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Best Fish Finder for Freshwater and Saltwater Angling: 2020 Buyer’s Guide

fisherman with fish tracker

The best fish finder can be an invaluable tool. It can help you easily locate fish underwater, identify hazardous structures in the water, and can point you in the right direction if you’re looking for a fishing hotspot. But since their rise in popularity, fish finders have been flooding the market over the past few years, making it difficult to find a model that can deliver the high level of functionality the manufacturers claim they can. That’s where I come in. I’ve tested out several models, narrowing it down to seven fish finders that have what it takes to ensure you end up catching a large haul, effortlessly, without wasting several hours out on the water. If you’re new to fish finder tech, then you can take advantage of the buyer’s guide that I’ve put together, which includes all the information you need to find a model that comes loaded with the type of features you want, based on where you fish, the type of fish you’re looking for, and your skill level. Below, you’ll find a comparison chart, which includes all of the models that made it onto my list, how they rated, and their top features.

Fish Finder Comparison Chart

ProductImagingDisplaySonarRating
Lowrance HOOK
Fish Finder

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Down Scan7 inchesCHIRP
Hummingbird 410950-1
HELIX 7 Fish Finder

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Side Imaging7 InchesCHIRP
Garmin Striker Plus 5Cv
GPS Fish Finder

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Dual5 InchesCHIRP/Clear Vu
Elite-12 Fish Finder

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Dual12 InchesCHIRP
Humminbird ICE H5
Helix Fish Finder

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Dual5 InchesCHIRP
Garmin Striker 4
Fish Finder

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Down Scan3.5 InchesCHIRP/Clear Vu
LUCKY Portable
Fish Finder

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Down Scan2.4 InchesStandard /Single

Lowrance HOOK Fish Finder


Our Rating: (5/5)

The Hook, by Lowrance comes with the popular fish reveal feature, which makes it easier to identify and find fish. This feature combines the high-resolution images of structures from down scan imaging and the target separation from CHIRP sonar to make fish light up on the display screen. The device also features inland maps with plenty of detail, providing buyers with maps for 4,000 inland lakes in the US. The feature also allows you to create custom maps with better detail than what you’ll get from competing models. You can also use the GPS plotter via Genesis Live, so you can find fish faster. The Splitshot transducer is perfect for anglers who are looking for a model that provides a better view of below the boat. This transducer features wide-angle CHIRP sonar and down scan imaging. The autotuning sonar allows you to spend more time fishing and less time worrying about adjusting the sonar’s settings. The Hook Reveal autotuning sonar is designed to adjust the settings automatically, based on fishing conditions.

Pros

  • Splitshot transducer
  • 4,000 highly detailed inland maps
  • Autotuning sonar
  • Large display screen

Cons

  • Vague owner’s manual

Conclusion

This feature packed model has it all, including CHIRP sonar, Fish Reveal, and highly detailed maps for thousands of inland lakes. If you’re looking for a fish finder that offers the latest in fish finding technology, this model definitely delivers. It also comes with a large seven-inch vivid display screen, which will make it much easier and faster to spot fish, in a variety of light conditions. Lowrance has done it again by producing a top of the line device that comes with all the features that anglers of every skill level will love and appreciate.

Hummingbird 410950-1 HELIX 7 Fish Finder


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model comes equipped with CHIRP sonar, a seven-inch large display screen for crystal-clear viewing, and mega down imaging. This down imaging technology will allow you to see down to 125 feet on each side of your boat. This fish finder is powered by a low Q CHIRP transducer with dual spectrum. The transducer offers a couple of ways to search; narrow mode for better detail and wide mode for maximum coverage. This model also comes with a gimbal mounting bracket, so you can mount the transducer, which is a huge plus considering many competing models will require you to purchase the hardware separately. The manufacturer claims this model offers up to three times more output compared to a fish finder with a standard down imaging sonar. Additionally, this model also comes with charts of more than 10,000 lakes, in addition to coastal coverage for the US. The auto chart feature will allow anglers to customize maps in real-time, which is a huge plus if you want to drop a pin for a place you want to revisit, or mark off a dangerous location that features hazards in the water.

Pros

  • CHIRP sonar
  • Maps for 10,000 lakes
  • Includes mounting hardware
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Transducer cable is very short

Conclusion

This model by Hummingbird has it all, including CHIRP sonar, maps for more than 10,000 lakes, the auto chart live feature, which allows you to customize your maps for future fishing excursions, and an easy to use interface that’s very beginner friendly. This model is designed for anglers of all skill levels and comes with all of the bells and whistles you could want in a fish finder that’s durable, reliable, and just plain fun to use.

