Unless you have x-ray eyes, you probably struggle to see fish clearly from where you stand on your boat, which is on the surface of the water. This is a challenge that anglers have faced from time immemorial, and it’s the reason why angling has always involved a lot of keen observation, because one has to really outwit the fish most of the time to catch them.
Nowadays, however, anglers no longer have to rely on these sometimes unreliable skills, and it’s all thanks to the invention of the fish finder. The sole purpose of this device is to serve as a sixth sense that allows you to spot fish even if they’re situated deep beneath the water.
While these devices initially started out as a way for anglers to determine water depth and lake structure, they’ve evolved to include sonar capabilities that allow them to tell you where the fish are hiding, how many there are and where you are in relation to the best fishing spot.
- 1 Types of Fish Finders
- 2 Finding the Right Fish Sonar for Your Needs
- 3 Features to Consider before Purchasing
- 4 Our Top Recommended Depth Finders
- 5 In a Nutshell
Types of Fish Finders
Now, there are different types of fish finders out there to suit different situations. You have old-school anglers and new-school anglers who hold different ideas about how much help one should accept from technology, and ease of use can play a huge factor in this regard as well.
Anyway, here are the different types of fish finders currently available on the market and some information on how they work.
Conventional Fish Finders
Conventional depth finders are pretty straightforward in that they use sonar technology to collect information about the body of water that you’re fishing in.
They’ll let you know what the water depth is, how the temperature’s like, as well as any obstructions that are present in the water that might affect your fishing expedition, including shipwrecks, vegetation, sunken trees, etc.
It’s important to note here that the level and amount of detail provided by the device will depend on the particular model and how advanced it is.
For example, you’ve got entry-level models that will give you a rough outline of the images, whereas high-end models are capable of providing you with precise and almost photograph-like image results, where you’re able to accurately make out what you’re seeing and not guess at what it might be.
Typically, conventional fish finders come with an attachment that allows you to mount them onto your boat, canoe or kayak.
The information that you get from a flasher device is significantly simpler in comparison to a conventional depth finder. This device mainly tells you about the bottom depth of the water you’re fishing in, as well as fish depth and the depth of your lure in relation to the bottom depth of the water.
As such, they’re an ideal solution for anglers who still prefer to keep things simple and use their own faculties to find fish with only a little help from technology.
In all fairness though, the unique features offered by flashers are actually quite useful when angling in deep water using vertical jigging techniques, and they also come in handy for ice fishing expeditions because they’re portable and easy to use.
That said, you won’t get much in the way of visual detail from flashers. The best they can do is to show you the depth of objects in the form of lines placed along the edge of a circular graph.
The good news is that you can get the unique features of a flasher in most of the more advanced fish finders, which also offer more vivid visual detail.
GPS-Fish Finder Combos
The GPS-Fish Finder Combo is basically a conventional sonar that includes a GPS circuit so that you can get all the data-collection benefits of a traditional fish finder, as well as accurate information about your location.
Some of the perks that come with this type of device include being able to mark particular locations where you’ve had a lot of success so that it’s easier for you to return to them.
They also give you a bird’s eye view of the water beneath your boat, and you can even use them alongside your plotting charts to get better navigation and a more explicit indication of your location.
Castable Fish Finders
The Castable Fish Finder is a transducer that provides an ideal solution for anglers who want to learn more about productive yet challenging to reach fishing spots. That’s because these devices are small enough to attach onto the end of your fishing line so that you can cast them into the water where they’ll collect data about the water below through sonar signals. You’ll then receive that data in real time via your smartphone or another mobile device which is wirelessly connected to the transducer.
While castable fish finders are mostly utilized by kayak anglers and those who use small boats, they will also come in handy for any angler who wants to collect data in difficult to reach areas. Plus, they’re super affordable when compared to other types of depth finders, so that’s great.
Finding the Right Fish Sonar for Your Needs
Now, we all know that anglers have different preferences when it comes to how they choose to catch fish. Some prefer to do it the old school way and fish by the bank, while others prefer the convenience and comfort of being in a boat, and some choose kayaks and canoes because they allow for ease of mobility.
Thing is, each of these approaches requires a different type of fish finder based on the capabilities offered by each of these unique devices.
