Top 3 Fish Finder Buying Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Depthfinders, Fishfinders, and Fishing Electronics
Navigate the world of fish finders with ease! Our video addresses the top three mistakes anglers make when purchasing fish finders and offers practical tips to avoid them. Learn about the different types and understand which suits your needs. We discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each, from detailed views of underwater terrain to cost considerations. Plus, discover how to save money without sacrificing quality and the importance of mapping software for enhanced navigation. Ideal for both novice and experienced fishermen.

We get a lot of questions and concerns from people that are buying fish finders to the point where I decided to make this video about the top three mistakes people make and how to avoid them. Starting off with buying the wrong fish finder for your needs. So that's easy to do because there's a lot of options out there. Let's talk about those options.

So there's forward-facing sonar, there's 2D sonar, there's down scan, and there's side scan. You can get the down scan, side scan, and forward-facing sonar as add-ons to your depth finders. Sometimes they come with the depth finders. So let's talk a little bit about what these are.

Starting with forward-facing sonar, because that's the latest and greatest that's out there as of the making of this video. Forward-facing sonar requires a separate transducer. It's mounted to your trolling motor, and it shows you what's in front of the boat in real-time, which is pretty cool. It's almost like a video. You can cast out there. You can see how close you are to the fish, if it spooked them or not, so you know whether you should cast further away from them, or if maybe you're too far away from them. You can also see how they react to your lure. and you can adjust your cadence and your presentation to get more bites. It also gives you far more detail too. You can really pick out a fish within a school, that sort of thing. So forward-facing sonar is really cool.

Also, there's 2D sonar and down scan. Both of those show what's beneath the boat. The difference is sonar just shows you a two-dimensional view of what's under the boat. And that's been around for decades. That 2D sonar is what's the basis, the foundational piece of all fish finders. 

Down scan shows it in 3D. So it gives you more clarity, more detail, more information. You can really pick out where a boulder is and how big it is versus a blob on the bottom with what you would see with sonar. 

Side scan is, well, what the name implies. It shows you what's on the side of the boat. And those, again, can come as add-ons.

So let's talk about going all in. Let's say you buy all of it. What does that give you? What are the pros? Well, first of all, it gives you a really good view of what's going on on the bottom, beside the boat, in front of the boat. It gives you a lot of clarity. You can really tell the difference in what kind of fish are out there. If you're looking at baitfish, you can tell whether it's crappie or perch or bluegill. You can see the brush pile, how they're relating to it, or you can see the trees and at what depth the fish are relating to it in much greater detail and clarity. And it just gives you a lot more accuracy too. It's phenomenal that the amount of technology has progressed over the years to the point where it's unreal how much detail you can get with all this equipment.

The cons, of course, is that it's very expensive. I mean, the sonar, the forward-facing sonar comes with a separate transducer. You've got your side scan, sometimes those require separate transducers. And a lot of times what guys are doing these days is they have multiple units to display these different views. So sometimes they've got like three or four units up front on the front of the boat. You got one that's showing down scan, another one showing forward scan, another one showing your side scan, and another one showing your GPS. And sometimes they mimic that at the console too. 

Well, each of those units is very expensive. You're easily spending over $30,000 with all this. Plus this network, the all network together, you've got to get a device that connects them all together. A lot of people don't talk about that as much, but that's expensive as well. So it can be cost-prohibitive.

So, what about some of the other ones and cutting back on the cost a little bit? So, let's just get rid of the forward-facing sonar for now because that is most expensive out there. And let's talk about side scan. What does that get you? 

Well, side scan, it works out to about 100 feet on both sides of your boat. However, my experience, I've noticed it's really accurate to about 75 feet. Anything beyond that, it's not quite as accurate. It's kind of fuzzy. So what I do is I just limit it to 75 feet. 

What the pros with this is you can see like what's under a dock, you can see what's under lily pads and under overhanging bushes. Plus, when you make passes over an area and you're looking for creek channels and boulders and things on the bottom of the lake that the fish may be relating to, you don't need to make as many passes. And in fact, you don't have to necessarily go over the top of fish so you don't disturb them. So that is a real bonus. You can actually not bother the fish and come back and fish them.

One other bonus to them is they're less noisy. And what I mean by that is for typical 2D sonar or even down scan, the pings go down to the bottom of the lake and the full breadth of the pings come back to the transducer. So there's a lot of pings going back and forth between the boat and the lake bottom. 

The side scan, what it only returns is what it hits. So think about a dock piling, the pings go out, the ones that hit the dock piling are the ones that bounce back and return to the transducer. If they miss and they go around the dock piling, well, they don't have a return unless they hit something beyond it, but sometimes they just keep on going. So you have less back from the back and forth. You have the forth, but less back. So there's less noise. So again, you don't spook as many fish, for those of you who are concerned about transducer pings scaring the fish.

