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Fish Finders & Depth Finders

Fishing aficionados know that a good sonar depth finder or fish finder can be a great tool, but there are a vast number of models available on the market. This overview of brands and options can help with making the best choice for your fishing needs. Sonar specs can involve a good bit of tech jargon, so learning the advantages of some of the newest features, like GPS, CHIRP sonar, and DownScan imaging will help you separate the useful features from the additional bells and whistles.

What do fish finders and depth finders do?

Both fish and depth finders are based on sonar transducers, which convert electrical energy into sound waves, which bounce off fish and lake bottom features and are reflected back to the boat. The transducer then changes the sound waves back to electrical pulses, which the software interprets to "see" what is below the water.

What important fish finder features should you look for?

Available models range from basic to state-of-the-art systems. There are several important specs to look at when comparing options:

  • Sonar transducers: These can be single, double, or multiple beam. Multiple-beam versions use 2 or more transducers, which makes it possible to create a 3-D readout.
  • DownScan imaging: This technology enhances visibility, helping you see more structural features and picking out bottom-hugging fish.
  • SideScan imaging: This technology widens the view of a standard model, showing a much wider area to the sides of the boat.
  • CHIRP: An advanced type of sonar, this provides high-definition imagery compared to a standard readout by varying the frequency of the sonar ping.

Most new models have a color display, but some go to the next level with a built-in GPS chart plotter for personalized mapping that gets you to the fish faster.

What brands are available?

The specifications for a particular model will generally tell you more than its manufacturer about whether its the right tool for the job. Major fishfinder brands include Garmin, Lowrance, and Humminbird.

  • Garmin: The brand is well known for navigation electronics and is well known for integrating sonar and GPS technology for advanced navigation such as the Garmin Striker series.
  • Humminbird: This brand corners much of the market on side-imaging fish finders. Their range also includes popular budget models such as the Humminbird PiranhaMAX, as well as models tailored for specific applications, such as the Humminbird ICE series for ice fishing.
  • Lowrance: They released one of the first fish finders and helped revolutionize the sport. Now, their Lowrance HOOK and HDS series focus on better views and faster updates.
  • ReelSonar: A smaller company, they produce the portable, wireless iBobber that uses a smartphone app to be able to go wherever you do.