When it comes to purchasing the best fish finder, it proves to be quite a daunting task, especially for those who are inexperienced. That is because there are several brands on the market and every one of them has several unique features. So, let us give you a basic understanding and a guide on what to look out for in a good fish finder, as well as provide you with ample choices by reviewing three fish finders.
Best Fish Finder: The Important Factors
A fish finder is way more than just a sonar-equipped box. There is a ton of thought, design, and development that goes into this device. Sadly, only a handful of fishers are completely aware of all the essential features of a fish finder. Hence, for you to make the right decision, we will briefly discuss some of the top features that this device must possess.
- Cone Angle
In a fish finder, the cone angle will represent the “net” and how wide the signal coverage is once it gets cast into the water and reaches the bottom of your boat. The rule is: the cone should be wider if the water is deep. However, you must note that the wider the cone angle, the lesser the sensitivity of the device. That is why some fishermen opt for more than one finder so that the cone angles will overlap on the same spot.
Generally, the range of cone angles is between 15 and 20 degrees. Nonetheless, some fish finders can have a cone angle of just nine degrees while some may have up to 60 degrees.
50-200 kHz is considered to be the most common type of frequency. Today, new models of fish finders are equipped with several choices of frequencies. This will let you effortlessly switch back and forth or even use both at the same time if the product has a split screen viewing mode.
It goes without saying that if the fish finder has a higher frequency, then it is far better. The reason is that the image displayed on your screen will have more details. Nevertheless, this rule does not apply to all. In fact, some fishermen say that in shallow waters, higher frequencies work much better while commercial fishers tend to opt for finders with low frequencies when fishing in deep seas.
The transducers are a part of the fish finder that sends and receives sonar signals underwater. No matter what kind of fishing activity you do, it will require a transducer that is properly configured. This is because it will also be able to send the signal from a deep ocean.
With that said, it is essential to ask yourself whether you need sonar images that are 25 to 50 feet under your boat or do you need to go deeper than that. Some fishermen, though, choose to have more than one finder so that they can increase the coverage range.
The power of a fish finder gets measured in terms of wattage. This determines the speed at which the sonar is able to operate. Of course, it is always wise to opt for a finder that has very high wattage rating as it will be able to give you results quickly.
- GPS Capabilities
If you need a good fish finder, you must select one that comes with GPS capabilities. You wouldn’t want to pick up a fish finder and then separately purchase another navigation tool. Not only does that increase the cost but also makes things more confusing. Finders that come with GPS capabilities allow fishers to save on their device the spot where they were the most successful at catching fishes. Additionally, they also use the mark points if they find something submerged or something that’s interesting.
Over the last couple of years, the portability of a fish finder has become quite an important feature. That is for the reason that, in quite a few situations, having a portable finder is far better, especially if you are in the seas with a small boat or a kayak as it will not add too much weight. Portable fish finders are ideal for fishing in lakes and ponds or small bodies of water. Thus, if you constantly go into open oceans, then we suggest you consider the traditional fish finders only.
- Durability and Design
You would think that the design of a fish finder plays no role in its proper function. However, the shape of the finder and the placement of the button are indeed quite valuable. That is because those features can make your fishing experience more comfortable. Also, a finder’s durability is also paramount; same goes with waterproof and weather resistant features. In addition, if you regularly fish in saltwater, make sure you select a fish finder that is resistant to corrosion.
Most fish finders will scan in either one or two ways. This could either be down scan or side scan. Finders that use down scan are very focused and extremely powerful. However, they often tend to miss fishes that do not necessarily pass directly underneath. Side scan, on the other hand, is great as it scans a vast amount of the water. The problem is that this does not work well in deep waters.
The brand name of the device is not of vital importance, but it does give you some insight how long they have been in this particular business and how often fishers opt for fish finders that belong to the specific brand. It also helps to check how the brand fares online and what have people said about it. In addition, check for the warranty the brand offers along with the service or replacement program. Each brand is different and will provide you with different services.
Although there are more factors to look into, these are the top ones that are absolutely essential to consider when you are buying a fish finder. With that in mind, the ones that we will review below meet each of these considerations and, in some cases, even exceed it.
Fish Finders: A Review of the Top Three
Garmin echoMAP 74sv
- Bright, sunlight-readable 7" keyed-assist touchscreen combo
- Includes transducer for Garmin high wide CHIRP traditional sonar plus CHIRP ClearVü and CHIRP SideVü scanning sonars and compatible with Panoptix all-seeing sonar (sold separately)
- Preloaded BlueChart g2 charts for the coastal U.S.
- Built-in Garmin Quickdraw Contours mapping software instantly creates personalized fishing maps on-screen with 1' contours as you fish
- Use built-in Wi-Fi to pair with the free ActiveCaptain app for access to OneChart, smart notifications, Garmin Quickdraw Community data and more
The Garmin echoMAP 74sv is a perfectly sized product with a small seven-inch diagonal display and an 800 x 400-pixel resolution. It has SideVü and DownVü, and their frequency range and depth coverage are 260 to 455 kHz up to 750 feet, and 260 kHz at 2°x51°and 455 kHz at 1.4°x29° with 1000 feet, respectively. Additionally, it also has a standard sonar that works on 200 kHz at 10° and 50 kHz at 40° with a depth capability of 1500 feet.