Garmin Striker Plus 5Cv GPS Fish Finder


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model by Garmin has a five-inch display screen and comes with Quick Draw mapping software. It also includes a transducer for built-in CHIRP sonar. The contour mapping software allows users to draw and store maps using one-foot contours for up to two million acres, which is pretty impressive. The GPS function also allows you to view boat speed, create routes, and mark waypoints so you can find your favorite fishing hole or mark off dangerous areas that are filled with hazards or areas that are seriously lacking in fish. The vivid five-inch display screen is easy to read in both bright and low light conditions and features an intuitive user interface that makes it very beginner friendly.

Pros

  • Clear Vu Clarity sonar
  • CHIRP sonar
  • Quick Draw contour mapping
  • Excellent detail

Cons

  • Not beginner friendly

Conclusion

This model comes with some great features including the Quick Draw contours mapping software that allows you to create maps of where you’ve been. The Clear Vu Clarity sonar provides ultimate detail for wide images of activity that’s going on below the surface.With CHIRP sonar and Clear Vu sonar, you’ll be able to clearly view fish, submerged objects, and structures. Basically, this fish finder offers the very best in image quality, in addition to some great extra features that will allow you to create custom maps, mark off waypoints, and navigate the waters quickly and easily.

Elite-12 Fish Finder


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

This model comes with active imaging, a three in one transducer and wireless networking. Additionally, it features preloaded C-map US inland mapping and enhanced display technology. The display screen is massive at twelve inches, making it much easier to see and identify fish and underwater structures. The active imaging feature allows you to see cover and structures using a whole new level of detail. The dual transducer will scan under the boat and on the sides, making this model very versatile and perfect for use in shallow and deep waters. The Genesis Live app provides a real-time map of the angler’s surroundings, while the preloaded maps feature plenty of detail and include maps for 4,000 US lakes.

Pros

  • Preloaded with 4,000 maps of US lakes
  • Large 12-inch display
  • Three-in-one transducer
  • Easy set up

Cons

  • Can be difficult to connect to hotspots and Wi-Fi

Conclusion

Anglers can narrow their search for more productive fishing spots using the preloaded maps, in one-foot contours, making it much easier to locate structures such as cover, drop offs, and ledges. The wireless networking allows you to share waypoints, important map data and customized maps with other compatible devices, so, if your fishing buddies also have this fish finder, you can instantly share your favorite fishing spots or alert them to hazardous areas. This model is perfect for the serious angler in search of a more versatile fish finder, and one that will come in handy in both shallow and deeper waters.

Humminbird ICE H5 Helix Fish Finder


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

Humminbird’s latest portable fish finder features a five-inch display screen with a resolution coming in at 800 H x 480 V. The dual spectrum transducer means that this model can be used in both shallow and deep waters, making it one of the most versatile portable fish finders on the market. It also comes with CHIRP sonar, mounting hardware, and the portable Ice bag. This model is designed to provide anglers with a deeper understanding on what’s going on below the ice, offering an array of exclusive features that you won’t get from another fish finder. If you’re an ice angler, then this model is exactly what you need for the most accurate images and ultimate sonar power. The fish finder will allow you to choose how the sonar return appears, offering a variety of viewing options that are specifically designed for ice anglers. This includes 2D sonar and flasher combo views on the same screen. Unlike other types of flasher models, 2D sonar will allow the angler to view fish history and lure history, which will help them to identify patterns in fish behavior based on water conditions, bait choice, and more.

Pros

  • Designed specifically for ice anglers
  • 2D sonar
  • CHIRP
  • Portable
  • Includes mounting hardware

Cons

  • Flasher does not have an alarm that alerts you when fish are near

Conclusion

This model can be used year-round, but it excels at ice fishing. The display provides unprecedented viewing options, while the powerful sonar technology will allow you to quickly and easily locate fish, underwater structures, hazards, and more. For ice fishing, you can carry this model to your favorite location, then transfer it to your fishing boat for some hot weather angling. Versatile, powerful, easy to use, this model is invaluable during the winter months, and is a great choice for year-round angling.

