If you’re an avid bass fisherman or offshore fisher, you’ll know just how difficult it is to catch fish in large bodies of water like Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas or deep offshore waters like the Gulf of Mexico.
With such huge spaces to roam, understanding how the seasons affect fish behavior cannot provide a comprehensive picture of where exactly the fish are feeding.
You might be in the right area, but a hundred meters away from where you are supposed to be.
Having a good fish finder with many advanced features like the Humminbird Helix 9 on your boat makes all the difference.
You’ll go from fishing blind to having charts of your area that show you the bottom contours to follow, a built-in GPS to guide you, and awesome sonar technology that’ll show you if any fish are lurking under your boat.
In this article...
Things To Consider When Buying the Helix 9
Does the Helix 9 have GPS?
Yes, the fish finders come with a Global Positioning System (GPS) that is accurate to 20 meters.
You can use this GPS to store over 3000 waypoints of your favorite fishing spots, plus save tracks and create routes through the GPS.
Does the Helix 9 have Charts?
Every Helix 9 comes with Humminbird’s basemap preloaded that covers 10000 US lakes and the coast.
The map shows you a lot of detail including bottom contours, buoys, hazards, day markers, and more.
You can also opt to add your preferred charts like Navionics and Lakemaster.
Does the Helix 9 have Side Imaging and Down Imaging?
Yes, there are series models that include Down Imaging and Side Imaging that let you see exactly what’s under or to the left or right of your boat.
You can see fish, structures like fallen trees, and interesting contours where fish like to hang out with ease.
Is the Helix 9 a Touchscreen?
No, these fish finders work with buttons that you’ll find on the display unit.
They are easy to use to navigate through the software with but not quite as easy as a touchscreen.
How deep does the sounder go?
The sounder on these fish finders can show images of up to 1500ft with the standard transducer.
You can opt to go for a different transducer that includes a temperature sensor and a 50 kHz frequency that will take you to 3500ft which is only useful for offshore fishing, as it doesn’t get that deep in any lakes.
How do you update the Helix 9?
Updating these fish finders is easy.
- Download the new software from the Humminbird site onto a clean, empty SD card and slot it into one of the two SD card slots in the fish finder.
- Then turn your fish finder on, accept the update, and wait for it to install. Simple!
Alternatively, you can use the wifi on the unit to connect to your smartphone and download the software directly to the fish finder via your phone using the FishSmart app.
Who Should Buy A Helix 9?
The Helix is a perfect fish finder for anyone who owns a boat with onboard power, with 12-volt batteries to run electronics.
This makes it perfect for bass boats, small offshore boats, and sport fishers.
With it, you’ll be able to navigate around the world and see anything fishy that passes under or the side of you as you go.
Who Shouldn’t Buy A Helix 9?
If you fish from a kayak or a small boat without any onboard power, this is not the fish finder for you and I’d suggest looking at other fish finders review for a portable device like the Garmin Striker 4 that you can take home at the end of the day instead of leaving it on your kayak.
An excellent fish finder that’s full of all the features that you’ll need to find fish in any lake and anywhere in the ocean.
The Humminbird 9 is an excellent fish finder that’s full of all the features that you’ll need to find fish in any lake and anywhere in the ocean.
The combination of the charts, accurate GPS, and excellent sonar features leaves no stone unturned when it comes to looking for fish.
The charts will give you ideas of where to fish, the internal GPS will guide you there, and the sonar features like Down Imaging and Side Imaging will give detailed images of fish that come under or to the side of your vessel.
With a Helix 9 on your boat, the fish have nowhere to hide.
Which model is right for you? Let’s review humminbird helix.
Helix 9 Models
Let’s be clear about what all the models do.
Every model of a Helix 9 comes with both GPS and charts.
The main differences across the Helix models in the review are what sonar features come with them.
Helix 9 SI GPS
The top model that comes with all the sonar features you can ask for is the Humminbird Helix 9 SI GPS.
This model includes CHIRP sonar with three modes (wide mode, full mode and narrow mode), Side Imaging, and Down Imaging. The next model down is the Helix 9 CHIRP DI, which comes with both CHIRP and Down Imaging.
Helix 9 CHIRP
Finally, you have the Helix 9 CHIRP that comes with just CHIRP imaging with no Down or Side imaging features, but it’s more affordable for those on a budget.
It’s quite simple to understand the models once you have them laid out for you but to make things a little more confusing, there are some Helix 9 MEGA models too including a Helix 9 CHIRP MEGA SI, and a Helix 9 CHIRP MEGA DI.
MEGA models have more power when it comes to Down and Side Imaging, giving more detail and more depth or distance to the side.
Which model is best for your needs?
Picking the right one comes down to understanding what sonar features you want to have and aligning it with your budget, as the more features, the higher the price.
Before deciding which of the models is right for you, read below so you can understand all the sonar features first and pick a model that suits your needs and budget best.
