Wouldn’t it be great if you were able to spend less time trying to find the right fishing spot and more time actually doing the fishing?
Even seasoned anglers can sometimes find it difficult to locate the right fishing spot, and countless hours of the day’s fishing session can be wasted trying to search up exactly where the fish are in the water.
For situations like these, a fish finder is just what you need.
A fish finder is a sonar device that helps you find out exactly what is beneath the water’s surface, which makes it easier for you to locate your fish targets.
There are hundreds of different fish fishers on the market right now, which makes it difficult to choose the best one for your needs.
To save you time on research, we have created this buying guide on the best fish finders of 2020.
Each product listed in our guide enjoys stellar reviews and come from trusted brands with a reputation for quality.
So, without further ado, let’s get straight to our fish finder reviews and comparisons.
Best Fish Finders Of 2020
Best Overall: Humminbird HELIX 5 Fish Finder
Over the years, Humminbird has established itself as a strong brand in the market for fish finders.
Their flagship product, the HELIX 5 series, is priced competitively and comes loaded with all the great features you would expect from top-rated fisher finders.
It potent 2D sonar utilizes CHIRP to provide a highly accurate and precise image of what is beneath the water’s surface and achieve excellent target separation.
The device features three sonar functions – Duel Beam, Side, and Down Imaging.
Duel beam allows you to control how your returns appear.
You can switch between Max Mode (which covers the most distance) and Clear Mode (which covers less distance but gives more precise returns).
Side Imaging grants you unprecedented detail of what is beneath the surface of the water while downscan imaging allows you a fisheye’s perspective of the environment below.
The imagery on the 5-inch LED-backlit color display is quite detailed, and screen size visibility is ample even in direct sunlight.
The fish finder also comes with a built-in Base Map.
With map data sourced from LakeMaster and NOAA, the Base Map serves as a great navigation aid and helps you better transverse through the waters.
Other great features include a built-in GPS function and Hummingbird’s Autochart Live.
The latter feature allows you to record a richly detailed map of the waters as you drive your boat and view it at your convenience to find the best fishing spots in the area.
As for any significant drawbacks, the boat mount it comes with is rather poorly designed and not exactly the most robust in built-quality.
While the max effective depth of the fish finder is 1,500 ft, the max depth for its side and down imaging sonar is just 100 ft.
However, this isn’t much of a drawback, for the price range, not many other fish finders come loaded with these features.
- Display size: 5″ Horizontal
- Beam: Dual-beam with Chirp / Side & Down Imaging
- Power draw: 615 mA
- Weight: 2.5 lbs
- Maximum depth: 1500 ft
- Powerful transducer
- Three sonar functions – Duel, SI and DI
- Built-in Base Map and GPS
- Easy to set-up and use
- Sonar Record and Screenshot capability
- Large and detailed display
- Great value for the money
- Terrible mount
- Limited SI/DI sonar depth
Packed with excellent features with few drawbacks and offered too at a great price, it would be hard to go wrong with this purchase.
Runner Up: Garmin Striker 4 with Portable Kit
If portability is high on your agenda when choosing a fisher finder to purchase, the Garmin Striker 4 with Portable Kit may just be the perfect option for you.
The device itself is quite compact in design, and it comes with a handy carrying case, which includes a sealed rechargeable battery with charger, cable management, and storage, as well as featuring amount and float.
This makes it an ideal partner to take along when space is more at a premium, such as for kayak, canoe, or ice fishing.
The device features CHIRP sonar technology function, allowing you to achieve better, more precise target separation and detailed imagery.
The base transducer the device comes with is potent with a transmit power of 200 W, but if you after a little more extra power, you can have the device upgraded to a CHRIP GT8 or GT15 transducer.
These fish finders also come with a built-in GPS with waypoint map functionality, allowing you to easily view, mark, and navigate to locations.
You can also check your boat’s speed on the fish finder, which comes in particularly handy with employing certain fishing techniques such as trolling.
If you find the display screen size to be too small for your preferences, you will be glad to know that this fish finder is also available in larger 5” and 7” inch displays as well.
