Over the years, technology has advanced in the world of fishing. For both novice and professional anglers, there are high tech gadgets on the market which can increase your success when fishing.
Fish finders are one of the best investments in technology you can make. This is especially true if you are fishing on a more commercial scale, or simply want to get a better idea of where fish school and how they travel for better estimation on where to drop your bait.
A luxury fish finder can cost thousands of dollars and offer features only high end professional anglers may benefit from.
But for those just stepping out into the world of fish finder technology, a more affordable unit may sound much more appealing than breaking the bank on a high end gadget you may not even get the full use out of.
Best fish finder and GPS combo under $500: reviews
When it comes to an ideal fish finder, price can make a huge difference in what you get as far as beneficial features and abilities. For fish finders under $500, you can expect several standard features across all models reviewed. However, a few stand out from the crowd by offering a little bit extra to give you that edge when it comes to fishing.
For this review, we went over five highly recommended fish finders of similar price points. After thoroughly reviewing all of them, the top pick was the Humminbird Helix 7 G3 because of its dual spectrum sonar coverage and triple scanning modes (although we are technically cheating a bit because it is usually sold at just over the $500 mark in price).
You’ll be hard pressed to find another fish finder in this price point that offers the same range of features.
If the Helix 7 G3 is not to your liking, the runner up on this list would be the Garmin Echomap UHD because it offers high definition scanning with extremely detailed chartplotting abilities. Perfect for novice and experienced anglers alike, regardless of whether you are fishing in freshwater or saltwater.
Let’s go over all the features of the five in more detail and see if you agree with the top choice and runner up, or if another model might work better for your personal needs.
The Helix 7 G3 model has noticeable improvement over older variations of the Helix line. It is among popular fish finders to consider for those that are not yet sure which features are most important to them.
The display is split screen capable, meaning you can enjoy the combined view of both down scan and side scan results at once. Both of these windows can give you an excellent view of the fishing hotspots to help you land that next trophy fish.
The CHIRP sonar also includes a very accurate GPS that allows you to place up to 2700 individual waypoints. You can track out your entire trip, or just store location information on fishing spots or areas you want to return to.
The upgraded G3 model of the Helix 7 features a Dual Spectrum CHIRP sonar with three scanning modes: Narrow, Wide, and Full. The frequencies can be adjusted from 140-240 kHz to help you narrow in on a single fish, or an entire school.
The impressive amount of features the Helix 7 has also includes the AutoChart software, letting you map and view premade charts in real time to a depth of up to 1500 feet maximum depth.
Additionally, you can use a micro SD card to use and save your favorite maps to the best fishing locations you know. This fish finder GPS combo is also fully compatible with LakeMaster software, as well as Navionics software.
- 7” Color Screen with 800H x 480V Resolution
- More than 10,000 Pre-Installed Plotting Charts
- Minimal Battery Draw of 800mA
This is an excellent fish finder and chart plotter combo for novice and experienced anglers. You’ll find extra high definition scanning capabilities with this fish finder to show you exactly what’s under your boat.
You’ll easily be able to mark your favorite fishing locations and return to them anytime without having to wander around trying to pinpoint the specific area. The highly accurate internal GPS coordinates will take you right to it.
No more guessing or speculation about what a shadowy figure might be. This unit offers high end target separation with CHIRP traditional sonar in a high wide band. As with the previous entry in this list, the fish finder offers unrivaled GPS capabilities.
The extremely accurate GPS has been one of Garmin’s shining accomplishments for years, and you’ll find no less than the best when it comes to GPS capabilities in their fish finders under 500 as well.
For a budget fish finder, this fish finder offers CHIRP sonar technologies with both low and high frequency bands.
You’ll notice an improvement in data received over various frequencies depending on your location and your specific needs.
Additionally the transducer allows the use of both CHIRP traditional and CHIRP ClearVu sonar technologies so you can pinpoint groups of fish or a single trophy target.
- 6” Color Screen that is Readable in Bright Sunlight
- Preloaded BlueChart collection of the Coastal US Integrated Navionics
- Autopilot trolling motor Integration with NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000
If you’re looking for a powerful fishfinder to get started with immediately, the Helix 5 might be perfect for you (we’ve got a full review of the HELIX range here). This unit features both side imaging and down imaging sonar along with GPS mapping so the fish will have nowhere to hide.