Garmin Striker 4 Fish Finder


Our Rating: (4.5/5)

The Striker 4 features Clear Vu sonar, which will show anglers more of what’s under and around the boat. This type of high frequency sonar provides almost photographic quality images, complete with detailed icons for fish, structures, and objects. Anglers can also take advantage of the waypoint feature and mark off important fishing spots, hazards, structures, and more. The waypoints will come in handy for emergency navigation, or for those who want to remember fishing spots they’ve already visited. CHIRP sonar will send out a continuous sweep of frequencies, offering a significantly wider range of info. This type of sonar is also able to provide crisper images and fish arches, offering better target separation. The built-in flasher will allow you to view your sonar data in the traditional format, making this model perfect for vertical jigging or ice fishing.

Pros

  • Flasher feature makes this model perfect for ice angling
  • CHIRP sonar provides better target separation
  • Mark off waypoints to create custom maps
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Small display screen

Conclusion

While powerful, the biggest drawback of the Striker 4 is its significantly smaller display screen, which measures in at 3.5 inches. However, the display quality is still impressive, so users will still be able to view important details regarding fish, structures, and other hazards in the water. Durable, portable, and perfect for year-round fishing, this model may be small but it’s packing some serious power.

LUCKY Portable Fish Finder


Our Rating: (4/5)

This is a portable budget-friendly fish finder that comes with a 2.4-inch display screen and a couple of user modes; simulation and transducer.

This model is perfect for kayak use in shallow waters and features a 26-foot wired operating distance, with 328-feet depth detection. This model is rechargeable and comes with a USB cable for fast and easy charging. It also features a forty-eight-degree beam angle and 200 kHz detection. This fish finder is equipped with three color display modes that will show the underwater conditions in gray, red, or blue. The sensitivity adjustment feature will control the level of details that are shown in the display. Another popular feature is the fish alarm, which will alert you once the fish finder has detected schools of fish or a large fish in the area. Fish icons will appear on the screen to show what size of fish and how many fish are close by.

Pros

  • Highly portable
  • Easy to use
  • Perfect for kayak angling
  • Low price

Cons

  • Small display screen
  • Limited details

Conclusion

This model is easy to use and set up, but it’s lacking in terms of accuracy and overall quality. However, considering the price and size of this device, it does offer a solid performance compared to other competing fish finders in this price bracket. It also comes with a wide variety of features, an intuitive user interface, and a highly portable, compact design that makes it a great choice for the shore angler or the kayaker on a tight budget.

Fish Finder Buyer’s Guide

Fish finders work by using pulses of sound energy to create a type of graphic display of an underwater landscape. But not all models are created equal. Because of this, it’s crucial that you choose the right model, based on your preferences and angling needs, in addition to the specific types of conditions you’ll be fishing in. The wrong fish finder will be ineffective and basically worthless, leaving you dead in the water.

But before I discuss what features can make a good fish finder great, let’s take a look at some of the benefits these devices offer.

Benefits of Fish Finders

ship with a fish finder

  • As you already know, fish finders are used to seek and catch fish, and they’re important in locating structures underwater and fishing hotspots. These devices will give the angler the options of viewing fish hiding locations, aqua structures, viewing the depth, water temperature, and the speed of the fish. Displays are available in grayscale or vivid color and incorporate sonar signals. These signals locate and provide a visual image of moving and still objects below the surface of the water. The transducer converts the electrical impulses from the device to sound signals that travel down through the depth of the water to the bottom, or they’ll reach fish, returning echoes which are picked up by the transducer. This type of reliable technology will allow the angler to navigate to populated waters and avoid dangerous hazards under the water’s surface.
  • Some models will rely on advanced GPS technology that can show the location of the boat as it’s moving through the water, in real-time.
  • These devices can be used in different weather patterns on aggressive rivers and fast-flowing lakes.
  • The temperature gauge is used to locate fish, easily and quickly, especially during the spawning season.
  • Some models will come with a trackback feature that can be used by the angler to review the movements of fish.
  • Speedometers on fish finders assist the angler in checking the speed of the boat, which will help to prevent the boat from moving too quickly through the water, which can easily scare away fish.
  • Side scan capability will provide the angler with a view of fish on either side of the boat, increasing their view of their surroundings and showing more fish.
  • Modern fish finders can determine the difference from the bottom of the water body and plants and rocks, depending on the strength of the reflected signal.
  • These devices come with a variety of useful features including fish alarms, depth, zoom, and fish ID.

