A Practicable Guide to Buy the Best Fish Finder for The Money

After you are ready with your kayak and all fishing gears, the only thing you need to find fishes is a fish finder that allows you to see what lies under water. Whether you want to locate the position of a fish and measure the structure underwater or calculate depth of water and spot debris, a fish finder shows you everything with series of arches or tiny icons in real time.

Nowadays, fish finders come in more sophisticated technologies than being just basic sounders and flashers. Here is the critical part you do not find attractive. However, this article will give you a thorough walkthrough into the science and choice of the best fish finders in 2018.

Fish Finders Through Ages

It was the Furuno brothers who ushered a new horizon for anglers by commercializing the world’s first practical fish finder in Nagasaki, Japan in 1948. With a search range selector, power switch and sensitivity adjustment, the early model of fish finder, originally designed to be a pen recorder, made use of recording paper that was specially processed to record objects found under water. Therefore, you see no rocket science applied.

Those days are long gone since modern devices are almost close to super computers, though just conceptually. Just look a few decades back, and you would see anglers used to have some kind of blinking lights on a dial to do their job. Now, look at today’s units. You will see a look-alike portrait of the lives underwater, even as deep as 10,000 feet underneath. No, it is not a miracle as you have access to the state-of-the-art sonar mechanism.

You Have Heard Fish Finders Work, But How?

You might ask why one should know how fish finders function. Simple is the answer. Learning how a fish finder functions gives you a head start in using it like an expert.

A fish finder works by transmitting ultrasonic waves from a component called transducer, the principal part of the locator, mounted on your kayak’s bottom. Ultrasonic waves typically go forward to the seabed. As soon as the waves encounter anything like a fish, shoal of fishes or rocks or anything with a shape, they reflection and part of the reflection hits your kayak’s bottom. The function of the transducer is to capture the returning reflection. You will know the depth of the fish or shoal of fishes by calculating the time passed between the ultrasound’s transmission and reception.

Top 7 Fish Finders To Consider In 2018-2019

With all standard features, pros and cons thoroughly reviewed, here is a quick overview of the trendiest fish finders. The compilation is done in no specific orders.

Garmin Echo 551DV

With a large high-resolution display and advanced sonar technology, this fish finder will require you as much as $399. The 500-watt transducer is capable of transmitting waves to as deep as 2300 feet.

Standard Features

Garmin Echo 551DV

  • 5-inch high-resolution display
  • Dual beam transducer with 50/200 kHz dual frequency and 77/200 kHz frequency
  • Zoom options
  • Horizontal and vertical viewing
  • Split screen mode


  • DownVu feature to visualize almost all kinds of structures and fishes
  • Belonging to the echo series, popular for accuracy
  • Waterproof
  • Easy installation


  • No settings for clearing DownVu images
  • Poor manual settings facilities
  • A bit large transducer

Humminbird Helix 7 Fishfinder/GPS

It includes almost everything to become your underwater navigation guide. If you want to have your eyes beneath your boat without actually looking under there, this 400-dollar fish finder can be your ideal choice.

Standard Features

Humminbird Helix 7

  • 7″ HD color screen featuring a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels
  • 16:9 Widescreen Display
  • Powerful processor and RAM
  • Onboard micro SD capability


  • Sophisticated Sonar technology
  • Side and Down Imaging feature
  • GPS included


  • No transducer included; meaning that you need to spend some extra cash for that

Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+

If you are a great fan of kayak fishing, Deeper Smart should have you on the go during salt and freshwater fishing.

Standard features:

  • Deeper Smart Sonar Pro+
  • A unique, castable design
  • Dual frequency sonar
  • Onshore GPS and wireless Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Great compatibility with both Android and iOS
  • Bathymetric mapping in real time


  • Accurate and reliable internal GPS
  • Day/Night screen colors available
  • An assortment of features like fishing notes, offline maps, and Solunar Forecast Calendar
  • Adjustable sonar sensitivity


  • Unstable Bluetooth connectivity
  • Issues in switching of sonar and camera views


Garmin Striker 4 Built-In GPS

If you have a very low budget for a fully functional fish finder with advanced features, Garmin Striker 4 should be the best deal. Priced only $119, this unit comes in a solid design further complemented with above average features which you will find in some expensive fish finders.

Standard Features

Garmin Striker 4

Three display sizes: 5-, 5- and 7-inch
Real-time GPS navigation with option to save favorite spots
Sporty design with sturdy build
CHIRP sonar and flasher included
A new Waypoint Map included


  • Views of fish arches with improved separation of targets
  • Display of sonar data in a classic flasher format that allows for vertical jigging and ice fishing
  • Easy to install and use with a keyed interface and dedicated buttons
  • CLEARVU Scanning sonar provides clearly visible representation of details in a near-photographic fashion


  • Not ideal for saltwater fishing
  • Backlight with a very short lifespan

Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro

Priced at $525, this hi-tech sonar fish finder offers just about anything that the most expensive ones do. With this unit, you are one step ahead of the majority of competitors that boast sonar technologies.

