A fish finder is an essential piece of kit for all fishermen and women.
We know some anglers who are so devoted to their fish finder that they would no longer fish without it.
We are lucky to be living in a time when you can get a fish finder that does pretty much everything you need for under $1000.
This price sits pretty much at the crossroads between entry level budget fish finders and serious professional grade ones.
But if you choose carefully from these selections, and restrict the screen size to either 7 or 9 inches, and you can get something that the pros would be happy to fish while keeping some spare cash in your pocket.
Our best fish finder under $1000 guide is designed to help you get a great piece of equipment that will boost your catch rate without breaking the bank. (NB – all reviewed models including the transducer and installed inland waterway maps, either for the US or your relevant market)
Best budget fish finder <$1000
This is a great sounder at a terrific price. It’s cheaper (in this 7-inch size) than its peers and has all the required imaging modes (conventional sonar, structure downscan and side imaging).
Best large-screen fish finder <$1000
The Hook Reveal offers a 9-inch screen at a great price with Lowrance’s quality imaging technology and Fish Reveal system as standard. This fish finder is also super easy to use.
Table of Contents
Fish finders reviewed in this article
- Lowrance Elite Ti2 7
- Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP MSI
- Garmin echoMAP Plus 93sv
- Lowrance Hook Reveal 2 9 Triple Shot
Best fish finder under $1000 picks
Overall best under $1000 – Lowrance Elite Ti2
When it came it down to it, our clear first choice on features was the Lowrance Elite Ti2. Touchscreen, CMAP Genesis Live mapping and of course FishReveal are an unrivalled feature set at this price point. FishReveal is a game changing technology that superimposes the fish arches from conventional sonar on to your downward imagining view so now fish escapes your eagle eye. Couple that with the Lowrance name – synonymous with innovation and quality – CHIRP sonar and the full range of connectivity options and this is the standout as the best fish finder under $1000 in 2020. (FULL REVIEW AND SPECIFICATIONS BELOW)
Best large-screen unit under $1000: Lowrance Hook Reveal 2
Next we have a shootout between our two 9-inch screen models – the Lowrance Hook Reveal 2 and the Garmin echoMAP Plus 93sv. We’ve made a controversial choice here in giving this to the Lowrance Hook Reveal 2. So how can an entry-level model topple a high-end fish finder? The answer is FishReveal and the strength of the Lowrance brand – the Garmin model has no equivalent to FishReveal and doesn’t have the pedigree in this category that Lowrance has and we love Lowrance’s CMAP Genesis Live mapping function and the fact this series is so easy to use. Unless you really need bluetooth or wifi connectivity (which the Hook Reveal 2 lacks) then the Hook Reveal with CHIRP sonar is a great choice and our recommendation. (FULL REVIEW AND SPECIFICATIONS BELOW). Check the Lowrance site for more info.
Best budget choice under $1000: Humminbird Helix CHIRP
In this category, we have a clear winner – the Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP MSI is a great sounder at a terrific price. It’s substantially cheaper (in this 7-inch size) than its peers and has all the required imaging modes (conventional CHIRP sonar, structure downscan and side imaging). It has Autochart Live mapping function and HELIX’s SmartStrike technology, which uses data to help you target productive areas for your chosen species, as well as the full range of wireless connectivity options. All you are really missing is a touchscreen display. That’s an awesome amount of value at this price and the Humminbird name is a bonus in terms of quality and reputation. (REVIEW AND SPECIFICATIONS BELOW OR CHECK OUT OUR SEPARATE HUMMINBIRD HELIX REVIEW)
>>>>>> Read on after the comparison table below for full reviews of each model <<<<<<
Best fish finder under $1000 comparison table
HELIX 7 CHIRP MSI
|Garmin echoMAP Plus 93sv||Lowrance Hook Reveal 9 Triple Shot|
|Display resolution||880 x 480||800 by 480||800 by 400||800 by 480|
|Special features||Fish Reveal||Smart Strike||Shareable waypoints||Fish Reveal|
|Mapping options||Yes – comes with US inland waterways maps||Yes – comes with US and Canada inland waterways maps||LakeVü g3 (inland maps)||Yes – comes with US and inland waterways|
|Charting options||C-MAP Genesis Live||Autochart Live||Quickdraw Contours||C-MAP Genesis Live|
|Data storage?||Yes, takes SD card up 32GB||Micro SD slot||Micro SD slot up to 32GB||Micro SD slot up to 32GB|
|Mounting||Gimbal Bracket or Dash Flush||Gimbal Bracket or Dash Flush||Bail or flush||Gimbal bracket or Dash Flush|
Full reviews of each <$1000 fish finders
Lowrance is one of the biggest names in marine electronics and has a great reputation for innovation and quality. The Elite Ti2 series – which sits between the entry-level Hook Reveal 2 and the professional-grade HDS range – is about bringing professional level features into a range designed for intermediate anglers.