As you can see, having a fish finder on deck can be a true asset, in a variety of water conditions. Now let’s dive in and learn more about their popular features, how fish finders are used, and how to choose a device that will give you an edge on your next fishing excursion.

Must-Have Features

Learning about the benefits of using one of these devices the next time you go fishing may have you eager to hit that buy now button, but there are many factors to consider and features to learn about before you can make an informed decision concerning which model will work the best for you and your fishing needs.

I’ll break down the most important features to look for, including transmitting power, display quality, GPS, frequencies, and more.

If you’re purchasing your first model, it can be easy to get lost in all the technical talk. Learning about the different features and functions can also be very time-consuming and somewhat overwhelming. Between the different types of sonars, echoes, flashers, and transducers, it can be difficult to make sense of it all. Because of this, I’ve put together a buyer’s guide that’s designed to simplify the process. The guide focuses solely on the features you need, the type of functionality to look for, and the basics of fish finder tech.

Below, you’ll find a list of features to look for that can make it easier to choose a model that’s right for you.

I’ll start off by going over transducers, what they are, and how they work.

Transducers

The transducer is an essential part of every fish finder. It works by sending and receiving sonar waves. These sonar waves will bounce off of different objects underwater and are picked up by the transducer. When it receives this data, it’s processed into an image on the display which the angler can see and understand.

Each transducer will come with a different type of mount. The transom mount is by far the easiest type to mount. However, if you have a larger boat, or you’re looking for a more heavy-duty setup, then you may need to opt for a different type of mount, such as a thru-hull.

Transducer Material

You need to pick the right type of transducer material, based on the type of boat you plan to use. For casual angling, a transom mount that’s made out of plastic should work out just fine. They’re often compatible with most types of boats.

A transducer that has a thru-hull or an in-hull mount will need plastic housing. Aluminum or steel hulls need stainless steel housing. Bronze housing is used for boats with wood or fiberglass hulls.

When it comes to the recreational models, most fish finders will come equipped with transducers with transom mounts or trolling motor transducers. These will work with most types of boats; you’ll just need to closely follow the installation instructions.

Types of Transducers

When you’re choosing a transducer, it’s crucial that you consider the cone angle. The cone angle will tell the user the width of the beam that’s emitted into the water from the boat. Wider cones mean a larger coverage area. As the beam comes down, the angle of the cone will expand. A transducer will come with a cone that ranges from nine to sixty degrees or more. Many devices that you’ll come across are between sixteen to twenty degrees. If you’re just starting out and you want to fish in a variety of water depths, then a cone with a twenty-degree rating will be a great choice.

Some models of transducers can emit more than one cone from one point. A one beam transducer will be sufficient for most anglers, but more advanced units can provide multiple beams. You’ll have your choice from single, dual, and triple beam. You will also come across side beam transducers, which are designed to cover more area. Multiple beams are ideal for bigger bodies of water, such as lakes.

Grayscale and Color Displays

A color display has quickly become the standard for most electronics, including fish finders. These devices offer millions of colors and plenty of detail, while a grayscale display has around 250 shades of gray. With a color display, the info put out by the transducer will be significantly easier to read and decipher. With more colors, you’ll be able to see exactly what’s going on. Aside from that, grayscale screens can be difficult to read in bright sunlight. On cloudy days, the screens also tend to fall short and offer limited readability.

Resolution

When you’re looking at displays, consider how many pixels and the type of resolution your screen will have. Essentially, a pixel is a single dot on the screen. The more pixels a screen has, the more detail they can display. Search for a model that offers 240×160 pixels. At this resolution, you may still feel like the quality is a little dated, but in reality, this level of resolution will be sufficient. If you’re not on a tight budget, then it can definitely be worth it to pay more money for a higher level of resolution, so you’ll enjoy a crisper image.

Resolution will decide how good of an image you’ll get on your device. An affordable device will often have a small display. However, these devices can be a great choice for a backup unit. Most anglers will go with the best and biggest quality display they can afford. This way, all the numbers and data will be displayed in a higher level of detail. Some devices have a lot of readings to put on the screen, so a much smaller screen can make the information look jumbled.

Frequencies

Most types of transducers will work with dual frequencies that have both sixty and twenty-degree cones available. Frequencies are one of the biggest factors for transducers. A transducer will commonly come with the following frequency options:

  • 50 kHz
  • 83 kHz
  • 192 kHz
  • 200 kHz

The transducer’s cone angles will relate directly to the frequency.

