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20 May

Choosing the Best Fish Finder: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Bass Fishing Tips

For most anglers, the dream is to eventually afford a beautiful bass boat that can get them off the banks and out to the furthest reaches of the lake with ease. A boat provides freedom and a far more varied approach to the sport than simply fishing off the pier or a bank. 

However, once you have a boat, there’s another big purchase you need to make. You need a fish finder. 

Fish finders elevate your fishing experience to a whole new level by taking the guesswork out of finding your target. However, they are major purchases, and you need to know how to choose a fish finder to make sure you don't waste a lot of cash on garbage. 

Here’s an in-depth guide to help you out.

What is a Fish Finder? 

The name is self-explanatory. This is a device that finds fish for you. However, it goes deeper than that, and technologically, it’s an impressive piece of tech

A “fish finder” is a small sonar unit. You mount sensors on the hull of your boat, and those sensors emit sounds into the water. They also measure how long it takes for the sound to bounce off something.

That information is sent to a small computer screen on your boat and translated into a detailed map of the water column. All that takes place in a matter of seconds

This not only pinpoints the location of the fish, but it shows you how big the fish are, what depth they're at, hazards in the water, drop-off points, and more. 

Because of that, a fish finder is one of the most important tools an angler can have on their boat. It removes much of the searching that anglers traditionally have to do, and you can get right to the point.

That doesn’t mean you’ll immediately start catching fish, but at least you know fish are around the area you’re casting in, and you have enough information about the lake’s layout to make educated decisions while you fish.

Choosing a Fish Finder: Key Considerations

There are tons of different fish finders on the market, and some are a lot better than others. However, as long as you don’t pick the cheapest unit possible, you should be able to rely on the thing to at least work. 

With that being said, a fish finder is such a useful tool that it’s worth putting in the effort to pick the perfect unit for you and your needs

Here are some key considerations you should make when choosing a fish finder.

1: Budget

No matter what, you’re going to spend a pretty penny if you want a decent fish finder. So, expect to have a good budget upfront. However, there is a large price range to accommodate a wide variety of budgets. 

For the most part, you should expect to pay between $500 and $3000 for a good unit. There are cheaper options, but many of those lack modern features or quality standards, and units that exceed the top of that price range are usually more than the average angler needs.

2: Size of the Unit

Fish finders come in all sizes, and they’re not universal. So, even if you think you’ve found the perfect unit to meet your needs, it might be too big to fit on your boat properly, or it might be too small to fit preinstalled mounting holes.

You have to consider the size of your boat and available mounting options before you commit to a purchase. 

There are ways to make things work, but if you just spent $50,000 on a nice bass boat, you probably don’t want to immediately start drilling holes in it.

3: Type of Fish Finder

There are three main types of fish finders on the market. Networked, combo, and standalone models are what you’re likely to find. 

A standalone unit is simply a sonar unit. You don’t get GPS, networked capabilities, or anything else. It uses sonar to make a map of the water, and that’s it.

This is the cheapest type of sonar to get without sacrificing quality, and for many anglers, it’s all that’s needed to get a great experience. 

A combo unit is a sonar unit that also has GPS features integrated into it. This makes it pricier, but in some situations, GPS is crucial.

Namely, you need it whenever you’re fishing in large lakes and rivers to keep from getting lost. If you’re going to be fishing in that type of waterway, it’s worth the extra money to get a fish finder with GPS features. 

Finally, a networked fish finder is another pricey unit, and most average anglers won’t need one. This is a fish finder model that is designed to send signals between itself and another fish finder

If you’re an average angler, you’re probably not going out on the lake with several buddies who all have their boats, and you certainly don’t need to share information with them. However, this is important in bass fishing tournaments, lake management positions, and similar roles.

Teams have to communicate, and this is the easiest way to do that seamlessly. 

Think about what you’ll be doing on the water and where you’ll be fishing, and choose a type of fish finder that matches those criteria.

4: Transducer Frequency and Beam Shape

The screen you look at doesn’t do much. At least, not in terms of the actual work a sonar unit does. That’s just something to translate the gathered information into something you can read and manipulate. The real backbone of a fish finder is its transducer. 

The transducer is what sends out signals, receives them as they bounce back, and translates them into actionable data. 

You want to consider the frequency of the transducer and the shape of the beam it sends out

Wider angles will reveal more of the water at once, and faster frequencies with matching refresh rates will make sure you’re getting the most up-to-date information.

How to Choose a Fish Finder: Our Top Recommendations

Now that you know a little more about fish finders and what you need to look at, we have a few recommendations that you can look at. These are all high-quality units you can rely on, and we’ve selected a variety of models to cover various needs. 

If you decide one of these is perfect for you, they’re all on the Tackle Warehouse website.

1: Lowrance Eagle Series 

To start, we’re going to look at the Lowrance Eagle Series line of fish finders. This is a great line to choose from if you’re on a budget and still want a serviceable unit. 

