Fish finders are electronic devices that use sonar technology to find fish. They have come a long way since introduced in 1959, and more feature and advances continue to come fast. It is easy to get distracted by all the bells and whistles, but remember you want a fish finder to find fish.
It may be nice that it has GPS and other things, but when shopping, consider whether the latest feature is something you need, or just something extra.
GPS technology is very nice, and there is conflicting opinions out there about whether it is needed with a fish finder. If you fish smaller lakes, you can probably find your way back to shoe, so it isn’t essential. They can be useful though in emergency situations, and you can mark great fishing spots and use the technology to find the exact spot again. If you are fishing out on the ocean, it would have more value.
There are still standalone fish finders, which find fish and nothing else. This will give you the biggest display and shows you what is under your boat. Since there are no other extras, it is the least expensive option, and a bonus is, you also get a bigger screen because there’s nothing there to take up space. If you only fish on small lakes with a small boat, this might be the way to go. You can always add other things if you get a bigger boat or change the way you fish.
The other end of that spectrum is the networked system that has more than one display screen. In addition to finding fish, it has GPS, Wifi, radar, and can produce any kind of chart you could imagine. Some even have satellite radio. Larger boats on larger bodies of water are more suitable for this level.
Where the finder scans is another consideration. Some go straight down, which is better for deeper water. Some angle towards the sides, better in shallower water. You get a clearer picture, but less area, with the “straight down version. There is also a combination now available that costs more, but you don’t have to choose which one you prefer that way.
There are the technical aspects of things like screen size and resolution. The more you spend, the higher resolution you can get. Screen size also affects cost. You may also want to decide between getting a permanently installed system or a portable system. Cost alone should not be the primary consideration though, because you need something that will meet your needs. Fixed fish finders are more stable and have larger screens, but you can’t take it from one boat to another very easily. Portable units are better if you are renting boats or plan to move it around to other boats.
Fishing experts recommend going with the largest screen you can afford, even if it means sacrificing some extras. The bigger screen just makes it easier to see what the unit is trying to show. Resolution keeps improving, so it also important to get the latest version for that reason.