Three Things You Should Know Before Buying Your Next Fish Finder

Three Things You Should Know Before Buying Your Next Fish Finder Here are the three biggest mistakes made when purchasing a fish finder and tips to avoid them.



A fish finder is an extremely effective tool that will allow you to see fish and structure you never knew were there; however, one small misstep in the buying process can make your new device ineffective and, at times, unusable.
   We receive lots of questions and concerns from first time fish finder buyers and decided to highlight the three biggest mistakes made when purchasing a fish finder and tips to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Getting a Fish Finder Without GPS

When choosing a new fish finder, beginning fisherman can be overwhelmed by all of the features and options: Power Wattage, Number of Pixels, with or without Transducer, Display Screen Size, and the list goes on and on.  But there is one feature you should not go without and that is GPS.  Here is why:


Get Home Safe:  In case of an emergency every boater needs GPS to help with the trip home or provide coordinates when needed.

Make Your Own Maps:  If you frequent an uncharted body of water or fish on a small lake there are programs available that will allow you to create your own maps using GPS. We recommend using the Lowrance Insight Genesis or LakeMaster Maps (Now compatible with the Humminbird 700, 800, 900 and 1100 series).

Legendary sportsman, television and radio personality Al Lindner explains the effectiveness of LakeMaster Maps:



Costs More:  The GPS feature can increase the cost of the unit by around fifty percent.   For example, the Lowrance Elite-4X DSI, which does not have GPS, runs around $200, the Lowrance Elite-4 DSI, with GPS, is around $325.

   While the upfront cost will be higher for a device with GPS, it will prove to be a great investment, and is something that every fisherman should have.

Our GPS Fish Finder recommendations:
•    Lowrance Elite 5 Gold Fishfinder and Chartplotter
•    Garmin GPSMAP 541s GPS Fishfinder
•    Lowrance HDS-5 GEN2 Plotter/Sounder w/ 5 inch LCD

Mistake #2:  Choosing the Wrong Type of Sonar for Your Needs

The two common types of sonar are Down Scan and Side Scan.  The main difference is Down Scan broadcasts signals directly below the boat while Side Scan broadcasts a fan-like angled signal to the sides of the boat.  There is a third option, based on emerging technology, that combines the Down Scan and Side Scan capabilities in a single unit.

Down Scan

Here is a breakdown of Humminbird Down Imaging technology:



Focused:  Allows the user to see greater details, like an individual fish within a school or structure.

Accuracy:  If surveying or pattern running, Down Scan will increase the accuracy of readings at around forty feet or deeper.

Too Powerful:  When used in shallow water there can be a reflection that leads to an unreadable blur.  If this is the case, adjusting the signal power can provide better results.

Too Focused:  With such focused downward sonar, it is easy to miss any activity happening to the sides of the boat.

Side Scan
Bob Jensen, of the Fishing the Midwest television series, explains what side imaging is and how it was transformed from a tool used for locating shipwrecks to a fishermen’s best friend:


Scan Vast Amounts of Water:  Cover more area in a single pass.  An average fish finder can read around 100 feet to each side but staying around 75-90 feet will provide the greatest detail.

Fewer Disturbance:  Side Scan does not require a boat to go directly over the area of interest.  This means anglers can get readings on undisturbed areas.

Less Noise:  Humminbird marketing director Mark Gibson explaining how Side Imaging filters out the noise, "Say you’ve got a handful of BBs.  Using traditional sonar is like slamming those BBs on a concrete floor. Imagine how many of those will bounce back up - lots.  Side imaging is like throwing BBs down a driveway. Imagine how few would come back; maybe only one or two return toward you from hitting a rock."

Less Effective in Deep Water:  The angle of the transducer will be less effective in deep water.  The term “deep water” is tough to define, but on average, anglers will start to see at decline in the quality of images at 75 feet or more.

Combination (Down Scan + Side Scan)
If you are still having trouble deciding which sonar is right for you, here is the good news:  With the amazing advances being made in recreational fishing sonars, there is no longer a need to choose between Down Scan and Side Scan.
   With affordable Down and Side Scan combinations available, like the Lowrance StructureScan and the Hummingbird SwitchFire, it is highly recommended that fisherman purchase this combination technology with their next fish finder and experience the best of both worlds.
   Here is an example of sonar combination technology in action:


 Mistake #3:  Choosing a Portable Fish Finder Solely for Cost Reasons

A Portable fish finder can be very enticing when browsing fish finders.  Portable devices are significantly cheaper than fixed fish finders; however, basing your choice on this alone can potentially lead to both inconvenience and an increase in overall cost down the line.
  Here are some additional resources that will help you decide if a portable fish finder is right you:

A Portable Fish Finder in action:


Many Uses:  Since they can be mounted quickly and moved with ease they are great for fishermen who rent boats, fish from the shore, ice fish or fly fish.

Multipurpose Transducer:  Easily thrown in the water for use on the shoreline, dock, or boat, as well as mount it in-hull on a kayak, boat, or canoe.

No Drilling:  No need to permanently install a structure on the boat.

Cheaper:  Portable fish finders cost around five times less than fixed fish finders.

Unstable:  Most Portable fish finders use a suction cup for mounting, which can be insecure and will need to be pulled up while traveling above trolling speed.

Inconsistent:  With all of the movement, it is tough to fine-tune the setting of the device, causing inconsistent results with the unit each time out.

Our Portable Fish Finder recommendations:
•    NorCross HawkEye F33P Fish Finder
•    Garmin Echo 100 Fishfinder
•    Humminbird SmartCast RF35 Fishfinder

One Size Does Not Fit All

Different fishing situations, lifestyles, etc. all play a role in which fish finder is right for you.  By reviewing these three common mistakes, the pros and cons of each, and specific product manuals, you will be well on your way to choosing a fish finder that will lead to greater effectiveness and enjoyment on the water.

Grow your fishing skills and improve your angling effectiveness.
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