This series starts as low as $200, and the most expensive unit is just under $800. So, it’s more affordable than the other options we’ll be talking about.

Choosing a fish finder - Lowrance Eagle Series.

The best part is, you get a combo unit at this price point. Most of the models come with both sonar and GPS mapping. Unfortunately, the 4-inch model is a standalone sonar unit. It’s also the least expensive option. 

The screens are IPS screens in 4, 5, 7, and 9-inch varieties with HD resolutions, and you can choose between single shot, SplitShot, and TripleShot sonar options.

This determines how the underwater imagery is produced and the accuracy of the imagery with TripleShot being the most advanced. 

With a variety of other features, these Lowrance Eagle Series fish finders are great options at a great price. They’re not the fanciest, but they’re easy to set up, and they won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

2: Humminbird Solix 10 CHIRP G3 

The Humminbird Solix 10 CHIRP G3 is a pricey model, but it’s one you’re practically guaranteed to love. 

First, the 10.1-inch screen is massive compared to most other options on the market, and its high resolution ensures you’ll see every detail of the sonar imagery it produces.

Choosing a fish finder - Humminbird Solix 10 CHIRP G3.

Speaking of sonar, the transducer on the Solix 10 features side imaging, down scanning, and scanning with Humminbird’s MEGA sonar technology.

This produces some of the best results you’re going to get from any sonar unit, and it provides you with a multitude of options for scanning everything around you. 

This unit also isn’t stuck working on its own. It can connect via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for compatibility with a wide range of electronics to function as a sort of “hub” for any of the tech you’re using. 

Humminbird also made it easy for you to navigate all these features with a highly responsive touchscreen, keypad, and sidebar menu that gives you multiple ways to use it and a convenient UI. 

This isn’t going to be necessary for all anglers, and it is quite expensive, but if you have an expendable income, this is certainly a great fish finder you'll love for years to come.

3: Garmin UHD2 EchoMAP 

Finally, we have a mid-range option that’s a high-quality, feature-packed, model that is perfect for most anglers without going overboard

The Garmin UHD2 features an ultra-high-definition screen that comes in 7 and 9-inch versions for crystal-clear viewing. This pairs perfectly with the high-quality imagery its transducer develops and makes pinpointing even the smallest details a breeze.

Choosing a fish finder - Garmin UHD2 EchoMAP.

The EchoMAP doesn’t just do great when it comes to spotting fish, though. It also features a motor-connected GPS that traces every movement your boat makes to record your routes, and using downloadable maps with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, the EchoMAP can guide you around any fishery with ease. 

This is also the only model we’ve talked about that comes with a smartphone app. This isn’t necessary for a fish finder, but since you’re used to using your phone, it’s a great way to use various features

Finally, this unit functions as a sonar and GPS, and it has networking capabilities. So, it can fit any role with ease. 

The EchoMAP is $950, and it’s guaranteed to be money well-spent for the majority of anglers.

Fish Finder Accessories to Buy

When choosing a fish finder, you don’t just need to consider the unit itself. You’re going to want a few accessories, too. 

Here are some of the things we recommend when you first get your new fish finder.

1: Cleaning Kit

You just bought a very expensive piece of equipment, and you’re about to take it out on a lake. It’s going to get wet, you’re going to put your hands on it right after handling pond scum, and in general, it’s going to get dirty

When you order your fish finder, order a proper cleaning kit, too. This will help you preserve your fish finder for years to come, and it’ll keep the screen nice and clean for easy usage.

2: Mounts

We’re not going to list a particular product in this section because you’ll need one of countless options depending on the sonar unit you buy. 

A mount is essential to keep your fish finder steady and in place while driving your boat around, and it’s a cheap accessory that will make a world of difference as soon as you install it. Just make sure the fish finder you buy is compatible with the mount you buy.

3: Neoprene Cover

Again, your fish finder won’t be cheap. So, you need to protect it. A neoprene cover that is compatible with your unit is a great purchase. This is for when you get your boat back on the trailer to keep dirt, highway debris, and other things from getting on your fish finder.

How to Choose a Fish Finder for Bank Fishermen

Throughout this guide, we’ve talked a lot about boat fishermen and their options, but if you’re on the bank, don’t feel left out. You have options, too. 

We won’t list recommendations here, but there are various line-attached sonar units available for bank fishermen and kayakers.

You just attach a bobber-like sonar unit to your line, cast it out, and it sends imagery to your smartphone. Some even have a handheld unit so you don’t have to rely on your phone. 

We’d recommend using a strong braided line for this, and you might even want to set up a rod specifically for using this type of device.

Any time you cast anything, there’s a chance you can lose it forever, and you don’t want that to happen because some old mono line snapped mid-cast.

Get a Fish Finder and Start Fishing

We hope you’ll have an easier time choosing a fish finder after reading through this, and once you do find one, make sure to also get the BassForecast app to further enhance your fishing trip.

Our bass fishing app provides you with tips and tricks you won’t get anywhere else, real-time weather updates, a spot-on solunar, and more.

Check it out today.