Are you looking to up your fishing game? Want to pull out more fish than your fishing buddy? Want to win that next fishing competition hands down? Then you probably need a fish finder (unless you’re currently fishing with a stick and some string, in which case, you probably need a fishing rod).
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A fish finder is a device that uses sonar technology (Sound Navigation Ranging) to send pulses of sound wave energy down through the water.
When these pulses hit objects such as fish, vegetation or the bottom of the water, they are reflected back to the surface. The device then estimates how far away that object is based on how long it took the pulse of energy to go down, hit the object and come back up.
A fish finder also uses sonar to figure out what that object is that its hit. It does this by measuring the strength of the pulse that has hit an object and returned. The harder the object, the stronger the return pulse. This is how a fish finder deciphers between the bottom of the water, vegetation and actual fish.
Fish are displayed on a fish finder in different ways, and it largely depends on the quality of the finder you decide to buy and how detailed you want the images to be.
For instance, high-end fishfinders such as the HOOK2 or Helix tend to display fish like the image on the left. In the image fish are depicted by the red upside-down u shaped objects, referred to as fish arches.
Whereas, cheaper fishfinders such as the Lucky, display the fish as a little fish icon like in the image on the right. Making it clear and easy for beginners to understand where the fish are located.
We would never recommend a fish finder like the Venterior however, unless you are a beginner angler or occasional angler looking for some extra fun, using it to teach a kid how to start fishing or just testing out whether a fish finder might be something you'll use before forking out real dough.
This is probably one of the most subjective questions when it comes to guiding you on finding the best fish finder for you. Whilst we can help with which are best for various types of fishing and fishing environments, a lot also depends on you and how much you want to spend, how much you will use the fish finder and how tech-savvy you are.
In this guide we’ve put together a great list of the best fish finders for ice fishing, kayak fishing, catfishing and 3 different price points (cheap, mid-range and high end) for each.
So, when you ask yourself “what fish finder do I need?” ask yourself what type of fishing you will be doing, how much you want to spend and how much time you are willing to commit to learning the equipment itself. Next, ask yourself whether you want it to be portable, castable, mountable, etc. If there is one thing we would absolutely recommend it’s getting the largest screen you can afford.
With those answers in mind, read on and we’ll help you choose which one will get you reeling in those fish like you’ve never seen before.
CHIRP stands for Compressed High-intensity Radar Pulse. CHIRP sonar is vastly superior to traditional sonar.
CHIRP sonar sends three continuous pulses of energy over the course of three frequencies ranging from low to high. Traditional sonar on the other hand only sends one frequency at a time. What this means for you is that your fish finder will return a much wider range of information, in a much clearer, higher resolution image.
The images below from Garmin do a great job of showing the difference between standard sonar and CHIRP sonar.
Side imaging, also known as side-scanning, is sonar that creates an image of large, wide areas of the water floor. Side imaging sonars use a transducer to direct their beams to the left and right of you/your boat/kayak. Side imaging tends to cover a 180-degree area of the water around you and covers roughly twice the depth of a standard sonar.
Down imaging, also known as down scanning, is sonar that creates an image of right beneath you/your boat/kayak. Down imaging is pretty much a necessity when ice fishing in order to see what is directly beneath you in the ice hole. Another plus for down imaging sonar over side imaging is that, as it focuses solely on a downward trajectory its depth range is far superior to that of side imaging sonar.
Hopefully you have read the above paragraphs on the difference between side imaging and down imaging and what each is better used for. In all honesty, both of them are equally as good as the other just for completely different uses.
Luckily, many fish finders these days include both side imaging and down imaging such as the Lowrance Hook2 triple-shot.
Now that you know just how useful a fish finder is why not check out our guide on finding the best fish finder for kayak fishing.