If you ever feel like installing or using the unit seems like too much of a hassle, just watch the instructional video provided by the manufacturer with the model.
Six depth ranges are available with this device, with anything from 20 to 120 feet. The three color LED display makes it possible for users to see targets depending on how approachable they are. Weak ones are displayed in green, medium ones in orange and strong bottom ones in red.
The manufacturers are offering a two-year warranty for the fishfinder and a one-year warranty for the battery.
Best kayak fish finder
Garmin Echo 101 US and Canada with Transducer
As previously mentioned, Garmin is known for manufacturing fish finders that are somewhat more affordable compared to their Lowrance and Humminbird counterparts. The same goes for this unit, considering that it can be bought for less than $100.
This is a basic kayak device that will do a great job thanks to its dual-beam transducer with transom mount. But wait, that’s not all. The unit even offers customers a trolling motor mount.
An advantage of buying this model is that it comes with a long 20-inch transducer cable, which practically makes it a great choice for any type of boat.
This is an 8-level grayscale fishfinder with a resolution of 160 x 256, so it will produce more than decent images. It features a frequency of 200 KHz and a power of 1,600 watts.
Users speak highly of how easy it is to install and operate, emphasizing that it offers great value for the price.
Best marine fish finder with GPS
Humminbird 409610-1 Helix 5
This is the best fishfinder for the money, even though it might look like $300 is a little out of your budget. If you enjoy fishing in deep waters like the sea or the ocean, you’ll try to save some bucks and get it, though. It comes with a 5-inch color display and a resolution of 480 by 800. Side imaging and down imaging are two innate features of this product.
The unit offers a dual-beam transducer that has a whopping power of 4000 watts.
As is the case with other products of the line, the frequency of this one can also be customized. Users can choose between the 83 or the 200 KHz one.
Since marine fishfinders are useless without a GPS system, Humminbird took care of the issue and equipped this model with the latest technology in mapping and cartography. The item’s compatible with a series of chart cards, including Navionics Gold and Hot Maps.
The manufacturers are offering a one-year warranty for this one.
Best side-imaging fish finder
Humminbird 409380-1 398ci Side Imagining Combo
As we’ve already emphasized at the end of the buying guide, side imaging and down imaging are two extra features that make the image picture-like. Models that offer this function are usually more expensive, and this is also the case of this one. It can be bought for approximately $420. Regardless of its price, it’s gathered some outstanding reviews, which are mostly related to the quality of the provided images.
The screen is a color 3.5-inch TFT display that offers a resolution of 320 by 240. Exceptional power is part of the game, thanks to the 4000 peak-to-peak wattage.
Additional features include an internal GPS that can constantly be updated by users via the SD card. Waypoint saving is included in the deal.
The transducer comes with the pack and has a 15-ft cable.
Customers have described it as the right choice for small dash mount boats. Most buyers are impressed with the value it offers for the price.
As a final word, we’d like to wish you a pleasant stay and let you know that we are here to help. Our core mission is to offer you info that will help you to make the right decision, both in terms of product quality and in terms of your personal budget.
Some key takeaways include assessing your own needs and deciding on the model you need to purchase depending on the boat you own, and on the waters you want to fish in. Try to pick a reputable brand over a relatively new one and try to stay away from second-hand fishfinders.
Technology today is evolving at a quick pace, which is why you’ll regret buying a used, old model at some point or the other. Furthermore, new items come with warranties that allow you to benefit from all the necessary help on the side of customer support.