Top 10 Best Fish Finders Reviewed (2021 Buyer’s Guide)

Having a fish finder is a must if you’re fishing on big lakes or in the ocean. Fish finders allow you to see exactly what’s happening underneath you giving you the edge over your finned friends. 

You can see shoals of fish, depth changes, and more, so you can really hone in on good fishing spots. 

Finding the best fish finder is no easy task. 

There are hundreds of fish finders on the market and it can be mind boggling scrolling through thousands of fish finder reviews and really understanding how they work – so I decided to do it for you. 

The Best From The Review 

Here’s a summary of the top three fish finders from the review…

Top Pick

Garmin echoMAP Plus 93sv

Packed full of features to help you with fishing. Ideal for offshore fishing and pro use in bass lakes.

Garmin echoMAP Plus 93sv

The all-around best fish finder is the Garmin echoMAP Plus 93sv. 

It’s easy to use, has a great display, and can show you detailed images in every depth up to 2300ft.

Plus you can opt to focus on using down scan and side scan. It has an in-built GPS that’s highly accurate and compatible with many maps.

Best Value

Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual Beam

A depth finder with a built-in GPS. All rolled into one handy affordable unit that’s durable and waterproof

Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual Beam

If you’re on a budget and all you want is to see what’s happening under your vessel, the Garmin Striker Plus 4 is your best bet.

It’s a simple fish finder for a boat or kayak that gives you accurate info about what’s below and has a GPS for pinpointing your location that lets you mark waypoints and map the surface beneath. 

It’s all you need at a basic level and it’s about a 1/6th the price of the others.

Editor’s Choice

Simrad GO9 XSE MFD/Sonar

Delivers super detailed images and can mark waypoints, plan trips, and more…

Simrad GO9 XSE MFD/Sonar

If it was me, I’d buy one fish finder for the rest of my life, and the best one for this is the Simrad GO9 XSE MFD/Sonar.

It’s an accurate sounder which can scan in every direction, side, down and forward.

It’s also an accurate GPS and chart plotter with maps plus it hooks up to radar and weather updates.

It’s the one unit that does it all but you have to pay a little extra.

Our Best Fish Finders

Best on a Budget

Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual Beam

A depth finder with a built-in GPS all rolled into one handy affordable unit that’s durable and waterproof

Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual Beam

The Garmin Striker Plus 4 with dual-beam GPS Combo is a depth finder with a built-in GPS all rolled into one handy affordable unit that’s durable and waterproof. 

Display

The fish finder Garmin Striker 4 features a 4-inch display with a great resolution. It’s easy to see the details and target separation of the structure and fish beneath you.

You can split the screen and watch both the sonar and GPS displays at the same time so you’ll never miss a thing. 

GPS

The GPS shows you your speed, water temperature, and heading as you move around. 

You can make waypoints, see your tracks, and it also features Garmin Quickdraw Contours Mapping which allows you to map the bottom onto the unit as you go. 

Sonar

The Garmin Striker Plus 4 comes with a dual-beam CHIRP transom mounts transducer that’s easy to install.

It sends out multiple frequencies to give you a clear image and target separation, so you know if you’re looking at a fish, debris, or the bottom. 

The dual-beam allows you to choose between a wide beam to cover a larger area, or a focussed beam to get more details of what’s on the bottom.

There are quite a few downsides to the Garmin Striker 4. 

Compatibility

Firstly, the GPS is just a GPS and is not compatible with any other maps or charts, so you can’t download any existing charts to the unit. 

Also, there are complaints by some users that it’s hard to use and that the Garmin Striker 4 display mount doesn’t last long, but these cases are rare.

Overall it’s a good fish finder for anyone on a budget who wants something simple but accurate and affordable.

