In today’s world, we rely on technology to help us with the majority of our daily tasks. There is no denying that the advances in technology work to streamline our lives and make our lives easier. With modern progressions, there is even technology out there to help you fish. Fish finders have become a must have device that is helping fisherman all over the world have the most success out on the water. The best fish finder is one that is designed for the type of fishing you enjoy whether it is kayaking on a small lake or on a big boat in the middle of the ocean.

Due to the different types of fishing, it can be hard to find the best fish locator for you. To help, we have listed our top picks on the market and talked about the tools you will need in order to make the best purchase for you.

Ready to get started? Let’s go.

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How To Choose The Best Fish Finder – Buying Guide

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Before you begin your search looking for the ideal fish finding unit for you, we recommend you take the time to thoroughly understand the technology that goes into your fish finder. Knowing what features to look for will allow you to make the most of your investment by finding the fish finding unit that is best suited for you.

Type

There are a couple of different types of fish finders. These started out as massive units that needed to be professionally installed on a boat. Technology nowadays has advanced to the point of having handheld fish finders. In fact, you can even attach some to your fishing line and cast them to be able to see where the fish are in relation to your hook.

A standalone fish finder is a basic option that will essentially only tell you where the fish are and how many of them are around you. You won’t usually find these with preloaded maps or fancy features found on higher end, or other types of, fish finders. The good thing is that these are usually less expensive options which make them ideal for people just getting used to the sport.

A network system fish finder will have much more features and a larger display than standalone options. This type will have GPS that will be able to display your route and path throughout the day or weekend. You’ll be able to connect these to your smartphone via Bluetooth or WiFi which allow you to save the data so you can compare it at a later time.

Combo fish finders will be able to give you the most data and accuracy of where the fish are. You’ll have access to the depth, speed, temperature and size of the fish. Most of these will even be able to make maps of the area that you can use to further understand where the fish will be.

Use

There are many different scenarios that you can use fish finders in. These can include ocean, lake, river, ice, kayak, boat, and even shore fishing. An ideal fish finder will be able to work in as many of these as possible. Just keep in mind that not all fish finders will be able to be used in more than one way. For example, ice fishing requires gear that can withstand extreme temperatures and conditions. You can do serious damage to a device that isn’t rated to be used in freezing temperatures.

Transducer

This is the most technical and important part of your fish finder. In short, this is the part of the unit that is actually able to find the fish. The transducer refers to the part of the fish finder that sends signals below the water. The transducer is a part of every fish finding unit whether it holds a traditional style or a newer portable model. This part of the fish finding unit is responsible for sending as well as receiving the sonar signal.

When talking about the transducer, you will, in turn, be talking about the cone angle. This is the angle in which the signal is sent below the water and therefore determines the units range and sensitivity. Not only this but it also determines the type of water that your locator is made for. Large ocean waters call for narrower cone angles that are able to reach into the depths of the water. In contrast, those fishing from smaller bodies of water will opt for transducers that have wider cone angles in order to get a more broad picture of what is happening below them.

When discussing the transducer you will also want to talk about the frequency in which the unit operates. This is important as it will determine the type of data your unit picks up. If you are looking to catch large schools of fish that sit deep in the ocean, you will need a different frequency than if you are looking for smaller fish that stay closer to the surface. Luckily, there are many options of fish finders out there that operate at many different frequencies. This means that one unit will be able to work in a variety of different settings.

Every model of fish finder comes with a transducer. If you are looking to upgrade your fish finding unit, you will be happy to know that you are even able to invest in an aftermarket transducer. These work to change up your cone angle and can pick up data at a faster rate. When looking at your transducer it is important to consider the material used to make this as well as the cone angle that it is set at.

Display screen colors

Modern day fishing sonars have screens that have full color. These are much preferred compared to their black and white earlier model. This is because the color on the unit makes them easy to read, especially in harsh conditions. The previous black and white models proved quite difficult to read, especially when there is glare from the sun or when there is rain.