- Large 9-inch sunlight-readable color TFT display screen
- Crystal clear images from the sonar features
- Penetrates up to 1500 ft
- Excellent basemap and the ability to add your preferred charts
- Access to Autochart Live to create your own maps
- Top networking features with Ethernet, NMEA, Bluetooth, and Wifi
- Dual SD card slots for extra memory
- Simple and easy to use the fish finder
- Accurate GPS with good coverage
- Autopilot and radar compatible
- You might expect a touchscreen technology at this price point
- Mega Down Imaging can be hard to use when trolling
Helix 9 Features Explained
How Good Is The Display Screen?
The display on the Helix 9 is one of the best around.
The screen is glass bonded with a bright LED backlight to ensure you’re able to see the display in all light conditions, even direct sunlight, from any angle.
This means no matter where you are on your boat, you are able to read the screen and all the details with ease.
Check out the display of the Helix 9 Mega Series in action on the video below…
Is the display waterproof?
The display is IPX7 rated meaning it can be submerged to a depth of one meter for 30 minutes before any water gets into it.
You’ll have no issues with any splashes or spray affecting the display so you can go about your fish finding with confidence knowing that even if you capsize your display unit is going to be fine.
Is the screen big enough to read easily?
The Helix 9 features a 9-inch screen size which is bigger than average for fish finders.
The range goes from 3 inches to 12 inches on a product like this, so a 9-inch screen is larger than most fish finders.
It’s easy to see all the details on a 9-inch screen, and it’s particularly useful when using it in split-screen mode, and viewing say the GPS and charts on one side and the sonar information on the other.
What is the GPS capable of?
The GPS capabilities on the Humminbird 9 will not only provide a means for you to know your location, there are other features that can be very useful to a fisherman.
You can also use the GPS to mark up to 3000 waypoints of your best fishing spots, save up to 45 routes for your fishing trips, and use the tracks to see where you have already been fishing.
You can also use the GPS to see your heading, time to destination, and your boat speed.
Some lures work best at 5 knots, others are designed for fishing at 8 knots, and marlin for example like a fast troll of 8 knots while wahoo like a faster one of 12 knots.
Without knowing your speed, it’s hard to be sure you’re pulling your lures in the best way.
Being able to know your boat speed when fishing is incredibly useful as you will want to go different speeds depending on the lures you’re using and the species you’re targeting.
What do the charts show you?
The included basemap on the Humminbird Helix 9 gives you all the details of the underwater terrain and points of interest on over 10,000 US lakes and the coast of the continental U.S.
You’ll be able to see marinas, buoys, day markers, hazards, and the bottom contours to know the depth range and changes of where you’re fishing.
When you combine this with the GPS capabilities, you’ll be able to navigate safely around most waters and plan your fishing tactics according to the underwater terrain.
What other charts are compatible with these fish finders?
You can also use Navionics, LakeMaster, and CoastMaster charts with Helix 9 fish finders. These charts are updated more often than the included basemap and due to this, are more accurate.
Do Helix 9 fish finders make their own charts?
Yes, Helix 9 fish finders come with a feature called AutoChart Live. AutoChart Live will map the bottom hardness, depth contours, and any vegetation on to your charts while you’re fishing to give you the most detailed charts of your fishing area.
You can record up to 8 hours of mapping on these fish finders and have the option to add AutoChart Zero Line SD cards into the SD card slots to give you endless memory for live mapping of your angling areas.
What are all the sonar features and what can they show you?
Understanding sonar wave frequencies
To grasp how good the sonar features are you’ll need to understand how sonar wave frequencies of fish finders work and what they can do.
Simply put, low wave frequencies penetrate deeply to the bottom but don’t pick up a lot of detail, while high wave frequencies pick up a lot of detail but get absorbed by the water, so can’t go as deep.
For example, a 200 kHz sonar wave can go to 1500ft picking up a small amount of detail, while an 800 kHz wave will only hit 125 ft, but picking up a lot of detail.
These fish finders have a range of frequencies that include 50/83/200/455/800 kHz & 1.2 MHz meaning that it can penetrate deeply with the low waves and pick up a lot of detail with the high waves.
Dual Beam CHIRP
Dual-beam / Dual Spectrum CHIRP sonar is the most useful sonar feature when trolling or prospecting for areas to catch fish in.
The Dual Spectrum CHIRP sonar works by sending out sonar waves at multiple frequencies from low to high to give you clear images with as much detail of the entire water column from the bottom to the hull of your boat.
You’ll see if there are any fish to catch, what depth they are sitting at, and all the changes in bottom contours so you can find structures like fallen trees, pinnacles, or ledges where fish like to hang out. CHIRP shows depths of up to 1500ft – 3500ft with a 50 kHz transducer.
Down Imaging is available with any unit that has DI or SI in its name, like the Humminbird Helix 9 SI GPS.
Down Imaging works by sending out higher frequency waves than CHIRP to give you a more detailed image of what’s under your boat.
It’s perfect when angling in shallower waters of 400ft and up and you want all the detail you can get, or when you have found something like a nice ledge and want to check it out and see if there are any fish to catch sitting on it.
