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Best Side Imaging Fish Finder 2020

Every angler knows that a good fish finder is a perfect accessory that makes your fishing trip even more fruitful. Fish finders these days use advanced technology that allows anglers to get views from all angles of the boat. A great fish finder will streamline your fishing experience and optimize your catching potential.

Fish finders are so advanced that it can be overwhelming to try and choose one. Different manufacturers use different terminology to describe similar features. For example, you may see side imagery referred to as SI, SideVu, Side Scan. So it may be tricky to understand a fish finder’s specifications even if you know what you’re looking for. 

Whether you’re an angler who’s just trying to get a clearer picture of what’s going on under your boat or you’re ready to step up your fishing game and make great use of a number of sophisticated features, our buyer’s guide will surely be a great resource to help you narrow down your options!

Difference Between Side Imaging and Down Imaging

Side imaging and down imaging use sonar technology (and often a transducer) to create an underwater image that can show you details such as lake bottom, underwater debris and fish.

With side imaging, there are beams that must be placed on either side of your boat. These beams capture images of various depths and give you a side-by-side image on your screen so you can easily see the details.

Down imaging, on the other hand, uses a transducer that only projects its sonar beam straight down. With this technology you get a single image of what’s going on right beneath your boat.

Advantages of Side Imaging

Now that you understand the difference, you may be wondering what the benefit of a fish finder that uses side imaging technology instead of just down imaging is. Here are a few reasons why anglers love side imaging.

  • Side imaging offers a better water scan so you can better read the water and identify more landmarks and fish faster. 
  • With side imaging, you get a split-screen image that produces a more intuitive image than the single picture provided by down imaging.
  • Side imaging works well regardless of your water depth, even in shallow waters that might not get a read at all with only down imaging.
  • Side imaging, in conjunction with down imaging, gives you the best of both worlds.

What to Look For

There are several important features to consider when you’re comparing different fish finder models that use side imaging technology. 

Kind of Boat

What kind of boat are you hoping to use this fish finder on? Different boats need different installation methods so be sure the fish finder you choose pairs well with your boat. Check for additional accessories that must be purchased for a fish finder to be compatible with your boat to avoid frustration when you head out on a fishing trip.

Generally, side imaging fish finders with SI technology are meant for use on motor boats or bass boats. If you hope to get out on a kayak or inflatable you may need extra mounting equipment.

Transducer

Another thing to consider is the transducer. A good SI fish finder should come with a transducer, otherwise you’ll have to purchase one separately. You can’t actually use the side imaging tech without it.

GPS

You might want your SI fish finder to include GPS. This combination allows you to navigate your way around the waters, watching for fish at the same time. So it’s a useful feature. If you do find an area full of fish, you can save that location’s sonar image. On a future outing, you can use the fish finder’s GPS to return to the exact location.

Our Top 5 Picks


Hummingbird Helix 7 Fish Finder 410950-1, CHIRP MSI GPS G3Lowrance HOOK2 5 - 5-inch Fish Finder with TripleShot Transducer and US Inland Lake Maps Installed …Humminbird 409640-1 Helix 5 SI Fish Finder with Side-Imaging and GPSGarmin 010-01901-00 Echomap Plus 93SV Without transducerGarmin Striker 7SV with transducer,  010-01809-00
BrandsHummingbird Helix 7Lowrance HOOK2 5Humming Bird Helix 5Garmin Echomap PlusGarmin Striker
Water ProofNoNoNoNoNo
Transducer includedYesYesYesNoYes
GPS technology includedYesYesYesYesYes
Depth Capacity125 feet500 feet1500 feet2300 feet300 meters
Cost Factor$$$$$$$$$
Sonar TechnologyDual Spectrum CHIRPCHIRPDualbeam with SwitchfireCHIRPCHIRP
Screen Size7 inches5 inches5 inches9 inches7 inches
Warranty1 year5 years1 year1 year1 year
Hummingbird Helix 7 Fish Finder 410950-1, CHIRP MSI GPS G3

Hummingbird has been making improvements in the fish finding industry for over 45 years. Their innovative sonar and depth finder technology lets you take your fishing to the next level. Hummingbird has made it their goal to help anglers of all different backgrounds make the most of their time spent on the water. The Helix 7 Fish Finder, features MEGA side imaging and down imaging on an ultra-wide, 7-inch high definition color display that’s so easy to read.

The Hummingbird Helix 7 is our top pick for a side imaging fish finder. It’s packed with features like GPS, duel spectrum CHIRP, and Swtichfire sonar and Lakemaster Plus, so you’ll have everything you need in one easy to use fish finder.

Pros

  • The crystal clear view as far as 125 feet on either side of the boat, as well as below the boat allows you to map out more of the fish and underwater landscape than ever.
  • The Low Q CHIRP transducer and Dual Spectrum CHIRP sonar allow you to search in wide mode (for maximum coverage) or narrow mode (to focus in on a specific area in greater detail).
  • Mounting hardware, cables, and gimbal brackets all come included, so placing the transducer is user-friendly right out of the box.
  • Hummingbird’s special Baseman is built-in, allowing you to see points of interest as well as detailed underwater terrain so that you can more confidently identify all kinds of underwater landscapes and markers and fish
  • Hummingbird’s Lake Master technology means you can create real-time maps of your favorite fishing spots and has 8 hours of recording time.

