Catching Fish is great, but first you have to find them!

As the saying goes, a bad days fishing is better than a good day working, so imagine how good it would be if you could catch fish everytime you went fishing! Bloody awesome right!! Well the best way to get an advantage on finned friends is through the use of a Fish Finder. This page will give you a run down on what to look for and some reviews on some of the best models of fish finders on the market today.

What to look for in a fish finder

With so many different versions of fish finders on the market, it’s hard to know what one to pick. First off, you should determine what type of fishing you are doing, and what your target fish are, then do you need just a sonar or gps combo?.

The most common features of a fish finder include:

  • simple sonar fish finder
  • GPS
  • single beam, dual beam, chirp, downscan & sidescan imaging
  • portable/handheld

Best Fish Finders 2018: Our Top 5 Picks

 Brand/ModelScreensizeBeamGPSWeightFixed/PortableReviewPrice 
Lowrance Elite 5 HDILowrance Elite-5 HDI Combo5" HorizontalHybrid Dual with DownscanYes3.5lbsFixedLowrance Elite 5 HDI ReviewFrom $500
Garmin Echomap ChirpGarmin echoMAP CHIRP 43dv4" VerticalChirpYes14.4ozFixedGarmin echoMAP ReviewFrom $260
Humminbird HELIX 5Humminbird HELIX 5 SI/GPS Combo5" HorizontalDual / Side & Down ImagingYes4.1lbsFixedHumminbird HELIX 5 ReviewFrom $500
Deeper ProDeeper Smart Sonar PRO+ Portable GPS/Wireless Fish Findern/aNarrow & WideYes via Phone3.5ozPortablen/aFrom $200
SimradSimrad GO7 XSE Chartplotter/GPS/Fishfinder with Totalscan7" HorizontalChirp/TotalscanYes7.8lbsFixedn/aFrom $649

“There is nothing I love more than fishing. It’s a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of day to day life and just relax. The thrill of the catch and the places that fishing takes you all add to a great past-time. Thankfully working for Focus Fishing gives me the opportunity to mix business with pleasure and wet and line as much as possible.

I highly recommend the use of a fish finder when exploring new ground, or simply to locate previous GPS marks. The technology these days is amazing with sidescan and downscan imaging and it makes locating and identify fish and also structure so much easier.

Tight lines!”

Matt, Focus Fishing.

Fish Finder Comparison: Our Top 3 in detail

1. Lowrance Elite-5 HDI Fish Finder GPS Combo

Perfect for: Small to Medium Sized boats, lake, bay and offshore

Quality unit with lots of features! With it’s 5″ color TFT display, the Elite 5 HDI has superb resolution making it great to use day or night. The added backlit keypad makes navigating the menu and options a breeze. 

The main selling point is definitely the HDI (Hybrid Dual Imagining). The HDI produces amazing imagery which allows you to identify structure, bait and target fish in great detail. HDI & Downscan technology really is a game changer when it comes to fish finders, it’s amazing the clarity they provide.

Included with this fish finder model is a GPS chartplotter with the ability to store over 3000 waypoints and 100 routes to ensure you always know where you are and never lose your best fishing spots.

Our Verdict: All up this is our best pick! It’s a full featured unit, stylish design and most importantly it is easy to use. With features such as Sonar, HDI/Downscan and GPS, the Elite 5 is one not to miss out on.

Lowrance Elite-5 HDI Fish Finder GPS Combo

2. Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 43dv

Perfect for: Small boats, kayaks. Lakes, rivers, bay

Good things come in small packages! 

For those looking to get into the market with a small fish finder unit then this model is ideal. Perfect for small boats or kayaks, the Garmin EchoMAP provides a great service at a great price.

It may only be small, but the 4.3″ screen provides quality imagery with various screen modes to show both sonar and gps/maps at the same time. The GT20-TM transducer includes temperature sensor which is always an added bonus with multiple mounts included. It has powerful depth capabilities for such a small unit and has the ability to be used offshore, so overall it’s very versatile.

Our Verdict: If you are looking for a quality fish finder for your kayak then this is definitely for you. The GPS is highly accurate and it can even be used offshore.

Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 43dv

3. Humminbird HELIX 5 SI/GPS Combo

Perfect for: Medium to large boats. Rivers, Bay and Offshore.

Serious piece of equipment!

If you are looking for a fish finder with all the bells and whistles then the Humminbird HELIX 5 is it! Sporting a large 5″ screen, the HELIX 5 SI GPS is the first in the HELIX series and includes all 3 sonar types – DualBeam, Down Imaging, Side Imaging.

The powerful transducer with CHIRP and temperature control makes all aspects of imaging a breeze, and no fish will be safe from being found. The abilty to screenshot or record the sonar is handy feature especially if you want to show/review your footage at a later date. The display has LED backlight providing great visibility at night or in direct sunlight and being IPX7 waterproof is always an added bonus.

Our Verdict: If you are looking for a larger unit with great sonar features and GPS then this is a great unit. The large screen size makes viewing sonar and maps at the same time a breeze!

Humminbird HELIX 5 SI/GPS Combo

“Fishing” for the Best Fish Finders: Knowing What to Look For

 

There are a lot of different fish finders out there for you to sift through, and with so many extra features, it’s easy to feel lost at sea looking for the right device for your purposes. Knowing the features that you need and which ones aren’t essential is key to finding a fish finder that meets your standards without breaking the bank!

By knowing what the features you may encounter are, you can easily prioritize which ones you find most important, and which ones you can live without. So, without further ado, here are some of the most common features you’ll encounter when considering different fish finders.

Transducer

The transducer is an aspect of your fish finder that is used to send out sound saves and give you an idea of what is lurking underneath the water’s surface. This works a lot like a radio antenna; it emits a sound wave and receives the returning echoes.

Some features that will be essential in a transducer include the cone angle, installation type, and operating frequency. A transducer is able to be mounted in a variety of locations, so it can sit where it is most convenient to you. It is often mounted on a transom or a trolling motor, or even inside the hull of smaller watercrafts. You’ll also find that a larger thru-hull unit is available for fiberglass boats.

The transducer you choose strongly depends on your cone angle, so select one that will accommodate the type of fishing you participate in. Wider angles will be less effective in deeper waters, while providing a wider view of shallow waters. Keep these things in mind when shopping for your ideal transducer!

Display

Your fish finder’s display is a key feature in how well it works for you. Pay special attention to the display’s color, contrast, detail, and monochrome. These will determine how well you are able to discern the returning sonar signals.

One of the most important things to consider in this regard is how many pixels your display has. The more pixels, the clearer and smoother your image will be, allowing for easy deciphering. Most people think it’s worth shelling out the extra cash for a color display if the budget allows as well. This permits your images to “pop” and make them easier to view under the sun’s bright rays.

A larger screen size also increases your ease of reading! At the end of the day, the right display for you all comes down to your preferences.

Frequency

Most fish finders you encounter will operate either on a very low kilohertz or a very high one. For the fish finders you encounter that operate on the lower side of the spectrum, they tend to hover around 50kHz. For those that are on the upper end of the scale, they can range from 192kHz to 200kHz.

This range depends mostly on the area that you are fishing in, and each frequency option comes with its own inherent advantages. Water is capable of absorbing higher frequencies, so the units that operate on the lower end (around 50kHz) are able to have a deeper penetration. However, they tend to have wider cone angles, meaning you will find less definition and a greater chance of there being distortion.

Units that boast higher frequencies tend to perform at their best in shallower waters. While high-frequency units do not go as deep, they have less susceptibility to distortion and display more definition.

Their methods are the opposite that you will find from low-frequency units, so choosing between high and low frequencies will depend heavily on the location where you are fishing and if it is a deep or shallow water area. Fortunately, you can track down units that operate on both types of frequencies, allowing you to enjoy a crisper image in deep waters.

If you tend to fish in both shallow and deep environments, then you might be best off purchasing one of the units that is able to effortlessly switch back and forth between either frequency.

Cone Angle

We’ve mentioned the cone angle a few times already, in regards to frequencies and transducers. The reason for this is, without your cone angle, neither of these other features would be able to function properly.

