Our society’s steady stream of technological advancements has impacted almost every part of human existence in today’s world, and the sport of fishing has definitely not been overlooked. Fish finders have become an essential technological tool needed for many fishermen today – both professionals and amateurs alike.
Gone are the days of having to try to map out the landscapes of lakes and ponds and guess where each species of fish may be. Fish finders take all of the guesswork out of fishing. Much like an in-person guide would, a fish finder can guide you to the exact spot your dream fish inhabits and help you land the fish of your dreams.
However, with so many different brands and models to choose from how do you even begin to look for the fish finder that is right for you and your needs? To assist you in this exhilarating – yet often stressful – feat, we have compiled a list of the best fish finders of 2021, so that you can shop with the confidence of knowing exactly what you are looking for.
In this article, we will break down each of the important parts and features found in fish finders and help you pinpoint which model has the exact features that you need specifically. We will also define some of those rather intimidating, technological terms associated with the latest fish finders so that you can shop for your next fish finder with the complete knowledge and understanding you need to make an informed purchasing decision.
Carry on reading or jump straight to our number #1 pick here.
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Table of Contents
- What Should I Look For When Buying a Fish Finder?
- Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Fish Finders
- Budget Options
- Are Fish Finders Worth the Money?
- What Fish Finders Do the Pros Use?
What Should I Look For When Buying a Fish Finder?
When purchasing fish finders there are several factors to look out for regarding the quality and general make-up of the fish finder itself. There is so much more to these extensive pieces of technology than what meets the eye.
Before you begin your purchasing journey, it is imperative to determine the exact type of fishing you are looking to do because this will greatly impact the type of fish finder you will want to purchase.
Once you have determined your primary fishing goal for your fish finder, it is now time to look closely at both the outside appearance of the unit and its inner workings to determine if it is the best fit for you, your boat, and your fishing needs.
The following are the most important factors to look for when choosing your new fish finder.
The screen size of your fish finder will have a major impact on your ability to get the most use out of it for your fishing goals. As a general rule of thumb, when shopping for a new fish finder, the bigger the screen, the happier you will be with your purchase.
Even though a larger screen will often make the cost of the device increase, the result and quality of your screen’s display will make it totally worth the extra money. Larger screens allow for more room to accommodate in-depth data about your exact fishing location. Smaller display screens often become packed and cluttered with information, making it hard for fishermen to decipher and read.
Screen Resolution and Display
Think of your fish finder screen much like you would your television or computer screen. To receive the best and most satisfying results from your fish finder’s screen, you want the picture and information shown to be as clear and discernible as possible. This has all to do with the number of pixels on your screen’s display.
Pixels are the tiny dots that make up the picture on a digital screen. The more pixels your screen holds, the clearer and crisper the image will be. The same rule applies to fish finders, and if you are seeking a clear and discernible screen image, it is best to not go below 240 x 160 pixels.
This means that 240 pixels will be shown going left and right on your screen and 160 pixels will be going up and down. Anything below this number will be quite fuzzy and frustrating to decipher. The higher resolution (number of pixels) you have on your particular unit, the clearer your image will be.
It is also highly recommended to choose a color display over a black and white display as the color will provide you with much better readability and picture quality.
Also, because you will be using your fish finder and viewing its screen almost exclusively outdoors, it is important to find a screen that works well with sunlight and can still be easily viewed in both bright sunlight and cloudy conditions.
The transducer is the most important part of your fish finder. This piece most often gets mounted to the bottom of your boat and sends out sonar waves that bounce off of the surrounding objects found in the water such as vegetation, contouring (which represents depth changes), walls and flats, and most importantly, fish!
When sonar waves are sent back and received by the transducer, they are converted into the display that is shown on your fish finder’s screen.
Most transducers are made primarily of plastic, stainless steel, or bronze. The type of material you choose depends on the type of boat it will be mounted to. However, plastic-mounted transducers work for almost all types of boats, so for the regular fishermen, a plastic mount transducer will do just fine.
All transducers emit a cone-shaped beam into the water below them. This beam refers to the size of the area that the transducer will send and receive its sonar waves. The wider the cone is, the larger amount of water area will be covered and brought back to your display screen.