Cons

  • You may have to pay shipping and insurance costs on the product if you need customer service to make repairs or replace parts.
  • Transducer can’t be used on trolling motors.
  • Many additional features require you to purchase accessories separately.
Lowrance HOOK2 5 - 5-inch Fish Finder with TripleShot Transducer and US Inland Lake Maps Installed …

Lowrance is the brand that invented the first sonar device for consumers back in 1957, so you could say they know what they’re doing when it comes to marine electronics. This brand has been continually improving upon their technology for over 60 years to bring you the highest quality, most advanced features in their fish finders.

The best part is that their products are user-friendly and intuitive, so you don’t have to spend hours trying to figure out how to make use of your fish finder.

The Hook² Fish Finder offers so many great features at an amazing price making it our best budget option for a fish finder that includes both side and down imaging technology, auto-tuning sonar with double the coverage of other, more expensive units.

Pros

  • The high-resolution 5-inch screen uses a menu that mimics smartphone menus so you can easily find the different features without having to memorize a user’s manual.
  • The CHIRP sonar cone has a wide-angle for a better view.
  • There are 3 different transducer options so you can use them for multiple applications: TripleShot 3 in 1, SplitShot 2 in 1, and Bullet.
  • US Inlet and Coastal C-MAPS are preloaded and use great details to give you more confidence while you fish.
  • Add waypoints, follow a trail, and navigate with the simple built-in GPS plotter.
  • Built-in SD card port so you can upgrade your maps or other features.

Cons

  • The screen may be difficult to read in bright sunlight, Lowrance makes a compatible sun cover that you can purchase separately to avoid this issue.
  • The transducer is a bit on the bulky side, so you’ll need to treat it with care to avoid breakage.
Humminbird 409640-1 Helix 5 SI Fish Finder with Side-Imaging and GPS

We mentioned above that the Hummingbird brand was innovative and angler friendly. So, it makes sense that they make not one but two excellent fish finder options that offer side imaging technology.

For an easy to use fish finder at an affordable price, the Helix 5 SI is a great option that allows user to customize and upgrade their experience based on their personal fishing needs.

With a high-resolution LCD screen display, you can easily take the mystery out of your fishing routes in vivid detail and at incredible depths. The addition of a MicroSD slot means you can upgrade your maps with Navionics, HotMaps, LakeMaster, or AutoChart Pro for an even better fishing experience.

Pros

  • Includes down imaging and side imaging technology.
  • Uses Precision GPS with UniMap technology.
  • Get a side-by-side view combining sonar, GPS, down imaging, and side imaging.
  • Store waypoints and routes right in the fish finder (up to 2500) so you can mark your favorite fishing spots and always be able to navigate back to the same place

Cons

  • All hardware and mounting equipment are sold separately.
  • Side imaging technology works best in calm conditions while maintaining a slow speed (between 3-4 MPH). So the imaging won’t be that clear if you’re fishing in rougher waters at varying rates.
Garmin 010-01901-00 Echomap Plus 93SV Without transducer

Garmin is a leader in the GPS industry. The high-tech functionality of this fish finder from the leader in GPS technology is a great addition to your boat. They always strive to ensure their equipment contains all the best and most accurate technology.

This quality product allows anglers to spend more time exploring and less time worrying about their surroundings. Garmin lets its navigational equipment speak for itself and guarantees that you’ll be impressed with its functionality while you’re enjoying the great outdoors.

The Echomap Plus is jam-packed with fantastic features on an extra-large, touch screen that’s easy to read. Even under bright sunlight, you don’t have to mess with settings or extra cases to look at the screen. There’s no limit to what you’ll be able to see with Echomaps traditional sonar plus CHIRP clearvu and CHIRP sidevu scanning features, plus Panoptix sonar and the greatest depth coverage we’ve seen.

Pros

  • Lakevu with integrated Navionix is preloaded and has up to 1’ contours
  • Quickdraw Contours mapping software is built-in, so you can personalize your fishing maps right on the easy to use touch screen while you’re fishing.
  • WiFi connection is also built-in, so you have access to OneChart and Garmin community data wherever you are

Cons

  • The transducer and other helpful accessories are sold separately.
Garmin Striker 7SV with transducer,  010-01809-00

Another great option from Garmin and this one comes with a transducer included for the price. This Fish Finder uses Clearly technology for amazing down and side imaging on top of many other great features.

Anglers everywhere will appreciate the upgraded target separation of the CHIRP fish arches. This fish finder is another one of Garmins quality products at an excellent price point.

Pros

  • High-frequency sonar produces much clearer images than comparable Fish Finders for a truly clear view on the sides and underneath the boat.
  • Waypoint map is included and easy to use so you can mark different locations.
  • A built-in flasher makes this a great fish finder for ice fishing or vertical jigging.
  • The interface is easy to use so that you can spend more time fishing.

Con

  • May have too many features for beginning anglers, so make sure you need everything before you commit to learning how to use it.

Conclusion

There are many great options on the market when it comes to user-friendly side imaging fish finders. Remember to consider what type of boat you’ll be using. Different boats require different installations. Check to see if it includes a transducer or you’ll need to buy one separately. Finally, don’t forget to think about handy features like GPS. 

All in all, with the help of this guide, you should be able to find the best side imaging fish finder for your needs. Good luck!

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