Additionally, you can use a micro SD card to use and save your favorite maps to the best fishing locations you know. This fish finder is also fully compatible with LakeMaster software, as well as Navionics software.
The crisp and clear images shown on the screen can give you an excellent view of underwater terrain, pylons, and more. The display is split screen capable, meaning you can enjoy the combined view of both down scan and side scan results at once.
Both of these windows can give you an excellent view of the area to help you land that next trophy fish.
If you’re looking for an incredibly useful fish finder while still remaining within a reasonable budget, the Helix 5 from Humminbird is the perfect example. With a flasher option you can even use it for ice fishing as well (see here for our article on ice fishing sonar with reviews of 16 different units).
As with few other fish finders in this price point, you’ll be pleased to see the Helix 5 has both down scan and side scan capabilities, which together can give you an incredibly detailed view of your immediate surroundings leaving fish nowhere to hide.
The CHIRP sonar capabilities also include a very accurate GPS that allows you to place up to 2700 individual waypoints. You can track out your entire trip, or just store location information on fishing spots or areas you want to return to.
The side scan can cover an area of up to 350 feet maximum depth, sending you real time results when you need them most. The impressive amount of features the Helix 5 has also includes the AutoChart software, letting you map and view premade charts in real time to a depth of up to 1500 feet.
- Dual beam sonar with 5” LED Backlit Widescreen
- Side and Down Imaging Leaving Fish Nowhere to Hide
- LakeMaster and NOAA Preloaded Charts for Out-Of-The-Box Use
This Garmin offers a vividly colored 7” screen with enough detail to help you distinguish between fish or underwater structures. The GPS is extremely sensitive for highly accurate chartplotting and waypoint marking.
When compared to the price, the Garmin Striker has some incredible features for a budget fish finder. It’s an excellent entry level sonar technology to get started with before investing in a more expensive bit of technology for your fishing excursions.
The scanning depth of this Garmin fish finder will vary, however for a budget scanner it’s pretty powerful.
Being a Garmin brand product, you can rest assured knowing the GPS capabilities are second to none. In fact, Garmin is well known for the accuracy of their GPS no matter what technology it’s attached to.
You’ll also notice the unit includes QuickDraw Contours map making software with access to the Garmin QuickDraw community for additional charts and maps.
If you’re fishing in clear freshwater, the sonar technology can pinpoint stumps, docks and ground contours up to 1600 feet deep. For saltwater you will be limited to a 750 feet distance potential.
Once scanned, the display on the screen is shown in vertical format which many anglers say is much more desirable than horizontal.
Being an entry level fish finder under 500, you won’t have the best of the best features around every corner. But for a basic technology or for someone who is just starting out with fish finders under 500, the Striker is an excellent choice to consider and has some of the most useful standard features for a budget fish finder.
- Extremely Accurate GPS for Waypoint Marking
- Reliable WiFi Connectivity for Smartphone App Compatibility
- Uses both Traditional and ClearVu CHIRP Sonar recording
This fish finder offers the trademarked FishReveal tool that combines incredible CHIRP sonar identification with high-resolution imaging of anything below your boat. Additionally, this model offers Genesis Live mapping capabilities that let you map uncharted areas as you fish in 100% realtime. Right down to 0.5′ contours and extremely high detail.
The Hook Reveal 5 has a 5 inch display screen. It provides a great view of what’s in the water around you and under you, no matter how murky the water may be. Additionally, the interface and control buttons are very intuitive and easy to understand.
You’ll be mastering the use of the fish finder mere minutes after unboxing it.
The down scan gives you a real time result on the display to within 1 foot of actual contour. Included you’ll find a database of more than 10,000 lakes and inland maps already preloaded into the fish finder for your convenience.
As well as being easy to learn, it also comes with GPS capabilities and dual beam transducer. You’re also able to increase this with an SD card of your choice.
The fish finder can be mounted almost anywhere on your boat with its included attachments, whether you want it on the hull, railings, transom or elsewhere.
- More Than 4,000 Inland Lake Charts Included
- 5” Display Offers Clear Views of the Screen Even in Sunlight
- Hook Reveal Offers Autofocusing Sonar for More Time Fishing
Finding The Best Fish Finder Under 500 Dollars: Buyer’s Guide
Sonar on fish finders allows you to detect and display the location of fish schools in all directions below your boat in both freshwater and saltwater of various depths. The two standard options you will find on most fish finders are DownScan and Side Scan.
