Best Overall: Hummingbird 410950-1 HELIX 7 Fish Finder
“You need a fish finder that gets the job done no matter how demanding your fishing conditions can be. The Humminbird Helix 7 provides crystal clear imaging and great scope of coverage, making it the most reliable fish finder you can find.”
Best Budget Option: Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 Fish Finder
“If you’re a tournament angler looking for a top-notch quality fish finder for a budget-friendly price, the Humminbird HELIX 5 is definitely worth checking out. Its side and down imaging capabilities is impressive for a fish finder at this price point.”
Most Versatile: Garmin Striker 7SV
“The Garmin Striker 7SV is a fish finding partner that won’t let you down all year long. It’s designed to work in different weather conditions, making it the fish finder of all seasons. It’s clear, versatile, and durable – everything you could ask for in a fish finder.”
Few inventions have had such a profound effect on the world of recreational angling as that of the fish finder. Fish finders allow anglers to see what lies below the water’s surface, thereby presenting a wealth of opportunity. Anglers can now make more efficient use of their time on the water by keying in on areas with the highest known concentrations of fish.
Since the advent of sonar technology, fish finders have advanced into highly precise pieces of equipment. Modern side imaging fish finders are capable of displaying highly defined images, which depict a lake’s features and the fish that reside within a body of water, in great detail.
Premium side imaging fish finders feature high pixel counts, easy to navigate interfaces, and substantial range. The bulk of these units also include integrated GPS mapping capabilities, which allow an angler to mark waypoints and store various forms of data for later use.
Table of Contents
- The Rundown
- Featured Recommendations
- Best Side Imaging Fish Finder
- Things to Consider When Finding the Best Side Imaging Fish Finder Screen Resolution
- Questions & Answers
- What is a side imaging fish finder?
- How do I read a side imaging fish finder?
- Does side imaging work well in deeper waters?
- What perspective am I looking at with side imaging?
- What’s the difference between side imaging and down imaging?
- Why are frequencies of beams important?
- Does side imaging work on kayaks?
- What is a side imaging fish finder?
- Final Thoughts
Best Side Imaging Fish Finder
1. Hummingbird 410950-1 HELIX 7 Fish Finder
Best Overall: Gets the job done under even the most demanding of circumstances
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- Dual Spectrum programming for multi-faceted viewing
- Crystal clear imaging for improved readability
- Split screen capabilities for simplified data management
The Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MSI is perhaps the best possible choice for experienced anglers, who have used lesser sonar products in the past, and now demand nothing but the highest level of performance. This unit combines CHIRP sonar with Mega Side Imaging and Mega down imaging detail, in order to produce a fish finder that is capable of providing next-level image clarity. The Humminbird Helix 7 MSI also possesses a deep level of mapping functionality.
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2. Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 Fish Finder
Best Budget Option: A feature rich unit at a reasonable price
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- AutoChart Live programming for on-the-fly mapping capabilities
- Possesses both side and down imaging capabilities for enhanced versatility
- Vibrant images for improved readability
The Humminbird Helix 5 CHIRP should be ideal for tournament anglers who regularly fish many different lakes in a single calendar year, as this unit features a significant degree of mapping capabilities. From live automated mapping to unrestricted upload capabilities, the Humminbird Helix 5 allows every angler to access a significant amount of data pertaining to lake conditions and underwater topography.
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3. Garmin Striker 7SV
Most versatile: As versatile as a fish finder can possibly be
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- Integrated flasher for use when ice fishing
- CHIRP sonar for lightning fast update speeds
- High-frequency sonar for improved operation under a wide range of conditions
The Garmin Striker 7SV should be ideal for those who fish from a boat during the spring, summer, and fall, yet ice fish during the winter. This stems from the fact that the Striker 7SV features a built in flasher, which is ideal for use when fishing through the ice. The Striker also features an easy to navigate interface, which takes the difficulty out of initial setup and use. This also further amplifies the unit’s range of versatility.
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4. HOOK2 Fish Finder
Easiest To Use: Easier to use than today’s mobile phones
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- Premium 9” display for enhanced viewing
- Automatic Sonar for ease of use
- Built-in mapping capabilities for simplified navigation
If you are currently in search of a side imaging fish finder, that is simplistic in nature, yet extremely versatile, then the Lowrance Hook2 should be worthy of your consideration. This sonar unit features a prominent 9” display, with easy to navigate menus, and one-touch access to key features. This is likely to be a hit with those who are new to sonar use, and wish to skip much of the complexity associated with many similar market offerings.
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5. Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv-
Best Premium Option: A feature rich sonar unit that’s worth every penny
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- Ultra High-Definition SideVü scanning sonar for unmatched clarity
- Comes with access to over 17,000 lake maps
- Compatible with Panoptix Livescope sonar packages for increased versatility
If you are looking to upgrade from your current fish finder, and are in search of a premium unit that is packed full of premium features, then you will likely find favor in the Garmin Echomap UHD. This sonar unit features a 9” touchscreen, and comes pre-loaded with one of the most comprehensive mapping programs in the industry. Additionally, the Echomap is compatible with many of the company’s most sought after transducer upgrades.