Specs

  • Size Display: 4.3 inch
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: No
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7
  • Power: 200 W RMS
  • Frequency: 50/77/83/200 kHz
  • Sonar: Dual-beam CHIRP
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: NA
  • T-ducer: Included
  • Depth: 1600 ft fresh, 750 ft saltwater
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • Water Temp: Yes
  • Wi Fi: No
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Navionics: No

Pros

  • Easy to see color display
  • Split-screen available
  • GPS is included
  • Comes with Garmin Quickdraw Contours Mapping
  • Waterproof and durable
  • Includes a dual-beam transducer
  • Clear and accurate images

Cons

  • No maps work with the GPS
  • The display mount doesn’t last long
  • A little complicated to use

Garmin Striker Plus 7Cv

Durable, waterproof, and can connect to your smartphone via Wifi to give you ActiveCaptain App smart updates and so you can share or download your data.

Garmin Striker Plus 7Cv

The Striker 7CV is a beefier version of the Striker 4 fish finder above.

Like the 4, the 7CV fish finder is a GPS combo but comes with a larger display size of 7 inches making it a bit easier to read and see. 

The unit is durable, waterproof and it connects to your smartphone via Wifi to give you ActiveCaptain App smart updates and so you can share or download your data. 

Display

The high-resolution color display on the 7-inch screen shows you excellent details and you can see it in any weather thanks to the anti-glare, even in direct sunlight. You can split the display into 3 data portions too, one more than the Striker 4, so you really can see everything. 

Sonar

It comes with dual-beam CHIRP sonar for crisp images like the Striker 4 and it also includes ClearVu. ClearVu uses both side imaging and down imaging to show you exactly what is happening under and around your boat but it’s limited in terms of depth. It’s ideal for use in shallow waters around 30-50ft or when a shoal of bait is up on the surface nearby. 

GPS

The GPS is again, only a GPS, and is not compatible with any maps or charts. 

It lets you know your location and you can make waypoints, follow tracks, and see your heading and speed.

You can also use Garmin Quickdraw Contours Mapping to map the contours of the bottom as you go so you can save them for a later date. 

Overall it’s one of the best budget fish finders on the market with an accurate fish finder sonar that can give you super detailed and high-quality images of the types of fish under your boat in real-time.

Specs

  • Size Display: 7 inch
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: No
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7
  • Power: 500 W (RMS)
  • Frequency: 50/77/200 kHz, CHIRP (mid and high), ClearVü 260/455/800 kHz
  • Sonar: ClearVü
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: NA
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 2300 ft fresh, 1100 ft saltwater
  • CHIRP: Yes, and ClearVü
  • Water Temp: Yes
  • Wi Fi: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Navionics: No

Pros

  • GPS mode gives accurate location and speed
  • Large quality display for all-weather conditions
  • Easy and intuitive to use
  • Split-screen to see multiple pieces of data
  • Durable and waterproof
  • Super clear images with ClearVu
  • Connects to your smartphone
  • Comes with Garmin Quickdraw Contours Mapping

Cons

  • No maps included and you can’t download any

Top Pick

Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv

Packed full of features to help you with fishing. Ideal for offshore fishing and pro use in bass lakes.

Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv

The Garmin echoMAP Plus 93sv fish finder is one of the best Garmin fish finders on the market.

It’s far from just a fish finder or GPS combo and is packed full of features that make it a high-end but quite expensive fish finder that’s ideal for offshore fishing or professional use in bass lakes. 

Display

The high-resolution color display is crystal clear and easy to see no matter the weather, plus the screen size is a little larger at 9 inches. 

The touch screen function increases the ease of use in this unit as you can simply touch and scroll intuitively as you go to find all the features and settings you need. You can also split the screen into 4 to see 4 different pieces of data at one time. 

Sonar

The smart sonar is a CHIRP dual-beam with ClearVu and SideVu. This allows you to see directly beneath your boat like a standard sonar, all-round your boat including the sides, or you can focus on the side imaging for fish finding. 

With all these views to choose from, it’s going to be hard for fish to hide anywhere. 

GPS

The GPS comes with LakeVu maps already downloaded giving you all the charts for most of the lakes in the US.

You can download any charts to suit you, and make waypoints, follow tracks, and more.

You can also share all this data with the handy MicroSD card slot or swap it between devices. 

A downside bar the expense is that the user manual is a little tricky to read as it comes in every language, so finding what you need can take time.

