Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 has an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 based on 10 user reviews.
2018 has seen the introduction of dozens new fish finders. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to sift through the muck in order to locate the best fish finders currently available on the market today.
Fish finders are not “one size fits all.” After all, even rookie fishermen know that each fish has its own necessities, preferred food, depth, water temperature, etc. Why should a single fish finder be labeled the “best” when there are so many variables involved?
The best fish finder will provide you with the components you need to safely navigate and successfully find the type of fish for which you are looking. It should also be durable and reliable. Before purchasing a fish finder you should compare the features of different models and determine how each feature could benefit you and help you achieve your fishing goals. Now we’ll dive into each of the factors that one should consider when shopping for the best one.
How to Choose the Best Fish Finder
Fish finders are much more than sonar-equipped boxes. A lot goes into the development, design and production of fish finders that many outdoorsmen don’t take into account. Savvy fishermen will compare fish finders in each of the following categories before making a decision:
The transducer is the part of the fish finder that sends out and receives sonar signals underwater. Each type of fishing requires a properly-configured transducer. If you’re heading out to sea then you’ll want a transducer that sends signals deep into the ocean. Anglers on smaller bodies of water usually prefer transducers that send sound waves out at a wider angle (see the section below entitled “Cone Angle” for more information).
You should also be interested in the frequency at which a transducer operates. Do you need ultra high-quality sonar images of fish that are 25-50 feet below your boat, or are you more interested in finding large schools much deeper in the ocean? Many of the best fish finders utilize transducers that operate on multiple frequencies. Alternatively, you can use more than one fish finder at a time to increase your coverage area and depth.
You can mount the transducer on the transom or on the trolling motor, although the latter could cause some interference. Depending on your boat you might be able to perform an in-hull mount. Portable transducers do not need mounting as you simply cast them into the water.
2. Cone Angle
The cone angle of a fish finder represents how wide of a “net” the signal will cast once it’s been deployed from the bottom of your boat into the water. The deeper the water, the wider the cone will get (but it will also decrease in sensitivity). Cone angles usually range from 15-20 degrees, though many fish finders’ cone angles can be as narrow as 9 degrees or as wide as 60 degrees. Advanced fishermen often use fish finders that have multiple cones so they can cover different angles while overlapping in some spots.
The higher the frequency of your fish finder, the more details will be transmitted to your screen. Higher frequencies work better in shallow waters, while commercial fishermen and deep-sea trawlers usually use low-frequency transducers. Frequencies of 50-200kHz are the most common, and many modern fish finders have multiple frequencies that you can switch back and forth or use simultaneously to view split-screen results.
4. Display Screen
Many of today’s fish finders have full-color screens. These are a huge advantage over black/white screens as the details are much clearer. Fortunately, color screens are quickly becoming the norm and so they aren’t much more expensive than a fish finder with a black/white display.
You should also take screen size and resolution into account when shopping for a fish finder. Larger screens will make it easier for you to pinpoint the exact spot where the fish are. Screens with high resolutions make that task even easier because you’re less likely to end up with a jumble of confusing, blurry dots on your screen. The lowest recommended screen resolution is 240 x 160 but you might want to take those numbers up a few notches to really benefit from the display screen’s capabilities.
Fish finders are measured in terms of wattage when it comes to power. A fish finder’s power determines how fast the sonar can operate. The higher the wattage rating of your fish finder, the faster the unit can relay live results to you. As a general rule, fish finders can show readings of up to 400 feet for each 100 watts (based on a 50kHz frequency). At a frequency of 200kHz you can count on readings from up to 100 feet away for every 100 watts of power. As we mentioned above, a lot of fish finders work on multiple frequencies. If this is true of the fish finder you’re considering then you can focus strictly on the wattage rating instead of calculating the distance based on the frequency.
6. GPS Capabilities
The best fish finders often have GPS capabilities. After all, why purchase a separate tool for navigation when you can combine navigation and fish finding into one convenient device. GPS-enabled fish finders allow you to save spots where you were successful previously, and you can use them to mark points of interest or other areas that have submerged obstacles.
Fish finders scan in one of two ways: side scan and down scan. Down scan fish finders are powerful and focused, but they could cause you to miss fish that aren’t passing directly underneath. Side scan fish finders allow you to scan vast amounts of water, but they aren’t as effective in deep water. This is why it’s important to know exactly where you plan to fish when buying a fish finder. Recently, fish finders with dual-scan technology have been innovated. These are meant to provide you with the best of both worlds, but they are still in the developmental stages. Currently, your best bet could be to use multiple fish finders.[/toggle]
The brand name of the fish finder isn’t the most important factor to consider, but it can tell you a lot about the product you’re buying. Has the company been in business for a long time? Is it common to see other fisherman using fish finders produced by this company? Is the company well-respected among your peers and according to online reviews? Does the company offer a warranty, product guarantee, or any sort of reduced-price replacement program? Get the answers to these questions for every brand of fish finder you compare.