These screens tend to display much more detail on them as well giving you a clear image of what is happening below the water. Colored screens have become the norm and you will have a hard time finding one that doesn’t have color. This is ideal as it means that you will no longer have to worry about paying a premium in order to enjoy this feature.

Wattage

When we talk about wattage we are talking about the power of your unit. The higher the power that your unit has the deeper you will be able to send your signal while still receiving clear results. A higher wattage, such as 500 watts, will allow you to head to deeper saltwater areas as your unit will have the power to send a signal to these depths. Alternatively, if you plan to head only to shallower lakes then you will not require such power. A lower wattage rating will be fine in these conditions and still deliver crisp results for these depths.

Portability

Traditional fish finding units are not very portable. In fact, they require you to hardwire your unit into your boat to utilize its power source. While this is the most common type of fish finder, there are now portable fish finding units on the market as well.

With the rise of popularity in utilizing non motorized boats such as kayaks or stand up paddle boards for fishing, having fish finders that are portable are becoming a higher demand. These units are smaller in size and therefore have smaller screens to read from. These can either be mounted to your non motorized boat or can simply be handheld. These are ideal for those who prefer to fish on a dock or from the shore. They are also a popular choice amongst ice fisherman as they allow you to go out onto a frozen lake.

These units work a bit differently than your traditional unit. For starters, portable fish finders are powered from either disposable batteries or a rechargeable battery pack. In addition, these units have a couple of different ways to display the results.

To use these portable devices you will start by casting the transducer to the water. It will work the moment it comes into contact with water. It works the same way as traditional models with the use of sound waves. It then displays the results in one of two ways. It will either send all the results to your compact portable LCD fish finding screen or alternatively to your smartphone or tablet. The ability to be able to connect with your smart device is a main part of the appeal to these units.

While these units are becoming increasingly popular, they are best used on smaller calm bodies of water. Quiet lakes or ponds are ideal for these portable units. If you plan to head into the ocean or other fast moving water, a traditional unit will be a much stronger option.

Design and Durability

While we typically don’t praise the importance of aesthetics but rather focus on functionality, the design of your fish finder should play a role in your decision. When we talk about design, we are most typically talking about button placement and the general shape of the design. This will determine how easy the unit is to use. The last thing you will want is a unit with small buttons that aren’t easy to press or are hard to access.

Additionally, you will want to check how many buttons are on your unit. Trackers that have only one button may seem quite user friendly but can often be quite a bit harder to learn. For this reason, we recommend spending some time to familiarize yourself with the fish finder you choose.

As you will be mounting your fish sonar onto your boat it is important to have an idea of where you intend to place it. Where you place your unit will play a role in the design that is optimal for you. Placement can make certain units harder to read or make the buttons less accessible. We recommend that you consider placement early on and use that to help guide your choice.

Durability is another consideration worth mentioning, one we recommend you take seriously. Fish finders require a relatively significant investment, especially if you are hoping for one with higher quality features such as GPS. One of the most important ways to ensure durability is to consider the water rating of the unit.

Ideally, you will want to ensure that your fish locator is waterproof. As your unit will be spending its life on the water, it should be able to handle the elements. At the very least, your unit should be weather resistant. This means that it may not be able to handle being fully submerged but will stand up to rain and splashes.

Lastly, if you are someone who tends to fish in the sea you will want to ensure the unit you choose will be able to stand the salt. Saltwater is quite harsh on all your gear and this electronic is no exception. Looking for a fish locator that is built to withstand these conditions by being corrosion resistant is important to ensure the longevity of your unit.

Frequency

When we talk about the frequency of your unit, we are referring to what actually makes the device able to “see” underwater. Fish finders with a higher frequency will leave you with a more detailed image on your screen. A frequency in the 200 kHz will give you a narrow but precise view of the area directly below the transducer. This will give specific information about the size of fish and shape of the bottom (if it’s within the range of the unit). They also work better in shallower water.