If you predominantly fish from a boat, then you’ll have the most extensive selection of fish finders to choose from, as most of these excellent devices are expressly designed for boat fishing. However, the downside to this is that you’ll have so many options to choose from that it might be difficult for you actually to pick one as they might start to all seem the same at some point.
It’s important to note here that a majority of the devices on the market are designed either for salt water or fresh water applications, whereas some are more appropriate for offshore anglers than they are for inshore fishermen.
Nevertheless, it makes sense for you to get a more powerful model if you are angling off-shore because you’ll need the chart plotting and GPS capabilities that it comes with.
On the other hand, if you’re an inshore angler, you’ll do well to make the device’s display quality and imaging technology your primary considerations.
Here are a few more features to think about when looking for a fish finder, whether you’re an inshore or offshore angler.
Kayak/ Canoe Anglers
While it is entirely possible and okay for canoe and kayak anglers to use the same sonars that are utilized by boat anglers, it’s more expedient for them to opt for models that are specifically designed for fishing with smaller crafts.
But then again, if you’re a kayak angler who’s making their way into the sea, you’ll need a fish finder that contains similar capabilities to those required by inshore and offshore fishermen.
Here are some of the most important considerations to make if you’re a canoe or kayak angler that’s looking for a fish finder.
Anglers Who Fish From Dry Ground
Unlike inshore/offshore boat anglers and small craft anglers, bank anglers don’t have that many options to choose from when it comes to fish finders. In fact, there just aren’t a lot of brands and models that cater to their needs.
Nevertheless, the castable fish finder is the most popular option for bank anglers because it enables them to gather data on a wide range of different locations, although they can just as easily adopt a traditional fish finder to their needs by attaching it to a dock.
Here are some of the most important considerations to make when looking for a fish finder to suit your needs as an angler that fishes from dry ground
Features to Consider before Purchasing
When the time comes for you to purchase your fish finder, getting value for money will definitely be a priority for you. However, for you to get the most bang for your money you have to compare the different options available to you so that you can choose one that’s most suited to your needs and preferences.
To help you along, we’ve listed and detailed some of the most important features to look out for when shopping for a fish finder.
A GPS-enabled fish finder offers valuable data on your location and the location of nearby underwater objects so that you can find the best and safest fishing spots within the body of water that you’re fishing in. While most fish finders are GPS-enabled, there are still some entry-level models that don’t come with this feature, so be sure to look out for that.
High-Quality Display Screen
It’s essential that the fish finder you pick has a high-quality screen display so that you’re able to see clearly the data it has collected for you. Ideally, you want one that produces high-resolution color images.
Adequate Screen Size
Your fish finder should also have a large screen so that you’re able to view the images and data display from afar.
You should also be able to customize the way in which information is collected and displayed on the device. This could mean being able to change the color display for example, so that you can make the most out of the images you get in dim lighting or poor weather conditions.
Plus, some transducers will also enable you to focus on different aspects of the collected data.
Now, some fish finders are more straightforward to mount than others. Obviously, you want to purchase an easy-to-install model, especially if you’re going to be mounting and removing it on a regular basis, such as when you’re using a rented fishing boat.
The flasher function is not ubiquitous with all fish finders, but it is an essential feature for ice anglers or anyone who plans on doing some vertical jigging. That’s because this feature enables you to cut out the noise and only focus on your lure and the fish that you’re after.
Water Temperature Probe
Be sure to choose a fish finder model with a water temperature probe, as that’ll make it easier for you to find productive spots on the water based on how agreeable the temperature is for fish.
Custom Map-Making Functionality
It’s easy enough to find a navigational chart for a river or a lake, but it’s almost impossible to find detailed charts or maps when you’re angling in creeks and ponds. That’s why your fish finder should have map-making capabilities so that you can create a detailed custom map of the location in real time.
Some of the fish finder models available today also come with SD card slots and other transfer methods that allow you to transfer the data collected by the transducer into another fishfinder or onto your PC.
Preloaded Maps and Charts
You might find that some fish finders feature pre-installed maps and charts. This means that won’t be required to buy separate maps, which can be a very costly exercise.
Wireless Device Compatibility
A lot of the fish finders available on the market today can be wirelessly connected to iOS or Android devices via Bluetooth connectivity. This makes it easy for you to effortlessly transfer useful data that has been collected by the transducer onto other digital devices. It also means that you'll be able to
locate and control your fish finder wirelessly. Just make sure to check which operating system the fish finder is compatible with before you purchase it.