Specs

  • Size Display: 9 inches
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: Yes
  • Waterproofing: IPX7
  • Power: 500 W (RMS) / 4,000 W (peak to peak)
  • Frequency: 50/77/200 kHz
  • Sonar: Dual, ClearVu, SideVu
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: 32Gb micro sd card
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 2300 ft fresh, 1100 ft saltwater
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • Wi Fi: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Navionics: No

Pros

  • CHIRP for better images
  • SideVu and DownVu for detailed focussed images
  • Great size display size with awesome clarity
  • Accurate in-built GPS and you can download maps
  • Included memory card slot
  • LakeVu maps come preloaded for free
  • Easy to install and use

Cons

  • The user manual is annoying to read
  • Quite expensive

Humminbird Helix 9 G3N

One of the top fish finders in the Helix range thanks to the extra features like Switch Fire which allows for sonar customization.

Humminbird Helix 9 G3N

The Humminbird Helix 9 G3N fish finder is one of the top fish finders in the Helix range thanks to the extra features like Switch Fire that allows you to customize the sonar as you go for imaging fish.

It even lures, it’s that detailed. 

Screen

It comes with a high-quality 9-inch screen with high resolution and shows you side imaging and down imaging thanks to the CHIRP sonar. 

This smart sonar is expelled at imaging fish and combined with the display gives you excellent detail, you may even be able to see the type of fish you’re looking at with this sonar fish finder. 

GPS

The fish finder also comes with GPS and an excellent basemap.

If you don’t like the basemap, you can download charts from brands like C-maps or LakeVu. The GPS is super accurate and gives you everything you’d expect from waypoint marking, to trip planning and more. 

Storage

It comes with two SD card slots for transferring and saving data plus it has Bluetooth and ethernet for quick uploads and downloads. 

The negatives to this sonar fish finder are that it is expensive for everyone and its features are quite complex to use. Plus it doesn’t operate on a high frequency above 200kHz, so won’t give you great detail in shallow waters of around 30ft as 800kHz would.

Specs

  • Size Display: 9 in. screen
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: No
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7
  • Power: 1000 Watts (RMS)
  • Frequency: 50/80/200 kHz
  • Sonar: Dual CHIRP
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: Dual SD card slots
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 1200 ft
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • Wi Fi: Ethernet
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Navionics: No

Pros

  • 2 x SD card slots
  • Great built-in base map
  • Large, clear display
  • Super accurate
  • Great connectivity for networking
  • Inbuilt GPS with great maps
  • Loads of handy features

Cons

  • Complex to use due to all the features
  • Not very high frequencies
  • A little expensive

Humminbird Helix 5 SI

An easy to use basic fishfinder that provides you with data that you need to catch fish.

Humminbird Helix 5 SI

The Humminbird Helix 5 SI fish finder is more of a basic finder compared to fishfinders like the Helix 9.

Screen

It comes with a high-resolution color 5-inch screen that’s easy to see and you can split it into 2 to see multiple data screens at once.

A 5-inch screen is just about large enough to see everything clearly but it’s not quite as good as 7 or 9. 

Sonar

This fish finder comes with CHIRP Sonar that provides you with side imaging and down imaging so you can see everything that’s going on around your vessel. It also includes a GPS that has a good basemap and links to Navionics through the SD card slot, one of the top global chart maps. 

GPS and Storage

The GPS gives you a precise location, lets you mark waypoints, follow tracks, and more.

All this data is saved to the SD card so you can upload it, save it, and transfer it with ease. 

This fish finder’s ease of use is top-notch.

It’s simple and intuitive to scroll through and use all the features on, but it is a shame there is no networking connectivity to link to your phone.

Specs

  • Size Display: 5-inch screen
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: No
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7
  • Power: 500 W
  • Frequency: 200/83/455 kHz
  • Sonar: Side Imaging/Down Imaging/DualBeam PLUS
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: 1 x SD card slot
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 1500 ft
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • WiFi: No
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Navionics: Yes

Pros

  • Easy to install to your vessel
  • High-resolution display
  • GPS with maps included
  • Side image and down image
  • Intuitive and easy to navigate through
  • Durable and waterproof
  • Quality detailed images

Cons

  • Smallish display
  • No networking

Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA DI GPS G3N CHO

It’s a GPS a fish finder rolled into one. It comes full of features and is deadly accurate.

Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA DI GPS G3N CHO

The Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP fish finder comes full of features and is deadly accurate.

It’s a GPS and fish finder rolled into one like the other units, but the Humminbird Helix 7 does not come with a transducer, so you’ll have to buy one separately. 

It has a clear, easy to read 7-inch color display that you can split into multiple screens.

Sonar

It has a CHIRP sonar for excellent detail and comes with mega side imaging and down imaging to give you exceptional detail of what’s around when you want it. 

GPS

The GPS is super accurate and does what you’d expect in terms of navigation and marking waypoints.

It’s compatible with loads of charts that you can download including Navionics and you can connect it to everything via Bluetooth, SDcard, and ethernet for quick updates and data sharing. 

The only negatives are that this fish finder comes without a: mounting kit, transducer, or protective cover, so you’ll have to buy them all separately.

Specs

  • Size Display: 7 inches
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: No
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7
  • Power: 500 W
  • Frequency: 50/83/200/455 kHz
  • Sonar: Dual Spectrum CHIRP, MEGA Down Imaging
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: SD card slot
  • Transducer: Not included
  • Depth: 1200 ft
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • WiFi: Ethernet
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Navionics: Yes

Pros

  • Excellent features
  • Record sonar and take snapshots
  • Great internal GPS
  • Compatible with great maps like Navionics
  • Clear, easy to read display
  • Durable and waterproof
  • Great networking connectivity
  • SD memory card slot
  • Easy to use and install

Cons

  • No transducer included
  • Protective cover not included
  • An in-dash mounting kit is not included

Lowrance HDS-7 LIVE

A top fish finder Lowrance makes. It comes packed full of features.

Lowrance HDS-7 LIVE

The Lowrance HDS-7 LIVE is a top fish finder Lowrance makes. It’s quite a high-end unit due to the features packed into it but they do come at a price.

Display

HDS-7 fish finder comes with a quality touch screen display with great resolution for seeing crystal clear images.

You can split it into 4 screens too, the best way to see a lot of data at once. 

Sonar

The sonar scans everything using CHIRP, from down, to side, and even realvision 3D imaging to show you what’s below you in 3 dimensions. It’s incredibly detailed and you really can see everything from a branch to a single fish.

GPS

The built-in GPS is super accurate on these fish finders and comes with C-Map US for free, covering US coastal waters. It shows you everything you might expect like bottom contours and ruotes and you can plot waypoints, follow tracks, and more. 

Storage

The best thing about these fish finders is the internal memory of 8GB, the two SD card slots, and the Bluetooth and wifi connectivity.

You can mirror the screen onto your smartphone and get notifications on the unit, so you don’t always have to be standing by the displays to see what’s going on. 

Unfortunately, the fish finder from Lowrance always seems to come with technical issues, and this coupled with Lowrance’s awful customer service, makes them a no-go for many.

Specs

  • Size Display: 7 inches
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: Yes
  • Waterproofing: IPX7
  • Power: 500 W
  • Frequency: 50/83/200/455 kHz
  • Sonar: CHIRP Broadband Active Imaging, DownScan Active Imaging, SideScan
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: 2 x micro SD
  • T-ducer: Included
  • Depth: 1000ft
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • WiFi: Yes
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Navionics: No

Pros

  • 4 split screen presentation
  • Comes with C-Map US
  • Awesome connectivity
  • 3D imaging for extra details
  • Connects to your smartphone
  • Great touchscreen display
  • Fast dual processor
  • 8GB internal storage
  • Accurate GPS

Cons

  • Not the best customer service
  • Comes with some technical issues

Raymarine Dragonfly 6

Has a system that’s easy to get the hang of, the features flow nicely and you can navigate around it with ease. Includes a GPS and it links to Navionics for global charts and maps.

Raymarine Dragonfly 6

The Raymarine Dragonfly 6 fish finder includes a GPS and it links to Navionics for global charts and maps.

