The 8 Best Fish Finders to Buy in 2018

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Every serious angler should have a fish finder in their tackle box. Using sonar, a fish finder returns a graphic representation of what is beneath the water, including individual fish and terrain information to help you figure out where to set up your boat or where to cast. There are many types of fish finders available, so choosing the best unit depends on where and how you want to fish (from a kayak, from shore, from a boat, on ice or in shallow water?). Once you figure out primarily how you'll be fishing, we can help you zero on the best fish finder to buy, so you can reel in the catch of the day in no time.

01 of 08

Best Overall: Raymarine Dragonfly 4Pro

Raymarine Dragonfly 4Pro

Amazon

Spend more time catching fish and less time looking for them with the Dragonfly Pro series of fish finders from Raymarine. Unlike conventional imaging sonars that transmit at a single frequency with each pulse, Dragonfly’s DownVision sonar uses CHIRP technology to transmit across a wide spectrum of sonar frequencies simultaneously  – the result is much higher-resolution, photo-like sonar images with the ability to accurately pinpoint fish down to depths of 600 feet.

The Dragonfly Pro models feature built-in Wi-Fi to stream sonar data right to the Raymarine Wi-Fish app on your phone or tablet, where you can rewind, pause or capture images to share online with your friends and family. This fish finder comes with Navionics+ charts that cover all of the coastal U.S. and Canada and includes a growing list of more than 20,000 lakes. With the built-in GPS, you can navigate to your favorite fishing spots using a choice of detailed maps. The heavy-duty ball and socket mounting system easily installs on any surface and is adjustable for optimal viewing. The Dragonfly Pro is available in four-inch, five-inch and seven-inch size fog-free, all-weather display models.

02 of 08

Best Budget: Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder

The Venterior VT-FF001 is a basic fish finder that will detect and display water depth, approximate fish location, as well as indicate the presence of short and tall weeds, sand and rocks on the waterbed. Working in depths of three feet up to 328 feet, the portable fish finder can be used in lakes, rivers, oceans or any fishing environment. Select between five levels of sensitivity — when the sensitivity is high, it will show you both big fish and small fish; when low, it will only show you the big fish. You can also set the device to alert you when any fish come into range. The sonar sensor attaches to the display unit via a 25-foot cable and can be used with the included float for fishing off the dock, trolling or even ice fishing. When connected to the boat hull, the Side-Scan Adapter enables you to additionally scan for fish suspended in the water column within 100 feet of your location.

03 of 08

Best for Kayaks: Garmin echoMAP PLUS 73sv

The transducer on the Garmin echoMAP Plus 73sv uses CHIRP traditional sonar as well as CHIRP ClearVu and SideVu for photo-quality images of what’s below and what lies off to the sides of your kayak. In addition to fish, you can clearly see structures and submerged objects. Add the optional Panoptix sonar transducer and see all around your boat and below in real time. You can watch as your lure sinks and see how fish up to 100 feet away react to your bait. This fish finder comes pre-loaded with LakeVu freshwater maps that include more than 17,000 U.S. lakes, rivers and reservoirs. There is also a microSD card slot for additional map access. The built-in Wi-Fi facilitates connection to Garmin’s ActiveCaptain app and community where you can make, save and transfer routes and waypoints to your chartplotter. A variety of mounts make it easy to install on your kayak and since the wires connect directly into the mount and not the device, you can just grab your fish finder when you leave the boat.

