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If you’re looking to amp up your fishing game it’s wise to start looking for a fish finder. To make the decision easier we have reviewed the best fish finders for under $500 for 2020. We feel this price range is best suited for most people, but if you are operating on a tight budget have a look at our cheap fish finders review.
If you are interested in digging deeper into the nitty gritty about fish finders, we’ve also gathered a bit of a “knowledge bank” for you, including some background on how fish finders work and what aspects you should take into consideration when buying one.
Let’s start off by having a quick glance of our picks in the form of a comparison table:
Our Picks - Best Fish Finders Under $500
Lowrance HOOK2 7 - Taste Of Premium
- HOOK2 7 – 7-inch Fish Finder with SplitShot Transducer and US Inland Lake Maps Installed
- EASIEST TO USE: The Lowrance HOOK2 7 Fish Finder features auto-tuning sonar and phone-like menus giving you more time to spend fishing and less time dealing with settings.
- WIDER SONAR COVERAGE: The HOOK2 7 offers a wide-angle CHIRP sonar cone giving you double the coverage of traditional fish finders.
- EASY SETUP: A single transducer can be mounted on the transom, inside the hull, on the trolling motor or through a scupper hole.
- MORE SONAR VIEWS: The Lowrance HOOK2 7 comes complete with a SplitShot transducer which gives you DownScan sonar (straight down) and CHIRP sonar (fish arch) views.
Hummingbird HELIX 5 - Bang For Your Buck
- Features: precision internal GPS chart plotting with built-in Uni Map cartography with a micro SD card slot
- Features: brilliant 5 inch screen with 1, 500-nit brightness
- Features: CHIRP dual beam plus sonar with 4000 watts PTP power output
The highlights of HELIX 5 are undoubtedly its colored 5″ 16:9 wide screen with an excellent brightness and the professional grade features such as the AutoChart LIVE.
Garmin Striker 7SV
- Includes transducer for built-in Garmin CHIRP traditional sonar plus CHIRP ClearVü and CHIRP SideVü scanning sonars
- Built-in Quickdraw Contours mapping software lets you create and store maps with 1’ contours for up to 2 million acres. Resolution : 800 x 480
- Built-in Wi-Fi for access to ActiveCaptain app so you can receive smart notifications, access Quickdraw Contours Community and transfer waypoints and software update notifications
- Built-in GPS lets you mark waypoints, create routes and view boat’s speed. Transmit power – 500 W (RMS)
- Bright, sunlight-readable 7” display and intuitive user interface
Garmin STRIKER 5cv - Bang For Your Buck
- Includes transducer for built-in Garmin CHIRP traditional sonar plus CHIRP ClearVü scanning sonar
- Built-in Garmin Quickdraw Contours mapping software lets you create and store maps with 1’ contours for up to 2 million acres
- Built-in GPS lets you mark waypoints, create routes and view boat’s speed. Frequencies supported : Traditional: 50/77/200 kHz
- Bright, sunlight-readable 5” display and intuitive user interface
- Rugged design for every fishing environment. Display resolution: 800 x 480 pixels
Garmin is an impressive tech company that expands far beyond their fish finders. They produce watches, cameras, various smart technologies to track fitness and lifestyle, monitors and cameras for automotive vehicles, and flight decks for airplanes. If you can trust Garmin to fly you from LAX to O’Hare, you can trust them to help you find the tastiest catch.
Garmin Striker 5cv and many other Garmin fish finders utilize their CHIRP sonar technology. This sends continuous sweeps of varying frequencies to give you more information. You’re able to improve this already impressive transducer up to a GT22 or GT23. Without upgrading transducers, you receive results from depths of 1,100 in salt water and 2,300 feet in freshwater.
The greater range of information this machine is capable of providing can be seen on its 5-inch display screen. Additionally, a portable, waterproof carrying case and rechargeable battery come with this product. It also comes with transducer mounts for ice-fishing, fixed mounts for small watercraft, and a trolling motor mount.
Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 43DV - The Affordable Favorite
- THE POWER OF SIMPLE – Easy-to-use, easy-to-install chartplotter/sonar combos with sunlight-readable, auto-dimming display and backlit keypad. Available in 4-inch, 5-inch square and 7- and 9-inch widescreen display sizes.
- CHIRP SONAR – CHIRP sends a continuous sweep of frequencies ranging from low to high, and interprets frequencies individually upon their return. With more information, CHIRP sonar is able to create crisper fish arches with better target separation.
- BUILT-IN MAPS AND CHARTS – Available with either U.S. BlueChart g2 charts, U.S. LakeVü HD maps or Canada LakeVü HD maps.
- BEST-IN-CLASS INTERNAL 5 Hz GPS – Internal 5 Hz GPS updates position and heading 5 times per second to make marking and returning accurately to waypoints easier.
- CLEAREST SCANNING SONAR ON THE WATER – The dv series comes with built-in 500 W (RMS) CHIRP traditional sonar and CHIRP DownVü scanning sonar. The sv series offers all of the same features plus CHIRP SideVü scanning sonar.
Don’t confine your love of fishing to the same waters. With this Garmin product, you can conquer any aquatic territory! Garmin’s CHIRP technology teams up with pre-loaded LakeVu maps, providing immense detail of what’s beneath you.
If you choose to improve the already remarkable results, the device is also compatible with upgraded versions of LakeVu and BlueChart g2.
The convenience of this device is further highlighted by available tide tables and water temperature logs. Additionally, it offers two different mounting options. They key is simplicity. It’s very simple to setup and use, making it one of the best fish finders for first-time users.
Humminbird ICE-55 - The Ice Fisher’s Best Friend
- Crafted from the highest quality material
- Perfect for outdoor and even indoor use
- Made in United States
Since their first day of business nearly 50 years ago, Humminbird has never lost focus on the needs of fishing enthusiasts and professionals. They continually innovate the realm of GPS, sonar technology, navigation, and cartography. You can put your full faith into a Humminbird fish finder because they pour their endless devotion to angling in every device.
This Humminbird fish finder is ideal for ice-fishing, other hard waters, and extreme temperatures. Its fiber optic ice flashers and backlit LCD offer accurate, real time sonar displays. This makes finding digital depth a breeze. Additionally, the six-color LCD also aids those who are colorblind or sensitive to color.
Don’t worry about losing track of your schedule either! The battery display allows you to track how many hours of fishing you have left before it dies.
This is one of the best fish finders to save time by avoiding dense ice spots. Although there is no chart plotter to mark waypoints where ice is thicker, it makes the device more affordable. If you want to enjoy your winter fishing, you need this fish finder.
Humminbird 859ci HD - No Compromises
Although the price might make you cringe, this is ultimately the best of the best for serious anglers who want to make no compromises whatsoever. It high speed processer with 360 imaging and I-pilot link compatibility. The GPS-Sonar combo on this Humminbird fish finder utilizes Dual Beam PLUS with SwitchFire.
You can clearly view the results of this high-quality technology on a large 7-inch screen and 480 x 800 color resolution. The backlit LCD shows crystal-clear images, even in the harshest of sunlight. There are even dual SD card slots for advanced cartography and saving screenshots, way points, and sonar recordings.
This is the best fish finder for professionals or otherwise experienced fishers. This device will take you to the next level. If you think you’ve already met your fishing potential, let this device prove you wrong.
How Do Fish Finders Work?
Fish finders are relatively simple devices used to locate fish in the water. A display screen sits inside of your boat or mounts to it. The viewing screens come in various sizes with a range of configurations and options.
Although the screen shows you all the information you want to know, the transducer does all the work. The screen simply translates raw data from the transducer.
The transducer mounts somewhere on the outside of the boat. It emits sound waves into the water to measure depth and size, which is then sent back to the display screen. These waves not only pick up on the floor of the water body but the objects within it as well. This includes logs, rocks, and other hazards.
Since these devices bounce off of everything they can reach, they could be useful in search parties and police investigations. If someone was last seen near a river or lake, the sonar could pick up on a human body as easily as logs and rocks.