Cone angles can range anywhere from about 10 degrees to more than 60 degrees, however, if you find a fish finder with a 20-degree cone, this is a fantastic choice for all types of fishing.
It is important to note that while a larger cone angle may provide you with a larger surface area of water to cover, it does greatly impact the depth quality reading that the transponder can give. The wider the cone angle is, the more shallow your depth reading will be.
Some transponders are equipped with the ability to emit multiple beams allowing for more cones to be dispersed throughout the surface area of the water. If you are fishing a larger body of water, having multiple beams would be a great feature of your fish finder, because multiple beams will cover a wider spread area of water.
Single beams are meant to give more detailed depth readings, while multiple beams cover a greater width of the water’s surface area. However, it is important to note that the more beams your fish finder has, the more expensive the unit will be.
The power level of your fish finder has a distinct impact on the speed and dependability of your unit. A low wattage unit will slow the transducer’s communication process making it take much longer to receive the converted data from the transponder’s reading. The more power your unit holds, the faster and more detailed the reading will be.
If you are fishing mainly shallow water, the power of your unit does not need to be as high because the transducer will not have as much water to emit its waves through. However, if you are a deep water fisherman, you are going to want to make sure that your fish finder has high wattage. For instance, a 1,000-watt system will give you much deeper and clearer readings than a 500-watt system would.
Overall, this factor is very dependant upon which type of fishing you are going to be using your fish finder for, because the higher the wattage of your unit, the more expensive the fish finder is going to be as a whole.
Last, but certainly not least, it is extremely important to determine the water resistance grade that your fish finder unit holds. Because this piece of technology is going to be used over bodies of water and prone to splashes or submersions, it is very important to make sure that your purchase is protected from the water that it will be surrounded by.
The water-resistance score of fish finders and other technological devices is rated on a scale that is called the JIS/IPX rating. This scale uses ratings from 0-8 to determine the level of moisture protection that is included in the device.
For most fishermen, a higher JIS/IPX rating is an important factor when choosing a new fish finder mainly because of the unit’s proximity to water and the presence of splashing. For comparison purposes, a JIS/IPX rating of 4 means that the device is safe from splashing water, and a JIS/IPX rating of 7 means that the device can be completely submerged in water up to 10 feet for approximately 30 minutes without damage.
Here’s How We’ve Determined the Best Fish Finders
In our extensive and highly researched quest for the best fish finders, we analyzed a plethora of different makes and models while comparing them closely to all of the factors described in the list above.
We also looked closely at reviews from real-life buyers as well as researched the brands that are endorsed by professional fishermen to give you an up-to-date list of the very best fish finders new to the year 2021. Continue reading to find the fish finder that works best for you and your fishing need.
#1: Garmin Striker Vivid Series (Best Value – All-Purpose)
The Garmin Striker Vivid series is our #1 pick for the best value-all-purpose fish finder in 2021. This incredible series of fish finders offer buyers the latest and greatest technological development in the field today as well as several different options at a very reasonable price point.
The Garmin Striker plus Vivid series comes in four different display size choices ranging from a small 4-inch handheld unit to 5-inch, 7-inch, and 9-inch mounted models. With each increase in display size, the price increases by about $100.
Each model comes fully equipped with CHIRP and Clear Vu sonar which allows for extremely lifelike, 3D, photographic images of the structures and life below your boat. This is groundbreaking software that opens up a whole new world to the sport of fishing, making the search for your next trophy fish much more attainable. Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse sonar, or CHIRP, sonar sends out a large number of pulses through various frequencies picking up on small baitfish and tightly packed schools that otherwise would be passed over by other systems. The Clear Vu sonar technology then transmits this information into the life-like, photographic images that are shown on your display screen.
That is just the beginning of all that this incredible unit can perform. In addition to its highly developed CHIRP sonar system, it also includes a fully-colored display with 7 different options to add vivid color and dimension allowing for the highest forms of contrast between depictions shown on your screen.
