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Best Fish Finder

Updated on February 22, 2013
NorCross HawkEye Fish Finder
NorCross HawkEye Fish Finder

The best fish finder is a relative term, ask ten fishermen and you'll probably get ten different answers. You will have to decide what is the best fish finder for you, which is what most people are really interested in anyway.

So What Are Fish Finders?

Fish Finders are designed to help fishermen locate fish by letting them see an underwater image that can reveal underwater structures and even the fish themselves,

Fish finders work using the same principle as that used to detect submarines, as seen in many war movies. The transducer (sounder) emits ( and receives alternately) high-frequency sound waves that travel through the water and reflect off any solid surfaces, obviously the bottom, as well as any other structures, such as tree stumps, rocks or fish. These reflections are then picked up by the transducer that are then converted into images shown on a visual display.

Imagine using a torch at night, the light beam often shows up as a cone, diverging as it gets further away, anything caught in the beam reflects light back and you see it. So it is with fish finder transducers, only their beam is sound waves and they usually direct their beam downwards.

What you "see" depends on the following main factors with regard to the fish finder itself :-

  • Transducer beam (its angle) - a narrow angle produces a narrow beam, which suits deep water fishing, whilst in shallower water a wider beam gives better results by enabling you to see a larger area.
  • Power of the transducer signal - more power potentially allows a greater scan depth and more information to be gathered.
  • Frequency the transducer/fish finder uses - lower frequency (typically around 50KHz) is best used for greater depth of penetration and less affected by sediment (water clarity), a higher frequency (typically around 192 -200 kHZ) can give more detail (higher definition), but better in shallow water and is more affected by sediment etc.
  • Generally the lower frequency transducer has a bigger cone angle. A transducer's cone angle determines its coverage area of the underwater world. The wider the cone angle, the greater the area that's covered.
  • Single or multi-beam unit - some fish finders employ two or more beams operating at different frequencies, these can be combined to build up a more detailed (higher resolution) image.

  • Display factors - the higher the resolution of the display the more detail it can display, whether it is better to have a color display is perhaps more a personal choice. I think there are pros and cons to color displays, they are usually more expensive, but I'm not sure if they are more confusing to read, you get used to what you have and both do the job. See Examples below - not of same place. Don't worry if you think they are confusing, you will learn to see and understand them. Figures tend to indicate depth, temperature,speed etc.

Garmin Fish Finder Display
Garmin Fish Finder Display
  • Side Imaging Sonar (SIS) - Side Imaging Sonar technology provides amazingly clear, picture like images of fish, the bottom and structure, Humminbird is an innovator of this technology.

Different density objects return different strength signals that the fish finder can interpret and display accordingly. Even though the fish finder can do some of the interpretation, as with many things experience counts. Interpreting what you see displayed on the fish finders display is one such area, this experience is best gained from an experienced user, but failing that, watching relevant videos can also help you out.

Choosing A Fish Finder

Areas to consider are where you fish and how do you fish. Then you have a budget to consider, which if you're like me tends to increase as you learn about the features and what extra features the next model up can provide.

Fish finders can be used from land and all manner of water craft from float tubes to bass boats.

Fixings for fish finders can be temporary, such as easily removable clamps to permanent or semi-permanent installations that are fixed inside the hull, typically in a kayak, or a transducer mounted outside the boat on the transom.

I've seen criticism of after sales customer service for all the major manufacturers, thankfully I've not had to use their services. My personal approach when dealing customer service is that I want their help and I want them to empathize with my problem, I feel if you go in all guns blazing they immediately they go on the defensive and you're both going to have a bad day!

Good luck and good fishing!

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