Fish finders have become a lot like armpits in recent years – everybody has a couple of them and they usually stink. 2016 has seen the introduction of dozens, if not hundreds, of new fish finders. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to sift through the muck in order to locate the best fish finders currently available on the market today.
Fish finders are not “one size fits all.” After all, even rookie fishermen know that each fish has its own necessities, preferred food, depth, water temperature, etc. Why should a single fish finder be labeled the “best” when there are so many variables involved?
The best fish finder will provide you with the components you need to safely navigate and successfully find the type of fish for which you are looking. It should also be durable and reliable. Before purchasing a fish finder you should compare the features of different models and determine how each feature could benefit you and help you achieve your fishing goals. Now we’ll dive into each of the factors that one should consider when shopping for the best one.
- 1 Top Rated Fish Finder Reviews in 2016
- 2 Fish Finder Buying Guide
- 3 FAQ: Frequently-Asked Fish Finder Questions
- 3.1 How Do Fish Finders Work?
- 3.2 Can I Sync my Fish Finder with my Smart Phone or Tablet?
- 3.3 What Do I Do if my Transducer is Broken?
- 3.4 What Do I Do if my Fish Finder Stopped Working?
- 3.5 What can Cause Interference with my Fish Finder?
- 3.6 What Do I Do if my Charger Gets Lost or Breaks?
- 3.7 Can I Use the Same Fish Finder for Shallow Water, Deep Water and Ice Fishing?
- 3.8 How Do I Update my Fish Finder’s Software?
- 3.9 How Much Should I Spend on a Fish Finder?
- 4 Conclusion
Top Rated Fish Finder Reviews in 2016
1. Amazing Cheap Fish Finder
Lowrance HOOK-3x – Often, a value fishfinder that still packs quality features is what most anglers are looking for. While expensive units make sense for larger vessels on big water, the average angler needs something that can get the job done without breaking the bank.
Enter the Lowrance HOOK-3x keeps it within most fishermen’s budget, and it still comes loaded with all the essentials to help you find fish fast.
A 3.5×8.9 inch HD color LED display with a 320×240 resolution and 11 lighting levels gives you a clear image of your sonar feed. Physical push buttons ensure operating reliability.
The HOOK-3x operates 83 kHz or 200 kHz. The 83 gives you a 60 degree cone, good for searching large areas, while the 200 gives you great detail in a 20 degree cone.
The Skimmer transducer gives you accurate readings of the bottom while you cruise at up to 75 mph.
The Broadband Sounder gives you an accurate reading of targets, as well as details of the bottom, so you know where to find a hotspot. Fish I.D displays fish icons instead of arches, to help you better identify targets.
The unit is powered by a 12 vDC battery, and is mounted by a convenient tilt and swivel base.
For the angler on a budget looking for a helping hand finding his target fish, the HOOK-3x is an easy on the wallet solution.
- Read More: Top 5 Cheap Fish Finders
2. Wireless Portable Fish Finder For Smartphone – No Boat Needed
Even though a boat is not needed, the Deeper Smart Portable Fish finder is best used for boat fishing, kayak fishing, ice fishing, or angling because of its Bluetooth feature. Therefore, if you’re an angler who is interested in these kinds of fishing methods, this device is your best friend.
With the Deeper, you can use Bluetooth technology for the transfer of data to other Bluetooth compatible devices in a maximum range of 150 feet. As a result, you can view images from your cell phone or tablet while relaxing on your boat.
This device is greatly suitable for anglers who are technology savvy and brandishes a sonar feature with a dual frequency which spreads across a wider area for a more extensive search and more accurate returns. What’s more is that if you’re in fresh or salt water, it can operate at depths of 1.5 – 40 feet.
When compared to other common sonar fish finders, the Deeper is more lightweight, user-friendly, and compact. Weighing just 100 grams, you can easily carry it around for day-to-day fishing.
If you have a Bluetooth-compatible smartphone and tablet with iOS 5+ and Android 2.3+, the Deeper can be used with it. It also features an application that keeps you updated with all the latest features and content. You can even share your day’s activities with friends on Facebook and other social media platforms.