On the other hand, a smaller frequency will give a more spread out view of the area. This will be great for determining how many fish are around you rather than the shape and size. If you are fishing in deep water this will be the range you’ll want to look for. Fish finders usually range between 50 to 200 kHz and use a dual frequency system that you can switch between depending on the body of water you’re fishing in.

Display Screen Resolution

You will want to make note of the resolution of the screen. Let’s face it, getting the data is only useful if you are actually able to read it and use it to help your fishing game. In early models of fish finders, the technology was so new that it wasn’t uncommon to simply get black blobs on your screen that you couldn’t actually make any sense of. Luckily, as technology has advanced we are left with displays that have crisp data that is easy to read.

The resolution will be measured in terms of pixels. Pixels are essentially the smallest dot of color on your screen that when clustered together makes the image you see. We recommend going for a screen resolution rating no lower than 240 x 160 pixels.

While the resolution is crucial, it is important to consider the screen size here as well. Having say 100 pixels on a 2 inch screen will look a lot different than having the same amount on a 5 inch screen. Additionally, you will want to make sure that the screen that you choose is large enough to be able to read easily.

Cone Angles And Beams

Cone angle is one of the most important parts of your fish finder. The cone angle refers to the angle of sonar that is sent out from the transducer to measure the water below you. Transmitting sound waves into the water, the cone angle will be between 9° and 60°. We find that most range between the 15°-20° range. As you may expect, the deeper the water gets the wider the cone angle will get and therefore you will have a decrease in the sensitivity and accuracy. Pro fisherman will often have many different cones which allow them to cover different areas.

GPS System

There are many different types of fish finders on the market today as the popularity is growing. Many fish finders are now coming with GPS capabilities. This is a highly desirable feature, especially for those that tend to frequent large lakes or fish in the ocean. The GPS on these units will help to navigate you back to shore with ease. They can also be used to save the location of prime spots so that you can return to them later. They also allow you to map desired locations and can even track areas in the water that are hazardous. These are ideal, especially for those who are looking for navigation tools as it eliminates the need to buy two separate units.

Waterproof

As you will be using this device when you are in direct contact with water, it is important to have a device that is able to withstand these conditions. Most often these devices will come with a waterproof rating. On those that don’t have this security, we recommend getting a unit that at the very least is water resistant. It is important to know the difference between these two.

Fish finding units that are waterproof are those that are sealed to be able to withstand water fully. These devices are able to be fully submerged below the water and still not allow the water to penetrate the unit. This is most important for portable units that have a higher chance of falling in the water or those that are on kayaks which have a chance of flipping. Getting a unit that is waterproof is the best option for success.

Water resistant on the other hand refers to locators that can withstand water splashing on them but not full submersion below the water. This is useful to protect against splashes that fall on it as well as rain and other small amounts of water. At the least, you will want your device to have this rating.

When you are looking at your devices ability to withstand wet conditions, we recommend seeing how it will withstand salt as well. For those that think they may spend some time fishing in saltwater, you will need more protection from these harsher conditions. For a device that is likely to spend so much time in contact with salt and humidity, it is wise to get a unit that is corrosion resistant.

No matter the type of water you plan to frequent, either fresh or saltwater, you will need to properly maintain your gear. This means cleaning it after use. For those units mounted to your boat, wiping it down with a clean damp cloth should do the trick. For those with a waterproof portable unit, we recommend rinsing with fresh water after use to get rid of any salt or microbes.

Power

Fish finders use electricity to keep them powered. This means they’ll have a wattage rating which indicates how quickly the frequency travels from the transducer. A higher watt rating will mean that you’ll see the screen refresh faster. Usually, every 100 watts will give you 400 feet of depth. The frequency also plays a role in how deep your device will be able to see. A lower frequency will allow you to see deeper so a 50 kHz fish finder with a 100 watt rating will be able to see 400 feet while a 200 kHz option with the same wattage will only be able to see 100 feet.

FAQs

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Q: What Is A Fish Finder?

