Fishing & Hunting Tips

How to choose a fish finder? a Complete Beginners Guide in 2019

Having trouble with spotting fish? Every angler around the globe face this problem often and end up the day with zero catch! Not a problem though in this era of technology. You might wanna go for a Fishfinder to take your fishing to the next level.

But here’s the problem comes, if this is your very first fishfinder purchase, then you might find it an extremely daunting task choosing all the different models with different functions and features of a modern day fishfinder! There’s actually a good chance that you’ll be lost in all technical terms and talks!

But don’t worry, we are here to make things easier for you. Yup, it’s really hard to choose when you have tons of options with different transducers, frequencies, screen types, and sizes, resolutions blah blah blah. But if you just ask these 5 questions to yourself, it will be much easier to decide. Let’s look at the 5 main attributes-

  1. Want a combo or standalone?
  2. What screen size you prefer?
  3. What number of pixels do you want from it?
  4. How much power or wattage you need?
  5. What frequency do you need?

Still puzzled? Well, you won’t for long. Just give us a couple of minutes to explain the whole thing as easily as possible. So let’s get started!

A little understanding of fishfinder

What is a fish finder?

A fishfinder is a device which is mostly used by the commercial fisherman or casual anglers to locate fish in the water. Fishfinders work based on a technology called SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) system. It’s kind of a game changer in the fishing industry.

Major factors to consider before choosing a fish finder

To be very precise, let’s say once more that we are going to discuss how to choose a fish finder for recreational fishing only. The discussion about the whole topics of fish finders, different types, and applications can be quite long and hard to understand.

So let’s keep it very simple and talk about the major factors to consider before choosing a fish finder for a weekend warrior! Let’s know some basics of a fishfinder for a better understanding.

Transducers

Heard of transducers? Transducers are the most essential parts of every fishfinder. They perform the main operation of a fishfinder, sending out and receiving the SONAR waves. So as you know, these waves once diffused in the waterbody, bounce off of different objects. And after that, the waves again picked up by the transducer.

So with the return of the wave, it brings data of underwater and it goes straight into the central unit. Finally, the signal gets processed into a readable picture on the display which we can actually see and understand. Pretty cool, right?

Now, folks, the transducers are available with different types of mounts. You need to consider which one you need according to your boat. As an example, the transom mount transducer is the easiest one to plant. However, if you own a bigger boat and do serious fishing or commercial fishing for a living, the type called thru-hull mount will be a great choice.

Important to mention that, almost every fish finder offers a transducer with it. Thinking of your situation, you can swap or upgrade your transducer by buying one solo for the best possible performance.

Transducer material

The next thing you wanna look is the transducer material. It greatly depends on which type of boat you’ll be using. For the enthusiast and casual fishermen like myself, a plastic transom mount will do the job done. They are compatible with almost all kinds of boats.

Note that, If you’re using a transducer with a thru-hull or an in-hull mount, fiberglass or metal hulls need plastic housings. Aluminum or steel hulls need stainless steel housings. The Bronze housings are for boats with fiberglass or wood hulls.

Coming back to our type of fishing, the recreational fishing with a kayak may be, most fish finders come equipped with trolling motor transducers or transducers with transom mounts. These are the most versatile option I must say, works with almost any kind of boat!

Transducers beam and cone angles

Transducers come with different cone angles range from 9 degrees to more than 60 degrees. Most devices you will find in the store come across something between 16 and 20 degrees.

The cone angle is a really important factor to consider when you’re buying a transducer. Mainly the cone angles mean that the width of the beam emitted into the water from your boat. A wider cone means that a larger area will get covered. General science says as the beam goes down the cone angle will expand.

Now, the cool thing is the transducers nowadays can emit more than one cone from a single point. There are transducers with one beam which is more like a conventional transducer. But if you want more, you will find some really advanced units where it offers more. Some have a dual beam, some a triple, some even a side beam and so on. With each new beam, you can cover a much greater area. And yes, of course, the price goes up with increasing beam.

Now let’s make this particular topic very simple. More than one beams are effective in larger bodies of water, like lakes. If you’re fishing in the shallow water, a dual beam transducer will be the best pick.

Screen size

While choosing a fishfinder, you need to ask yourself what screen size you want or how big you can afford. The size dictates the price point of a fishfinder. You can go for a fishfinder with a screen size of 3.5” which is a Garmin echo fishfinder to all the way up to 5” Lawrence or a 7” Garmin. You can even go for a bigger one, but hey who needs that big screen size unless it’s a BIG commercial fishing boat!

