Today’s angler fully embraces modern technology, and the process of finding and catching fish has evolved from art to science. The device at the forefront of this science is the fish finder. A fish finder is a powerful tool that allows the angler to inspect depth, location, speed, structure, and temperature. These units can also increase general safety and productivity using GPS. In other words, the fish finder is a must-have tool, but the sheer amount of choice presents a challenge to the first-time buyer. In the following guide, we’ll examine the top features that one should look for in their fish finder.
Wattage indicates how powerful and efficient a sonar unit is. The peak-to-peak value describes the overall output power of the transmitter. Therefore, low wattage results in slower readouts. Anglers should seek wattage no less than 800 Watts, but most regular anglers will want a unit around 3000 Watts. Deep-water fishers will want to purchase the most powerful unit they can afford.
A fish finder’s screen is made of thousands of dots called pixels. The more pixels there are, the better the image looks and the easier the display is to read. Concerning resolution, there certainly is a point of diminishing returns, and what looks best is a highly subjective matter. Nevertheless, there are some givens, such as a 240×240 resolution being the bare minimum an angler should buy. Beyond that point, the output is blocky, and it becomes uncomfortable to look at for extended periods.
3. Color vs. Black and White
Several years ago, an angler could save a good chunk of money opting for a black and white screen. However, that’s changed, and they’re actually becoming difficult to find. Should you face this decision, choose color because of the greater screen definition. The hue range makes identification and interpretation much easier than on a colorless unit, and they are far easier to read in lowlight conditions.
The transducer is the aspect of the fish finder that produces the sound waves. The wider the degree of the sound cone, the larger the angler’s view is. Most fish finders are 16-20 degrees, although you can find units as low as 9-degrees and as high as 60. There is also a frequency aspect to the transducer. Low-frequency transducers (50 kHz) work best when fishing deep waters, and high-frequency transducers (192 kHz) work best in shallow applications.
Transducers also come in multi-cone setups, and manufacturers refer to the cones as beams. A standard transducer is a single-beam, two cones is double-beam, three cones is triple-beam, so on and so forth. The more beams a unit has, the more area it is able to cover. The most common configuration is a 16-20 degree double-beam transducer.
5. Side Scan
Side scan is a relatively new tech that allows the angler to see what is at the sides of the boat from a bird’s eye view on screen. This an extremely useful feature for fishing in murky waters, identifying rock piles, and locating schools of fish. However, this is generally an expensive feature, and anglers working on a budget should avoid it.
6. Portable vs. Fixed
Fixed units affix “permanently” to the craft, but that doesn’t mean you can’t uninstall them and install them on that new boat you purchased. Fixed units are the cleanest solution, and for anglers that own their own boat, portable units don’t offer much benefit. However, if you rent, ice fish, go on fly-ins, so on and so forth, then a portable unit may be the only practical solution.
7. Temperature, Speed, and Distance
While you might expect these aspects to be standard features, some inexpensive units offer them as add-ons instead. The simple advice is to avoid any unit that does not include all three. For those working on a tight budget, consider temperature the most critical of these since you’ll use it often to locate fish.
8. GPS (Global Positioning System)
GPS is not a necessity, but it is an incredibly useful feature on any fish finder. GPS allows us to mark productive spots so that we can locate them with ease the next time. This is an amazing tool for those that fish often in the same area. For those that move around, GPS helps keep the angler safe. The angler doesn’t have to be as concerned with getting lost, and in the case of an emergency, the GPS unit provides you with the fastest route to shore.