If it happens that your Deeper device gets lost, you can always retrieve your data from online Cloud Storage Services. It keeps all your data synchronized for future usage.
3. Portable Fish Finder For Kayak
This device provides you with GPS functionality, which helps you to navigate by providing accurate directions to get you where you need to go. Moreover, it continuously monitors your location to keep you up-to-date about your whereabouts. Also, you can mark your most-liked fishing areas and return to them later.
The Striker 4 has a color 3.5-inch display with a 480 x 320-pixel resolution. This is fairly good for viewing images of target fish and bottom structure.
A CHIRP sonar transducer is also included with this device. The transducer offers frequencies of 77 or 200 kHz and transmits a peak-to-peak power of 1,600 Watts. This results in more effective operation in shallow waters and better target separation – fishfinders.info.
How does this work? It emits a full wave of low and high-level frequencies, and then construes them one after the other at the time of their return.
Besides, you can always upgrade to a more performance-driven CHIRP that has a GT15 or GT8 transducer. However, you’d have to purchase these separately.
If you choose to engage in ice fishing with the Striker 4, it flaunts an integrated Flasher that allows you to see that bottom even in muddy conditions. It also shows your target fish when they enter the device’s sonar beam.
4. CHIRP Sonar – Down Imaging Fish Finder
Lowrance Hook-7 Sonar/GPS – If you’re in need of a fish finder that provides highly-powered Down Imaging sonar scanning and great affordability, then you’re in the right place.
The Hook-7 allows you to view target fish and bottom structure with more crispness and clarity via its diagonal backlit display, which measures 7 inches and has an 800 x 480-pixel matrix.
Its GPS feature comprises of 16 channels which determine your location with great speed and accuracy. By updating each second, you can see your boat on the display as you travel along.
Furthermore, the Hook 7 features DownScan and 2D CHIRP Sonar mechanisms, which both contain Base Maps. This collaboration allows you to see crisper images and target separation.
Beyond that, its Advanced Signal Processing makes some modifications in order to filter your image. Furthermore, it enables you to operate the device much easier.
In enhancing the images, irrelevant signals are filtered out. Subsequently, whether or not the Hook 7 is operating with CHIRP or DownScan, all the unwarranted jumbling will be eliminated, hence providing more preprogrammed filtering.
CHIRP also allows for the increased provision of target separation, along with depth penetration. However, 2D sonar has a different setup. This is the reason why the combination of 2D and CHIRP is so essential for the locating of game targets.
On the other hand, DownScan gives you an uncommon imaging variation. Due to its unique operation, DownScan allows you to get a greater idea of what shapes the Hook 7 is displaying.
- Read More: Top 5 Down Imaging Fish Finders 2016
5. Excellent Side Imaging Fish Finder
Humminbird Helix 7 SI – The Helix 7 SI is a fish finder that has Side Imaging, SwitchFire, and Down Image sonar capabilities, and can be used in either salt-water or fresh-water fishing.
These sonar features make the Helix 7 SI a better candidate for boat fishing and angling. Why? Because the device is performance-driven and highly-powered.
Its Side Imaging feature presents you with a 180-degree field of view which shows you anything that may be situated under the water’s surface. With its XNT 9 SI transducer, it emits a sonar beam with a whopping frequency of 455kHz, which spreads out to a range of 240 feet around the boat.
Down Imaging, on the other hand, allows you to see more realistic images of the aquatic environment. It sends out a range of thin sonar waves at 455kHz which form the images.
SwitchFire emits impulses that have a frequency of 83 or 200kHz. This works to produce a 2D colored display that provides information about temperature, water depth, or turbulence.
It emits an amazing peak-to-peak power output of 4,000 Watts. Due to that high power output, it will perform extremely well in shallow waters. So if you wish to go boat fishing in deep waters, this unit would be recommended.
It comes with a diagonal 7-inch LED widescreen display which is perfect for split-screen viewing. The color TFT backlit display also has an 800H x 480V resolution, and 256 color depth.