Portable fish finders have become especially popular in the last few years. In many respects, a portable fish finder is preferable in certain situations. If you’re fishing from a kayak or small boat a portable device could work in your favor. You simply cast the transducer into the water and view the results on your phone, tablet or the fish finder’s portable LCD display screen. Portable fish finders are often used in ponds and lakes, as well as other relatively small and still bodies of water. If you’re heading into the open ocean, you’ll probably want to stick with traditional fish finders.
10. Design & Durability
A fish finder’s design might seem to be of little importance, but the shape of the device, as well as button placement, are extremely important. You should have a good idea of where and how to mount the device on your watercraft. Durability is vital. The fish finder needs to be rated as waterproof and weather-resistant. If you plan to fish in saltwater then make sure potential fish finders are built to prevent corrosion.
It’s never a good idea to buy something based on price alone, but you shouldn’t ignore the price tag, either. If a fish finder is purported to have all sorts of advanced, top-of-the-line features then it should cost more than an entry-level model. As with most things in life, if a fish finder price seems too good to be true then it probably is.
On the other hand, there’s no need for you to empty your wallet if you only require one of the best basic fish finders. Pay for a model that provides you with what you need because in many cases all of those extra features can get confusing and frustrating.
No matter what kind of fish finder you decide on, always compare prices. Visit different outdoor supply shops and compare multiple vendors online. If you think you’ve found a lower price make sure it is the exact same model and includes the same hardware and warranty, and is in the same condition.
Best Fishfinders for 2017
Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 – Best Fishfinder Under $800
The Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 represents the high-end of the market. As such, it comes with a large number of extras and options as standard, as well as the sort of build quality that would justify a high price tag. The core of the Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 is its 7″ screen, which has both multitouch and button operation capabilities. This enables it to function in all kinds of weather, especially cold weather where the operator will be wearing gloves and thus unable to operate the touchscreen easily. The screen is crisp, clear, and in full color and HD resolution. It is capable of displaying multiple applications at once, enabling it to function as both a fishfinder and a navigational aid at the same time.
The Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 is unique in that it can connect wirelessly to the internet through proprietary Lowrance software. This not only allows the information being received and processed by the Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 to be broadcast to phones or tablets running the app, but it also enables the machine to have new software installed on it, from official ones put out by Lowrance to third party apps released into a curated app store. This means that additional functionality is added all the time and that anything that is out of date, buggy or prone to crashing can be patched and corrected even out on the lake, provided that WiFi signal is available.
This high degree of connectivity also enables Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 owners to store and upload data to central servers to improve maps, provide new information, and improve the experience of all Lowrance owners. Therefore, through collaborative effort, all Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 owners increase the value and usefulness of their products over time. Similar concepts have proven invaluable to phone-based location and navigational apps and devices, and Lowrance’s application of the idea to the Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 helps ensure that it will not go obsolete for a long time. Connection to this data is done over the cloud, and as long as the Lowrance HDS Gen3 has internet access, it will continually update data both on itself and on the central Lowrance servers. When the connection is interrupted, the Lowrance HDS Gen3 will continue to store data and will update itself once internet service is restored.
The Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 is also designed to be very easy to mount and can accept almost any transducer, although the manufacturer recommends the usage of official Lowrance transducers. It uses high-resolution CHIRP sonar to detect fish and proprietary StructureScan sonar to detect underwater obstacles. It is capable of using both downward facing and forward facing transducers and can, in fact, display information from both types simultaneously.
For those who need even more options, the Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 is compatible with a large number of Lowrance add-ons, including Sirius XM weather radio, SonicHub Marine Audio, Class B AIS and DSC VHF, and many other Lowrance and third party products. This enables the Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 to serve as both hub and control center for a boat, enabling a fisherman to control all aspects of the boat’s electronics from the Lowrance HDS 7 Gen3 itself.
Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO – Best Fishfinder Under $500
The Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO is a dedicated fish finder that has good navigational capabilities, but they are intended more as a means of helping one return repeatedly to successful fishing spots – or avoid ones that have repeatedly proved fruitless. Where the Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO stands out against others in its price range is in the quality of the images produced. The Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO, when paired with a proper high-end transducer, can provide images of quality and clarity previously reserved for expensive commercial or research units. Using wide-spectrum CHIRP technology, it can accurately draw a picture of what is beneath the water from either a vertical or horizontal viewpoint, enabling fishermen to not only know what is beneath them but how they can work around it.