The Garmin Striker Plus Vivid Series includes high sensitivity GPS which can track both boat speed and water depth, and it allows you to create and plan new routes. The memory capabilities of this unit are astounding as it holds the ability to store up to 2 million acres of maps with 1-inch contours. Its in-depth mapping systems also allow fishermen to record favorite spots or “hot spots” by using its incredibly accurate waypoint marking system.
With mount and trolling hardware included, this user-friendly device can be easily transported amongst different boats. The fish finder’s dual-beam transducer allows you to cover a larger amount of surface area under your boat in hopes of leading you to more fish.
The Garmin Striker Vivid Series comes with an IPX, or water resistance, level of 7 meaning that it can safely be fully immersed in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. Garmin has made this unit withstand the often harsh environmental conditions that are associated with fishing such as high winds, rain, and sleet, as well as hot sunshine and humidity.
Proven customers have reviewed the Garmin Vivid Striker Series with raving, 5-star reviews. Customers praise the unit’s crystal clear display captured by the dual-beam transducer and highly accurate depth readings. One customer said that his Garmin unit was able to even keep up with depth readings at over 40 mph boat speed. The unit is very easy to install, allowing you to utilize all of your fish finder features and to spend your time out on the water casting that line and landing your dream fish.
Overall, the Garmin Striker Vivid Series fish finder is an excellent choice for any fisherman both professional and amateur. Its 500-watt capacity gives fishermen just the right amount of power they need to find their trophy fish while not costing a fortune. This fish finder has every essential function that you would need to make your trips successful as well as countless added features that will surely impress.
#2: Humminbird HELIX 12 Chirp GPS Fish Finder/Chart Plotter (Best Splurge)
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Are you an avid fisherman or a professional looking to upgrade your current system for an extremely exclusive, expertly designed fish finder equipped with the very best technology to guide you straight to the catch of your life? If the price tag is not a concern for you and you are seeking the most innovative and ergonomically designed fish finder on the market in 2021, the Humminbird HELIX 12 Chirp is the best fish finder for you!
High-Resolution Display Screen
Backed and heavily used by professional fishermen and enthusiasts, this fish finder may be just the most remarkable fish finder device the industry has ever seen. With its 12-inch, high-resolution, sunlight-viewable screen showing you exactly what is under the surface below you, you get the most distinct underwater look as if you were physically there. Vivid color display options give the fisherman the choice to view the underwater landscape in a never-before-seen way that makes rocks, logs, ledges, underwater life, and fish of all sizes and species appear with incredible dimension and depth.
Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar
The Humminbird Helix 12 is a dual imaging fish finder that comes specially designed with dual spectrum chirp sonar which allows you to view the landscape below your boat with impeccable accuracy and detail. The dual spectrum sonar can even penetrate foliage and thick plant matter to identify fish that are bedding in the foliage below. With excellent side imaging capabilities, the dual-beam allows the fisherman complete viewing of the formations and landscape on the sides of each sonar beam with incredible detail. The side imaging capabilities of the Humminbird Helix 12 definitely outweigh that of our #1 pick, so keep this in mind when you are looking to purchase.
The Dual Spectrum sonar allows fishermen to choose between 2 distinct ways of searching – wide mode and narrow mode. Wide mode searching will allow for full coverage of a specific area and will capture the entire landscape of the viewing area as well as fish and other structures. The narrow mode will allow fishermen to view in greater detail the landscape below. By focusing on a smaller section of the landscape, the sonar can penetrate and pick up on various details that the wide mode would not.
As if the over 10,000 fully charted lakes included in the Humminbird Helix 12 were not enough, the added feature of live auto chart plotting is also available to fishermen through this incredible fish finder. With the live auto charting software, fishermen can record and map hot spots in real-time and save the custom-created maps to their fish finder. With 8 hours of available recording time, fishermen can save and categorize location information like never before.
The Humminbird Helix 12 fish finder has the ability to connect to multiple other finders across several different brands, makes, and models. So, if you and your buddy want to sync data or maps that you have made this can all be done through the device’s Bluetooth and high-speed Ethernet compatibilities.
This particular fish finder can also sync to fishermen’s smartphones allowing notifications and messages to be sent to their direct number about new data and important information it has collected.