These both offer a unique but highly detailed view of the underwater world to help you gauge whether or not the location you are in is worth remaining in for a day of fishing.
Echoes by the traditional sonar can detect the depth of water under the ship as well as show results on schools of fish, individual fish, and other debris. Sonar can detect these fish or debris in a large circle around your boat making it an extremely efficient way to locate fish.
Most anglers, both novice and experienced, will try to find a fish finder that offers both scanning options.
Being able to use both side scan and down scan data when compiling your waypoints is highly valuable in finding the perfect fishing location.
Down imaging is a high-frequency sonar beam that is used to create high definition images of fish, vegetation and underwater structures below your boat as you are moving.
Down imaging results are oriented in a down-looking manner and show the most recently scanned information on the right side of the screen of your fish finder. Many fish finders include down imaging as default, but some have side imaging as well.
Down scan is sonar technology that scans directly beneath your boat or vessel in a cone or triangle shape. It helps build a detailed picture of the potential fish below your boat as you move forward, especially if it’s paired with side scans.
The down scan sonar is sent in small bursts rapidly and as the data returns to your fish finder receiver, it forms images of underwater objects and fish on the display screen.
The better the resolution on your fish finder display screen, the better the results of your images and 2D radar results helping you decide which location is a promising fishing spot.
Side imaging is similar to down imaging in that it also uses a high frequency sonar to get a view of the area on either side of your boat. It can scan up to 400 feet on either side of the boat.
The image that is returned for this slice is then used to quickly build a highly detailed view of the lake bottom surface including depth, large rocks, vegetation and more.
Side scan is sonar that scans either side of your boat or vessel at an angle towards the bottom or the lake or waterway. It is great for giving you a view of the ground contour as well as underwater obstacles such as stumps, pylons, and more.
Additionally, it can help you locate schools and arches of fish that may not be directly below your boat, letting you know whether or not you should cast off one side or the other when fishing.
GPS Mapping Technology
Fish finders that include GPS mapping to some extent can be extremely helpful for finding suitable fishing grounds. Additionally, highly accurate GPS mapping technology can be useful for pathing your routes and wayfinding in all types of weather conditions.
Finding extremely accurate GPS capabilities in some budget fish finders may be difficult depending on the brand you choose.
However, there are still a wide range of affordable and extremely versatile fish finders under 500 that do include built in GPS technologies and preloaded chart features.
Some lesser known brands such as Vinterior and Vexilar can offer standard GPS capabilities with less accuracy than better known brands such as Garmin and Lowrance.
Some fish finders for your main vessel include mounts that are easy to detach the finder from. This gives you the ability to locate a spot while on your main boat, then switch to a smaller boat for locating more dense areas to fish from.
Fish finders in general can be confusing for beginners, but a wide range of models are extremely user friendly. They offer intuitive design, simple button placement, and more to level up your fishing game.
Displays are normally found in 5-7 inch diagonal sizes. They can be backlit, many are made for displaying high definition images, and some are specifically made to be easily viewed in the bright sunlight.
Frequently Asked Questions on Fish Finders
What to expect from a fish finder under 500 dollars?
Most fish finders in this price range will offer everything you need to find your next best fishing spot. You’ll notice a standard array of features on all of them, with only a few pulling ahead by including one or two nonstandard features.
Are depth finders’ waterproof?
Most depth finders are entirely sealed and completely waterproof.
Can you see water temperature on a fish finder?
A majority of fish finders will show the temperature of the water closer to the surface. If you’re searching deeper waters, the temperature may not be accurate.
Final Thoughts on the Best Fish Finders Under $500
If you’re looking for a combination of function and affordability, a GPS fish finder under $500 can offer exactly what you need.
Everything is included to get you started right out of the box, such as GPS, sonar images, included chats, easy mapping abilities, chirp digital sonar, top down scans, and side scans on some models.
No matter which fish finder model you may choose, all of them can help increase your odds of landing that next trophy bass. There are a variety of small and easy to use fish finders under 500 on the market.
Below, we will look over five unique models and see which might be best suited for your needs. Whether you fish from a kayak or from the shore, there’s an affordable fish finder for you.
Whether you are highly experienced and searching for the best fishing spot in your area, or you are a beginner looking to find that next trophy fish, there are a wide range of fish finders under 500 that will do exactly what you need.