As for any shortcomings, our biggest criticism is that the carrying case is a bit weighty.
Another point to nitpick about is the instruction manual, which only ends up confusing the user further. YouTube tutorials would be a better instructor for you.
- Display size: 3.5″ Vertical
- Beam: Dual-beam with Chirp
- Power draw: 230 mA
- Weight: 10.8 lbs
- Maximum depth: 1600 ft
- Easy to set up and use
- Highly portable fish finder
- Versatile carrying case
- Built-in GPS with the waypoint map function
- Great value for the money
- Bulky carrying case
- Confusing instructions manual
For those looking for the most portable option without compromise to function, this is one of the best choices currently available on the market.
Best Alternative: Lowrance HOOK2 5 Fish Finder
If you don’t mind paying a little extra, the Lowrance HOOK2 5 is an option worth looking into.
It carries all the features you would expect from a premium fisher finder as CHIRP sonar technology, down, and side scan.
Its CHIRP transducer is quite powerful and boasts a broader coverage area than what you will find on most other fish finders.
What is particularly liked about this device was how straightforward its operation was.
The interface is quite intuitive and user-friendly, and thanks to its sonar auto-tuning function, you spend less time dealing with the settings and more time actually using it for fish targeting.
To aid with navigation and locating of productive fishing areas, the fish finder also comes preloaded with a highly detailed inland mapping of over 4000 US lakes.
A GPS is also featured built-in and comes with such useful navigation capabilities as a waypoint setter and follow the trail.
Both the software and mapping receive regular updates, and you also have the option of installing third-party maps on the device. The device also comes equipped with Wi-Fi.
The base model comes with an appreciative 5” inch screen, featuring a rich definition and vivid color display.
However, if a bigger screen size is your preference, this fish finder also available in 7”, 9”, and 12” display sizes.
One major drawback of this otherwise excellent sonar fish finder is the effective depth for its sonar isn’t too great, at just 260 ft.
This can limit its applicability to certain fishing scenarios.
- Display size: 5″ Horizontal
- Beam: DI/SI Sonar, Chirp
- Power draw: 1016 mA
- Weight: 3.7 lbs
- Maximum depth: 260 ft
- Side and down imaging
- Very easy to use and set up
- Wi-Fi equipped
- Built-in GPS with waypoint and follow the trail
- Crisp, highly detailed display
- Low max depth
Easy to use and packed with loads of high-end features; this is a great product for both beginners and experts alike, provided the depths you are using it for aren’t too deep.
Best for the Money: Garmin Striker 4
With a price tag that is under 100$ at the time of writing, the Garmin Striker 4 is one of the best value fish finders you can find on the market.
The device carries all the great features mentioned previously for our runner-up product, minus the portability case.
The design of the fish fisher is very compact and lightweight. With a simple phone-like keyed interface, it is also very to use.
Despite its size, the device features very potent sonar, able to transmit returns for returns up to 1600 ft.
While its display screen is a bit on the small side, the imagery it grants is rich in color and crisp.
You are also given the option of upgrading the screen to a 5” or 7” inch display.
Just like our previous entry, the device also features a built-in GPS with waypoint mapping and boat speed indicator.
The base sonar can also be upgraded to even more powerful CHIRP GT8 or GT15.
Unfortunately, this product also comes with the same unhelpful instruction manual, but thankfully, the device itself is not at all difficult to operate.
- Display size: 3.5″ Vertical
- Beam: Dual-beam with Chirp
- Power draw: 230 mA
- Weight: 8.1 oz
- Maximum depth: 1600 ft
- Easy to set up and use
- Highly portable and lightweight
- Built-in GPS with a waypoint map function
- Best fish finder for the money
- Unhelpful instructions manual
Even without the carrying case, this highly compact fish finder still manages to be a highly portable option.
Coupled with the excellent built quality and great features, it is undoubtedly one of the best budget fish finders out there.
Best for Beginners: Humminbird PiranhaMAX 4 Fish Finder
Another great affordable fish finder currently on the market is the PiranhaMAX 4.
As with all Hummingbird products, the fish finder’s built quality is top-notch, and it can withstand a fair bit of punishment while you take it out with you on the trip.