In shallow water, the best frequency choices are high frequencies such as 200 kHz. For commercial and pro use in deeper waters, then a model with a 50 kHz transducer is the best choice.

Keep in mind, higher frequencies will provide more detail on the display. Higher frequencies mean more sonar waves that the transducer is able to send and receive. Some models of fish finders can achieve frequencies up to 400 kHz or more.

Side Imaging

For some, side imaging can be confusing to analyze. The transducer must be installed properly and in the correct location, for accurate readings. It must have a clear range from side to side and must lie below the hull.

Like other models of fish finders, one with side imaging will have a couple of frequencies. The 800kHz option provides the clearest image, while the lower frequency will provide the most range.

The information provided by side imaging should be read from top to bottom. The newest information will be on top, while older information is at the bottom of the screen.

CHIRP or Standard Sonar?

CHIRP is a type of sonar technology that’s believed to be superior to the single frequency type of sonar that many devices still use. This type of sonar consists of frequency radiated sonar pulse, which means that each pulse of the sonar sweeps through several frequency ranges instead of one single frequency, which is what you’ll get with standard sonar. Depending on the frequency, each pulse will have a certain length. Each pulse is modulated over a variety of frequencies ranging from low to high, so every target in the group will be hit with a wide range of frequencies, in addition to a sonar pulse. The targets that are closer than the length of the pulses will reflect the pulses back to the transducer at different frequencies. This will cause them to appear on the display separately instead of being clumped together. Essentially, this type of sonar technology offers a separation of targets and better definition.

Why CHIRP is the Sonar of Choice

CHIRP offers improved depth and clarity. Essentially, it offers better target separation compared to fish finders that use standard sonar. Additionally, CHIRP technology is capable of telling apart fish from vegetation and structures. The arches from the fish finder will also appear on the screen with superior accuracy. Depending on the transducer type and the power of the unit, a device with CHIRP can also tell apart the targets in a bait cloud.

CHIRP can also reduce noise in the final imaging, without losing any targets. This can be a big problem with models that use single-frequency sonar.

Many anglers say that this type of sonar is synonymous with depth capability, when its much more than that. It’s better than standard sonar at any depth. But it really stands out in higher depths. Standard sonar requires a longer pulse at a higher depth, which can result in the loss of resolution. CHIRP uses long pulses as well, but each of the pulses is modulated and spread over many frequencies. This eliminates the possibility of the loss of resolution.

Basically, while standard sonar will work for many anglers, CHIRP can provide image clarity, superior target separation and a better depth performance.

Power

Power will be another important factor. If you want a device that has deeper and faster readings, then you need a high wattage fish finder. A device with a lower wattage will be slower, but it will offer a better performance in shallow waters. This is because the device converts the sonar waves from the transducer. When there’s a lack of power, the waves are slower and the readings are not as reliable. When there’s significantly more power, then the waves are much faster and more accurate.

Basically, if you’re planning on fishing in shallow waters, you really won’t need as much power as you will if you’re planning on ocean angling.

Water Resistance

Water resistance will be crucial if you’re going to mount your fish finder on an open, smaller vessel. Always check the IPX or JIS ratings. These will determine a particular fish finder’s level of resistance to water.

A four rating will mean that the device is safe from splashing water, but it won’t work well in a kayak. An IPX or JIS rating of six means that the device can handle low to high pressure jets of water. With a rating of seven, the device can be submerged up to ten feet for half an hour. An eight rating will allow the device to remain underwater for an extended period of time. The rating will determine where and how you can use your device.

GPS

man relaxing and fishing

Most newer models will come with built-in GPS, however, some lower-priced models won’t. A fish finder with GPS comes with plenty of benefits. First off, it can help the user find their way home quickly, in the event of an emergency, such as blinding fog or a serious storm.

Another benefit is the ability to create a custom map. GPS functionality will allow you to mark important locations on a map by dropping pins on places you want to avoid and places you want to visit again. The biggest drawback that comes with models that have this feature is the price. Devices with GPS are often significantly more expensive compared to models without it.

Types of Fish Finders

Regardless of the features you’re looking for, when it comes to fish finder designs, you’ll have three options to choose from:

  • Standalone
  • Combo
  • Network

Standalone

This type of fish finder will only have one function, to locate fish. These devices are a good choice for angling on small lakes and are the best choice for small boats.