- Read More: Top 5 Side Imaging Fish Finders 2016
6. CHIRP Sonar/GPS Combo
Garmin Striker 7SV – Whether you own a boat, canoe, or kayak, you can be sure that you’ll get great fish finding results with the Garmin Striker 7SV. It also has an integrated flasher that can be used in stationary fishing like ice fishing.
The flasher shows you the bottom even in muddy conditions. Additionally, you can see fish at great depths. Furthermore, you can check the speed at which you’re travelling on the screen.
This allows you to adjust your speed so you won’t spook your fish targets. This is very essentially in areas where fish are reactive to movement.
It weighs just 1.5 pounds, and has 9.3 x 5.5 x 2.3-inch dimensions, which makes it fairly well-sized for daily fish finding.
It also features a 7-inch user-friendly color display, with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. This allows multiple high-quality images to be displayed at the same time. The display also brandishes a backlighting feature, which allows for easy readability even in bright sunlight.
A top-notch integrated GPS is also included in the device, and helps to prevent you from getting lost at sea by always monitoring your location. If you like to always be on the move, it can quickly create navigational points to get you around.
Moreover, it allows you to pinpoint areas where you’ve been most productive, so you can return at a later time. You can tag docks, ramps, and other areas. All you need to do is retrace the marked points and return to them.
- Read More: Top 5 FishFinder GPS Combo 2016
7. Ice Fishing Fish Finder
Humminbird ICE HELIX 5 Sonar GPS – When you buy Humminbird equipment, you spend a bunch, but you always end up with a quality unit jam packed full of features, sure to make you next day on the water a successful one. The ICE Helix 5 is no different, offering a huge amount of tools to the angler in a small package.
A 5 inch, 800×480 resolution HD LED display gives you breathtaking feedback from your sonar.
The ICE Helix 5 comes with Humminbird’s precision GPS, giving you the power to navigate and mark your favorite spots with unparalleled ease. You can chart out your favorite lake, mark your secret hotspots, and find your way anytime, anywhere.
Humminbird’s Switchfire sonar gives you multiple ways to view your feedback, tailored to the many situations you may find yourself in. View every minute detail, or scale back a bit to find just your target fish. Split Screen gives you an even greater edge: view multiple different sonar modes simultaneously. Flasher mode gives you the advantage in ice fishing.
DualBeam sonar gives you unmatched accuracy in your sonar reading. The unit operates on 83 or 200 kHz, so you can view large areas, or pinpoint a spot in great detail. Or you can use both at once, seeing a 20 degree at 200 kHz cone beneath you in great detail, while still keeping an eye on the big picture, a 60 degree cone at 83 kHz. The unit has a depth range of 1500 ft.
For a modest price, Humminbird always delivers with quality instruments ready to make your day on the water a success. The ICE Helix 5 continues that legacy.
Fish Finder Buying Guide
- Read First: Fish Finder Features Explained
Fish finders are much more than sonar-equipped boxes. A lot goes into the development, design and production of fish finders that many outdoorsmen don’t take into account. Savvy fishermen will compare fish finders in each of the following categories before making a decision:
The transducer is the part of the fish finder that sends out and receives sonar signals underwater. Each type of fishing requires a properly-configured transducer. If you’re heading out to sea then you’ll want a transducer that sends signals deep into the ocean. Anglers on smaller bodies of water usually prefer transducers that send sound waves out at a wider angle (see the section below entitled “Cone Angle” for more information).
You should also be interested in the frequency at which a transducer operates. Do you need ultra high-quality sonar images of fish that are 25-50 feet below your boat, or are you more interested in finding large schools much deeper in the ocean? Many of the best fish finders utilize transducers that operate on multiple frequencies. Alternatively, you can use more than one fish finder at a time to increase your coverage area and depth.
You can mount the transducer on the transom or on the trolling motor, although the latter could cause some interference. Depending on your boat you might be able to perform an in-hull mount. Portable transducers do not need mounting as you simply cast them into the water.
The cone angle of a fish finder represents how wide of a “net” the signal will cast once it’s been deployed from the bottom of your boat into the water. The deeper the water, the wider the cone will get (but it will also decrease in sensitivity). Cone angles usually range from 15-20 degrees, though many fish finders’ cone angles can be as narrow as 9 degrees or as wide as 60 degrees. Advanced fishermen often use fish finders that have multiple cones so they can cover different angles while overlapping in some spots.
