When it comes to fishing, many people go around it the traditional way: find a good spot and hope that fish will come biting. It’s true, there’s a certain level of excitement in this, since you never know what might happen and what you are going to catch.
A lot of people, however, prefer to be practical. Setting the mystery aside, they prefer using a fish finder to guide them through the process. But what is the best fish finder? How do you differentiate a good model from a bad one?
With this guide, we will help you through the selection process. We gathered a few important features to look for, as well as some popular models that many fishermen seem to appreciate. Fish, beware!
Best Fish Finder Under 500
Best Fish Finder Under 200
Best Fish Finder Under 500
Looking for the best fish finder? Well, here are some fish finder reviews to guide you!
Winner: Deeper Pro+ Portable Wireless Fish Finder
This device is compatible with every model of Android or Smartphone, as long as you have the appropriate app. You can connect it to your phone and receive data from the built-in transducer without having to carry too much on you.
The connection is done via Bluetooth or wireless, which enables the data to spread accurately and quickly. Aside from its portability, you also have the advantage of rechargeable batteries – which means that you can change them at any time.
This Deeper fish finder is very versatile and can reach areas that other fish can’t. It doesn’t really matter if you’re fishing from a dock, a bridge, or a boat; it can sneak into places and offer you readings.
Thanks to its dual beam, you can switch from shallow to deep water search at any time. With an adjustable frequency going from 90 to 290, you can search for fish in any type of water.
When it’s fully charged, the battery can last up to 6 hours. It’s perfect for the fisherman who likes to stay all day fishing and bring home a trophy. Plus, since you don’t have to keep it on all the time, it might last even more than that.
Furthermore, it’s highly waterproof, and no water will ever enter the system. You can leave it there, floating at any time, without worrying that water will be the reason for its demise.
Overall, there’s no surprise that many people consider this to be the best fish finder. It’s practical, you can take it anywhere, and it doesn’t even need an Internet connection – unless you have it.
Runner-Up: Humminbird Helix 5 Fish Finder
The Helix 5 Humminbird fish finder is like any other typical fish finder on the market – at least when it comes to looks. With a vertical screen that turns everything into a landscape display, you will receive a clear view of what is under your boat.
This is the type of fish finder that is more appropriate for boat users. Thanks to its CHIRP system, it can be adjusted from low (20 kHz) to high (240 kHz).
Normally, it easily reaches up to 1500 feet underwater, and the readings until that point are very accurate. However, we found that if you purchase an optional transducer, you can reach up to 2500 feet.
The Helix 5 also has its own mapping system and an included GPS system. Thanks to this, you can always recheck the “heat points,” without getting misled or accidentally ending up somewhere else (all waters look the same when away from shore).
The display is colored. This means that you can discern much easier fish from the environment.
It’s definitely one of the best fish finders that you can get, considering its features. Plus, it’s not that expensive, so it’s a fairly good investment.
Best Fish Finder Under 200
Winner: Garmin Striker 4 Fish Finder
If you are on a budget but still want a fish finder that can offer you decent readings, then this Garmin fish finder is definitely worth a glance. Even though the screen is fairly small when compared to other fish finders, it can still get the job done.
Thanks to its built-in GPS system, you can map out the places where you know the biggest concentrations are. This way, you can return to those areas even if it’s foggy or raining. It’s perfect for finding hot spots on both open oceans and rivers.
The transducer is also fairly high-quality, considering its size. With its CHIRP sonar, it can send a continuous frequency sweep that can reach up to 750 feet in salt water and 1,600 feet in fresh water.
It also has an on-screen speedometer, and it will show you accurate data even if you are moving at a high speed while on your boat.
This is a very useful feature if you don’t know where the fish is yet and you’re still browsing the waters.
The screen measures only 3.5 inches, but since it’s colored, it’s very easy to discern fish from plants and environmental factors. It may not have the resolution of a more expensive device, but it will definitely tell you where to go for fish to bite.