The screen size and the resolution of a fish finder decide how good of a picture you’ll get from your fish finder. Needless to say, the affordable or cheap option has a smaller screen size. Some units have lots of readings to put up on the screen so that a smaller screen might get cluttered up.

Considering all the facts, you should buy the largest and best quality display you can afford. You’ll get higher details and better image quality when you have a big screen and good resolution.

B/W Screens OR Color Screens

B/W means a black and white screen which can a pain in the head sometimes because of it’s limited readability. Just like other electronic gadgets, fishfinders are also now in color screens which give a much better understanding of the bottom topography of a waterbody.

The color screen facilitates you with detailed information and various colors to show it, ultimately you can understand easily. In any sunlight condition, it can be readable which is a considerable fact too. When you’re sailing in gloomy weather where sunlight is low, it’s too hard to read a B/W screen.

Since you have the option, you should pick a color screen considering the convenience. But if that doesn’t fit your budget, then don’t get bothered to start with a B/W screen fishfinder.

Pixels

Pixel or the resolution of a fishfinder is the next crucial things to consider. But before that, let’s have a little basic on the pixel.

Pixel is nothing but the single dot in a screen. The more pixel means more dot, which means a better imaging quality. With a 320 x 320 resolution, 320 dots are going horizontally to vertically, and 320 dots going top to bottom in each column. Get it, right?

Now for a fishfinder, you should be looking for a resolution of at least 240 x 160 pixels. Actually, this resolution is not that comfortable to me, to be honest, it’s very low! so if you have the budget go for a bigger resolution. With a resolution like 480 pixels vertically will show you very accurate details of a fish structure and bottom. Trust me, fishing will be so fun with it!

Power

Before choosing any unit, don’t forget to check it’s power status. If you want a unit which provides you faster and deeper readings, you might wanna get a fishfinder with a high wattage unit. Likewise, a device with lower wattage will be slower to show the results or information on the screen and won’t dive deeper! But it has it’s placed, they fit perfect in a shallow waterbody.

What the power does is fish finder converts sonar waves from its transducer. Less powered device results in slower wave emission and also the reading isn’t as reliable while the more powered device emits waves much faster and more accurate readings.

Let’s come to a decision now. If you wanna fish in shallow water, you don’t need much of power from your device. But if you wanna go fishing in a deep water lake or saltwater, a powerful fishfinder will be a wise selection.

Keep in Mind that:

  • For every 100 watts of power at 50 kHz, your fish finder will show depth readings of up to 400 feet.
  • For every 100 watts of power at 200 kHz, your fish finder will show depth reading of up to 100 feet.

Frequencies

Different model will offer you different frequencies, you will find frequencies something like 50 kHz or 200 KHz. Transducers usually come with 200, 192, 83 or 50 kHz frequencies.

A thing is crucial to understand is the cone angle relates to frequencies. Most transducers that work with dual frequencies have both 60 and 20-degree cones available.

The normal theory is, higher frequencies are for shallow water while the lower frequencies are great for deeper water. So for shallow water, the best pick will be higher frequencies like 192 and 200 kHz. For professional and commercial use in really deep water, lower frequencies like 50 KHz will do the job.

If you wanna cover both worlds, go for a dual frequency with a good price.

Choosing the best fish finder for kayak fishing

Proudly speaking, we are some fishing enthusiastic trying to help you find the best fishfinder in your budget. Our main goal is to help you get a fishfinder mainly for kayak fishing. So here are some factors to consider before buying a fishfinder for your kayak.

  • Choose a model that comes with a transducer
  • Go for a technically advanced sonar reading (83/200 kHz is pretty standard and will give you clear reading)
  • A GPS combo will be a good addition to the fishfinder
  • If you have a good budget, Find a user-friendly display (look for features like high resolution, color screen, waterproof housing, split screens, smartphone integration, etc)
  • Look for a model with cool additional features (good bottom tracking, water temperature, battery life display)
  • Must own a model which fit’s with your kayak. Since some kayaks are bow/curved shape, some fish finders will not fit onto it.

 

Wrap up

They say it true that 90% of the fish can be found in 10% of the water. It takes a lot of experience to find a good fishing spot determining several factors. But when you have a fishfinder by your side, things are much easier.

So it’s kind of must-have things in your fishing arsenal nowadays. I hope this blog will help you find the best fishfinder and will take your fishing journey one step ahead.

Nicholi Wyto

Hey I'm Nicholi Wyto is a professional sports fisherman and hunter, love to enjoy spending time in Michigan’s rugged northern forests. I love to explore my experience and help others who are interested in fishing and hunting.

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