Overall, if you have a budget that can sustain the Humminbird Helix 12, it is highly recommended by both professional fishermen and enthusiasts alike. Other models such as the Garmin Striker Vivid series, while excellent, just cannot compare to the enhanced CHIRP capabilities and live auto charting that the Humminbird offers.
#3: Humminbird Helix 7 Chirp (Best Portable Fish Finder)
If you are searching for a portable fish finder that can be easily switched between boats and fishing trips, the Humminbird Helix 7 Chirp is the perfect fit for you. This generally cost-effective device holds the dual capability of working well for both open water fishing and ice fishing, which is a difficult combination to find.
This fish finder holds a high resolution, 7-inch display with the capability of becoming a split-screen to hold both charting information and depth information. This device is described as “All Season Ready” with the complete capabilities of an open water device, including Dual Spectrum Chirp Sonar with zoom capabilities as well as Auto Chart Live Ice Technology.
The Humminbird Helix 7 chirp is a high-imaging fish finder that is the first of its kind to include such advanced ice fishing capabilities. With the device’s live auto charting capabilities, its transducer converts up to 125 feet of underwater data from one single fishing hole in the ice. As the fish finder is charting the water below its dual spectrum sonar and 15-20 degree cone angle can pick up on the slightest details, even in frozen water. Showing drop-offs, humps, reefs, foliage, and fish in surprisingly great detail, all-season fishermen can use this incredible fishfinder to their advantage.
This fish finder comes fully equipped with portable capabilities including a deluxe carrying case, a portable transducer for both ice and open water fishing, a removable mount, and charging cables.
The Humminbird Helix 7 definitely stands apart from #1 and #2 on our list because of its excellent ice fishing capabilities. Those models are geared primarily to open water fishing, so if you are a fisherman that enjoys both open water and ice fishing, this model would definitely be a great choice for you. The other excellent quality that the Humminbird Helix 7 has is the fact that it is a fully portable fish finder. Options #1 and #2 are semi-permanent mounts that would be difficult to change from boat to boat.
#4: Lowrance Hook2 Fish Finder (Best Low Cost)
The Lowrance Hook2 fish finder is an excellent choice for causal fishermen looking for a device that can meet their basic fishing needs with great versatility and high-quality features for a low cost of below $300.
The Lowrance Hook2 fish finder is a compact, easy-to-install model, making it the perfect addition to smaller vessels, kayaks, and canoes. While this particular fish finder may be smaller in size, it sure packs a punch with its advanced technological capabilities. Unlike any other fish finder of its kind, the Hook2 comes fully equipped with Autotuning sonar which allows for live adjustments to the sonar settings based on weather, water, and condition changes.
Because of the compact nature of this device, its screen size is relatively small at 4-inches. In this way, it just cannot compare to the screen size and resolution of choices #1 and #2 above, but just because the Hook2’s display is small doesn’t make it any less powerful. The fish finder’s SolarMAX screen allows for incredible viewing in all weather conditions including bright sunlight and night. With clear and surprisingly crisp images for their size, you will not have to worry about missing out on viewing quality with the Lowrance Hook2.
The best feature yet about this low-price option is that it is both open water and ice fishing compatible! This versatile fish finder comes with a fully transportable transducer as well as all that you need to safely transport your fish finder including a carrying case and storage for all of the device’s added-on features and parts.
The device’s powerful GPS ensures that you will be able to find and record new hot spots in no time at all. Overall, this is an excellent choice for any fisherman looking to add a small, affordable, yet highly powerful fish finding device to their fishing arsenal.
#5: Deeper Pro+ (Best Castable Fish Finder)
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Castable fish finders are a rather new technology that has been recently introduced to the fish finding world and it has become massively popular among professionals and enthusiasts alike. The Deeper Pro+ is priced generally just under about $200 and is an amazing piece of equipment that can instantly scan water landscape with an impeccable speed that has never been seen before.
The Deeper Pro+ Castable Fish Finder works much as a bobber would. You simply attach the floatable device to the line of your rod and cast it out. The Deeper Pro+’s casting range goes up to an amazing 330 feet. Once your fish finder has hit the surface of the water, it will instantly begin to scan the landscape below with its dual beam broad and narrow sonar as far as 260 feet below the water’s surface.