Display

The display is crisp and clear plus it’s a solid size of 5.7 inches but it would be ideal if it was a little bigger, you’d have to spend a bit more for this though. 

Sonar

It works with a CHIRP sonar to give you excellent detail and target separation so you can see the difference between debris and fish.

The fish finder also features a double-beam to allow you to focus in deep or pick up all the details in shallow water too. 

GPS

The GPS is really accurate and lets you mark fishy spots with waypoints and let’s know your speed, set a go-to, trip plan, and more.

The fish finder has an easy system to get the hang of, the features flow nicely and you can navigate around it with ease. 

An annoying feature of these fish finders is that they don’t work when you’re not moving, why I don’t know. 

This makes fishing on anchor quite hard as you won’t see much, but they are fine for trolling and drifting. It can also have some rare glitches, but it does come around eventually.

Specs

Pros

  • Great target separation for seeing fish/structure
  • Dual sonar for seeing everything the passes by
  • Top-quality GPS
  • Awesome maps with Navionics Gold
  • Easy and intuitive to use
  • Durable and waterproof

Cons

  • Quite a small display
  • Doesn’t work when you’re not moving
  • Has some glitches sometimes

Simrad Go-7 XSE

A 3-1 in one fish finder that is not only a GPS and a fish finder but a radar station that can deliver up the weather and steer your boat as long as you have the accessories needed.

Simrad Go-7 XSE

The Simrad Go-7 XSE is a 3-1 in one fish finder that is not only a GPS and a fish finder but a radar station that can deliver up the weather and steer your boat using the autopilot or other steering features, as long as you have the right accessories. 

Display

It comes with a 7-inch touch screen display that splits into 4 for showing lots of different pieces of data at once. 

You can see the GPS, standard sonar, down scan, and side-scan all at once. Any fish that swims by is going to be spotted with these fish finders. 

Sonar

The sonar is very accurate and delivers up super detailed images of what’s happening below so you find fish easily and tailor your fishing style accordingly. 

Gps

The GPS is top-notch and comes with C-Maps Pro for free, plus it connects to Navionics, handy if you already use it.

It gives you accurate positioning and you make waypoints, follow old tracks, see your speed, and more. 

Storage

It comes with a MicroSD card slot for up to 32GB of storage that makes importing or exporting data easy. You also connect it up to your phone for screen sharing whilst you’re away from the display.

The only downside to this fish finder is that it’s more or as expensive than the others in the review, but considering the features you get, it is worth it if you’re an offshore fisherman. 

However, it might be overkill for bass lakes.

Specs

  • Size Display: 7 inches
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: Yes
  • Waterproofing: IPX7
  • Power: 500 W
  • Frequency: 83/200/455/800 kHz
  • Sonar: CHIRP/side/down
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: Micro SD Card Slot up to 32GB
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 1200ft
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • WiFi: Yes, plus Ethernet & NMEA
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Navionics: Yes

Pros

  • Connects to radar,auto-pilot, multiple steering modes, weather updates (the USA only)
  • Includes a GPS
  • GPS works with C-Maps and Navionics
  • 2-year warranty
  • Connects to your phone via WiFi
  • Provides crystal clear images of every angle
  • A great amount of data storage
  • Intuitive and easy to use
  • C-Map Pro charts included
  • Simple to install

Cons

  • Expensive

Editor’s Choice

Simrad GO9 XSE MFD/Sonar

Delivers super detailed images, it can mark waypoints, plan trips, and more…

Simrad GO9 XSE MFD/Sonar

The Simrad GO9 XSE MFD/Sonar fish finder takes things to another level compared to the GO7 fish finder above.

It has all the same features and more. 

Display

The screen is a little large at 9 inches but it’s still an intuitive touch screen that makes navigating around the system very easy.

The CHIRP system lets you scan normally, down, to the side, and unlike all the other fish finders in the review, forward. 

Forward Scanning

Forward scanning is awesome for avoiding running into a reef or hitting some large debris when driving at night.

The images it delivers are super detailed, you’ll see everything that’s underneath you, from bait to bits of seaweed – you’ll be able to tell them apart too. 