This fishfinder also comes with a Transcom GT41-TM (12-pin) transducer that is equipped with a nine-meter cable. This also includes a temperature sensor that will provide you with water temperature data as well as a graph of the different temperature level readings. This will allow you to accurately monitor the fluctuations in the temperature from one spot to another.
In addition, this product comes with internal 5Hz GPS capabilities along with the USA BlueChart g2 maps. Its power consumption is only 7.1 watts, and the output is 500 watts. It also comes with a microSD card slot if you wish to back some data. On another note, it has an IPX7 rating, which means that it can withstand immersions in water of at least a meter. However, it is meant only for fresh water.
This 3.73 pounds device has a very classic layout which means that it does not offer any touchscreen capabilities like high-end fish finders. So, to use features like navigation through sonar as well as the GPS functions, you would have to use the keypad on the device. Nonetheless, the keypad is quite comfortable to use, making the whole experience tolerable.
- Offers two types of scanning
- Expandable memory
- High power wattage
- Quite sturdy
- Easy to locate and use
- Lightweight and compact
- Does not have a touchscreen
- Cannot be used in salty water
- Limited memory slot
Lowrance HDS-9 Gen2 Touch Insight
- Basemap Yes
- Card format SD
- Cartography - preloaded Yes
- Cartography Brand navionics
- Cartography type hotmaps/silver/gold/Platinum
The Lowrance HDS-9 Gen2 Touch Insight is an excellent fish finder with a brilliant nine-inch WVGA TFT Touchscreen LCD screen. Its touchscreen capabilities will make you feel like you are using a smartphone. In addition, it has a ratio of 16:9 and a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. The transducer type on it is a trolling motor or Transcom mount. It offers a maximum depth of 5000 feet and has waypoint storage of 5000 and 200 routes.
The sonar system on this fish finder comes with a built-in broadband sounder. Such is an HD structure scan that can display both structures and fishes that are underwater. Such will also allow you to switch between modes quickly. In addition, you can use all of these features at once since the product has split screen modes. What is better is that it has a data recording feature to back up all of the sonar histories, which you can view at a later time.
The HDS-9 Gen2 also comes integrated with Insight Genesis. This is basically a web-based feature which will allow the anglers to generate an HD contour map of their own in real time. In addition, this feature also offers navigation waypoints, 3D perspectives, broadband radar, structure map and SIRIUS weather overlays. If you opt for the free version, it will overlay the data on Bing’s maps. This device also has Insight USA cartography options and Navionics for fishing trips without any access to the internet.
The fish finder comes with two microSD slots that are built in. Interestingly, Fishing Hot Spots Pro and Insight HD cards are all included in your package. Further, to access the device’s networking and internet features, there is a dual ethernet port.
- Easy to use screen
- Widescreen display
- Multiple card slots
- Can be used in deep waters
- Has modern technological features
- Internet access capabilities
- Expandable memory
- It takes a while to understand how to operate this device.
- Quite heavy
Humminbird HELIX 7 G2N Series
- 7-inch color WVGA display
- CHIRP down imaging sonar
- Built-in GPS receiver offers 2500 waypoints and 50 routes
The Humminbird HELIX series is the brand’s first affordable device that has great features. It has a seven-inch screen with 800 x 480-pixel resolution and a high-quality, glass-bonded brightly lit screen that displays exclusive 360-degree imaging.
The device also comes with CHIRP sonar and imaging which means that it can receive and emit frequencies of a small band. This is great as it helps in producing clear and well-defined imaging, as well as offers a better target separation on the sonar. The sonar has a 200 kHz with a down imaging of 455/800 kHz and a side imaging of 455 kHz. Additionally, it has an ethernet connection port that is placed at the back of the device.
This fish finder is also equipped with Bluetooth technology, and you can connect and sync your phone to this device. After syncing, it will display all your text notifications so that you do not need to check your phone every single time. This model is also equipped with GPS functionality and comes with built-in MicroSD card slots. Likewise, it is also compatible with SmartStrike and LakeMaster PLUS mapping cards. These mapping cards are excellent as it can help you highlight the map of all the possible fishing areas which are completely based on what you input in the menus.
Although this has a touchscreen, the manufacturer also incorporated excellent keypad functions. The (–) and (+) keys will help in adjusting the imaging sensitivity and the sonar on the fly. There is also a waypoint key that offers a short and a long press function. Lastly, this product has an IPX7 waterproof rating.
- Advanced technological features
- Dual-control capabilities
- Expandable memory
- Great display
- Internet access capabilities
- Multiple card slots
- Quite heavy
Helix vs HDS vs echoMap: The Verdict
As you might already have noticed, each of the fish finders we have reviewed has their own fabulous features. The Garmin echoMap is well suited for beginners and those who want a straightforward and affordable device. On the other hand, the HDS is for anglers who regularly fish and consider a fishfinder as an investment. With that said, our personal favorite would be the Humminbird HELIX 7 G2N because it has the most advanced technological features.
We hope that this guide and review had helped you decide which is the best fish finder for your needs and lifestyle.