Fish Finder Reviews: Our Guide to the Best Sonar Technology

Humminbird Helix 9x Chirp SI GPS G2 1024x

Fish finders offer you the chance to dramatically boost your success by discovering what’s beneath the water’s surface in terms of structure and fish.

Having a good fish finder tells you where to fish and how to fish and that inevitably results in more fish caught.

There are fish finders of all types to suit all budgets these days from units costing a few hundred dollars, right up to the several thousand for the top fish finders with GPS.

The good thing is a lot of the cost is tied up in the screen size, so it is possible to get a high-tech unit with all the latest features for well under $1000 if you are prepared to accept a smaller screen in the 7-inch range.

Good news for kayak fishers and those who have small boats, where a smaller unit is preferred anyway.

Fish finders explained

Fish finders use sound to locate objects underwater. They do this by sending out sound pulses and waiting for an echo. The frequencies used vary, ranging from very low (infrasonic) to very high (ultrasonic). Fish appear as arches in traditional sonar imaging and blobs in downscan (unless you have FishReveal or equivalent technology that adds a colored arch in downscan).

The sound emanates from a submerged transducer, which detects the return pulses providing the information to form the graphically display on a fish finder’s LCD.

Fish finders for under $1000

If you have up to $1000 you can get a fish finder that offers traditional CHIRP sonar, downscan and, if you compromise on screen size, side scan. The best units from Lowrance, Garmin and Humminbird in this price range offer special features such as Lowrance’s FishReveal, Garmin’s xx and Humminbird’s xx. They also offer GPS and charting capability with the ability to add and share marks and add in detailed charts of major US waterways.

Our top pick: The Lowrance Elite Ti2 (7″)

Elite Ti2 (7 inch version)

Other price points: < $500, $300 and $200

For many people $1000 is a fair bit to spend on a fish finder, so we’ve looked at a range of other price brackets to give the widest range of readers options that site in their price range.

Check out these guides – all written by our resident experts and fishing guides to sonar set ups in these ranges:

Fish finders for kayaks

Kayak fish finders need to be relatively small – five to seven inch models are best. You can get away with a relatively simple model because without having huge screen real estate, you may only want to save traditional CHIRP sonar and downscan; although in some situations sidescan would be useful, although you do need a special rig for the transducer in this case.

Our top pick: Lowrance Hook Reveal 7

Lowrance Hook Reveal 7

Castable fish finders: portable solutions

Castable fish finders provide a unique perspective of what’s happening in terms of fish and structure right near your lure or bait. These ingenious devices use a variety of techniques to send back sonar images to you.

Our top pick: Deeper Smart Chirp

Deeper Smart Chirp

Ice fishing fish finders and flashers

One of the challenges of ice fishing is finding where the fish are.

It is not like you can cover large areas of water easily while casting or trolling like you could in a boat or kayak. Instead, anglers are forced to manage their time by finding spots that hold fish without actually being able to see underwater features or fish. Ice fishing specific sonar helps greatly when it comes to this style of precision fishing, and unlike decades past when you might never know if there’s any fish after you drill holes on a certain spot, anglers can now quickly determine if the areas are worth fishing. It’s important to consider if you need an ice fishing flash or ice fishing fish finder or both.

Our Top Pick: Garmin Panoptix LiveScope Ice Fishing Bundle

Garmin Panoptix Livescope Ice Bundle

Lowrance Fish Finders

Lowrance has a great reputation for producing user-friendly and highly capable sonar units for great prices. The range starts with the Hook Reveal models, then goes to the Elite Ti2 range (which include touchscreen and a range of other enhancements) right up to the top-of-the-range Lowrance HDS models (check out our Lowrance HSD Live review), which include Lowrance’s LiveScope function allowing you to study fish close to you and even watch them hit your lure.

Top of the range: Lowrance HDS

The Lowrance HDS

Humminbird Fish Finders

Humminbird is the other veteran brand in the sector that many fishermen and women love.

Humminbird fish finders have a user friendly interface and settings/menu that is incredibly easy to change on the water depending on your current fishing situation.

Humminbird’s range starts with the basic Piranhamax unit, goes up to the HELIX units and then the top end SOLIX range (comparison here).

Humminbird’s SmartStrike feature, this feature takes the body of water and Lakemaster contours and uses a special algorithm to give the user likely fish locations, this algorithm allows you to input data such as fish species, weather conditions, time of day and year, water conditions and wind and the algorithm will show on the contour map likely fish location.

Top Pick: Humminbird HELIX range

Humminbird HELIX 7

Garmin Fish Finders

Garmin is the other big name in the fish finder game and we’ve tried and tested several of the best Garmin fish finder models.

Fish finder brand comparisons

We’ve taken a look at the main brands in sonar technology with a series of fish finder comparison articles.

Humminbird HELIX review

Fish Finder Mapping Cards

Having accurate charts is just as important as the sonar images on your fish finder. We’ve done a lot of research comparing the different chart packages available:

Fish finder advice and how to guides:

We’ve also put together a range of articles to help people get the most out of using their fish finder including:

Photo of author
Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.