GPS

The GPS works on loads of charts and comes ready with Navionics+ Charts for the USA and Canada.

You can do all the usual things like marking waypoints, planning trips, and more. 

Connectivity

This fish finder also connects up to radar and weather systems so you can see what’s coming, bad conditions, or other boats alike. 

Overall it’s an awesome fish finder that does a lot for the money, and more than most other fish finders in the review.

With this fish finder, you’re pretty much covered for all your electronics with one display, but it’s a tad pricey if you’re not on the water a lot.

Specs

  • Size Display: 9 inches
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: Yes
  • Waterproofing: IPX7
  • Power: 500 W
  • Frequency: 83/200/455/800 kHz
  • Sonar: Forward/down/side/CHIRP
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: 2 x SD card slots
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 1000 ft
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • WiFi: Yes, plus Ethernet & NMEA
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Navionics: Yes

Pros

  • Easy to use multi-touch interface
  • Super accurate GPS that works across lots of charts
  • Works with radar display for Simrad ™ and Halo™ radar systems
  • Comes with Navionics+ charts for USA and Canada
  • Excellent underwater images
  • Screen mirroring to your smartphone with WiFi
  • 2 x microSD card slots for up to 64GB of memory
  • Works with Simrad’s WM-3 SiriusXM satellite weather module (North America only)
  • NMEA 2000 compatible for data transfer

Cons

  • Quite an expensive fish finder for the average fisherman

What Is A Fish Finder?

Fish Finder on a Table

A fish finder is a device that you install on your boat or kayak in order to see what is beneath your vessel in the water.

Fish finders are best for finding underwater structures where fish tend to hang out in lakes and the sea, like a wreck, a fall tree, or a deep drop off which can impact on your adventures. 

Depending on the particular sounder, fish finders can show you the depths you’re fishing in, the depth changes, if there are any fish under your boat or to the side of it, the water temperature, and gives 3D images of any structure beneath you.

Understanding Fish Finders

From Visually.

GPS Feature

The best fish finders these days come with a built-in GPS too, like all the ones in this review. 

This means you can see how fast you’re going, your heading, and you can mark the waypoints of anything you find on the bottom so you can come back directly to your saved fishing spots another day. 

It makes fishing deep waters a lot easier.

TIP

When you find a deep ledge, you can fish along with it and work the area, or if you find some underwater structure with fish on, you can put your line down to the right depth to catch them. 

How Does A Fish Finder Work? 

A fish finder comes in two parts, a display, and a transducer.

The transducer looks at what’s going on under your vessel and translates the information back to the display for you to see, allowing you to tailor your fishing style and techniques to what’s happening underneath you. 

Sound Waves

The transducer sends out sound waves at particular frequencies to the bottom of the lake or sea, or to the side of the vessel if it’s a high-end one.

When these sound waves hit anything that’s beneath or to the side of your vessel, like a fish, a coral head, or the bottom, they are reflected and bounce back to the transducer. 

Echo

The transducer then sends all this information to the display to give you an image of what’s happening beneath the surface in real-time.

The display will tell you the details of: the depth you’re in, the water temperature at the surface, and you’ll see a defined bottom in color with colored shapes between the surface at the bottom that are either debris or fish.

Fish Finder Frequencies

Waveform
Waveform

The soundwaves sent out by a fish finder have a particular frequency, and the best fish finders will be able to send out soundwaves in multiple different frequencies, for example, 83/200/455/800 kHz, so you can switch between them depending on your depth and what you want to see. 

Low Frequency

The lower the frequency, the deeper the soundwaves can go because water absorbs high-frequency sound waves more than low ones. 

If you’re fishing in deep areas like 800ft, then an 83 kHz frequency is the right choice. 

High Frequency

The higher the frequency the more detail you’ll get as higher frequencies suffer less from distortion and display more definition, therefore giving a more detailed image. 

They only really work in shallow water, up to 60ft, as in depths beyond this they get absorbed and won’t return to the unit for display.

Do Fish Finders Actually Work?

Yes, they definitely do work, but not all fish finders are made equal.