The higher the frequency of your fish finder, the more details will be transmitted to your screen. Higher frequencies work better in shallow waters, while commercial fishermen and deep-sea trawlers usually use low-frequency transducers. Frequencies of 50-200kHz are the most common, and many modern fish finders have multiple frequencies that you can switch back and forth or use simultaneously to view split-screen results.
Many of today’s fish finders have full-color screens. These are a huge advantage over black/white screens as the details are much clearer. Fortunately, color screens are quickly becoming the norm and so they aren’t much more expensive than a fish finder with a black/white display.
You should also take screen size and resolution into account when shopping for a fish finder. Larger screens will make it easier for you to pinpoint the exact spot where the fish are. Screens with high resolutions make that task even easier because you’re less likely to end up with a jumble of confusing, blurry dots on your screen. The lowest recommended screen resolution is 240 x 160 but you might want to take those numbers up a few notches to really benefit from the display screen’s capabilities.
- Read More: How to Read a Fish Finder Screen
Fish finders are measured in terms of wattage when it comes to power. A fish finder’s power determines how fast the sonar can operate. The higher the wattage rating of your fish finder, the faster the unit can relay live results to you. As a general rule, fish finders can show readings of up to 400 feet for each 100 watts (based on a 50kHz frequency). At a frequency of 200kHz you can count on readings from up to 100 feet away for every 100 watts of power. As we mentioned above, a lot of fish finders work on multiple frequencies. If this is true of the fish finder you’re considering then you can focus strictly on the wattage rating instead of calculating the distance based on the frequency.
The best fish finders often have GPS capabilities. After all, why purchase a separate tool for navigation when you can combine navigation and fish finding into one convenient device. GPS-enabled fish finders allow you to save spots where you were successful previously, and you can use them to mark points of interest or other areas that have submerged obstacles.
Fish finders scan in one of two ways: side scan and down scan. Down scan fish finders are powerful and focused, but they could cause you to miss fish that aren’t passing directly underneath. Side scan fish finders allow you to scan vast amounts of water, but they aren’t as effective in deep water. This is why it’s important to know exactly where you plan to fish when buying a fish finder. Recently, fish finders with dual-scan technology have been innovated. These are meant to provide you with the best of both worlds, but they are still in the developmental stages. Currently, your best bet could be to use multiple fish finders.
The brand name of the fish finder isn’t the most important factor to consider, but it can tell you a lot about the product you’re buying. Has the company been in business for a long time? Is it common to see other fisherman using fish finders produced by this company? Is the company well-respected among your peers and according to online reviews? Does the company offer a warranty, product guarantee, or any sort of reduced-price replacement program? Get the answers to these questions for every brand of fish finder you compare.
Portable fish finders have become especially popular in the last few years. In many respects, a portable fish finder is preferable in certain situations. If you’re fishing from a kayak or small boat a portable device could work in your favor. You simply cast the transducer into the water and view the results on your phone, tablet or the fish finder’s portable LCD display screen. Portable fish finders are often used in ponds and lakes, as well as other relatively small and still bodies of water. If you’re heading into the open ocean, you’ll probably want to stick with traditional fish finders.
Design & Durability
A fish finder’s design might seem to be of little importance, but the shape of the device, as well as button placement, are extremely important. You should have a good idea of where and how to mount the device on your watercraft. Durability is vital. The fish finder needs to be rated as waterproof and weather-resistant. If you plan to fish in saltwater then make sure potential fish finders are built to prevent corrosion.
It’s never a good idea to buy something based on price alone, but you shouldn’t ignore the price tag, either. If a fish finder is purported to have all sorts of advanced, top-of-the-line features then it should cost more than an entry-level model. As with most things in life, if a fish finder price seems too good to be true then it probably is.
On the other hand, there’s no need for you to empty your wallet if you only require one of the best basic fish finders. Pay for a model that provides you with what you need because in many cases all of those extra features can get confusing and frustrating.