When looking for a transducer for a fish finder, many users consider the cone angle to be the most essential feature. The cone angle of a fish finder also works hand-in-hand with its frequency.

Put simply, the cone angle refers to the beam’s width when it is sent out and goes down through the bottom of your fishing boat. This feature is referred to as the cone angle because the shape it begins as is narrow at the top, and steadily widens as it delves deeper into the water – much like a cone.

This feature is also known as the transducer beam angle. A wider angle will result in a wider field of view for your sonar signals. Knowing the full breadth of how it works requires an in-depth understanding of math and physics. The simple version is that a wide angle allows you a wider field of vision, while it also reduces sensitivity when the waters are deeper, which can result in distortion of your image.

Portable vs. Fixed

You may have heard a bit about portable fish finders, and you may have heard them portrayed as an ideal affordable alternative to the more expensive fish finders that require you to fix them in place.

Although portable fish finders continue to become more popular, you truly can’t beat the advanced technology that comes with a traditionally mounted model. Fixed units allow you to mount them just how you want it, and your wires can be hidden with ease by putting them under the floorboards.

Fixed models also offer more stability than portable options, which utilize suction cups to stay in place. They can fall easily at higher speeds for this reason. Fixed units offer more consistency as well, as you don’t need to tune the settings as much as you will with a portable device.

While portable fish finders may seem appealing, it’s best to opt for a fixed model if you can!

GPS Integrated

GPS, or global positioning systems, are something we all love to have on the road – and they are equally convenient in the water!

GPS can be used to find your way back to dry land with ease and map out the coordinates of local lakes and ponds you’d like to explore using a mapping software. You also can mark the spots with the highest fish densities, so you can come back time and time again to take advantage of your rare finds!

Many modern fish finders come equipped with GPS features, but whether or not you need this in your own fish finder comes down to personal preference. They are extremely convenient and helpful. However, it’s best not to spend the money on a more advanced model if you don’t think you’ll ever take advantage of the feature!

Most fish finders with GPS are combination units, able to do both chart plotting and depth sounding. The depth sounder refers to the fish finder device itself, while the chart plotter displays your location constantly, so you don’t need a separate device or rely on questionable cell phone service to know where you are.

Units with GPS also allow for ease in entering different waypoints, so you can mark down structures, launch ramps, or fish. You can select these to revisit them at any time! It’s best to keep these capabilities in mind and decide if you want them for your fishing expeditions to decide if GPS is an important feature to you.

Scanning

There are two methods of scanning that fish finders can conduct: the downscan and the sidescan.

A downscan allows the user to see great detail and even spot individual fish within a structure or school. These are accurate but are typically too powerful for shallower waters. Using them in shallow waters often results in an undecipherable blur. It is also overly focused and can result in a fisher missing activity happening on the boat’s sides.

Sidescans are the other option you might encounter. They are able to scan a vast amount of water, covering a greater area. You don’t need to move your boat directly to the area you are looking to scan, and you can scan undisturbed water. However, you won’t have as effective of results in deeper waters.

Some units offer a combination of both downscan and sidescan, so if you can’t decide between the two, then those models are a great option!

Fish Finder Brands

There are a lot of fish finder brands you’ll see on today’s market, but only a handful offer the high-quality units that fishers can truly rely on for premium fish finders. These brands offer a wide product range, with both standard sonar as well as GPS units.

While the fish finder’s overall function will remain constant, the technology becomes more and more advanced with each new model. Inclusions of things like downscan and sidescan can make finding structures – and fish – much easier. In addition, modern 3D technology is bringing even clearer images to the screen. Some of the most brands most famous for their trustworthy products include:

Durability

A key factor in the right fish finder is durability. The most high-quality options will be able to handle a lot of wear and tear from your fishing adventures and still work flawlessly.

Make sure that your fish finder will be securely mounted and doesn’t break easily for the longest lasting model with the best results! While other features come down to preference, every fisher should look for a fish finder of the utmost durability, so it will last you for years to come!

How to use and read a fish finder

The following video will provide quality information on how to use and read a Lowrance Fish Finder. The same principles can be applied to the wide variety of other fish finders on the market today, however some fish finders will have more or less features, such as sidescan, downscan and GPS plotting.