Fish finders won’t identify the types of fish you’re seeing and depending on the quality, most of them won’t show you a single fish unless it’s quite big – over 10 inches or so.

But, the best ones will show the depth, depth changes, structure, and where groups of fish, maybe 5 or more are holding 

I’ve used them my whole fishing life while offshore fishing and the ability to know what depth you’re in makes a huge difference to how you fish and your success rate. 

Data Gathering

One day the sailfish might be in 100ft of water, and the next at 800ft and you can add this data to what you’re seeing on the surface in terms of bait, tide, water clarity, and temperature so the next time you go out, you can predict things a little better. 

One day I was lucky enough to drive over a little underwater pinnacle in an area I’ve fished in for 20 years that I didn’t know was there and wasn’t on the charts.

I spotted it on the sounder, and we hooked a nice wahoo.

I marked it on the GPS, and now every time I go fishing, I troll past that waypoint and over the pinnacle a few times, and 8 times out of 10, I catch a fish. Sounders work! 

Can Fish Hear Fish Finders?

School Of Fish
School Of Fish

When you snorkel around a boat that has a fish finder working on it, you hear a loud kind of pulsing clicking sound which is the transducer sending out its sound waves.

Now, fish do not have ears but they certainly can detect sound waves through their lateral lines and receptors in the jaws. 

If we can hear it, the fish are certainly aware of it too.

Does it Scare Fish Away?

But, I have yet to experience a moment when a fish spooked or was scared off by the sound. 

Most of the time you’re fishing for predatory fish like marlin, tuna, or bass when you have a depth sounder, and these fish are actually attracted to sounds as for them any disturbance could be some bait that needs eating. 

What Is GPS? 

The best fish finders, like the ones in the review, come with an in-built GPS.

What’s a GPS you say? GPS stands for Global Positioning System and it works by connecting to a few satellites and then working out your location, wherever you are in the world. 

The display will show you where you are, the direction you’re heading in, and will leave tracks where you have been, so you can avoid places you haven’t caught fish, and follow the same lines of places you have.

Give Your Exact Location

It also provides you with your exact location in longitude and latitude to around 15m of accuracy, so if you ever need to be rescued, you let anyone know your position. 

A GPS will also allow you to mark fishing spots that are successful so you can return to them quickly, and you can plan trips with them in order to follow a predetermined course you have set out the night before.

The best GPS will also be compatible with charts and maps on your area that you can download. 

What Should I Look For When Buying A Fish Finder? 

Garmin Product Stall in a Mall
Garmin Product Stall in a Mall

Types

The first step in finding the best fish finder for you is making sure you choose the right type of fish finder and there are three to choose from, mounted, portable, and networked. 

Mounted

Mounted fish finders are installed in your vessel and are permanently fixed to it. The display will be fitted in the dashboard at the helm and the transducer will be attached to the bottom of your boat with a transom mount or a thru-hull mount. 

Mounted fish finders are the best fish finders around as they have the most power and features to give the most amount of detail possible. But, you will need to have a power source onboard, usually a marine battery, to wire them up to.

TIP

If you’re fishing from a boat, it’s best to have a mounted fish finder, as it’ll give you the best images and you have no need to move it around from vessel to vessel. 

Portable 

Portable fish finders are standalone units that come with a display and a transducer that you can simply drop in the water or clip on to a pole or your trolling motor so you can see what’s happening beneath the surface. 

A portable fish finder won’t have the same amount of power as a mounted one but they are really useful if you’re fishing from vessels like a kayak where drilling holes to fit a mounted fish finder is going to compromise whether your vessel will be able to float or not. 

TIP

They are also the best for ice fishing as you can just drop the transducer in a hole in the ice to see if there are any fish down there.

If there aren’t you can repeat until you find an ice fishing spot with lots of fish. 

Networked

Networked fish finders come with an app for your smartphone that connects to a transducer via Wifi or Bluetooth. The transducer is usually in a ball that you can then tie onto a rope to leave behind your vessel or cast out with a fish rod. 

The transducer then sends all the information about what’s happening beneath the surface to your phone for you to see.

