How to Choose the Best Fish Finder

Posted by Sharon Kemlage on

We know it’s frustrating to head out fishing on the water and come back empty handed. Believe me, I’ve been there.

If you haven’t gone out yet and are going to check out a new body of water for the first time or you’re looking to fish a new structure, having the advantage of a fish finder could give you the upper hand.

A fish finder is one of those advantages that can be very rewarding. You’ll learn the structure of land beneath the surface, begin to understand when and where fish school up, and hopefully by the end of the day, you’ll be heading back to shore with your limit of fish.  How exciting would it be to have the tools you need to catch your limit?

How to Choose the Best Fish Finder

Before purchasing a fish finder you should compare the features of different models and determine how each feature could benefit you and help you achieve your fishing goals.

A lot goes into the development, design and production of fish finders that many outdoorsmen don’t take into account. Savvy fishermen will compare fish finders in each of the following categories before making a decision:

1. Transducers

The transducer is the part of the fish finder that sends out and receives sonar signals underwater. Each type of fishing requires a properly-configured transducer. If you’re heading out to sea then you’ll want a transducer that sends signals deep into the ocean. Anglers on smaller bodies of water usually prefer transducers that send sound waves out at a wider angle (see the section below entitled “Cone Angle” for more information).

You should also be interested in the frequency at which a transducer operates. Do you need ultra-high-quality sonar images of fish that are 25-75 feet below your boat, or are you more interested in finding large schools much deeper in the ocean? Many of the best fish finders utilize transducers that operate on multiple frequencies. Alternatively, you can use more than one fish finder at a time to increase your coverage area and depth.

You can mount the transducer on the transom or on the trolling motor, although the latter could cause some interference. Depending on your boat you might be able to perform an in-hull mount. Portable transducers do not need mounting as you simply cast them into the water.

2. Cone Angle

The cone angle of a fish finder represents how wide of a “net” the signal will cast once it’s been deployed from the bottom of your boat into the water. The deeper the water, the wider the cone will get (but it will also decrease in sensitivity). Cone angles usually range from 15-20 degrees, though many fish finders’ cone angles can be as narrow as 9 degrees or as wide as 60 degrees.

3. Frequency

The higher the frequency of your fish finder, the more details will be transmitted to your screen. Higher frequencies work better in shallow waters, while commercial fishermen and deep-sea trawlers usually use low-frequency transducers. Frequencies of 50-200 kHz are the most common, and many modern fish finders have multiple frequencies that you can switch back and forth or use simultaneously to view split-screen results.

4. Display Screen

You should also take screen size and resolution into account when shopping for a fish finder. Larger screens will make it easier for you to pinpoint the exact spot where the fish are. Screens with high resolutions make that task even easier because you’re less likely to end up with a jumble of confusing, blurry dots on your screen. The lowest recommended screen resolution is 240 x 160 but you might want to take those numbers up a few notches to really benefit from the display screen’s capabilities.

5. Power

Fish finders are measured in terms of wattage when it comes to power. A fish finder’s power determines how fast the sonar can operate. The higher the wattage rating of your fish finder, the faster the unit can relay live results to you. As a general rule, fish finders can show readings of up to 400 feet for each 100 watts (based on a 50 kHz frequency). At a frequency of 200 kHz you can count on readings from up to 100 feet away for every 100 watts of power. As we mentioned above, a lot of fish finders work on multiple frequencies. If this is true of the fish finder you’re considering then you can focus strictly on the wattage rating instead of calculating the distance based on the frequency.

6. GPS Capabilities

The best fish finders often have GPS capabilities. After all, why purchase a separate tool for navigation when you can combine navigation and fish finding into one convenient device. GPS-enabled fish finders allow you to save spots where you were successful previously, and you can use them to mark points of interest or other areas that have submerged obstacles.

7. Scanning

Fish finders scan in one of two ways: side scan and down scan. Down scan fish finders are powerful and focused, but they could cause you to miss fish that aren’t passing directly underneath. Side scan fish finders allow you to scan vast amounts of water, but they aren’t as effective in deep water. This is why it’s important to know exactly where you plan to fish when buying a fish finder. Recently, fish finders with dual-scan technology have been innovated. These are meant to provide you with the best of both worlds, but they are still in the developmental stages. Currently, your best bet could be to use multiple fish finders. [/toggle]

8. Manufacturer

The brand name of the fish finder isn’t the most important factor to consider, but it can tell you a lot about the product you’re buying. Has the company been in business for a long time? Is it common to see other fisherman using fish finders produced by this company? Is the company well-respected among your peers and according to online reviews? Does the company offer a warranty, product guarantee, or any sort of reduced-price replacement program? Get the answers to these questions for every brand of fish finder you compare.

 9. Portable

Portable fish finders have become especially popular. In many respects, a portable fish finder is preferable in certain situations. If you’re fishing from a kayak or small boat a portable device could work in your favor. You simply cast the transducer into the water and view the results on your phone, tablet or the fish finder’s portable LCD display screen. 

10. Design & Durability

A fish finder’s design might seem to be of little importance, but the shape of the device, as well as button placement, are extremely important. You should have a good idea of where and how to mount the device on your watercraft. The fish finder needs to be rated as waterproof and weather-resistant. If you plan to fish in saltwater then make sure potential fish finders are built to prevent corrosion.

11. Price

Pay for a model that provides you with the feature that you need.  You can find models from a few hundred to a few thousand it all depends on what you’re looking for. Check them out at


You now have all the information you need to compare the best fish finders. Study each one closely to make sure it will meet your needs and provide you with the results you are looking for. If you have any questions we are here to help you in any way we can you can contact us at  Thanks for your support.

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