04 of 08

Best Fish Finder GPS Combo: Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2

With both GPS mapping and digital sonar, the Hummingbird Helix 5 lets you navigate to the fishing grounds with the fish finder on a split screen. The CHIRP sonar delivers a clear image of individual fish, while also clearly identifying bait and structures. The additional Dual Beam PLUS Sonar uses dual beams that combine to not only cover a larger area but also deliver detailed images of what’s below the boat. Choose between narrow beam for high-accuracy fish finding, or a wider beam for more coverage.  The device comes with built-in basemaps that give a detailed picture of the underwater terrain and points of interest. The maps include charts of more than 10,000 lakes plus coastal coverage for the U.S. Using the built-in GPS and AutoChart Live feature, you can create real-time maps of your fishing spot, including depth contours, bottom hardness and surrounding vegetation. And Hummingbird’s SwitchFire enables you to customize your sonar reading to adjust for conditions on the fly such as water depth, temperature and turbulence, as well as add or remove detail. 

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05 of 08

Most Portable: Garmin STRIKER 4

Weighing just over eight ounces, the ultra-portable Striker 4 features a dual frequency CHIRP transducer that sends a continuous sweep of frequencies ranging from low to high in order deliver crisp images of individual fish. The transducer can be thrown in the water for use on the shore or off a dock, or mounted to the hull of any type of boat. The flasher gives you a quick view of the bottom, whether it’s muddy or solid, as well as a look at your bait and any fish swimming through at that moment. The built-in GPS enables you to locate your current position and mark productive fishing spots in order to return to at another date. You can also mark docks, boat ramps and other locations to help you navigate back to shore at the end of the day. The fish finder also shows the boat speed for better trolling control when you are after a particular species.

06 of 08

Best for Shallow Water: Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP SI GPS G2

If you are looking to catch bluegills or crappies in shallow water, you need side imaging sonar with a larger screen to view all at once. The CHIRP Side Imaging sonar on the Helix 7 SI GPS delivers 480 feet of side-to-side coverage so you get a clearer view of the world around your boat. And if you decide to venture into deeper waters, CHIRP Down Imaging sees individual fish and structures down to 350 feet. For better accuracy, two display modes let you adjust your fishing conditions on the fly — add or remove details such as water depth, temperature, turbulence and even switch between different lure presentations.

Base maps loaded on the fish finder provide a clear view of the underwater terrain in your area and surrounding points of interest. Including charts of over 10,000 lakes and coastal areas across the U.S., the maps identify buoys, daymarkers, hazards, marinas, contours, depth markers and more. Using the GPS and AutoChart Live feature, you can create your own real-time maps of your favorite fishing areas.

07 of 08

Best for Shore Fishing or Ice Fishing: Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+

This versatile fish finder can be used for everything from fishing on the shore, trolling from your kayak or ice fishing in winter. The Pro Plus from Deeper weighs just 100 grams and casts up to 330 feet and can scan depths of 260 feet. The dual beam sonar sends 15 scans per second to deliver a detailed look at fish, vegetation and the bottom even when trolling. With 0.5 inch target separation, you can easily distinguish clusters of small fish from large fish. Switch from wide to narrow beam scanning and adjust sensitivity when in murky waters. The sonar connects to your phone via Wi-Fi to create detailed maps live as you reel it back in. The maps give the complete picture of the underwater terrain below, including depth, fish icons (with depth and size), fish arches, bait balls, vegetation, structure, bottom hardness and contours. You can Mark fish and vegetation as you scan and even share the maps with your fishing buddies online. 

08 of 08

Best for Mobile Anglers: ReelSonar iBobber

For the angler on the go, the iBobber from ReelSonar is a castable, portable and wireless fish finder that syncs with the free app on your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth up to 100 feet away (iPhone or Android). The sonar delivers accurate readings from a depth of four feet down to 135 feet at a 42-degree angle. The fish finder works in saltwater and freshwater and is very effective at locating fish and structures in ponds, lakes, streams and rivers. It even works for ice fishing.

In the app, easily switch between raw sonar data and fish tagging views where you can see the depth and size of the fish, The app also allows you to map waterbeds, mark spots, log water temperatures and depth, add lures, species and photos a log to keep record of all your fishing trips. The built-in LED beacon and the strike and fish alarms are great for ice fishing, carp and night fishing. Expect 10 hours of battery life from the rechargeable battery.