TIP

They are best for people fishing from the shoreline, as you can cast them out, or for anyone on a small vessel like a canoe or kayak who doesn’t want to drill holes in them. 

Display 

Picking the right display is key as it’s what you’re going to be looking at all day to see if there are any fish under you.

There are three main points to think about; size and color. 

The bigger your display, the easier it’ll be to see and the more detail you’ll get on the screen as there is more space to display the details.

What Type of Display To Choose?

Fish Finder Screen

Color displays are the way to go, as the colors will provide you with target separation on what’s underneath you. 

The bottom will be one color, fish another, and debris or weed another.

This allows you to see exactly what’s what, so you’re not fooled by a bunch of seaweed that could look like a shoal of fish. 

Frequency

The more frequencies your fish finder features, the better.

Different frequencies show you different things, and as we discussed above, high frequencies show a lot of detail in shallow water but don’t penetrate very deep, while low frequencies go much deeper but get a bit distorted giving you a less detailed image. 

The best depth finder will be able to use multiple frequencies at the same time, this is called CHIRP sonar.

CHIRP sonars send out multiple frequencies, high, medium, and low, and then analyze them all individually to give you the most amount of detail possible at every depth. 

Scan 

There are two types of scans you’ll encounter with a depth finder: side and down imaging scans. Some come with one or both and others come with neither. 

Down Scan

Down scan sonars allow you to see in great detail and even spot an individual fish in a shoal but are a little too powerful for water shallower than around 30ft.

While seeing in detail is very useful, the scan is so focused that you’re going to miss what’s happening to the sides and you might not see fish activity that would prove useful. 

Side-Scan

Side-scan allows you to look at a much broader area rather than just straight down, and you can even look into areas away from the boat that you have not disturbed yet with your engine. 

They don’t work well in deep water, 60 ft plus, however, as there is less chance of the sound waves hitting the bottom and reflecting back when they are emitted at an angle. 

Transducers

Most fish finders come with a transducer but you don’t have to settle for the one they come with and you can pick your own.

As we mentioned earlier, transducers are responsible for sending out and receiving the sound waves and the two main things to think about are how they are mounted and their cone angle. 

Mountings

Fish Finder and Fishing Gear on a Boat
Fish Finder and Fishing Gear on a Boat

The type of mounting you’ll need depends on your vessel.

The most common is a trolling motor mount or a transom mount transducer that is ideal for putting on a kayak or a small boat.

Of course, you have to have a trolling motor for one to work.

Then you have ones that are in the hull or go through the hull on a boat and are best used on fiberglass boats or large sport fishers, where the wash is too big at the transom for the transducer to work properly. 

Cone Angle

The cone angle refers to the width of the beam that comes out of your transducer from when it leaves the boat until it hits the bottom.

It’s called a cone because the beam starts small when it leaves the boat and slowly gets wider until it hits the bottom, like a cone shape. 

The larger your cone angle, the wider the beam, and therefore the larger the area the sonar covers, and the more you’re going to see what’s under you.

Sounding Out

Let’s take quick look at the top three finders at the lineup…

Thanks for reading my article,

I hope the world of the best sounders is a little less daunting for you now. If you’re still after some advice to make your final choice, here it is.

Best Value

For anyone on a budget or who’s after a simple unit for their canoe or kayak, the Garmin Striker 4 Plus is your best fit. It’s affordable, durable, reliable, gives great images and it’s a GPS too. 

Top Pick

If you’re after a solid unit that’s a great GPS and fish finder, the Garmin Echo Map Plus 93sv is your best choice.

The sounder is excellently detailed, the display is crystal clear, and the GPS is top of the line and is compatible with all the charts you could want. 

Editor’s Choice

I’d pick the Simrad GO9 XSE MFD/Sonar. It does everything you need in terms of fish finding and GPS but it can also become an auto pilot, steer assistant, radar and weather radar. It’s the one unit that gives you everything you need to grow without the need to upgrade.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and found the right fish finder for your needs. Please share it around with your boating friends and check out some of my other articles like ‘the best bass fly rod’

Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.

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Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.