Author: Matt Ascough
Last Updated: July, 2019

fish finders

Want to catch more fish? We check out the best fish finders on the market in 2019

As the saying goes, a bad days fishing is better than a good days working (no idea who said it but it sounds right in my book), 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 rundown on what to look for and some reviews on some of the best models of fish finders on the market today.

Different types of fish finders

With so many fish finders on the market, we have broken them down into 3 main categories. This will make it easier for you to decide on what type of fish finder is best for your style of fishing.

MOUNTABLE / FIxed

Mountable fish finders can be easily attached to a small boat of kayak temporarily. This is great for travelers or anglers using rental boats.

PORTABLE & Handheld

This is a combination of a small fish finder unit along with a special portable kit consisting of carry case, mounts, portable transducer and a rechargeable 12v battery.

CASTABLE / Wireless

A new style of fish finder very popular with  landbased anglers. Anglers cast a floating transducer which transmits data to their smartphone via wifi.

 Brand/ModelScreensizeBeamGPSWeightFixed/PortablePrice 
Lowrance Hook 2-55" HorizontalDownscan and ChirpYes3.5lbsFixedCheck Price
Humminbird HELIX 5 SI/GPS Combo5" HorizontalDual / Side & Down ImagingYes4.1lbsFixedCheck Price
Garmin Striker Plus 44.3" VerticalDual-beam with ChirpYes14.4ozFixedCheck Price
Lowrance FishHunter PROn/aTri-FrequencyYes via Phone6.4ozPortableCheck Price
Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ Portable GPS/Wireless Fish Findern/aNarrow & WideYes via Phone3.5ozPortableCheck Price

”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.

Focus Fishing Matt

Best Fish Finders 2019 - Reviews

MOUNTABLE/FIXED FISH FINDER

1. Lowrance Hook 2-5 Fish Finder GPS Combo

Quality unit with lots of features!

With it’s 5″ color TFT display, the Hook 2-5 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 SplitShot feature which pairs Sonar with DownScan imaging technology. The Hook 2-5 produces amazing imagery which allows you to identify structure, bait and target fish in great detail. Downscan technology really is a game changer when it comes to fish finders, it’s amazing the clarity they provide. And the ability to also show Chirp sonar means you will never miss a fish

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, Downscan and GPS, the Hook 2-5 is one not to miss out on.

MOUNTABLE/FIXED FISH FINDER

2. Humminbird HELIX 5 SI/GPS Combo

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!

MOUNTABLE/FIXED + PORTABLE FISH FINDER

3. Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual-beam

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 Striker 4 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 dual-beam transducer includes a 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.

PORTABLE / WIRELESS FISH FINDER

4. Lowrance FishHunter PRO

The world’s fastest tri-frequency fish finder

Following in the steps of other castable/wifi fish finders, Lowrance has released their own version which is sure to please. It is packed with features and really is a game changer for landbased or ice fishers. With multiple views including raw, fish and ice flasher view, you will be spotting fish under any fishing circumstances.

With a WIFI range of 150ft you will be able to cover a lot of area with speeds 4x faster than bluetooth and no requirement for an internet connection.

Probably the biggest feature is the tri-frequency transducer that rotates between 3 different frequencies to give you the highest resolution possible.

Our Verdict: We really like the castable wifi fish finders and this one is certainly up there with the best.

PORTABLE / WIRELESS FISH FINDER

5. Deeper Pro Wireless Fish Finder

Gamechanging sonar technology!

The Deeper Pro Wireless Sonar fish finder is paving the way for handheld / portable fish finders. No longer do you need a boat with a fixed transducer, the Deeper Pro allows all types of fisherman to utilise sonar when targeting fish.

Scan the river bottom whilst winding in and the sonar data will be transmitted to your phone via wifi.

Use the available smartphone app to save scan data and identify features such as structure and fish.

Our Verdict: This is really changing the game when it comes to fish finders! Perfect for landbased or kayak anglers looking to improve their catch rates

How to Choose the Best Fish Finder!