Runner-Up: Lowrance Hook 3X Fish Finder
This Lowrance fish finder is also a good option if you are on a budget. It may not look like much when compared to other professional units, but it’s the best fish finder for the money that you can get as a beginner.
The screen, while only measuring 3 inches, is very clear to read even if the sun is shining down on you. The LED backlights are also a convenient extra to provide clear readings. And even if the screen has a resolution of only 320 x 240, you can clearly see what is lurking underneath.
This unit also works on dual frequency from 83 kHz to 200 kHz, which means that you can go for both side and down imaging.
Plus, thanks to the pro signaling processing feature, it has no need for manual tinkering.
The Hook 3X is also very easy to use. All you have to do is drop it in the water and it will “see” anything around you.
Not only that will you find the reefs, but you will also see the fish hiding in there. It’s the best fish finder if you’re looking for something middle class.
Alternative: Hawkeye FishTrax 1C Fish Finder
Those looking for a compact fish finder that they can throw in their pocket when not in use may find that the Hawkeye fish finder is a worthwhile investment. It may look like a toy, but the readings it provides are flawless.
This fish finder operates on both high and low frequency, making it perfect for both shallow and deep waters. The readings you get can go all the way from 1.5 feet to 240 feet.
Thanks to the colored display, it will be very easy for you to read the screen and see the life forms. Furthermore, you have a fish depth identifier that will let you know of the water debt and where the fish is exactly.
Overall, it’s the best fish finder for those looking for something cheap but effective. Granted, it may not tell you what fish lie there exactly, but it will tell you enough so that you can come home with a bucketful.
Why Should You Choose A Fish Finder Carefully?
Everything that you eventually buy will have to be chosen with the utmost care. Why? Because if you buy something just because it’s “cheap,” then you might end up having to set it aside. The reason? It won’t be of any help.
On the other hand, many people purchase the more expensive models because “they’re better.” However, once they test them out, they realize they have hundreds of settings – and they cannot use them. They paid fortunes just so that they could use its basic options.
This is why you need to think beyond the price. The best fish finder will have only the features that you need, without you having to overpay (or in some cases, underpay) for anything.
What if you usually fish in an area where it’s foggy, but you don’t have a GPS to guide you around? Or what if the fish finder you bought is too large or heavy to be carried around?
You need to consider every feature when looking for a fish finder. Based on that, you will know for sure whether it’s going to be useful for you or not.
On What To Pay Attention When Choosing Your Fish Finder
Thinking of upping up your game and purchasing a fish finder? Here are some features that might need some extra attention.
The screen is basically the “visible” side of your finder. It’s where you actually see the fish – where you control all the settings. And you need to be very attentive to what that screen brings to the table.
One important aspect of the screen is the resolution. Think about it this way: if you had a camera dating from the time your grandmother was your age, you couldn’t see anything once you zoomed the picture – simply because it did not have enough pixels.
Nowadays, however, you can zoom to the point where you can see that ladybug that landed on your friend’s shoulder. The reason is that the more professional the camera, the more pixels you have. And the more pixels you have, the more details you can see.
The same thing goes with fish finders. The more pixels you have, the better you can see the fish – which is why many people see a high-resolution unit as the best fish finder.
With a low-resolution fish finder, you can get an idea of areas that have larger formations of fish. However, a high-resolution fish finder can show you what fish you have in that area – simply because it sees better.
Say you buy a fish finder with a big screen because it looks cool. You tested it out once, caught a lot of fish, and came home happy because you secured dinner for a week.
But next time you go fishing, you realize that you are not in the mood to bring the “mammoth” with you as well. “I’ll just go with the spot I went to last time.” And you keep going with the same routine until you never use the device anymore.
On the other hand, if you’re struggling to make heads or tails from a reading, that’s not very convenient either.
