In the industry of sport anglers there is no shortage of cool gadgets, tools, and products that are designed to help you catch more fish. One tool, though, stands above them all and its sole purpose is to do that better than any other tool on the market. That one tool is the fish finder. Everything else may aid in attracting more fish but this one actually boasts finding your next wall trophy or main course.
Without this device you are left to taking advice from friends, relatives, and other doubtful sources on where the newest honey hole is at. Or worse yet, you are at the mercy of chance and hope the spot you have chosen is the right one. Fish finders are also an invaluable resource that can make the difference between having a full live well and coming home empty handed.
But even the most seasoned angler can be overwhelmed by the dizzying amount of features and specs that go with this useful fishing device. This guide will help decipher the tech language and cut through all the clutter of expensive extras that can come with a fish finder. Ultimately finding the right one will depend on what boat you have and what type of fishing you are going to do.
- Our Picks: Top 10 Best Fish Finders in 2018 – 2019
- Why You Need A Fish Finder
- Types of Fish Finders and Their Features
- 8 Main Features of Fishfinders
- Our Favorites Selected: Fish Finder Reviews
- How To Read A Fish Finder
Our Picks: Top 10 Best Fish Finders in 2018 – 2019
Last update on 2020-01-22 at 09:30 / Affiliate disclosure / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Why You Need A Fish Finder
Essentially fishfinders allow anglers to see a realistic images of the activity beneath their boats so they can identify fish. There are many factors to consider when choosing a fishfinder. Units have features for varying experience levels and fishing needs. Many first time buyers are easily confused by the options.
We have put together a buying guide of some common features you will find when buying a fishfinder. So whether it’s your first or tenth fishfinder, this resource will help you make the right choice and ensure you shop for the device that will best suit your particular needs.
Types of Fish Finders and Their Features
There are three types of fishfinders available; standalone fishfinders that have one function, combination fishfinders that includes a chartplotter, and networked systems that offers plenty of potential functions.
Standalone fish finder: This allows committed fish finders to see what’s below on the largest display with great performance. These cost the least and deliver great results. A standalone fishfinder is perfect for users with a small boat and fishing on small inland lakes.
Combination fish finder/chartplotter: Combination units are a great fit for owners with a mid-sized boat. They include a GPS for navigation to the fishing grounds, split screen views for both the chartplotter and finder, with an option to view only the fishfinder.
Networked system: This type is considered the luxury model. The fully networked systems support a huge range of data sources including radar, raster and vector GPS charts, video, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Some also feature Bluetooth/WiFi, remote control from your iPhone or Android smartphone. These models are also great for medium-sized or large vessels.
Display Options: Consider screen size, color, and resolution. These three factors generally determine how much you will pay for your device. Prices go from basic to more advanced models. The display you choose depends what you need, the size of your boat and how far out you will fish.
Does Screen Size Matter?
Screen size is another facet of your fishfinder that you should give some thought. Normally, the lower-end units are always smaller. This is a good option as a back-up plan but for your main unit a larger unit is ideal. As a rule of thumb, go for the largest unit you can afford. The bigger your screen the greater your viewing surface. This means better quality, accessibility to structure, digital readouts and chart plotting that’s easier to see and identify.
Many entry-level models have really tiny screens no bigger than a cell phone. Even you can find fish you may have trouble showing them on the screen.
Does Picture Quality Matter?
A fish finder will not be useful if you can’t interpret what the signal is sending back to the unit. If a bass, rock, tree, or lake bottom are too fuzzy then all you got is a nice boat ornament. Go for a unit that has an optimal picture quality. Some units with higher frequencies depict a sharp image but are usually on the higher end of the price range. Opting for a medium priced one will give you good picture quality.
Color Vs. Black & White Screens
Choosing between color and black & white depends on if you fishing is a hobby or source of living. Color offers greater screen definition. The fish structure pops and you see the different hues making it easier to identify. Color screens are easier to see in bright light and observing them under dark situations. The advantage of color screens show the various colors for echo reading.
Gray scale screens only show shades of gray. This simply means using more interpretation. Generally stronger echo means stronger colors. Black-and-white displays still have their place but for a much different price.
The market now offer HD (high definition) screens. The units are realistic with the best quality and maximum realism. The maps are life like. Although the HD unit are more expensive, that doesn’t compare to great quality display. The picture quality matters only if you want to have an advanced fishing experience.
Do You Need A GPS Unit?
Having GPS capability depends again on how often you fish and where you’re planning to go. If you fish at a local lake or river it may not be necessary. But if you plan on going far out in the ocean GPS is a must for obvious safety reasons. GPS is an added precaution that could save you time and increase your catch. The more expensive models have a built-in GPS and are compatible with various charting packages, a lot of details, and accurate mapping.
Portable vs Fixed
Anglers can choose to purchase a fish finder that is permanently affixed to their craft, or one that is taken on and off with ease.
Those who rent boats, ice fish or go on fly-in retreats may choose the portable because it offers versatility: can be used various situations, compact size and easy to carry when traveling. They also perform like the fixed models, so they will not lose out on any features.
Fishfinders are an essential addition to your fishing arsenal. They are guaranteed to increase your catch rates and let’s be honest who would deny themselves that chance? Spend less time in the water looking for a great spot and spend more time reeling them in. These devices can truly impact the way you fish so choose wisely.
8 Main Features of Fishfinders
Frequency: Frequency is the sonar waves sent out and that come back to a device called a transducer. Transducer usually come in the 50, 83, 192 or 200 kHz range. Why frequency is such a big factor is the fact that the higher the frequency the better picture quality you get.
