Buying fish finders can be tough – overwhelming even, with so many choices available! To make things easier for you, we’ve split up all the fish finders we carry into different categories and chosen winners from each.
You can also refer to our guide on How To Choose A Fish Finder if you want to get into the nitty gritties, and if you are a kayak person, we’ve also got a section on The Best Fish Finder For Small Boats & Kayaks.
If you don’t have a boat
Fishin’ Buddy 140c Fish Finder – If you don’t have your own boat but usually rent or use a friend’s boat, the Fishin Buddy 140c is the best portable fish finder out there. It can mount onto any surface(including the side of a pier if you are a bit creative), and the unique transducer lets you position it in any direction that you want, so you can point it down, left, right, straight, any way you want. If you do tilt the unit, you will have to interpret the readings accordingly, of course. Even if you have a boat but aren’t too keen on drilling, the Fishin Buddy 140c is a great starting choice.
Really basic, black and white
X-4 Pro Mono Fish Finder – The Lowrance X-4 Pro is about as basic as they get. Sporting a compact grayscale screen, this little guy can show you readings up to 100 feet deep. That’s pretty much it. That being said, its fish finding performance is still pretty solid, so for just about a hundred bucks, you’ve got yourself a great model to start getting your feet wet with. It’s not something you would show off to your fishing buddies, though!
Really basic, color
Echo 300c Color Fish Finder – The Garmin Echo 300c is possibly the best compact fish finder on the market right now. Everyone I know that has the Echo 300c sings praises about it. All Garmin hardware is solidly built, and the 300c is no exception. Like the X-4, the Echo 300c can show you depths of around 100 feet pretty easily, and the bright, sunlight readable color display will show you a whole range of colors so you can get a really accurate reading of the underwater world.
Easy to use
Dragonfly Fish Finder/GPS – 5.7″ Display – The Raymarine Dragonfly is a whole new ballgame when it comes to fish finding. With a powerful GPS, as well as a state-of-the-art CHIRP SONAR, Raymarine has packed features found in models that cost thousands of dollars into a unit that you can grab for less than $700. Plus there is a generous 5.7 inch display. What really makes the Dragonfly stand out though is that you can operate the whole thing with just 3 buttons. It’s that easy to use!
PiranhaMax 176i Fish Finder/GPS Combo – 4″ Mono Display – The PiranhaMax 176i is one of our longest running top sellers. It seems everyone that comes to us is at least a little bit curious about it! The PiranhaMax is part of Humminbird’s models aimed at people just starting out with fish finders. It’s easy to use, can show you depths of about 200 feet, and also has basic GPS built in. This way, you can make tracks, follow them, and set waypoints. A good way to use waypoints is as markers for tried-and-tested fishing spots. So if you are fishing a big lake, you can set waypoints of every spot you find out to be promising, and make a track of that. Next time you go there, just follow the track! Voila!
3D SONAR/Traditional SONAR combo
Elite-5x HDI Fish Finder – 5″ Color Display – Released in late Summer 2013, the Elite-5x HDI is part of Lowrance’s new HDI family, which is the first budget Lowrance series to combine traditional SONAR and DownScan Imaging. In the Elite-5x, you get 4 frequencies of fish finding all packaged neatly into one little transducer. The Elite-5x is a great option for you if you want power and functionality but don’t want to break the bank. The only catch is that it doesn’t have GPS built in. If you want GPS, consider the Elite-5x’s big brother, the Elite-5.
3D SONAR with GPS
Elite-5 HDI Fish Finder GPS Combo – Another really popular model, the Lowrance Elite-5 HDI is a mid-sized, high-power fish finder. It has both traditional SONAR and DownScan that you can also view side-by-side, as well as a GPS antenna that provides accurate signals. You can expand the mapping package using the built in MicroSD card slot for really detailed charts like Navionics Gold(see this page for more information). While it’s a bit pricy for a model in this range, you get all the features of a more expensive model but in a more compact package.
Budget Side Imaging
698ci HD SI Side Imaging Fish Finder/Chartplotter – 5″ Color Display – Side Imaging is a recent technology which builds up on Down Imaging. Side Imaging lets you see up to 240 feet on either side of your boat, giving you an overview of all of the structure underneath your boat. It’s not very useful for seeing what’s floating in the water column itself, but you can cover an amazing amount of water in very little time using it. Side Imaging is pretty expensive on most models, though, and would probably set you back a hefty wad of cash. Luckily, Humminbird has looked into that and the 698ci SI brings you that same technology for less than $1000.
High End Side Imaging
898c HD SI Side Imaging Fish Finder/Chartplotter – The 898c HD SI is the 598c HD SI’s bigger brother. It’s got a nice widescreen display which is really good for seeing Side Imaging images, and it’s also got networking, traditional SONAR, and robust GPS. It’s like a hybrid cross between the Lowrance HDS and the 598c HD SI fish finders.
All out power
Lowrance HDS Series – If you have the budget, the Lowrance HDS is a no-brainer. With powerful maps, very good SONAR, and the ability to add on DownScan and Side Imaging together with the LSS-2 StructureScan module, your fishing boat will become an unstoppable fish catching machine. You can also hook up any NMEA 2000 compatible electronics to see them on the HDS display. But my favorite feature, by far, is the fact that you can overlay Side Imaging data on a map and see both SONAR and mapping at once. The HDS series comes in sizes ranging from 5 inches to 12 inches, varying in price, too, so there is something for every budget.
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