15 scans per second are sent to your smartphone through the connected app and its own WIFI connection and then converted into an extremely detailed map of the scanned area. Next, you can slowly begin to reel in your fish finder in, and the Pro+ will scan the entire area with a 15-55 degree cone angle and record different landscape features, contours, and even bottom hardness and consistency.
This fish finder is truly remarkable and a one-of-a-kind purchase with wonderful versatility for both onshore and ice fishing. With its operating temperature range varying from -4 degrees Fahrenheit to 104 degrees Fahrenheit, this powerful device can withstand even the harshest of conditions. Once you have used the Pro+ to scan a specific area, the data is instantly saved from your smartphone to the exclusive Deeper Pro+ cloud in which you can view and save your scans and maps to the Deeper’s Bathymetric Management Platform.
The Deeper Pro+ Fish Finder is an amazing option for both beginners and well-seasoned fishermen as it allows for easy data collection and recording across several different landscapes. The portability of this device easily tops that of our #1 and #2 choices, however, an important factor to consider is that this model does not include CHIRP sonar as our first three choices do. This may have an impact on the detail and saturation of the images brought to your screen.
Also, because this option does not have its own display screen, you will have to completely rely upon the screen of your smartphone for all on-sight viewing of maps and structures. Without the high resolution, sunlight-viewable, and color-contrasted screen of our first four choices, this may begin to impact your ability to use this device to the fullest of its abilities when you are out on the water.
For the beginner or seasonal fisherman looking for a budget-friendly fish finder to add to their collection of fishing tackle and gear, we have researched and found several other options with exceptional device quality each at a very affordable price.
There are plenty of fish finders on the market that are great for seasonal fishermen. They may not have all of the capabilities of our previously listed fish finders, but they certainly get the job done for the casual fisherman and greatly enhance their fishing experience.
#1 Best Budget – Humminbird Piranha Max 4
The Humminbird Piranha Max 4 is a great fish finder for those seeking simple guidance in the depth and structures of the underwater world below. Its inside hull transducer easily discerns depths up to 600 feet as well as water temperature.
With an IPX rating of 7, this device is almost completely water-resistant and can be submerged for 30 minutes. With this device, you will never have to worry about weather conditions or splashing affecting the quality of your fish finder.
This best budget fish finder also includes dual beam sonar with narrow and wide beam capabilities allowing the fishermen to adjust the viewing of the cone angle below to include a wider array or deeper range which will pick up on further detail.
The adjustable tilt and swivel mount make viewing easy for fishermen, as the display can be tilted to virtually any desired angle.
The price of the Humminbird Piranha Max 4 is great, however, it is important to remember that with this price, you will be leaving behind several more deluxe features such as CHIRP sonar and a high-resolution screen. The transducer will be able to pick up on a wide range of structures below, however, not with even half the details and lifelike capabilities of choices #1-#3 above.
Overall, if you are looking for a simple fish finder that can perform the basic fish finding skills for you with great quality, the Humminbird Piranha Max 4 would be a great, budget-friendly choice for you.
#2 Best Budget – Deeper Start Smart Fish Finder
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Our next budget-friendly fish finder option is the Deeper Start Smart Castable Fish finder. Made by the same makers as the Deeper Pro+ mentioned above, the Deeper Start Smart is a less expensive option still with excellent features and qualities.
This very user-friendly, castable fish finder makes set up a breeze so that you can get to tracking and finding fish in no time at all. Exactly like the Deeper Pro+, the Deeper Start Smart model works directly with your smartphone to access data and map information. Your smartphone becomes the display screen for your fish finder, and the device even comes with a mount to attach your smartphone to your rod for easy viewing and access.
The transducer found in the castable fish finder itself can scan depths of up to 165 feet and capture bottom contour information as well as vegetation and fish sizes. Fish icons appear on your smartphone screen in three relative sizes so that you can see the general size of each fish that is shown.
When the device captures data using its sonar technology, this data is then transferred directly to your smartphone through the built-in WIFI. The Deeper Start Smart’s Wifi connection is known to be over 10 times stronger and more reliable than a basic Bluetooth signal.
