Fishing is about the strategy and patience it takes to succeed. It's also about hoping that you're in a location that has an abundance of fish. A fish finder takes the guesswork out of locating that perfect spot, so you can focus on the catching.
The best fish finder is a high-tech piece of equipment that gives you a clear picture of everything that's going on beneath the surface of the water. Our favorite, Deeper's PRO+ Smart Sonar, is a wireless castable fish finder that features a built-in GPS. If you'd like to learn more about this highly rated item, read on.
Considerations when choosing fish finders
One of the most impactful differences between fish finders is how each displays information on the display screen.
On this type of fish finder, the information that the sonar has gathered is displayed as images that resemble items, such as fish, plants, and rocks. These types of devices are easy to read, but the images are generic. The unit may misinterpret what it is "seeing" and provide false information.
This type of fish finder has a fairly steep learning curve because it displays exactly what it "sees," placing a number of lines and arches on the screen. It's up to the user to determine what those lines and arches represent, which can be good or bad depending on an individual's ability to read the device.
There are a number of other features your fish finder may have. To keep your decision-making process uncluttered, here are the most important ones to consider.
Permanent vs. portable
As it sounds, a permanent fish finder is installed on your boat; it's a dedicated instrument. A portable model can travel with you, and it may be used in a wider variety of situations.
GPS not only keeps you from becoming lost, but also it allows you to map routes and save the precise location of your favorite fishing spots. It can make your device a little bit more costly, but it's worth it for most users.
Frequencies in fish finders typically range from 50 kHz to 200 kHz. The lower-frequency models perform best in deeper water, while the higher-frequency ones excel in the shallows. It's important to note that some fish finders use a wide sweep of frequencies, so they can be effective in all situations.
The transducer is the element that makes your fish finder work. The area that it can "see" is called the cone angle. Think of it like the beam of a flashlight: the wider the cone, the greater the coverage area. However, you may sacrifice accuracy as the cone angle increases.
Fish finder prices
If you're looking for a portable monochrome fish finder that fits in the palm of your hand, a no-frills entry-level model starts at about $40. As you climb up the pricing ladder, you gain accuracy, GPS, durability, and more. The models at the top of the fish-finder price range can cost $500 or more.
Q. Will my fish finder scare away the fish?
A. Fish hear at very low frequencies. The sonar used in fish finders is beyond the upper limits of what a fish can hear. Vibrations caused by moving around your boat or the waves lapping against the hull have a much better chance of spooking the fish than a fish finder does.
Q. Do I need GPS on my fish finder?
A. Although opting for no GPS can save you a little money, unless all of your fishing will be done standing on a pier, it's wiser to have it. Besides keeping you from becoming lost, your fish finder can save specific locations, allowing you to build up a customized catalogue of all your favorite fishing spots along with the safest routes to arrive there.
Fish finders we recommend
Best of the best: Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar
Our take: A highly versatile fish finder that can be used in any situation from ice fishing to casting from the shore.
What we like: This sonar unit can be cast up to 330 feet. It has a built-in GPS, so you can create bathymetric maps while you fish. The device connects to the Deeper application, can scan down to 260 feet, and is suitable for temperatures as low as -4ºF.
What we dislike: Occasionally, the WiFi signal will drop; sometimes it can be difficult to reconnect.
Best bang for your buck: Garmin Striker 4 With CHIRP Sonar
Our take: A value-packed portable fish finder that uses a Garmin CHIRP transducer for better clarity.
What we like: The Striker 4 allows you to mark fishing hotspots, so you can revisit your previous successes with ease. The unit also provides such information as depth, water temperature, and boat speed.
What we dislike: To receive the full-performance benefits from the CHIRP sonar, you have to upgrade.
Choice 3: Venterior Portable Fish Finder
Our take: A tiny handheld entry-level fish finder that uses easy-to-interpret graphics, so a beginner can quickly learn how to read it.
What we like: This fish finder has a fish alarm. It's backlit, so the display screen can be more easily viewed. The unit displays generic images of fish, rocks, and weeds to provide an easy-to-interpret picture of what the conditions are like beneath your boat or off the pier.
What we dislike: Because this is an entry-level fish finder, there are a number of limits to the unit's functionality and accuracy.
Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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