Our Top Recommended Depth Finders
CHIRP 54cv with Transducer/h4>
As with all Garmin products, this is a high-quality option that gives you all the GPS power you need to find and return to your waypoints faster.
It features ClearVu Scanning Sonar technology that delivers realistic images of all the objects near or beneath your boat, including structures and fish. Its CHIRP sonar technology helps you to achieve better target separation, and you’ll definitely appreciate the built-in U.S. BlueChart g2 charts and maps as well.
Plus, you can create your own maps, which is an excellent feature for anglers who fish in small bodies of water.
What We Like
What We Don't Like
Wired & Wireless Fishing Sonar for All Fishing Types
Best Cheap Affordable Fish Finder
This fish finder from Lucky gives you detailed information about the water you’re fishing in, including the temperature, depth, contour and fish quantity. The sonar covers 328 feet when it’s on the cable, and up to 147 feet when used wirelessly.
It also offers 3 color tones, namely Blue, Orange, and Grey. Perfect for trolling and ice fishing. The wide-beam scanning feature means that you can see far and wide with this fish finder, and it allows you to view real-time data.
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Built in GPS and WiFi with Navionics+ Charts and Transducer
Best Beginner Fish Finder
The Raymarine Dragonfly is good fish finder for beginners, owing to how simple and easy it is to use.
It has everything you need in a transducer of its size, including a 4.3 inch LED and full-color screen with no internal fogging issues. It also features maps for US and Canadian rivers, coastlines and over 20, 000 lakes, as well as their cool WiFish app, which enables you to save, rewind and share your catches with interested friends and family.
You can also use this app to stream sonar data and display it live on your connected smartphone or another compatible device.
With the Dual-Channel sonar feature, your underwater sonar images will come out crystal-clear and almost photograph-like for up to 600 ft underwater. Plus, the wide-spectrum CHIRP DownVision will help you find the fish fast so you can get to catch them!
The best part is that it comes with an all-in-one socket mounting system which you can easily attach to your boat, car, wherever! And it’s WiFi-enabled so you can connect it to your smartphone to see all the data that it’s collecting in real time.
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W/ 83/200 XDCR
The Lowrance brand is well-known in the angler community for making some of the best fish finders on the market, and this model simply does not disappoint. It features a LED-backlit color display with 320 x 240 resolution that allows for wide viewing angles and comfortable viewing in full sunlight.
This device also allows you to spot the largest fish arches thanks to 60 degrees of conical coverage which is made possible by 83 kHz sonar operation. To help you see the objects located underneath your boat, there’s the Dual-frequency 83 or 200 kHz operation feature, while the 200 kHz frequency option is perfect when using the drop-shotting technique.
Plus, with the Broadband Sounder detail, you’ll find that it’s easier for you to make out bottom contour, fish arches, and structure.
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Helix 5 Chirp GPS G2 Fish Finder
With 5-inches of the high-quality color display, this unit from Humminbird delivers bright and clear images-even in full sunlight.
It also features Chirp DualBeam PLUS sonar that acts as an extra lure that will take you to difficult to find fish, as well as built-in GPS Chartplotting and UniMap and Anima cartography.
Plus, you can save your waypoint easily thanks to the Micro SD card slot. The hummingbird base map features maps for more than 10, 000 U.S lakes and much of the coastline, while the GPS data is based on reliable sources like LakeMaster and NOAA.
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In a Nutshell
The fish finder device can be a real lifesaver for an angler because as the name implies, it makes it easier for you to find fish and catch them. However, finding one that suits your needs can be challenging in light of the available options in today’s competitive world.
We hope our guide has helped to make the selection process that much simpler for you, and that you’ve managed to find a viable option from the choices presented.
Our top pick from the products we’ve featured and reviewed in this article, it would have to be the Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 54cv with the transducer. It’s a solid, high-quality product that comes with all the great GPS capabilities and perks you’d expect from a Garmin product, it delivers realistic images, and you can use it to create your own maps.
For a budget-friendly option, look no further than the Lucky FF718LiC 2 in 1 Wired & Wireless Portable Fish Finder with its wide-range casting ability, lightweight portability, versatility and it's waterproof as well.