However, recreational, amateur and professional fishers are the main users of this technology. Fish finders help them narrow down the location of the fish, how many there are, and their size. Additionally, these machines determine depth. Knowing the depth is important to search for certain species, in an unfamiliar location, or enjoy diving.
Although these features are important for all users, there are several others to consider when shopping – we will go through them later on.
What Features Should You Look For?
Transducer Frequency Range
Transducers do most of the work, sending and receiving sonar waves. Mount to the boat, waves bounce off surfaces below then back up to create a map on your display screen.
There are three types of transducers:
These transducers have more wave cycles per second, but shorter wavelengths. These work best in shallow to moderately deep waters for spotting smaller fish and greater detail of what’s around you. Choosing an 800 kHz or 455 kHz transducer will provide the best resolution.
If you want to see deeper into the waters, avoid a high-frequency transducer.
These transducers have fewer wave cycles per second, but longer wavelengths. They work best in deep waters for spotting large fish and structures where fish may hide. The picture is less clear but operates well enough for fishing in the ocean.
If you typically fish in smaller waters, a low frequency is not necessary.
Most fish finders utilize dual-frequency. They emit and receive more than one frequency at the same time for more accurate results. There are also Dual and QuadraBeam transducers that emit multiple frequencies in different directions.
If you fish in several types of water and require more accurate results, dual frequency might work for you.
The power measures the strength and speed of the sonar waves. Higher wattage equals deeper, quicker readings, while lower wattage equals slower waves and results.
Deep sea fishers should look for at least 500 watts although 1000 watts or higher would be more suitable. If you normally fish in shallower water, shelling out the money for higher power levels would be futile.
The higher the resolution, the more pixels are on your screen. A larger number of pixels results in sharper images so more detail can be seen. If there are more pixels on your horizontal axis, objects remain onscreen longer.
Regardless of where or how you fish, this is a feature to watch when browsing the best fish finders. You definitely get what you pay for with this one.
Just like our televisions, the best fish finders have color display screens. Some black and white models still exist but aren’t preferable unless they are the only options within your price range. Reading your screen is much easier with hundreds of shades of different colors rather than hundreds of shades of grey.
Some color screen fish finders have options to change the color scheme of your display. If you are color blind, sensitive to color, or have other problems with vision, this option is of great benefit for you.
GPS and Chart Plotters
Some devices come with a built-in GPS. However, a traditional GPS can only tell you the coordinates of your location. A chart plotter also determines your location but is capable of employing integrating it into more advanced applications.
It marks your location on a map, allowing you to view the surrounding area, set destinations, and view traffic conditions.
A chart plotter is especially useful for large boats or anyone in the ocean far from bay. It ensures your safety by helping you stay on the proper course. It is still helpful in smaller bodies with which you are unfamiliar or to improve your game in tournament fishing.
The Final Say
It’s easy to get confused by all the seemingly endless options for fish finders on the market. However, it’s simple once you figure out how you will use your fish finder and what features you need most.
Despite what features you require, there are Humminbird and Garmin fish finders for every type of angler. They continue to maintain the devotion and trust from their customers that they reciprocate in the quality of their products. They work hard to bring you only the best and most progressive technologies that make doing what you love more convenient.
Whether you prefer fishing in the deep-sea, hard ice waters, winding rivers, or your local lake, the varieties available expand across all fishing specialties and general use. Whatever you require, it’s easy to find these trusted brands at relatively affordable prices.
When it comes to the best fish finders, you definitely get what you pay for. Don’t let cheaper brands fool you into spending money on a device that doesn’t satisfy your needs.
If you want a long-lasting fish finder that will improve your game, you are in the right place to start browsing. Stop fishing the traditional way or using an outdated fish finding device. If you really want to pull the competition out of the water, you need Humminbird or Garmin fish finders! They are some of the best fish finders on the market!
Not only will it make fishing more enjoyable, but you will easily make your money back with huge loads of fish you bring back to the dining table. Just don’t tell your wife or your friends about the secret technology that upgrades your fishing abilities!
Last update on 2020-01-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API