A: A fish finder is a small device that is used to enhance your day fishing out on the water. It does this by monitoring the water below you in order to give you eyes below the sea. There are many different types of fish finding units that all have different features, such as GPS and WiFi connectability, but all work very much the same way.

Fish locators are pieces of technology that are either secured to your boat or freestanding and work to identify all that is below the water. These units utilize a sonar to emit signals below the water and identify where the schools of fish are as well as alert you to any obstacles below the water.

Q: How Do Fish Finders Work?

A: Like all technology, understanding the ins and outs of how it works may get confusing. While it may sound a bit advanced, having a good understanding of what is going on with your fish finding unit will help you to better understand it and make using it easier.

A fish finder is a device that works to identify what is in the water below you. Using sound waves the unit sends out a sonar to be able to detect what is happening in the water. From a transponder, the locator sends out a sonar that bounces off objects, fish or other obstacles, and then sends the information back to your locator unit. It then uses this time lapse to create an image of what’s below it. This picture is then displayed on a screen for you to be able to see and read. With this knowledge, you will know where to position your cast and hopefully catch fish.

Q: Why Do I Need A Fish Finder?

A: Let’s face it, in today’s modern world we have gone almost completely digital. Technology has made a lot of things in our life easier. You wouldn’t use a paper map for directions anymore, you’d simply plug it into your phone. Fish finders work to show you what is going on in the water underneath you and eliminate all the guessing and unknown. This works to make your day on the water more efficient by showing you where all the fish are and where the best area to cast is.

Fish finders make your life easier. By sending signals below the water they provide you with a view that you wouldn’t get below the water otherwise. In addition, many of these units come with added features. Some coming with WiFi hotspots that allows you to easily upload photos and tracking to apps and social media. Others come with built in GPS systems that track your location. This allows you to navigate back to shore and pinpoint the best spots on the water to remember it for next time.

Q: What is the difference between the narrow and wide cone?

A: These are the two main ways fish finders are able to show you what’s underneath you. A wide cone will have a lower kHz rating like 80. This is the frequency that will give you a wide view of the area below it. Even though this gives information about a large area it isn’t the most specific. It’s best to be used together with a narrow cone, like 200 kHz, as this is the band that will give more specific data like fish size. The ideal is a combination between the two so you get a broad view of the surrounding area along with a precise look at what’s directly below your line.

Q: Can I Sync my Fish Finder with my Smartphone or Tablet?

A: Yes, most fish finders are able to be synced with your smartphone or tablet. New fish finders usually have apps that are specially designed to work with them. These apps will display everything from the fish around you to the water temperature, the nature of the bottom, and even the different size of the fish. Some more advanced applications will even allow you to record, rewind, and even share recordings of your day on the water.

Q: Can I Use the Same Fish Finder for Shallow Water, Deep Water and Ice Fishing?

A: The short answer is: yes you can! Ice fishing involves exposure to extreme conditions. This means that you will need a device that is incredibly durable. While not all units can be used as ice fishing fish finders, you will have no trouble finding locators that are built for this task.

Just ensure the fish finder is compatible with each type of fishing. For example, if the device is good at shallow water fishing it may not have the capabilities needed for deep water uses. Ice fishing is one of the harshest environments you can use fish finder in. It will have to withstand temperatures that are well below freezing which can destroy some devices.

Globo Surf Overview

With these units, we find it especially important to take note of the many fish finder reviews out there. As these sonar devices require a decent investment and have such specific uses it is important to really understand what you are getting. One of the best things you can do to make a more informed decision is to equip yourself with as much knowledge as you can about how these devices work. Doing this will help narrow your search drastically. Keep in mind that knowing the type of water and the depth of the fish you are looking to catch is a great starting point in finding your ideal unit.

We hope that we answered all your fishing questions, if you have any more feel free to ask below – we are happy to help!

More Fishing Reviews:

Have you ever tried a fish finder? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.

Globo Surf Fish Finders Reviews

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I finally found an extended, detailed, and comprehensive guide on how to choose a fish finder. Thank you for the great info!

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!