Power: One of the most important features you want to look out for is what kind of power output does the unit have. Fish finders measure power by wattage. The higher the wattage the faster it can send and receive a signal that translates the signal into the picture on the screen. If the unit has a low power output then picture quality might be fuzzy and images could be delayed. Low powered units only work well in shallow water.
Screen Resolution: How sharp a screen resolution will be determined by how many pixels a it has. A pixel is a tiny dot combined together with other pixels to form an image. The more pixels you have the better the image you are going to have on the screen.
Color or B/W Screens: Color screens are going to be much better at distinguishing objects and distance. A black and white screen is going to cost less but will be more subtle due to the fact it’s dealing in shades of gray rather than contrasting colors.
Transducers: Transducers are the main component that sends the sonar signal out to bounce off objects. It receives the signal back to send to the main unit that forms it into a picture we can understand.
Cone Angles: This refers to what shape the path of the sonar signal is. As the signal travels out from the transducer the shape gets gradually larger mirroring an upside down cone. The larger the cone shape the wider an area that is covered.
Beams: The beams are the cones angles that produced by the transducer. As you upgrade your fish finder you can have many beams that come in dual, triple and sideways. The more beams you have the wider area for the fish finder to cover.
Transducer Material: Transducers can come in a variety of materials they are made of but the most common is a plastic housing. Most recreational fishing boats are made of fiberglass so a plastic housing is perfect match. If you have a wooden boat it’s better to use transducer with a metallic housing such as bronze instead of plastic. Wood expands and would damage the plastic housing on the unit and could cause a leak.
Our Favorites Selected: Fish Finder Reviews
If you’d like a little more information on some of the models listed in the chart up above, then you’re in luck. We’ve selected some of our favorite models and given you some mini reviews to let you know just a little more about these devices. We firmly believe that any of these make a great addition to your fishing gear.
Lowrance Elite-3X Fishfinder (with 83/200 Transducer) Review
The Lowrance 000-11448-001 Elite-3X Fishfinder with 83/200 Transducer is a high quality, top of the line fish finder with all of the necessary add ons to make your fishing experience great. With a 3.5″ color LCD screen, a mount transducer, and a 83/200KHz fish finder this device helps to increase your chances of you walking away from your next fishing trip with a great catch.
This fish finder provides better quality details of the fish below you, an increase in transducer life, and minimal battery use with a Broadband Sonar that provides ten times the sensitivity that other finders have. It securely fits to your boat with an included mounting kit and has a very low weight ideal for use in smaller boats such as kayaks and has excellent, easy to read graphics. The multi-optional screen brightness gives you various options that make seeing the screen easy-day or night and is a great device for those learning to spot fish.
Overall, this is an excellent device that provides avid fishers with high quality graphics, a sensitive fish finder, and low weight which is ideal for smaller sized boats.
Humminbird Helix 7 DI Fishfinder with Down Imaging Sonar Review
Need help finding all the fish? The Helix 7 DI Fishfinder has state-of-the-art fish finding technology packed into a dependable, rugged, yet light weight side kick. It delivers a clear, bright picture with 480 X 800 resolution along with 1500 night brightness. The side-by-side screens allow you to navigate and track fish at the same time. Some the best features of this fishfinder model include its Made in the USA label, built in quick-release gimbal mount, simple to install, one of the clearest pictures on the market, and it will look great mounted on your boat.
Garmin Striker 4DV Review
The Garmin 010-01551-00 Striker 4DV is a GPS for the fishing adventurer. Built to go into the great outdoors, this GPS receiver can stand up to even the harshest marine environments. It will map your favorite fishing spots using stumps, logs, and other landmarks and has a display speed to let you know your trolling speed. Includes CHIRP sonar to help with targets. Also has a built in flasher perfect for the ice fisher and for vertical jigging. Some of the greatest advantages of this GPS device is that it’s easy to install and a great product for the advanced fish finder.
Humminbird Helix 7 SI GPS/Fishfinder with Side Imaging Sonar Review
The Humminbird 409850-1 Helix 7 SI GPS/Fishfinder with Side Imaging Sonar is a state-of-the-art navigator and GPS tracker in one. It has Side and Down Imaging, high-deg 480 X 800 pixel resolution, and a Glases-Bonded Display. This all means that this product will give you clear pictures despite the position of the sun. Some of the best advantages of this fishfinder include its non-glare screen even on sunny days, easy to navigate buttons, easy overall system to learn, and easily mounts on a boat so you can use your hands for fishing.
Garmin Echo 551dv Worldwide with Transducer Review
With the Garmin Echo you’ll be finding – and catching – fish in no time. Simply split the screen horizontally and vertically to view both the navigator and the fishfinder screen. This product delivers a clear, detailed picture of the fish structure in a 5-inch high-resolution VGA color display. Comes with a Smooth Scaling feature that allows for an easy, clear transition back and forth from shallow to deep water at 2,300 foot maximum depth. Some of the other great features of this fishfinder include easy installation, easily removes from boat when not in use, and the color screen makes it easy to read the picture on a sunny day.
How To Read A Fish Finder
If this is going to be your first time using one of these devices, then I suggest that you take a moment to check out the two videos below. It gives you tips on reading the output that you see on the screen. This first video is where you should start.
If you still have questions because your device has additional features, then take a moment to watch the additional video below.
top image credit: http://www.hawkeyeelectronics.com/