Fishfinder buyers guide

Fishfinder Buyer's Guide for 2024

Bass Boats & Boating Care
Professional anglers are running five or more units, but it's optional for the weekend angler.
Professional anglers are running five or more units, but it's optional for the weekend angler.

If you are a fan of marine electronics, right now is a great time to be a bass angler. All three major brands, Garmin, Lowrance, and Humminbird, continue to push the envelope with better technology every year. Things are moving at warp speed, and all budgets have some excellent options.

Here's a rundown of the three brands, some of their best units currently, and some at different price levels.



What Brand And How Many Units Do I Need?

If you follow professional bass fishing, you might think that you need four or five (or more) screens on your boat to have a chance at catching a bass. It's not true; much of it is overkill, but having more units allows anglers to use one unit for a specific purpose. Having one unit at the bow and one at the console is fine, and the ability to split the screen and customize it to show different things as needed is more than enough for most anglers, but it can also be a benefit to run more.

When it comes to brands, there are great products from all three of them, and one of the biggest trends is mixing and matching with different products. This often comes down to personal preference and because some see one brand stronger for specific technologies. Add in the fact that all three also make a trolling motor, and deciding which is best for you can become even more complicated. It's a tricky decision between going all in with one brand or customizing, but there is no wrong answer, as they all make great fishing electronics.

Forward-Facing Sonar

Nowadays, this technology is what everyone is talking about and what anglers want to know about. All three major electronics brands have their version, and almost every new unit is compatible.

Garmin set things off with their LiveScope, and since then, Lowrance's ActiveTarget and Humminbird's MEGA LIVE have entered the market. All will do the same thing and allow you to have a view of everything that is in front of your trolling motor.

This technology is also improving, and one thing to consider is to keep your software updated and upgrade to the newest transducer after deciding which electronic unit to purchase to get the best results.


Lowrance is one of the leaders and offers great units for all price points.
Lowrance is one of the leaders and offers great units for all price points.

The pinnacle of the Lowrance lineup is the HDS PRO, but the lower-priced Elite FS system will still run their forward-facing sonar, ActiveTarget. The older generation HDS units, either the LIVE or Carbon, are also compatible and can be found on the used market by many anglers looking to upgrade to the newer HDS PRO, which retails between $2,099 and $4,999, depending on size and features.

Besides the price, the main difference between the HDS and Elite FS is processing speed and screen clarity. The HDS units have more features and settings, but the Elite FS will do the job. Both have models that will show mapping, 2D sonar, as well as side and down imaging. Another critical difference is that the HDS units are offered in more sizes, including a 10, 12, and 16-inch version, where the maximum for the Elite FS is 9 inches, and the lowest priced 7-inch version retails for less than $700.

If forward-facing sonar isn't crucial to you and you are just looking for basic features, the Hook Reveal series will work for you. They can run mapping, down and side scan, and standard 2D sonar at great prices. These units are light-years ahead of what was typical just a few years ago.


Garmin was the originator of the forward-facing sonar revolution with LiveScope and is still seen by many as the leader in that technology. As a result, they have many different units that will work with this product in the ECHOMAP and GPSMAP lines. There are many other options in these products with different sizes and features.

A solid unit for someone who primarily wants LiveScope is the GPSMAP 1042xsv. It's a 10-inch unit capable of mapping and side and down imaging and can be ordered with or without those options if you plan to use it only for forward-facing sonar. The price range is between $1,299 and $1,899, depending on the features and transducers included.

One of their best-selling units is the EchoMAP Ultra, starting around $3,000 for the 12-inch units, but even their 6-inch 63sv that costs less than $800 will run LiveScope with the transducer and sonar black box.


This legendary electronics brand has three leading names for bass fishermen: the APEX, SOLIX, and HELIX. Hummibird has many great features, and many anglers believe their LakeMaster mapping is the best on the market; they are the only brand to offer the Hummibird 360, which gives a complete view around the boat for locating fish, structure, and cover.

Humminbird units can do it all and are well-regarded for their side and down scan capabilities.
Humminbird units can do it all and are well-regarded for their side and down scan capabilities.

The APEX is at the top of the food chain, offers all of the best features the company offers, and has a unit up to the massive 19-inch size. APEX is a relatively new family of electronics and is the most expensive of their offerings, but also the best, fastest, and features the clearest screens.

The middle of the pack is the SOLIX, which is offered in 10, 12, and 15-inch sizes. They are touch-screen and can run Side Imaging, Down Imaging, Mega Live, and mapping. 

Below the SOLIX is the HELIX, which is still run by many professional anglers who have a chance to run any unit they please. While it's not a touch-screen display, it does everything they need and is a popular and powerful family of units. They come in many different sizes and prices, starting at $219 for the HELIX 5, which will run just 2D sonar, to the HELIX 15, which will run every technology for $3,199.

Some excellent marine electronics are available from different brands to today's anglers. Choosing the best one depends on your budget, brand preference, and familiarity with their system menus. There is no wrong choice, as everything made today is a valuable tool to help you locate and catch more fish.