When deciding on a screen size, think about what would be good for you: yes, a bigger one has more feature, and you can probably see more detail on it – but can you afford to sacrifice ease of use with multiple features?
If you keep it installed on your boat, then a big screen won’t be a problem. On the other hand, if you are looking for something portable, then a smaller screen may be a better choice for you.
When it comes to screens, a colored model is usually considered the best fish finder. By buying a colored screen, you will have a better chance at differentiating fish from the environment, and everything will really pop out.
Furthermore, a colored screen will be much easier to read than a black and white model, especially when the sun is shining.
You can also find black and white screens, but those are generally recommended only if it’s your only option – budget-wise. It’s also a good choice for beginners since it only has the most basic features.
This is related to the transducer. Depending on the frequency, the best fish finder can be used on shallow or deep waters. Here’s how you choose them:
High Frequency (~200 kHz)
These fish finders work best for waters that have no more than 200 feet. They are also a good option if you need accurate displays when moving at high speeds (for example, on a motorboat).
High-frequency fish finders typically display little noise. Plus, there will not be as many undesired echoes either, so you can get a better definition of the target.
High Frequency (~50 kHz)
For deeper waters, you might want to go for a low-frequency fish finder. The waves are spreading much faster, with the ongoing pulse getting a better reading of what is underneath your boat.
Keep in mind, that the lower the frequency, the more area it covers. And the more area it covers, the less definition you may get. Depending on how deep the water level is, you might not get an accurate reading of the bottom.
It’s safe to say that if you go fishing, your tools will eventually get wet. It may be because of a wave, or it may be because you were caught in a downpour. However, since a fish finder is an electronic device, it’s definitely prone to water damage.
Every fishfinder is waterproof – to some extent. However, the best fish finder won’t have you following up with a dry cloth every time it gets splashed with water.
No matter if it has an extra layer of coating or some extra good sealants, make sure that your device can take a water hit.
When you go fishing, you won’t always have sunny, perfect weather or environmental aspects to guide you. So, in these circumstances, you need a GPS unit to guide you around.
Nowadays, every fish finder has a GPS unit installed. Some have built-in antennas, others have external ones. Regardless of your choice, these units will tell you the way when your eyes can’t (for instance, if it’s foggy or heavily raining).
GPS fish finders and mapping systems generally go hand in hand. A unit that only has a GPS system will take you to the right areas; however, you will only receive present data, without the ability to record anything.
On the other hand, if you have a mapping system, you will be able to record every fishing trip, along with the spots where you found the biggest concentration. This way, you’ll be able to return to that spot, without having to hunt it down every time.
Do you have to install it on a boat and leave it there, or can you just carry it around with you each time you go fishing? If you have your own fishing boat, then a unit that can be installed on the dashboard can be the most convenient option for you.
On the other hand, if you practice shore fishing or want to keep things easy to manage, you may want to go for a portable unit. Usually, in these cases, the screen can be either handheld or attached to the screen, while the transducer is mounted to the fishing line.
The cone angle is pretty much beam emitted by the transmitter. The further it goes down, the wider the cone will get at the base. This will offer you better coverage, without having to focus on a specific spot.
However, keep in mind that bigger isn’t always better. Think about the cone as a laser beam. The smaller the beam, the more power you will have over your target.
On the other hand, a larger cone will have a diffused power. Since the same energy will have to cover a larger area, it will not be that concentrated. As a result, you may not get readings that are as detailed as the “concentrated form.”
Finding the best fish finder is definitely not easy, but it can be done. All you need to do is dive into a little research – pun intended. After that, your preferences and budget should lead the way.
If you are a beginner, then you might want to go for budget fish finders. They are very basic, but they are usually very easy to use.
On the other hand, if you are planning to fish on a professional level, then you might want to invest more than $200 in a unit. Those are usually more detailed and are very useful if you are targeting a special type of fish.
Hopefully, we gave you enough information so that you can make an appropriate choice.