You choose to use Down Imaging at 455 for 800 wave frequencies, depending on the detail you want or the depth you’re in. 455 will take you to 400ft, while 800 will take you to 125ft.
Side Imaging sends out sonar waves to each end of your boat so you can see if any fish are sitting at port or starboard and turn the boat to see if they bite.
It’s available on any unit that comes with SI in its name, like Helix 9 CHIRP MEGA SI GPS, and is a useful feature for spotting shoals of baitfish or big fish like a large single bass, or marlin that aren’t on the surface.
Side Imaging uses the same frequencies as DI and will show you what’s 125ft at 800 Hz or 200ft on the port of the starboard of your boat at 400 Hz.
MEGA Down Imaging & Side Imaging
Mega Down Imaging and Mega Side Imaging take things to another level of detail by using 1100-1200 kHz waves and these features are available with any unit that has MEGA in the title.
Mega Down Imaging and Side Imaging have a 200ft imaging range and provide 20% more detail so you can see exactly where fish are and even if they are big enough to bother targeting.
Switch Fire is a great feature on the Humminbird Helix 9 fish finders and using it will provide a means to control how much detail you see on a sonar image.
You can opt to see all the details using MAX mode giving you a blurry image full of everything that’s under your boat from seaweed to tiny fish, or program Switch Fire to only show you the larger details and remove all the smaller ones using CLEAR mode.
The Switch Fire Mode makes it a lot easier to spot fish on the Helix 9, as it removes all the clutter, allowing you to focus on the important details of the image like fish and structure.
What do people who already use the Helix 9 think about it?
Knowing all about the Helix 9 and it’s capabilities is one thing but items like this need to be tested in situ, and since you can’t install one on your boat and take it for a test drive, it’s best to look at every Humminbird Helix 9 review to see what people who already use it think about.
Looking at every Humminbird Helix 9 review I found, everyone loves them, and here is one of the Humminbird Helix 9 reviews I found below.
Are there better equivalent fish finders out there?
Much more affordable than the Helix 9 but it is not nearly as full of features or capabilities.
The Dragonfly Pro 7 fish finder is much more affordable than the Helix 9 by almost half but it is not nearly as full of features or capabilities, here are the differences.
- The Pro has a smaller screen by 2 inches.
- The Pro only hits 900ft compared to 1500ft or 3500ft of the Humminbird
- There is no side imaging or Mega imaging options on the Pro.
- You can control the Pro from your smartphone
- The Pro has no Switchfire feature
- You can’t build your own maps on the Pro
- You can’t create a boat network or control anchors or trolling motors with the Pro
- There is no compatibility with radar or autopilot on the Pro
If you’re on a budget then the Pro 7 might be a better choice for you. You’ll still be able to use charts, GPS, and get good sonar images with CHIRP and DownVision, but you’ll miss out on quite a few extras as mentioned above and have a smaller screen.
A similar product to the Humminbird with GPS and good sonar features. It’s also more affordable but has much fewer features.
The Striker 9SV fish finder is a similar product to the Humminbird with GPS and good sonar features. It’s also more affordable but has much fewer features, here are the differences.
- The Garmin has a built-in flasher for vertical fishing
- The Garmin has no equivalent features to Switchfire
- DownImaging isn’t as deep on the Garmin
- You can not add charts to the Garmin and there is no basemap
- There is no MEGA DI or SI on the Garmin
In my eyes it’s quite obvious that the Striker 9 SV is an inferior product to the Humminbird based on the above, but it is a lot more affordable.
If you’re on a budget it might suit you but you’ll only have GPS and sonar with no charts.
The most similar product to the Humminbird in terms of price and feature set, but they still aren’t exactly the same.
The Lowrance Elite 9 Ti fish finder is the most similar product to the Humminbird in terms of price and feature set, but they still aren’t exactly the same, and here is how.
- The Elite 9 Ti has a touchscreen
- You can view and control the Elite 9 Ti from your smartphone
- The Elite 9 Ti records sonar history so you can review it
- There is no MEGA DI or SI on the Elite 9 Ti
- Lowrance customer service isn’t the best
As you can see from the above, the Elite 9 Ti has a few more important features than the Humminbird and for the same price.
Using a touchscreen is a lot easier than buttons, and being able to view and control the fish finder from your phone means you can roam around the boat without being glued to the screen.
If this sounds more useful to you and you’re willing to sacrifice the details of MEGA DI & SI plus fight with Lowrance customer service if you need to, the Elite 9 Ti might be a better choice for you.
Thanks for reading my Humminbird Helix 9 reviews, I hope you found it useful and have all the information you need to know if it’s the right fish finder for you.
It truly is a great fish finder with an amazing capability to help you find and catch more fish.
If you enjoyed this Humminbird Helix 9 reviews, please share it around with your friends and check out some of my other articles too, such as this review of the Lowrance HDS.
I cover everything from spinning and fly fishing gear to the 12-volt battery you’ll need to power a fish finder.