The world of fishing electronics can be extremely complicated. From sonar options to GPS settings, it can be an intimidating experience trying to find the best option for you.
It doesn’t have to be! Our review of the best fish finders will set you at ease and give you the information to pay attention to when selecting a unit.
For a more detailed explanation of which sonars are available to the freshwater angler, check out our buyer guide section. Most anglers only need a few options, and our guide will tell you which sonars and features can work best for you.
Our Top Picks
Humminbird Helix 7 Chirp SI GPS G4 Fish Finder
Lowrance HOOK2 Fish Finder
Best for Bank Fishing
Deeper PRO Smart Sonar
Humminbird is a well-respected brand in the fish finder market. They have been one of the main brands known for bringing technology to fishing. Their products are used by professional and recreational anglers across the country.
The Helix 7 fish finder gives you the features an avid angler would want while still being user-friendly. The advancements in side imaging will allow you to break down water faster, giving you more time to catch fish.
It comes with many pre-built screens that are easily toggled to give the angler the ultimate flexibility in sonar views. As you fish throughout the day, easily adjust your underwater views to maximize your effectiveness.
This model truly is the perfect blend between pro-level features and friendly usability.
- Comes preloaded with maps
- Includes side imaging sonar for better coverage
- 7-inch screen for greater detail
- Comes with a hefty price tag
- Needs to be mounted to a boat for full-side imaging capability
- Longer learning curve with more advanced options
The Lowrance Hook2 unit is the best fish finder if you want something to plug in and start using right away. That is why they say, “Just turn it on and fish”!
Pre-configured screens and simple navigation allow novice anglers to feel confident they are getting the most out of the fish finder. Not to mention that this unit is built by one of the leading marine electronics manufacturers, Lowrance.
The durable outer shell and Solarmax display also give the unit a sleek-looking design and a functional outer shell. You can be certain this unit will stand up to the elements you put it through.
- Multiple mounting options
- Simple menu design for easy use
- 2D sonar transducer included
- Limited options to fine-tune settings
- Limited clarity with a smaller screen size
- Only 2D sonar is available
Best for Bank Fishing
The Deeper PRO has been among the top fish finders in the portable/mobile category for a long time. They have taken full advantage of the advancements in mobile technology by showcasing their sonar readings through a state-of-the-art app experience.
One of the best features of this unit is its versatility. With it not having to be mounted to a boat, you can take it anywhere. Fish from the bank, kayak, pier, boat, or any other place you have access to water. It can also be used while ice fishing with traditional ice fishing sonar readings.
The setup is beginner friendly because there are no messy wires to deal with. The Deeper PRO unit acts as a WIFI hotspot to connect directly to any iOS or Android device.
You also get 5.5 hours of battery life when fully charged, allowing you to spend more time fishing.
- Easy to set up
- Very transportable
- Constant improvements through app updates
- Sonar can be blurry in wavy conditions (less stable)
- 5.5 hour run-time can be short for some anglers
- Works only if you have a charged mobile device with you
If you are looking for an entry-level traditional fish finder unit, the Garmin Striker 4 is the unit for you. It comes standard with Chirp Sonar, creating a clearer picture.
This unit gives you the ability to mark your best fishing spots with waypoints, allowing you to get back to them easier. The high-sensitivity GPS allows for pinpoint accuracy as well as speed detection, giving you the tools you need to navigate any body of water safely.
Anglers that fish up north also like the option to use a fish finder in both open-water and ice-fishing scenarios. This unit allows for both. A simple conversion kit and portable battery can have you fishing from the boat or on ice.
- Affordable portable unit
- Easy-to-use navigation buttons
- Comes standard with Chirp sonar
- Smaller 3.5-inch screen
- Limited screen clarity
- Can only use as a stand-alone unit
Garmin fish finders have been known to be reliable units on the water. Some of the most expensive too. The Striker 5CV with the transducer is the best fish finder unit if you are looking to up your game in marine technology.
With its intuitive interface, anglers will find it refreshing how easy it is to navigate the different settings. The user interface is important with the fine-tuning that can be done with the 2D, Down Imaging, and mapping that comes with the unit.
Garmin’s expansive support center also makes it a great choice if something were to go wrong. This fish finder will allow you to focus on one thing when on the water, which is catching fish!
- 5” screen for added clarity and views
- Lake maps included
- Built-in GPS
- Not very portable
- A little more on the pricey side
- Longer learning curve for beginners
Fish Finder Buyer’s Guide
Types of Fish Finders
There are two main categories of fish finders; portable and mounted. Depending on your fishing situation will help determine which one you should get.
If you fish from a boat, kayak, or any other fishing vessel, a mounted fish finder is a better option. A portable fish finder is a better choice if you fish in many different situations, like from docks, shore, and boats.