Standard features:

Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro

  • An optical bonding display
  • Built-in Wi-Fi and GPS with c-map essentials
  • CHIRP DownVision for life-like photos underwater
  • Hi-speed bottom tracking
  • Futuristic Spectrum CHIRP Technology


  • Great performance in all weathers
  • Detailed view of data with superb clarity
  • Data synchronization through Wi-Fish mobile app
  • Uninterrupted navigation into as deep as 600ft (180M)


  • The c-map not upgradable to local map

Humminbird 409150-1 899ci GPS Side Imaging Combo

Priced at $899, this can be a deal maker for serious anglers who want a more advanced unit but do not hesitate to spend some extra cash.

Standard Features:

Humminbird Helix 7

  • Display 7-inch bright LED backlit LCD
  • 360 Imaging capability
  • Side and Down Imaging with SwitchFire facilities
  • GPS Chart plotting facilitated by ContourXD Maps
  • Speedy processor with 4,000 Watts PTP Power Output


  • Clear images with accurate identification of structures and covers
  • Ethernet networking
  • Perfect view of images in harsh lighting conditions
  • Easy location finding and targeting


  • Plastic made transducer mount
  • Poor sunlight readability

Lowrance Elite-5X HDI

For a fishing location with a depth of as far as 1000 feet, Lowrance Elite-5X HDI, priced at $415, gives a huge boon to anglers who take fishing as seriously as a part of their lifestyle.

Standard Features

Lowrance Elite-5X HDI

  • Display: 5 inch LCD with resolution up to 480×480 pixels
  • DownScan Imaging
  • Hybrid Dual Imaging Broadband Sounder
  • Transom mount transducer included
  • Advanced signal processing
  • Multi-window display for three-panel viewing


  • Fairly great underwater readings
  • High-resolution imaging
  • Automatic adjustment of readings
  • Easy to use, even for the beginners


  • Not-so-good spotting of individual fishes
  • Complaints regarding its standby mode

Since the models of fish finders are not limited to just a few, you have always free to look beyond the above seven choices. Practically, this time you need to be a bit more conscious and knowledgeable. You need not become an expert in choosing a fish finder. However, a little more advancement in your knowledge would be of serious assistance.

A Practical Guide To Choose The Right Fish Finder

With the manufacturers’ continued efforts, shopping fish finders is no longer a matter of going through some comprehensive reviews and making a choice. Before even googling “how to buy a fish finder” or “An ultimate guide to choosing a fish finder” or the like, you should ask yourself a couple of questions.

  • “Will my fish finder help me go home with a lot of fishes?”
  • “Am I ready to go through the troublesome ways to choose the right one?”

Despite the complexities associated with the buying process, you can consider the following aspects of a fish finder, which will make your job a lot easier.

What Type Do You Prefer?

Three styles of fish finders are available to date.

A Standalone Fish Finder

This type has drawn a lot of fans because of its heavy-duty performance but at the least expense.

Ideal For

  • Anglers with a small boat to fish small inland lakes
  • Those with a small budget

A Combo System

It is a more expensive and feature rich type than the standalone ones.

Ideal For

  • Anglers with mid-sized boats to fish larger bodies of water
  • Those with an extra cash to throw

A Networked Fish Finder

This type is popular with serious fishing lovers who prefer viewing everything underwater to regret spending much money on a fish finder.

Ideal For

  • Those with an eagerness to spend enough to get the most out of a fish finder
  • Anglers with mid-sized to large boats
  • People who love to enjoy amazing networking features for the money

Your Preference: Portable Or Fixed?

You are still away from being capable of making the right decision unless you choose what you need or like between portable and fixed fished finders.


If you lease your boat or a fan of fly-in or ice fishing, this style will be your best deal. A portable unit includes battery power supply, a transducer and a carrying case.

Fixed Portable Fish Finder

If you are the owner of a watercraft and eager to become a settled angler or already a determined fisher, a fixed fish finder will be good for you. You can mount the device in any appropriate location on your fishing kayak or vessel.

Display Features

Pixel is single most important specification you need to think about. Therefore, more pixels per square inch mean you can get-

  • An enhanced representation of things underwater
  • An improved detail of the structure
  • Better split-screen images

If you have a big screen with higher resolution and more pixels, you will see-

  • Smaller fishes and their air bladders
  • Fishes staying at the bottom or on the edge of your bait balls
  • Separated views of targets that are closely spaced

Displays are available in both black and white and color styles. Conversely, B/W ones are cheaper than color ones.

Diagonal Measurement

Screen sizes that we often talk about indicate diagonal distance, typically in inches across the screen. If you have a widescreen display, you can expect to have more detailed and intelligible information. Split screens will show multiple types of data, such as radar screen, GPS chart and returns from the transducer.