This means for a great price you are getting a high resolution display (800 by 480 is better than its competitors) with touch-screen capability. These units come with Lowrance’s 3-in-1 ActiveImaging transducer, which delivers clear images for conventional CHIRP sonar, structure downscan and sidescan. The wifi connectivity allows you to easily share waypoint, mapping and route data and this unit has Lowrance’s C-MAP Genesis Live mapping, which builds accurate charts from crowd-sourced data from other users.
And on top of all that you have Lowrance’s FishReveal function, which adds the traditional sonar arches to the fish images on structure downscan – this is a game changer, particularly for those less experienced anglers who might otherwise miss fish on both the conventional sonar image and the structure downscan.
- Wifi connectivity
- At this price, the screen is 7 inch not 9 inch
This is a great fish finder from Humminbird, which alongside Lowrance, is one of the big names of when it comes to fish finders. You get all three views – conventional CHIRP sonar, structure downscan and side imaging with a decent 7 inch screen for a very sharp price.
The HELIX also has Humminbird’s SmartStrike feature, which crunches data from maps, water temperature, depths and other variables and uses its own algorithms to predict and show you good spots to target particular species.
It loses out to the Lowrance Elite Ti2 or the Garmin Echo Map 2 in the 7-inch category on features, and perhaps its logical competitor, the Lowrance’s Hook Reveal 2 beats it on screen size. That said it is considerably cheaper than the others and for that reason it is our best budget choice.
- Cheapest option
- SmartStrike feature
- Has all the basic features at this price point
- Not as feature rich or as large as competing models
This is a feature-packed fish finder that comes in just a few dollars above our price limit in the 9-inch screen size. What you are getting is a touchscreen, the three modes of sonar (convetional, downscan and side-imaging), excellent connectivity options (bluetooth, wifi) to share info with other users and Garmin’s QuickDraw Contours mapping function.
Garmin’s best known for its land-based sporting technology, but has made some inroads into the marine end of the market with some good fish finders. This model is one of their higher-end sounders and does everything well, but we can’t recommend it ahead of the Lowrance Elite Ti2 or the Hook Reveal 2, which boast both Lowrance’s Fish Reveal function, unless wireless connectivity is your major criteria as it outpoints the 9-inch Hook Reveal 2 on that front.
- Large screen
- Great connectivity options
- No standout special feature
The Hook Reveal 2 series is Lowrance’s entry level fish finder range – but don’t let that fool you. If you put aside the limited wireless connectivity options, this has all the features (barring a touch-screen) that you’d expected on a higher end piece of sonar equipment. Like the rest of the models reviewed here, it has the three key scanning modes (conventional sonar, structure downscan and side imaging) courtesy of the TripleShot Lowrance transducer. Where this unit excels is in ease of use. Lowrance has worked hard to make this range – aimed at fishermen and women who are developing their ability when it comes to using sonar – plug and play. We’ve used these units extensively and can report the automatic settings take care of almost all applications – it’s not a fish finder where you need to be fiddling with frequencies. That means more time for simply fishing and not getting yourself confused.
And where it really trumps all competition in the entry to mid-levels is the inclusion of the FishReveal technology. I am glad Lowrance has extended this Hook Reveal range as it really makes life easier for the more occasional fisher, who’s not always going to pick up every fish on conventional sonar or structure downscan without the added arches that FishReveal provides.
- Simple to use; great auto settings
- High resolution 9-inch screen
- FishReveal technology
- No wifi or bluetooth connectivity
Further reading on fish finders
For more information on fish finders, please check our guide on interpreting conventional sonar and structure downscan images to find fish and get a clear picture of the structure you are fishing. Learn the tips in this guide and you’ll soon be picking out schools of bass or crappie or larger targets such as muskie, walleye and pike.
Fish finder FAQS
Do fish finders really help?