The functions are not the most high-end on the fish finder.
CHIRP sonar doesn’t come featured with the device, and down imaging is only available as an upgrade.
Still, the base product’s dual beam sonar offers a respectable coverage and transmits accurate returns with detailed target separation and helps you quickly identify contours.
For novice anglers, however, the lack of extra features is exactly why we would recommend it for beginners, as the product is reliable but uncomplicated in use.
The 4.3” inch LCD screen grant vivid and sharp imagery, giving you a proper perspective of what’s down below the surface.
The keyed interface is intuitive and easy to use, and the tilt and swivel mount it comes along with is quite convenient.
- Display size: 4.3″ Vertical
- Beam: Dual Beam
- Power draw: 300 mA
- Weight: 2 lbs
- Maximum depth: 600 ft
- Easy to use and set up
- Great for beginners
- Great value for money
- No built-in GPS
- No CHIRP function
While the fish finder may not pack much in terms of features, for its price, you will find a few other competitors in the range that can match its quality and functionally.
Fish Finder Buyer’s Guide
Technology has entered many facets of our life over the year, and the world of fishing is no exception. To catch fish, you need to find the fish, right? To do this, a fish finder can help. So, even if you like the more traditional route of paddling, searching, and rowing, it never hurts to use a fish finder now and then to make it a bit easier to find your next catch.
Usability and Preference
When finding the right fish finder, you need to make sure that you can use it as effectively as possible. Are you technically inclined? Will it be easy for you to learn how to work this piece of equipment? Consider your tech level and your preferences before making a purchase. Some may have more automatic features to make things easier. You can also choose a larger display that is easier to read.
You also want to consider the type of fishing you do. There is always an option for everyone. You can also find lightweight and portable options as well.
If the fish finder doesn’t work, then it doesn’t really matter if it is user friendly. When looking for a fish finder, keep in mind that it is only going to be as good as its sonar capabilities. So, take a closer look at the cone angle. This can have a range between nine and sixty degrees; however, twenty is often the most common. Sound waves are emitted from the transducer and then move outward and expand as they go. This spread is measured in degrees.
If it doesn’t have a good GPS system, you might want to consider moving onto the next option. GPS allows you to mark points for return and download maps and underwater topography. Some also have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and can connect to your mobile phone and other devices. In this case, you will find improved usability, easier data recording, and more convenience.
You want to avoid purchasing a knock off just because it may “seem” like it is more affordable. The more common name brands, like Humminbird, are affordable, reliable, and a great option for all types of fishing. Remember, you get what you pay for. Consider the features and accessories you want when you determine your budget for a new fish finder in 2020.
Black and White Screens Versus Color
Color displays are pretty common with most electronics these days. With a color screen on your transducer, the information will be much easier to read, and it will give you a much better picture of what is going on. Black and white displays often prove to be hard to read in direct sunlight, and in other overcast or adverse weather, you may find that a black and white screen has very limited readability.
When looking for the best fish finders of 2020, make sure to check the resolution. You want to have at least 240 x 160 pixels. However, if you are willing to spend slightly more, go for a much higher resolution for a crisp image and a lot more detail.
Since a fish finder is used on a fishing trip (in water), you may want to make sure it is water-resistant. If it has a rating of four, this means it is safe from splashing water, but you won’t want to take it with you on a kayak. Always check the JIS or IPX ratings of the fish finders you are interested in. That rating will help you determine its level of water resistance.
Fish Finders FAQ
Do Fish Finders have GPS?
Many modern fish finders feature either a built-in GPS or phone GPS integration.
A GPS greatly enhances the usability of a fish finder, allowing you to not only find fish but also find your way.
The GPS on your fish finder also gives you an overview of your location and help you create waypoints and mark fishing spots on your device, so you can easily come back to the specific fishing area.
What Does Chirp Technology Mean on Fish Finders?
In the past decade, ‘CHIRP’ has all been in the buzz among the angler community, and many don’t prefer buying a fish finder that doesn’t come featured with it.
However, knowledge about what it actually is or how it works still remains limited.
CHIRP stands for Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse.