Power And Frequency

Diagonal Measurement

How much power your fish finder comes with is important because it determines-

  • How well once can see underwater
  • How well once can view to greater depths
  • How successfully one can separate targets

The “ping strength” or the power of your fish finder is measured in watts. Take a look at the following:

  • If you love inland lake fishing, a 200-watt fish finder will be good enough.
  • If your fish finder features 500 watts, you can use it for coastal fishing.
  • Bluewater fishing will require you to have a fish finder with 1000 watts capacity or more.

There are four types of transducers in terms of frequencies, such as broadband CHIRP unit, single frequency, dual frequencies, and multiple frequencies.

Typically, you would choose higher frequencies as they provide finest resolution for details with minimal background noise and accurate view from a speedy boat.

  • You should choose higher frequencies ranging from 200 kHz to 800 kHz if you love fishing in shallow waters or inland lakes or anywhere with a depth up to 200′
  • Lower frequencies are good for deeper areas. The frequency should be anywhere between 50 kHz and 80 kHz.

About Sonar

Sonar technologies have not remained the same as they used to be a few decades ago. With every few years passing, newer technologies seem to grab anglers’ attention. Let’s take a look at the various options available today to save your efforts.

Single & Dual Beam Sonar

Single Dual Beam Sonar

Standard 2D Sonar throws a cone shaped sound wave wherein higher frequency results in narrower cone, and narrower beam begets higher definition representation. For a wider coverage area, you would want lower frequency beam and a wider cone angle. Dual beam refers to the ability to make use of both beams simultaneously.

Down Imaging Sonar

A transducer emits high frequency sound waves in the form of a thin slice and creates a lively 3D appearance of almost everything underwater. This is how down imaging sonar works. With standard sonar, you might have a view of something, not too clear. However, with this type of sonar technology, that something starts showing as identifiable objects or structures like rocks, fishes or other things.

Side-View ImagingDown Imaging

Side-scanning units are the predecessors of down imaging ones. Results produced by these ones are more varied than down imagers. You need to have some experience being comfortable with palette and range.

You may have an increasing range of areas scanned, meaning that what you can see may be located far from beneath your boat. These options are more expensive since you may need a second transducer installed.

360 Scanning & Imaging Sonar


A rotating transducer works in a 360 degree motion allowing anglers to see things from all directions without moving. The transducer keeps refreshing the screen during the time you remain stationary. With these advanced imaging systems, you are able to identify casting targets like stumps, trees, pockets, etc.


CHIRP stands for Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse, but the radar is not the core point of bargain. This type of sonar transmits a series of pings all at varying frequencies. Ultimately, you get to have views of a great range in high resolution.

Thoughts About GPS Combos

Chirp Sonar

Modern fish finders that are among the best ones come in GPS combo units including 1/2 SD or Micro SD slots so that you can use mapping cards. As an angler, you would want proper navigation through water, which a GPS gives. Safety is another reason you would want a GPS combo unit because you will always return home after a day’s fishing. So, you will not get lost amid lakes or distant shores.

Transducer, The Main Part Of Any Fish Locator

Over the years, use of transducers has changed significantly, and therefore, created complexities for anglers with a little wish to learn the basics. Let’s get down to the basics of transducers:

Varieties include high, low and dual frequency transducers.

High Frequency

With more wave cycles per second and shorter length of waves, this type helps anglers have a visual of more details. However, it works efficiently for shallow to moderate depths.

Low Frequency

Just contrary to the high frequency ones, it features wider beams meaning fewer wave cycles per second and longer length of waves. So, you can see large objects, like hiding locations for fishes.

Dual Frequency

Using a sort of vibrating crystal, this type sends and receives pulses of multiple frequencies often at the same time. It uses multiple elements which can be aimed in various directions.

Design And Style

Transducers come in different mounting styles and shapes. Here are the typical ones to look for.


In this style, the transducer hangs below and behind hull with an adjustable angle bracket screwed. It is an easy-to-install style.


Thru Hull

Although this style is known for providing the best quality signals, it is the most challenging style for installation. Sailboats usually have thru-hulls.


These transducers do not require any kind of direct water contact. Glued to the hull from its inside portion with epoxy or silicone, this specific style is good for trailerable fishing boats. Use this type on no steel or cored hulls but solid fiberglass hull.

A Few Words Of Caution

  • If your boat is a wooden one, you should avoid buying a plastic thru-hull design.
  • If yours is an aluminum boat, do not purchase bronze thru-hull styles.

What If You Are In A Hurry?

In Hull

Although you should take your time before making a purchase, the following lines will help you come down to a specific choice without breaking your sweat.

  • If you fish with a canoe or a kayak, a portable fish finder will do.
  • If you need back track hotspot, and built-in coordinates are all you want, a GPS combo unit will be good for you.
  • If you are going to Ice fish a lot, a fish flasher is all you would want.

Remember, this is not a piece of ultimate suggestion, but the above brief will help you get quickly to conclusion to what you want.

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