Yes, absolutely. Many anglers simply would not go fishing without their fish finder. In our guide to reading fish finder images, pro angler Romen Dicovski explains how his catch rate has soared using Lowrance sonar technology and he’d never go back to just heading out on his bout without it.
And for those who are land based, there is always castable fish finders to think about as a way to locate fish in your area.
What about kayak fish finders?
These days fish finders are just as vital for kayak fishers as those who use a conventional boat. Most fish finder models can be attached to a kayak use a gimbal mount. We tend to find a screen size of 7 inches is perfect for a kayak. Side scan is nice to have but does require a transducer that can be lowered and raised rather than relying on the traditional fixed mounting point in the hull.
What are the best kayak fish finder batteries?
AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries are the cheapest and most popular choice as kayak fish finder batteries. These are sealed lead-acid batteries that are perfectly safe to use. A 7Ah model, about the size of a house brick, is usually enough to power a fish finder for a full day’s fishing and more. Lithium ion batteries are also available and are much lighter but more expensive. Somewhere in the middle, on both cost and weight, are lithium iron phosphate batteries. Check out our recommendations for the best kayak fish finder battery here.
How about fish finder batteries for boats?
For larger boats, the fish finder is usually mounted in the console and powered by the boat’s main battery. For smaller boats that use an outboard or don’t have a power circuit, one of the above batteries is fine.
How to install a fish finder?
This depends entirely on your choice of fishing vessel. The installation will differ markedly depending on if you have a boat with inboard motor/battery set up that powers the electronics or you are installing it in a kayak or small boat where it can be detached at the end of the day.
There are are basic two things to consider – the installation of the fish finder itself and the installation of the transducer. Fish finders come with decent instructions and there are also video guides on YouTube or the manufacturer’s sites in most cases to help you install your fish finder. If you don’t feel confident, most boat or kayak shops can assit.
How do you set up your screen?
That’s a matter of personal choice. Generally most anglers will run with a split screen set up with conventional CHIRP sonar on one side and structure downscan on the other. This gives a good combined view and the best chance of spotting active fish. If you have side scan, you can run that along the full width of the bottom of the screen, screen size permitting.
What if I find all the settings too complex?
Modern fish finders have such a wide range of features – integration with phones, bluetooth and wifi, different frequency and display settings and all manner of other functions. Often for the average angler all this is too much. Fortunately, in 95% of angling situations the default settings, combined with the fish finders own automatic adjustments, are perfectly fine. It will adjust the frequency so it is appropriate for the depth you are fishing at. Just get it set up how you like it – and that might need a bit of help from a friend or a boat shop staff member – and leave it alone and most of the time you will be just fine.
What are the best fish finder brands?
In our view there are really three key brands – Lowrance, Humminbird and Garmin. There are other brands of course, but these are the three with the best reputation. They are also brands we’ve used before so we stick with these three most of the time when we are making recommendations in our fish finder reviews.
Where can I learn more about using a fish finder?
For the very basics, check out our guide on How to Read a Fish Finder. It is a popular resource that spells out the basic concepts of traditional CHIRP sonar, structure downscan and sidescan as well as how to pick out fish images and recognised key pieces of structure such as fallen trees, weed beds and rocks. To take your skills to the next level, we recommend a $20 video course – click here to find out more. This course is great for getting more out of your fish finder and using it to massively boost your catch rate. The other alternative is to check out some of the free content on YouTube, but we think for $20 you’ll save a lot of time with the tailored course.
Beyond imaging, what other things can a fish finder do?
The other main function are location based chart plotting and mapping. Almost all fish finders these days come with GPS capability. As well as providing users with detailed charts, this also allows anglers the ability to store marks identifying the precise location of key features. This can be a particular piece of structure – say a reef, weed bed or sand bank – or a location where you’ve caught a particular species on a given day. There’s nothing like returning to the exact spot you know you have caught a fish before. It can really enhance your confidence! And if you are the sharing and caring sort, you can send these GPS marks to friends to help them enjoy success on a particular piece of water.
What is CHIRP sonar?
CHIRP stands for Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse. It was originally devised by the navy for deep water sonar. In simple terms, where conventional sonar operates on a single frequency or dual frequencies, with CHIRP the unit sends down pulses across a range of frequencies, which enables it to produce a much clearer and detailed depiction of the structure and any fish in the water column. Most decent fish finders these days use CHIRP sonar.
All the top kayak fish finder models from Lowrance, Garmin and Humminbird reviewed in our sonar showdown