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Everything About Fish Finders

Academy Staff
9 min read
Everything About Fish Finders

Patience is an angler's strongest virtue, but it sometimes goes unrewarded. All the care you put into the best bait or crafting that perfect fishing lures slips fruitlessly into the water. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a fish finder, your time spent more effectively. A day of fishing is always enjoyable, but reeling in a few winners makes the day even better.


Here’s everything you need to know about fish finders if you're not used to working with one or are hesitant about the cost. Fish finders are a helpful tool no matter what kind of fishing you do—fresh water or sea water.


Finding the best fish finders is determined by what kind of fishing you do.

Read below about:

  • A brief history of sonar (and fish finders).
  • How a fish finder works
  • The two types of fish finders.
  • Tips for buying fish finders.
  • A few top-notch fish finders for every budget.
Everything About Fish Finders

A fish finder, also known as a sounder, is a sound navigation and ranging (sonar) tool specifically designed to find fish. Newer fish finders have integrated GPS navigation, marine radar, and compasses to help you find fish and navigate through low visibility below and above water.


Fish finders use active sonar to send sound pulses into the water and waits for the echo. The frequencies used range from very low (infrasonic) to very high (ultrasonic).


The two main types of sonar in fish finders are down scan and side scan.

Everything About Fish Finders

Two Types of Fish Finders: Which makes for the best fish finders?


Choosing from the two types of fish finders can be tricky. Down scan fish finders scan directly below the boat, while side scans cover the boat sides.


Side scans go up to 240 feet to each side and provides a photo of the area. Designed to explore sea wrecks, it’s also great for scouting or fishing lakes with heavy weed lines.

Portable or Fixed?

A portable fish finder has many advantages. Their versatility allows you to enjoy all types of fishing, so you do not have to choose between canoe fishing and lake fishing. They're perfect for rental boats because they are lighter weight easy to transport. You can move the fish finder to different locations or move the fish finder around the boat.


Affixed fish finders, usually found on larger fishing boats, also have advantages. They are generally more high-tech, upping your fish hunting game and increasing your hull. Your GPS maps may be more reliable, and the screen size can be larger.


The best fish finders depend on the kind of boat you own and fishing you do. If you are an occasional fisherman, the best fish finders for you may be portable and simple. If you are a serious sport fisherman or like elusive catch, the best fish finder for you will require a little more serious investing.

Everything About Fish Finders
Screen Size  

Screens range from 3.5” to 16”. For a good mid-range screen size, choose a 9” screen. The bigger the screen, the more you can see the information gathered at one time, but make sure you don’t sacrifice other features for viewability.


It's important to check the pixels because sometimes, the quality of the image goes down as the screen size goes up. This can make it difficult to choose a fish finder online, so buy in-person at your nearest Academy Sports + Outdoors.


As for kayaks, which are small and low to the water, fish finders are still important for marking locations and effective fishing. You will want to choose a smaller screen that is lightweight and waterproof.

Glare Protection

Bright sunlight can make the fish finder screen hard to read. You can relocate the fish finder to a shadier spot, get a shade visor, apply an LCD films that cut glare, or dim the screen’s brightness and contrast.


You can also embrace the summer sun shining on with a newer fish finder with glare-resistant screens.

  Low-light Fishing  

If you are an early morning, wintery weather, or evening fisherman, look for a fish finder with a back-lit screen.

GPS Integration

GPS and fish finding detection combos are most common in quality fish finders. Instead of opting for a fish finder without GPS, we suggest spending a little more, especially if you are into boat or kayak fishing. However, for pier fishing or shoreline fishing, GPS is less important.

  Prices Can Be Deceiving

A quality fish finder is worth the investment as an indispensable tool, so they cost more than other accessories.

Everything About Fish Finders
  FISH FINDERS FOR ANY BUDGET   Investing in the Best   Garmin ECHOMAP Plus 93sv Sonar/GPS Chartplotter Combo  

With multiple types of scanning sonars, built-in Wi-Fi, and 17,000 downloadable maps, you could probably locate Moby Dick or just a great haul. You can save thousands of logs, waypoints, and 100 routes. It has a 9-inch 400 x 800-pixel display that reads in sunlight with full color, photographic imagery, and racing assists.

  Humminbird Helix 12 CHIRP Sonar/GPS Chartplotter Combo  

Here's to seeing below the surface! Humminbird's Helix 12 features a 65000-color, 12-inch screen with an LED-backlit display and an incredible 1280 x 800 resolution. Humminbird lets you see depths of up to 1500 feet in a 3-D map view. Selective Fish ID+ gives you an edge on finding fish and not letting submerged plants and debris get in the way, or you can use the preloaded maps. Save up to 2500 waypoints and 47 routes.

Everything About Fish Finders
Moderate, but DeterminedLowrance Elite-7 Ti Mid/High DownScan Fishfinder/GPS Combo

This fish finder gives you a little bit of everything. It has CHIRP Sonar, Side Scan, and Down Scan imaging. The 7-inch high-resolution, backlit LED screen has an 800 x 480 resolution, 2X zoom, and fish symbol ID. Plus, you can store up to 3000-way points and 100 trails.

Everything About Fish Finders
Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP DI/GPS G2 Chartplotter

This fish finder has the capacity for a large variety of cartography features with the simple insertion of a micro-SD card. Save up to 50 routes and 2500-waypoints. It's also blue-tooth enabled and has a temperature alarm and a 7-inch LED-backlit 3-D display with an 800 x 480 resolution.

Just the Basics, but Equipped

Garmin STRIKER 4 CHIRP Sonar/GPS Fishfinder Combo

This super portable GPS fish finder combo is perfect for on-the-go fishing trips or a day on the water. It has a 3.5-inch color display, fish symbol ID, high-sensitivity GPS, and a waypoint map. It only weighs 8.1 oz., so you can easily pack it in a fishing bag.

Everything About Fish Finders
ReelSonar iBobber Portable Sonar Fish Finder

Are you inseparable from your phone? Your cellular assistant can help you with your fishing. This extremely portable scanning bobber gathers all the information you need and displays it onto your phone from as far as 100 feet. Perfect for smaller boats or shore-based fishing. It will also create detailed trip logs, including storing how well your fishing went.

Everything About Fish Finders