There are a lot of different fish finders out there for you to sift through (even specific ice fishing fish finders), and with so many extra features, it’s easy to feel lost at sea looking for the right device for your purposes, or even location… as you might even need a different fish sounder depending on if you’re fishing on Lake Tahoe, or Riggs Lake, for example. 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

Transducer

The transducer is an aspect of your fish finder that is used to send out sound waves and give you an idea of what is lurking underneath the water’s surface  (assuming you got a decent trolling motor to get you out there). 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 watercraft. You’ll also find that a larger thru-hull unit is available for fibreglass 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

Just like the display of an underwater fishing camera, 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.

fish finder display
fish finder frequency

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.

cone angle
portable fish finders

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 in the USA (or wherever on the planet) you’d like to explore using 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.

gps fish finder
downscan

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:

fish finder brands

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!

Fish Finder FAQ’s

What is a fish finder?

A fish finder is a device that sends out ultrasonic electrical waves at certain frequencies and when the waves bounce back to the unit it determines the depth of the water. When these waves hit something harder than water, ie a fish, the waves will return to the unit quicker than previously signalling something other than the bottom on the sonar.

What types of fish finders are there?

There are a wide range of fish finders on the market today, with new technology being released by the top brands regularly. The most common types of fish finders include

  • Portable or Handheld
  • Fixed/Mounted
  • Ice Fishing or Flasher
  • Wireless / Castable

Within in type of fish finder, there are different technologies used. It is amazing how accurate fish finders have become at displaying the bottom of lakes and rivers as well as detecting fish. Not only do fish finders scan the bottom, they can also scan out to the side of your boat, a technology called Sidescan. More recently, Livescan and 3D scan have been introduced which again, provide even more accurate representations of fish and structure.

What does GPS mean

If your fish finder includes GPS it means it has a Global Positional System which allows you to view your location on a map, no matter where in the United States or America you are (or the world for that matter). This is great for navigating rivers and lakes and placing pins or marks on the map when you locate a good fishing spot or catch a fish. Most fish finders on the market today will include GPS and it is a great safety feature especially when fishing far offshore.

What frequency do fish finders operate at?

Most fish finder transducers will operate at varied frequencies ranging from 50kHz to 200kHz with some units going up to 400kHz. Basically the higher the frequency the more detail you will see on your fish finder.

What fish finder brand is best?

The most popular and leading brands in the fish finder market include: Humminbird, Garmin, Lowrance, Raymarine, Deeper, Vexilar, Furuno. Not all brands will make models suitable for all types of fishing so be sure to check out what they offer first. Humminbird, Garmin, Lowrance have a wide range of sizes and styles available to suit most fishing methods.

Are fish finders waterproof?

Whilst the majority of fish finder head units are NOT waterproof, the transducers most certainly are as these are more often than not mounted below the water level. There are a number of waterproof units being released which act as wireless castable units which transmit back to a smart phone. Standard fish finder units should always be kept away from water, and a cover is advisable if left out exposed.

How do I install a fish finder?

There are many ways to install a fish finder. The most common way for a small boat is a transom mount. This involves mounting the transducer at the rear of the boat just below the water level. The power cord is then fixed either to the side of the boat or through the rear hull and then connected to the head unit. Another method is the thru-hull mount. This is a little trickier but does not involve any interference / screwing  to your boat hull. The transducer is fixed inside the hull of the boat often inside a small container filled with silicon to ensure no gaps or air is between the transducer and the hull. This allows for an uninterrupted signal being sent from the transducer through into the water.

Can I use a fish finder on a kayak?

Yes you most certainly can. Many companies make dedicated fish finders that are ideal for kayaks due to their size and features. With space limited on a kayak and also mounting restrictions, be sure to select a fish finder that is suitable. A small vertical screen fish finder will use up less space than a wide 9” unit. Transducers can either be mounted within the hull, through the scupper holes, or over the side using a transducer bracket mount.

Do fish finders show water temperature

Yes, the majority of fish finders will have a temperature guage within the transducer. If your transducer is mounted in the water then you will get a good reading of the current water temp. If your transducer is hull mounted, your reading may be off a few degrees. Knowing the water temp will allow you to determine what types of fish may be at your location.

How do I read a fish finder?

Most fish finder screens will display the same, unless of course you are using a new technology such as downscan, sidescan or 3d scan. A typical chirp sonar will show the hard bottom as a yellow band with blue below it. Generally there will be no colour (or a solid colour) between the water surface (top of the screen) and the bottom. When there are disturbances or other marks showing suspended from the bottom these can be either fish or floating debris such as seaweed. Generally the thicker and bigger the mark, the larger the fish. Keep an eye out for arches, as these are more than likely fish. A large ball can often be a bait ball so keep an eye out for larger dots or blobs around the ball as this is where predatory fish will be.