This makes the Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO ideal for lakes which are notorious for sunken hazards, which serve both as excellent fish refuges and potentially dangerous snags for fishermen to lose their lines and lures on. Its ability to render the lake bottom from two dimensions also helps fishermen understand where their quarry is hiding in context with their surroundings. Simpler units simply display the presence of fish, while the Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO lets fishermen know if the fish are in the weeds, hiding under obstacles, or swimming freely in unobstructed water.
The Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO can connect wirelessly to phones and tablets via the Raymarine Wi-Fish app. The primary purpose of this is to enable fishermen to share information, post photos of their finds on social media, and store important sonar data for later. Sadly, the Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO does not support third party applications or on-the-fly updates, but through the app, it is possible to update the software as needed with fresh maps and patches. Additionally, custom maps and custom map data can be stored right on the unit or backed up wirelessly for later use.
Because it uses a standardized mounting system, the Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO is easily installed, and it is compatible with almost all down-facing transducers, although Raymarine offers transducers specifically engineered for the Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO as well. The ultra-bright screen is intended to provide high contrast and visibility even in bright sunlight and is water resistant.
Garmin Striker 7SV – Best Fishfinder Under $400
The Garmin Striker 7SV is a combination navigational aid and fish finder that is primarily focused on enabling fishermen to find and repeatedly visit good fishing spots. It eschews wireless connectivity and custom map updates to focus instead on simplicity and functionality, especially regarding pathfinding and navigation planning. As such, it is an excellent option for those looking to explore unfamiliar waters or to plot out their favorite fishing spot in detail. There is an emphasis on navigation instead of simple fish finding, although the Garmin Striker 7SV does have some unique sonar options which enable it to offer a clearer picture than would otherwise be available.
The Garmin Striker 7SV uses a custom transducer, which is provided, to take advantage of Garmin’s proprietary “high wide” CHIRP sonar. This means that the images displayed by the Garmin Striker 7SV are of much higher informational density than those found on other units. Traditional “fish arches” are replaced by clearer images which enable the operator to see not only the approximate size and depth of the fish but also something of its appearance, density, and motion. This can help fishermen separate the “real” fish from submerged objects that simply look like fish, as well as get a clearer idea of what is going on beneath the water. While these images to take some practice and training to learn to interpret, many fishermen will appreciate the additional information they provide.
As would be expected with a Garmin product, the navigation on the Garmin Striker 7SV is excellent. Fishermen can not only save favored spots and plot out courses and trips, but they can also get estimated times, distances, and turn-by-turn waypoint directions, enabling optimal movement between different preferred fishing spots. This makes the Garmin Striker 7SV ideal for those who want to hit the same fishing spots on each trip, or who are using submerged traps and lines that they will need to find and come back to later. The Garmin Striker 7SV can also track speeds, enabling fishermen to trawl for their favorite catch accurately and at the optimal speed for certain fish. This, when combined with the navigational aids, makes the Garmin Striker 7SV an ideal tool for highly mobile fishermen since they won’t get lost even when trawling for long periods in unfamiliar waters.
Humminbird Helix 5 CHIRP DI GPS G2 – Best Fishfinder Under $300
The Humminbird Helix 5 first and foremost a fish finder. While it does offer some navigational aid, outside of basic chart plotting, location finding, and route planning, its navigational capabilities are limited. Indeed, their purpose is to supplement the fish finding capability by ensuring that fishermen learn where the best spots are, and don’t get lost when traveling between them or back to shore.
As such, the focus of the Helix 5 is on being simple, affordable, easy to install and easy to use. Rather than being bogged down with apps, buttons, and functionality, the Humminbird Helix 5 works perfectly right out of the box with the included transducer, although it is compatible with a wide array of downward-facing transducers and can even accept many pre-installed units. The provided transducer can transmit in either 420-520 kHz or 790-850 kHz, which is sufficient for most waterways and provides good images up to 600 feet below the surface. Imaging is down sonar only, with a focus on broad spectrum sonar to provide clear fish arches in all water conditions.
The Helix 5 uses a 5″ high-resolution screen optimized for usage in bright sunlight. The entire unit is waterproof and uses buttons instead of a touch screen, making it much easier to use in cold weather with gloved hands. It uses standard mounting points for easy installation and is compatible with many third party mounts. Its small size and ability to run off of almost any power supply make it ideal for small craft such as bass boats, where other units would be too big to fit easily. It is also extremely rugged, being made out of thick, heavy plastic capable of withstanding bumps and scrapes.