So the cons with them, of course, as I mentioned, they only go out about 75 feet, but also think of it the same way downwards. They're only good to about 75 feet deep. So if you want to scan something deeper than that, they don't work as well. The return pings are really weak at that point. That's why I mean beyond 75 feet, you don't get as much detail. The strength of the pings just aren't as good, so you don't get as good detail. And it's also, you know, that's 75 feet, like deep all the way out. It's, you know, the deeper you go, the more the angle down here is what you see, not all the way out. Fortunately for us bass anglers, we're typically fishing less than 75 feet, so it's not an issue, but just in case you wanted to use a side scan for deeper than 75 feet, you're pretty much out of luck.

Now what about getting to the units that don't have these features? Yes, you can get those too. They have just the built-in features with the sonar that points downwards, you're good to go, and those are the least expensive units. Those are excellent. They're excellent units. 

Which brings me to, is a mistake people make, and that is buying a unit solely on the basis of cost, just on price. Yeah, I know we all want to save money. I get that. And the best way to do it is there are units out there that have just straight up 2D sonar and GPS and nothing more, and you can get a really good deal on that. And I got to tell you guys, even those units are head and tails above better than anything you could have got 10 years ago. The technology is that good. So you can get excellent depth finders for a really good price just by going with the no-frills model.

The con with that, of course, is a no-frills model. So you may have less features, the processing power may be slower than what's available on the market today, and you may not be able to upgrade later. Say you want to add the down scan or the side scan or the forward scan, this unit may not be able to accept that. So if you want to upgrade later, you may have to buy an entirely new unit. So you may save money at first, but you may end up spending more down the road. So just kind of keep that in mind with these no-fill models.

There's other ways to save money. For example, there's a lot of units out there today that come with 2D sonar and down scan, and sometimes even side scan all built in. So you don't have to buy separate transducers and you save a lot of money that way. And those can be great deals, great bargains. Back when the side scan and down scan first came out, you had to buy a separate transducer for all of it. It's very expensive. Now, those all-in-one units can save you a lot of money and they don't cost much more than the no-frill models I just mentioned.

Another way to save money is downsize on your screen. You know, it may be appealing to have that 12-inch screen, but if you just downsize to the next size, like a 10-inch or 9-inch screen, you're not losing that much, but you can save significantly amount of money without losing any of the features or the processing power or anything else. So, that's a great way to save money and still get everything you want.

Another way to save money is these manufacturers of all these depth finders and fish finders, like I said, the technology is just evolving so quickly that they're pumping out new models two, three times a year. What that means is to make room for the latest and greatest models on the shelves, they got to put on sale the ones that are on the shelves right now. 

So if you buy a model that's maybe last year's model, you can get a great deal on those. They're on sale. They have all the gadgetry on it that you want, except for the latest stuff that maybe what's just coming out right now. 

Another way to look at it is oftentimes when you buy a brand new fish finder with all the frills, oftentimes by the time you have it installed, a newer model's come out already. So, yours is already obsolete. It's frustrating that way. So kind of keep that in mind if you're looking for cost-effective ways to purchase your fish finders.

And the last mistake that I want to mention is failure to buy a mapping software or mapping card. The GPS and the maps that come with these units are very basic. And oftentimes they show some rudimentary contour lines, but not a whole lot more. Maybe kind of sort of where a creek channel is, a little bit more detail than that, but they really lack detail and accuracy. Not like a paper map where it can show you all this stuff that's there. You know, you can find humps and ledges and other things. You just can't find that with the built-in maps that are on most of the depth finders today. But you get the mapping card and it contains all of that to a great detail, great level of detail where you can accurately find that small little drop or ledge that you are looking for.

In fact, what I always recommend is you get a paper map and the mapping software because both of these will show great levels of detail, but oftentimes not the same. So one may show where it looks like a large ledge or hump, where the other may show, oh, these are actually two separate large rocks. It's just an example, that's a real-life example from a lake that I fish. 

So those type of things will provide you, maybe the other map will show you where there's sunken ships, for example, where the mapping software doesn't. So you combine those two and you're gonna get a greater detail of what's going on in that lake and find those hotspots that some guys might not be able to find. 

So definitely, it's only about 150 bucks or so for that software. Oftentimes it comes with a subscription, so you update it every year. My recommendation is don't update it every year. It doesn't change that much. Maybe every three or four years is good enough and you'll get plenty of use out of it without having to spend that subscription every single year.

So those three tips, those three mistakes, I hope you avoid and I hope you get the right fish finder for your needs. 

Wait a second, wait a second, hold on. If you watched this video this long, then you'll be sure to want to watch one of these two videos. Now this one, this is the one that I recommend. I handpicked it for you. I think this is the one you should watch next. This is the one that YouTube thinks you should watch next. Either way, I'm in both, so I'll see you in a few seconds.