Combo

A combo combines fish finder functionality with GPS. This type is perfect for fishing on open bodies of water and mid-sized boat use.

Network

These devices are compatible with a wide range of data sources, products, and technologies. A network fish finder will combine the functions of a basic fish finder, with satellite radio, video, radar, and more. You can also control one of these devices with your smartphone. This type is best suited for larger boats.

Portable or Fixed

Are you looking for a model that’s highly portable or one that’s permanently mounted? A portable device is a great choice for people who use rented boats or want a device they can take and use on a friend’s boat. Portable fish finders are convenient to carry around, self-contained, and durable. Most come with a suction cup mount, so you can attach it directly to the boat. These handheld devices are also a good choice for land-based anglers who fish from shore.

But for boat and kayak owners, a fixed model that has a transducer mounted to the hull will be a better choice.

Freshwater Versus Saltwater

Compared to freshwater, saltwater is a more challenging environment. In addition to debris and salt, the amount of living organisms in the ocean can throw a fish finder off.

If you’re angling in the ocean, you should pay more to invest in a quality fish finder. A CHIRP model will do a better job when it comes to working through debris, compared to a traditional model, especially when it comes to fishing in deeper waters. Look for a model that’s specifically designed for saltwater use.

Freshwater isn’t quite as challenging for fish finders. However, you’ll want to keep in mind that you’ll need a device with a higher frequency.

Fish Type

Another consideration is the type of fish you want to catch.

Fish type relates to factors such as freshwater and saltwater, and depth. Find a model that will work best at the depth where the fish you’re after can be found.

A powerful fish finder will be better at identifying individual fish. Additionally, lower-priced models can usually only locate schools of fish, or they will vaguely identify individual species. Different species of fish may also show up worse or better on different models due to the frequency range. A higher frequency will work the best when it comes to spotting isolated fish and smaller species.

Reading a Fish Finder

Every fish finder is different. Some models will come with a monitor that displays the data from a transducer. Others will communicate directly with a smartphone using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

Most models will come with the following features:

  • Speed sensor
  • Water temperature sensor
  • Depth finder

Understanding the temperature and depth of the water can help the angler determine what types of fish they will find in the immediate area. A depth sensor will allow the angler to scout out new fishing ground. If the device is equipped with the type of transducer that can be cast, the angler can check out these spots without scaring the fish by moving the boat into the area.

The depth will often be displayed on the top of the screen on the left-hand side in feet or meters. The accuracy of these readings will depend on the fish finder.

Temperature

Water temperature will also be displayed and can usually be found directly under the depth reading. Knowing what temperature the water is can also help the angler to determine what type of fish will be present based on location. This type of data can help the user understand what to look for as they become more experienced at angling.

Speed

Speed sensors will help users plan out a trip and time their fishing excursions. It’s very helpful if the angler is planning to explore a new location but they’re not sure how much time to give themselves.

Fish in the Area

The color and thickness of the lines on the screen will tell you plenty about what’s going on under the water. The bed of the body of water that the angler is traveling will appear at the bottom of the display. Thicker lines will indicate less porous, harder surfaces. Thick lines can indicate traveling over terrain made out of clay.

If a fish finder comes with a color screen and 2D sonar, hard bottoms will often appear as a yellow band that has blue directly below it. Murky bottoms won’t have defined bands and may appear orange.

Fish will show up on the screen as clouds, arches, or blobs between the ground and water surface. Anglers should be able to determine the difference between a school of fish and individual fish. A larger fish may have a colored spot in the middle since they reflect a stronger sonar signal.

The display on the screen will move as the boat moves. The picture will be slower and more stable than the boat. The most up to date information is shown on the right of the screen. The portion of the display that shows up to the left will be older information.

If the angler wants to know what’s directly under their boat, they will need to direct their attention to the right side of the screen.

Some models will transform raw data into icons that can help the user distinguish between objects below the water’s surface and the fish. Other fish finders will simply show arches and lines, leaving the user to decipher their meaning.

Fish Identification

Devices that come with fish identification technology will use an algorithm to analyze data and provide a clear representation of where the fish are. Many anglers find this type of interface more intuitive compared to models that only display raw data.

Some models with this type of technology will have icons for schools of fish, rocks, and plants. The measurements on each side of the screen will show the user the depths of each of these objects. The ability to read this information can help users to choose the best place to cast their line.