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Things to Consider When Finding the Best Side Imaging Fish Finder Screen Resolution
Without a quality display, even the most advanced of side imaging sonar is of little value.
Fish finder displays come in many different forms. However, not all are created equally. Some units feature a much higher pixel count than others, therefore rendering a better picture. Anglers are wise to consult such figures when selecting between sonar units, in a side by side manner. Units featuring a higher pixel count will be much easier to decipher, allowing one to grasp the full depth and scope of their side imaging fish finder’s data delivery.
The importance of quality screen resolution lies in the ability to make the best use of a sonar unit’s findings. Grainy images are difficult to decipher and often leave one guessing. However, clear, vibrant images can be easily read, enabling an angler to capitalize upon the latest in intel.
Screen Features & Size
Much like a TV, the quality of a fish finder’s display directly determines how easy its images will be to view.
Today’s fish finders come in numerous display formats, with some being infinitely easier to view than others. The three main fish finder display types are color, black and white, and high-definition. Each type of display can be imagined in parallel with subsequent development within the television market.
Color display sonar units are priced moderately and likewise offer a standard grade picture. Fish finders with black and white displays are generally very affordable. However, their display quality can leave a lot to be desired. On the upper end of the spectrum, high-definition displays are now offered for a top-tier price.
A transducer’s wattage is one of the single biggest factors related to how well sonar frequencies penetrate through the water.
The wattage of a transducer carries an RMS designation. This designation directly reflects the amount of power that is being pushed through a transducer, and the unit’s ability to penetrate the depths below with its output. The higher a particular unit’s RMS rating, the easier it is for the unit transducer to deliver its output in less than ideal circumstances, such as extremely deep or silty water.
When fishing inland bodies of water, such as lakes or rivers, a 200 watt (RMS) rating is typically sufficient. However, when fishing in deep, blue coastal waters, the use of a unit with a rating of 1000 watts (RMS) or more is advised.
An underpowered sonar unit is of little benefit when water conditions take a turn for the worst.
A fish finder’s power rating is indicated by a particular unit’s RMS designation. This says how much power is being driven through the system’s transducer. The higher this rating is, the easier it is for a fish finder to transmit a signal to deeper depths, especially in less than ideal water conditions.
Higher RMS designations also make it possible to separate multiple targets within a single given location. This often serves as the difference between obscured and highly defined images, in situations where fish are schooled tightly together, especially in the presence of substantial cover.
Choosing the right transducer frequency can be the difference between seeing what you wish to see, and being left guessing.
The frequency of sonar that a fish finder emits also differs from one particular unit to the next. Higher frequencies do not penetrate as deeply as lower frequency outputs. However, as a fish finder’s frequency increases, so does its ability to quickly cover water, and avoid background noise.
When fishing in deeper water, an output of 50 kHz is desirable. Alternately, when fishing shallow water, it is best to use units with higher frequencies, such as those in the 192 kHz and 200 kHz range. For an excellent compromise, an 83 kHz frequency can be quite employed.
The inclusion of GPS technology has paved the way for many new sonar-integrated mapping capabilities.
Over the past decade, numerous manufacturers have begun equipping their fish finders with GPS enabled features. These features provide anglers with the opportunity to make more efficient use of their time, as they move about a body of water. An angler is now able to navigate from one point to the next, with little in the way of difficulty, by simply referring to their sonar unit’s integrated maps.
These maps not only streamline lake navigation but allow waypoints to be dropped for future reference as well. If an angler were to locate a brush pile or other pronounced lake feature, they could simply mark the site, allowing them to return on future outings without any substantial difficulty.
If a fish finder is to survive life on the water, it must be inherently durable on every front.
Fish finders are subject to a wide array of weather conditions, from pouring frigid rain to scorching heat. Sonar units of this nature are regularly pushed to their extreme and must be extremely durable in order to exhibit any level of longevity. Premium fish finders are designed with such concerns in mind and are rated to operate within a wide temperature range. Many of these units are also engineered to be water resistant.
Today, it is not uncommon for a fish finder to last 5 or more years, experiencing little in the way of issues along the way. Additionally, a number of the industry’s most renowned manufacturers have begun offering world-class warranty policies that far exceed the length of standard warranties within the market.
There are few better ways to keep track of your favored honey holes than to store them as waypoint markers.
As of late, many side imaging fish finders have begun featuring a host of GPS integrated functions. Perhaps the most helpful of these functions lies in the ability to drop and save waypoint markers, whenever a point of interest is encountered. Many anglers sink fish attractors of various types, in order to create their own honey hole of sorts. When marked as a waypoint, these locations can be visited time and time again, without fail.
Anglers can also use waypoint markers to denote important lake contour features, such as points, drop-offs, shelves, or flats, all of which hold significant value in specific situations. Returning to these points of interest is as simple as selecting them from an on-screen menu, and following the plotted route.