No matter what kind of fish finder you decide on, always compare prices. Visit different outdoor supply shops and compare multiple vendors online. If you think you’ve found a lower price make sure it is the exact same model and includes the same hardware and warranty, and is in the same condition.
FAQ: Frequently-Asked Fish Finder Questions
Fishing is a combination of art, science, and luck. Part of becoming a better fisherman is knowing how to use fish finders and other tools. We scoured the Internet and talked to some fishermen to find out what they would most like to know about fish finders. Below, we’ve answered some of the most common questions. This FAQ is updated regularly so bookmark this page to get new answers to fish finder questions on a regular basis.
How Do Fish Finders Work?
The fish finder sends an electrical pulse to the underwater transducer. The transducer transmits the pulses as sound waves. When a sound wave strikes something it reverberates back to the transducer. The captured sonar is then relayed back to the fish finder on deck, which translates the information into sizes, shapes, and compositions.
Can I Sync my Fish Finder with my Smart Phone or Tablet?
Apps exist that allow you to sync your mobile device with your fish finder. Models with this capability are extremely convenient as they allow you to save and analyze data collected over time. You can map the waterbed and receive alerts when fish are in a specific area, and you can also adjust your fish finder’s settings remotely.
What Do I Do if my Transducer is Broken?
If your transducer broke off on the mount, then it may be possible to remount the device. If the transducer itself is physically broken, most situations call for buying and installing a brand new model. If you dry-dock your boat, be aware that most boatyards can’t be held liable for damage done to transducers during the docking process. If your transducer doesn’t seem to have sustained any physical damage but it isn’t sending/receiving sound waves, consult your owner’s manual and contact the manufacturer and/or the company where you purchased the device.
What Do I Do if my Fish Finder Stopped Working?
You need to determine the source of the problem. Try charging the device, and plug it into an Internet-connected computer to see if the computer recognizes the device. If the screen freezes or is slow to respond, try powering the device down and restarting it. You might also want to try downloading updated firmware for your model. If you suspect water damage, consult your owner’s manual for warranty information and instructions on contacting their customer service department.
What can Cause Interference with my Fish Finder?
Run your transducer cables separately from other wiring to minimize interference. Transducers can receive interference if they are mounted to active trolling motors, especially if the trolling motor has not been properly grounded. To reduce interference issues, lower the fish finder’s sensitivity to 60-75% and consider using an RF choke to your transducer cable.
What Do I Do if my Charger Gets Lost or Breaks?
Any charger that has the same output as your original charger should work. You should always confirm the power output is the same before attempting this method so as not to damage the device. If you invested a lot of money into your fish finder then you might want to consider buying a factory replacement, or having your charger repaired, to avoid any sort of voided warranty issues.
Can I Use the Same Fish Finder for Shallow Water, Deep Water and Ice Fishing?
The technical answer is “yes” but savvy fisherman employ different tactics in different situations. Some fish finders are better out in the open ocean while others are more suited for your local lake. Ice fishing is a completely different animal, so it’s highly advisable to purchase a fish finder that was designed specifically for such conditions.
How Do I Update my Fish Finder’s Software?
Fish finder manufacturers occasionally provide software and firmware updates for their models. This is done to fix minor system bugs and help your device run more smoothly. Update instructions vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and usually involve downloading data from your computer onto an SD card. You then insert the SD card into the fish finder and turn the device on. At this point, the device will prompt you to install the update and walk you through the process. You should visit the manufacturer’s website for more details.
How Much Should I Spend on a Fish Finder?
You can find fish finders under $100 as well as more than $2,500. How much you spend should correlate with how often you fish, the type of fishing you do, your personal budget, and the features you require your fish finder to have. For more about fish finder pricing see the “Price” section of our Buyer’s Guide above.
You now have all the information you need to compare the best fish finders of 2016. Study each one closely to make sure it will meet your needs and provide you with the results you demand. If you have further questions about any of the fish finders mentioned in this article, or if you would like to see us add your fish finder question to our FAQ, we’d love to hear from you. Don’t forget to let us know what you think of these fish finders in the Comments section below.