The Deeper Smart Start also allows anglers to mark and save hot spots to their device with added notes. This fish finder is a great option for beginner fishermen and those looking into the castable fish finder market.
Because of its lower price point, you must expect that you will not be receiving near the casting and depth range of its higher price counterpart, The Deeper Pro+. The Deeper Start Smart’s sonar capabilities will also not be anywhere near that of the Deeper Pro+ because of the basic sonar technology it is fitted with which excludes any CHIRP or high-resolution sonar.
#3 Best Budget – Lucky Wired Fish Finder
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Our final budget-friendly pick is called the Lucky Wired Fish Finder. This small, battery-operated fish finder is used by both amateurs and experts alike and is very well received by the fishing industry.
The fish finder itself comes equipped with a small handheld display screen and a wired, castable transducer that can cast out up to 25 feet. While you will not be able to cast out near the distance of our #5 pick or our #2 best budget pick, the data collected by this little fish finder is top-notch.
The Lucky Wired Fish finder clearly detects water depth, location of fish, weeds, rocks, and ledges with its 45-degree angled beam and can produce sonar images as far as 328 feet deep. This fish finder is also an all-season device making it perfect for fishermen who like to do both ice fishing and open water fishing.
One important item to factor in about this fish finder is the fact that the handheld display is not water-resistant. While all of our other picks have very high water resistance ratings, this one does not have any at all, so make sure to keep that in mind when you are thinking of purchasing.
Overall, this very affordable fish finder received excellent reviews among the fishing community. One satisfied customer even said that his Lucky fish finder was just as accurate at spotting fish and other landscapes as his $1,500 fish finder on his larger boat.
So if you are new to fishing or just looking to add a small, inexpensive, yet very useful tool to your fishing supply kit, the Lucky Wired Fish Finder would be a great place to start.
Are Fish Finders Worth the Money?
The answer to this question really depends on the type of fishing you are doing and what exactly your goal is for your fish finder. Fish finders can be very excellent and effective tools that help fishermen all over the world achieve their fishing goals and dreams. The technology and charting/GPS ability they hold is next to none other, and it just keeps getting better as technology progresses.
The most important thing to remember when you are thinking about purchasing a new fish finder is to do extensive research and find the exact kind that is right for you and your specific needs. This will make the fish finder you choose well worth your hard-earned dollars.
If you make a fast purchase of a new fish finder without factoring in your goals and purposes for the fish finder itself, you may find your self purchasing a more expensive model with features that are not needed for your type of fishing, or you might spend money on one that you later find out lacks what you need. Doing your research and spending time searching for the right fish finder will be well worth it in the end.
What Fish Finders Do the Pros Use?
Looking at reviews from professional fishermen is always a great way to help you narrow down your search for the right fish finder. For a long time now, professional fishermen have tended to stick closely to three main brands of fish finders which are Garmin, Humminbird, and Lowrance. These are definitely among the most widely known and popular brands of fish finders and for good reason.
Each professional fisherman must choose among the features that these three types of fish finders offer, because each brand outperforms the others for a specific function. So fishermen will choose the function that is of most importance to them and go with the brand that performs that specific function the best.
Professional fishermen boast that the Garmin models have the best built-in GPS, and the Humminbird models have the best down-imaging, which means it clearly shows and depicts objects and fish at extreme depths. The Lowrance is often chosen in the professional community mainly for its pre-charted lake maps. There are over 3,000 that are already pre-loaded into the device when you purchase it.
Verdict: Your Best Fish Finder
To break down our findings, we have compiled an easy-to-read list summarizing our information from the article so that you can easily choose which choice may be the best fish finder for you.
If you want the best value for your money, pick a model among the Garmin Striker Vivid Series.
If you are looking for a castable fish finder, pick the Deeper Pro+.
If you want to keep your purchase under $100, pick any of our three budget-friendly options.
Lastly, before you make a purchase just think about and imagine a day out on the water with your new fish finder. Write down what you expect of it and want to achieve with it. This will help you refine your search for the specific fish finder that has everything you need.