The drawback to fish identification technology is that it isn’t always one hundred percent accurate. If you’re relying solely on a computer to determine the difference between schools of fish and plants, you’ll become dependent on seeing these icons and not use your own analytical skills to determine whether the objects you see are fish or rocks or plants. Fish identification technology is often associated with a high rate of false positives. However, it can come in handy in certain circumstances such as detecting fish within a type of cover. The color images of the fish will show weeds or a submerged tree as a mass of colors. It will show fish icons if there are any fish hiding in underwater debris.

Arch Models

Reading an arch fish finder can be tricky and can take time before you feel confident in deciphering the data. These fish finders will show data in the way the information is transmitted to the transducer. A non-moving object will appear as a straight line. Moving objects are displayed as arches.

The size of the arches and lines will correspond with the size of the object. A bigger arch will indicate a bigger fish.

You may only see half an arch at times. This will indicate that the fish didn’t pass through the transducer’s center. A fish that hugs the ground will appear as a fluctuating arch.

While it may sound easy, learning how to read your new fish finder can be more challenging when you’re practicing. However, you’ll become more adept at reading your fish finder, the more you use it.

Modes

Some fish finders will allow you to swap modes and view the raw data or fish icons. If you switch back and forth, you’ll notice that the fish identification model shows you plenty of fish, but the line and arch mode shows fewer arches.

Noticing the placement of the lines and arches can help you determine whether or not they’re fish. Fish icons that are vertically stacked will most likely be plants. If the icon appears to be connected to the surface of the ground, it’s also probably just a plant.

Fish Finder Tips

fish tracking gadget

The tips I’ve included below will help you improve your fishing skills, after you’ve purchased one of the top models on the market.

  • Knowing when to cast once you’ve located fish will be important. Casting should be done when the fish are in a feeding formation. You’ll be able to determine when fish are in a feeding formation by checking the display on your fish finder and looking for a clear difference in the size of fish. Whenever you spot large fish moving around a group of smaller fish, immediately cast. Smaller fish tend to steer clear of bigger fish since they’re considered predators.
  • Temperatures and aquatic lives are mutually exclusive. A fish is influenced by surrounding temperatures because it’s not able to regulate its own. This means that certain fish will stick to warmer waters, while others will remain in colder waters, at a deeper depth. Using this knowledge, you can easily find specific species of fish. If you have trouble reading the temperature, make sure you check whether the temperature has been accurately set. If the problem persists, check if the device is running the most recent version of the software.

There are thousands of species of fish, from deep-sea fish to surface layer fish. Analyzing the depth of the fish you want to catch will be essential. Different fish will stick to different depths of water. Some fish may stick to shallow water, while others, such as salmon, can stay over one hundred feet down.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Should I Look for When Buying a Fish Finder?

When you’re shopping for a fish finder, if you’re a new angler, then going over the different features available can be overwhelming. Start off by looking for the most important features, including transducer type and power, pixels, GPS, screen size, and ease of use rating.

Should I Get Down Imaging or Side Imaging?

This will depend on where you fish. Side imaging is a better choice if you normally fish in shallow water, or it can come in handy when you’re scanning for shallow diving fish. If you often find yourself fishing in deeper waters, then down imaging will be a better choice.

Is Side Imaging Worth the Extra Money?

It can be. It can take time and effort to learn how to use models equipped with this technology and know what you should look for on the display screen.

Are Portable Fish Finders Any Good?

Yes. They can be a great option if you don’t want to permanently mount a fish finder on a boat. They offer a great solution for temporary mounting on rentals, small boats, for use when traveling, and for anglers who fish from shore.

Do I Need a Transducer for My Fish Finder?

Yes. A transducer is an essential part of every fish finding device. The transducer can come with different types of mounts. The transom mount is the easiest to install. If you have a larger boat, then you may need to opt for a thru-hull mount instead.

Final Thoughts

The best fish finders will come equipped with all those must-have features that are designed to improve accuracy, ease of use, and reliability. The products included in my top seven lineup earned high scores in a variety of areas and come loaded with the features you need to make your next fishing excursion an adventure like no other. This buyer’s guide and my product recommendations can help to point you in the right direction, so you end up with the best fish finder on the market, one that’s powerful, accurate, and designed to help you locate fish in a variety of water conditions, quickly, and easily.