GPS software turns a fish finder into an invaluable tool that most anglers do not leave home without.
Today, we no longer live in the primitive age of fish finder use. Gone are the days in which fish finders served just a single purpose. Today, most units of this nature now feature a wealth of additional functions, with perhaps the most important of which pertaining to GPS use. The advent of GPS capable fish finders have revolutionized the way that we fish and allows us to be more efficient when on the water.
The use of a GPS enabled fish finder allows you to mark brush piles and other underwater covers as waypoints for future return. Many such units also depict underwater topography. While non-GPS fish finders are still available for purchase, there are numerous reasons to spend the extra money to upgrade.
Questions & Answers
What is a side imaging fish finder?
A side imaging fish finder is a piece of sonar equipment that allows anglers to see what resides below the water’s surface. Unlike traditional down imaging units, side imaging sonar presents images of a horizontal nature, rather than vertical. These units also relay view images from the area around their origin, rather than directly below it.
Many side imaging sonar units now include numerous GPS enabled capabilities. This allows anglers to mark waypoints and chart other points of interest. One can also use this GPS programming to navigate about the waterway of their choice. These features further illustrate the value of side imaging fish finders.
How do I read a side imaging fish finder?
Side imaging fish finders emit sonar beams from each side of a boat, in order to achieve a full range of coverage. These beams reflect back to the system’s transducer, where they are interpreted into viable images. To read these images, one must first familiarize themselves with their particular unit’s range of detection. The detection range of most units can be adjusted on the fly.
If a point of interest has been detected, a unit’s sonar detection zone can be narrowed, to achieve a faster refresh rate. This is of significant value, as faster refresh rates provide more comprehensive imaging. It is also important to limit boat speed and maintain a straight line of travel when employing the use of side imaging sonar, in order to prevent image distortion.
Does side imaging work well in deeper waters?
In a side by side comparison, side imaging fish finders are not as ideal for deep water detection as their down imaging counterparts. Side imaging fish finders are designed to detect that which is around the boat, rather than that which is directly below it. As a result, this style of sonar is incapable of penetrating to significant depths.
However, most anglers still achieve stellar results with the use of side imaging sonar units, due primarily to the fact that many freshwater fishing applications do not exceed the operating depth range of side imaging sonar. The exact range to which side imaging sonar is capable of reaching differs from one unit to the next.
What perspective am I looking at with side imaging?
Side imaging sonar presents anglers with a downward view of all that is situated within the immediate vicinity. The image which is depicted on a unit’s screen is representative of what one could expect to see in crystal clear water when staring down through the water column. These images are acquired through the unit’s transducer, which is responsible for sending and receiving signals.
The perspective that is provided includes a 180-degree zone to each side of the boat. This allows anglers to cover large areas of water, without being forced to move from their current position. When using down imaging sonar, it would take far longer to achieve the same range of coverage.
What’s the difference between side imaging and down imaging?
Side imaging and down imaging fish finders differ from one another in the way that their sonar beams are cast across the water. Side imaging sonar units present a horizontal view, rather than vertical. Side imaging fish finders also provide a far wider scope of view than traditional down imaging units, which focus directly beneath an angler’s boat.
Side imaging sonar units feature an adjustable outward detection range, which can be narrowed to provide faster update rates or can be broadened for wide-angle detection, with slower imaging return. This makes such units highly versatile, as an angler can tailor their approach to the situation at hand.
Why are frequencies of beams important?
A sonar unit’s range and image clarity are both direct products of the frequency at which its beams are emitted. Beams of a low frequency are capable of traveling much further than beams of a high frequency and are largely impervious to disruption. However, beams of such a frequency are largely incapable of presenting images in as great of detail as those produced by high-frequency beams.
On the other end of the equation, beams of a high frequency are able to transmit images in great detail, though at a significant cost of effective range. When selecting a sonar unit for purchase, an angler should be prepared to make a determination regarding how such characteristics will play into their on-water endeavors and choose accordingly.
Does side imaging work on kayaks?
Luckily, the use of side imaging sonar is indeed a possibility for those who regularly fish from kayaks. However, there are a few key things to know and understand, prior to installation. First, side imaging sonar must be mounted externally. This can be done with specialty mounts, which simplify fitment related issues.
A side imaging fish finder must be mounted along the side of a kayak, in order to achieve the proper angle for sonar delivery. Mounting of any other type can lead to skewed or inaccurate image transmission.
The advent of side imaging sonar technology has made it possible for anglers to fish with a far greater level of efficiency than many could have imagined twenty years ago. One can now key in on prime locations, rather than wasting their time wondering if they are in the right spot. In essence, side imaging sonar units remove much of the guesswork from an angler’s day on the water.
In the world of side imaging fish finders, the devil is in the details. The purchase of a fish finder is an investment and should be treated as such. By carefully considering the criteria listed above, and planning your purchase accordingly, you afford yourself the best possible chance at selecting a sonar unit that will prove to be of significant value for years to come.