A CHIRP enabled fish finder works by sending a high energy pulse over a range of frequencies into the water column.
Using advanced digital pattern matching and signal processing, also known as “pulse compression,” the device receives and processes great bits of information from each pulse and allows you to see what’s below with unprecedented resolution and target definition.
What is the Difference Between Chirp Technology and Sonar?
Traditionally, fish finders used fixed frequency transducers to send a pulse into the water and listen for the echo to return.
The device’s software would then process this information to map what is below the water’s surface.
Since the pulse could only be sent at fixed frequencies and different frequencies, reveal different levels of details, the application of traditional sonar in the production of underwater imagery was limited.
To overcome this shortcoming with traditional sonar, CHIRP was developed as a response for use in the US military.
As the technology developed further and become cheaper, it also became available for recreational applications such as use in fish finders.
The main difference and advantage CHIRP has over conventional sonar is that it can range of frequencies and at higher energy levels, allowing for more highly detailed and accurate imaging of the underwater surface, fishes, and structures.
CHIRP also transmits pulses that are ten times longer in duration than that of traditional sonar, allowing for greater deep water penetration and improve bottom tracking.
To put it simply, CHIRP is an upgraded version of the traditional sonar that overcomes the latter’s limitations and greatly expands the scope of underwater imaging.
What Is Down Imaging on a Fish Finder?
A lot of fish finders today boast of a feature called ‘down imaging.’
Yet, some may struggle to understand what it exactly is, and how does it help one catch more bass?
Down imaging is a term used for beams emitted by transducers that are directly beneath your fishing vessel.
They provide you a ‘fish-eye’ view of what is underwater.
Down imaging is particularly helpful for fishing in deep waters when you are trying to find a fish swimming in the vertical rather than the horizontal plane.
A major drawback of down imaging is that, while it is particularly good at helping you determine at what depths your target fish is on, it won’t be able to correctly tell which direction to your boat it may be on.
Is a Depth Finder the Same as a Fish Finder?
While both depth finder and fish finder use the same methods in their mapping processes, the two are not the same thing.
Depth finders, also called a Depth Sounder, simply maps out the depths of water under the boat in a digital read-out.
No other information about the salient features of the underwater surface is provided.
Fish finders, on the other hand, are much more high-end and give a very detailed graphic mapping of what exactly is happening beneath the water’s surface.
Not only do they provide information about the depth of the water but also details about the bottom surface, underwater structures such as wrecks and fallen trees as well as, and more importantly, the presence of fishes.
Many modern fish finders today also provide you with additional information, such as water current and water temperature.
What is a Castable Fish Finder?
A castable fish finder is simply a device an angler can use to see a more graphic representation of what is below the water’s surface. This type of fish finder attaches to a cast line. It then utilizes sonar technology to map out the water and identify the fish in the area.
Do Fish Finders Work in Shallow Water?
Several fish finder models can work in shallow water as well as deep water. Some even allow you to set the sonar frequency depending on the type of fishing you plan on doing.
Is Garmin a Trusted Fish Finder Brand?
Garmin has actually become one of the most trusted fish finder brands in the entire industry. Their fish finders come with all the features you would expect a high-quality and high performing device to have. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you are sure to find exactly what you need.
A fish finder is a sound investment for any person passionate about fishing, but only if the quality matches your expectations.
When trying to decide which fish finder to buy, it is important to have realistic expectations about what fishing applications you would be using it for.
If you are a bit old-school and your needs are simple, purchasing a high-end fish finder with multiple sonar functions and additional features would not make much sense.
Rather, sticking to an affordable, uncomplicated fish finder would be a better choice.
The same can be said if you are a beginner who wouldn’t have use for the additional features on offer.
However, if you are already a seasoned angler and are looking to still improve your chances of success, there is no reason not to purchase a high-end fish fisher.
We hope you found our buying guide on the best fish finders of 2020 useful and helped you make a better, more informed decision on what fish finder to buy for your needs.
A fish finder is an essential tool in the fisher’s arsenal for allowing them to not only step up their fishing game but also make their fishing experience more rewarding and hassle-free.