Portable units give you the greatest flexibility, while mounted fish finders provide the best features. Taking a look at your own fishing preferences will allow you to see which option is best for you.
Fish finders give you a glimpse underwater because of sonar, a sound signal that is emitted and returned out of a transducer. There are several different types of sonar for fishing, and depending on what you want, there will be certain fish finders that have different capabilities.
Most Popular Fishing Sonars
2D: this is the most basic version of sonar and comes equipped with seeing standard returns. It is best for tracking how deep you are or if fish are directly under the boat.
Down Imaging: This is another basic fishing sonar but gives you an extra level of detail. Down imaging has greater clarity and will show details that will allow you to determine what kind of structure you are looking at. Things like brush piles, rocks, and stumps.
Side Imaging: This shares the same frequency as down imaging, but instead of looking down, it emits sonar beams out to the sides. This allows the angler in a boat to cover more water to find places that are holding fish.
360 Imaging: This also shares the same sonar as down and side imaging, but the transducer spins 360 degrees. This allows you to be stationary while getting a picture of the area completely around you. Great for fishing a specific spot like a boulder.
Forward Facing: The most detailed of the sonars, allows you to point the transducer in any direction and see in real-time what is going on under the water. This is the best sonar if you want to understand the mood of the fish and how they are reacting to your bait
Probably the most noticeable difference between fish finders is screen size. Bigger isn’t always better. Just like choosing what type of fish finder is best for you, think about your personal fishing situation and gravitate towards the one that fits your needs.
Larger screens are better for seeing multiple views at once as well as providing better clarity. This is why you sometimes see people with multiple screens that are networked together. For people who like to mesh a couple of different sonars and mapping together.
If you only plan on using one view at a time or prefer a more basic sonar setup, a smaller screen will work great.
When using a portable unit, a more compact screen would work better for transporting it from spot to spot. Also, some boats have limited space where a larger screen would get in the way more.
Screen size, among other features, has a direct impact on the cost of a fish finder. As you step up in screen size, you also increase the cost. Choosing a smaller screen size will help you save money while still allowing you to have advanced sonar capabilities.
As with all technology, there seems to be an unlimited amount of features. Choosing the best fish finder for you is no different. Depending on the features you want will determine how much you will need to spend on a fish finder.
Common Features Available on Fish Finders
GPS/Mapping: This feature is really only applicable to people using it on a boat. It gives you the capability of knowing your position in relation to water depths (contours) on a map. This gives you the added capability of finding the best fishing spots as well as safety in navigating shallow water areas.
Networking: This means you can link multiple fish finders together so they can share information like transducers and waypoints. It’s a good idea to have network-compatible units if you plan on using multiple fish finders at the same time.
Operating System: Just like phones or a computer, different brands of fish finders have different user experiences. Even though the sonars are pretty much the same, the navigation can be completely different. The best way to review the operating system is to try out a demo unit in a store or search for review videos online.
Manufacturer Customer Service
This sounds like a no-brainer, but the best fish finders are the ones that have the best customer support. You are mixing technology and water. There are a lot of things that can go wrong!
Fish finders are built to be durable and designed to withstand the elements you put them through. With their complexity of wiring and advanced sonar capabilities, there is a learning curve to getting the most out of your fish finder.
The more help you can receive from the manufacturer, the better. This could be in the form of guides and manuals or libraries of videos for you to watch. Then if you still have questions or issues, being able to call and talk to someone who can help is a huge advantage.
Fish Finder Frequently Asked Questions
What is the easiest fish finder for beginners?
The easiest fish finders for beginners come equipped with 2D and Down Imaging sonar and have a simplified user interface. The Humminbird HELIX 7, Lowrance HOOK2, or Garmin STRIKER 5CV make great beginner fish finder units for your boat.
How do fish finders work?
Fish finders emit a sound signal underwater from a transducer. The sound waves bounce off objects and create a return signal back to the transducer. These readings are formed into an image and displayed on a compatible screen. The harder the object, the greater the return.
Time to Go Fishing
With the advancements in technology in nearly every sector, fishing is no different. There are many options to choose from when it comes to finding the best fish finder.
It all depends on your personal preference and fishing style. Once you do make a selection, spend time on the water with it. Check out the different settings and options so you can dial in the functionality.
When you get your fish finder set up and are ready to fish, check out all the great fishing opportunities that are around you in our Minnesota fishing library.
- About the Author
- Latest Posts
Brad Novak is a lifelong angler who enjoys catching many different species of fish.
He currently resides in Minnesota and loves exploring the many fishing opportunities the state has to offer, including the world-class walleye fisheries up north to the diverse lakes within the Twin Cities metro.
While currently working full-time in the fishing industry, Brad has a passion for sharing his knowledge and increasing participation in the sport.