The Humminbird Helix 5 has an intuitive display and boots straight to its sonar screen after initial setup. Options are available to offer more information from the sonar, however simply turning it on and allowing it to run should be sufficient for most fishermen. This enables the Helix 5 to be the ideal option for those who are just looking for a basic and affordable unit that enables them to quickly find the fish they want to catch without the need to learn how to operate complex equipment or make sense of multiple options.
Navigation with the Helix 5 is likewise easy, with the current location displayed, and potential routes or good fishing spots easily plotted. Data can be stored on an SD card, which also serves as a means of updating the maps manually. Custom data can also be stored on the card as it is produced, enabling fishermen to be certain that they will remember good spots or successful trawling locations.
Garmin Striker 4 – Best Kayak Fish Finder
The Garmin Striker 4 is a classically styled, utilitarian fish finder. It has reliable sonar and a built in GPS waypoint marker so you can catalog fish activity at specific spots, which I found to be very helpful; if you’re getting good bites at a certain spot you can mark it and come back the next day. This will make your overall fishing more productive as you can see, over time, which spots are hitting and which spots don’t seem to ever get much action.
Its rugged build means it can handle the every day wear and tear of being on a boat and keep on working. You won’t be getting a lot of extra frills with this device. If you’re looking for all the bells and whistles, you’ll have to search out some higher end models, but what it does offer works well, so if you’re after something that can simply get the job done with no flashiness this is a good option.
A couple of times when I was out on the water the Striker told me I was moving when I was anchored and sitting still. This is the only inaccurate reading I got during my time with the device and it quickly corrected itself, but it’s always concerning when a fish finder shows noticeable bugs in the software design. It shouldn’t affect your fishing and can be written off as a minor inconvenience.
It has reliable CHIRP sonar (which I’ve always been fond of and is consistent throughout Garmin devices), high sensitivity GPS, and a built in flasher which lets you view your data in the classic flasher format. At the end of the day this is a well-built device that will get results out on the water.
If you like this device also consider taking a look at the Striker 4DV; this device can see a little deeper that the 4, and also incorporates Downvu technology, which we’ll talk about in more detail later, but basically gives you 3D view of what’s under the water. For a moderate step up in price you get a few extra features that you’re likely to get a lot of use out of.
FAQ: Frequently-Asked Fish Finder Questions
Fishing is a combination of art, science, and luck. Part of becoming a better fisherman is knowing how to use fish finders and other tools. We scoured the Internet and talked to some fishermen to find out what they would most like to know about fish finders. Below, we’ve answered some of the most common questions. This FAQ is updated regularly so bookmark this page to get new answers to fish finder questions on a regular basis.
How Do Fish Finders Work?
The fish finder sends an electrical pulse to the underwater transducer. The transducer transmits the pulses as sound waves. When a sound wave strikes something it reverberates back to the transducer. The captured sonar is then relayed back to the fish finder on deck, which translates the information into sizes, shapes, and compositions.
Can I Sync my Fish Finder with my Smart Phone or Tablet?
Apps exist that allow you to sync your mobile device with your fish finder. Models with this capability are extremely convenient as they allow you to save and analyze data collected over time. You can map the waterbed and receive alerts when fish are in a specific area, and you can also adjust your fish finder’s settings remotely.
What Do I Do if my Transducer is Broken?
If your transducer broke off on the mount, then it may be possible to remount the device. If the transducer itself is physically broken, most situations call for buying and installing a brand new model. If you dry-dock your boat, be aware that most boatyards can’t be held liable for damage done to transducers during the docking process. If your transducer doesn’t seem to have sustained any physical damage but it isn’t sending/receiving sound waves, consult your owner’s manual and contact the manufacturer and/or the company where you purchased the device.
What Do I Do if my Fish Finder Stopped Working?
You need to determine the source of the problem. Try charging the device, and plug it into an Internet-connected computer to see if the computer recognizes the device. If the screen freezes or is slow to respond, try powering the device down and restarting it. You might also want to try downloading updated firmware for your model. If you suspect water damage, consult your owner’s manual for warranty information and instructions on contacting their customer service department.
What can Cause Interference with my Fish Finder?
Run your transducer cables separately from other wiring to minimize interference. Transducers can receive interference if they are mounted to active trolling motors, especially if the trolling motor has not been properly grounded. To reduce interference issues, lower the fish finder’s sensitivity to 60-75% and consider using an RF choke to your transducer cable.
What Do I Do if my Charger Gets Lost or Breaks?
Any charger that has the same output as your original charger should work. You should always confirm the power output is the same before attempting this method so as not to damage the device. If you invested a lot of money into your fish finder then you might want to consider buying a factory replacement, or having your charger repaired, to avoid any sort of voided warranty issues.
Can I Use the Same Fish Finder for Shallow Water, Deep Water and Ice Fishing?
The technical answer is “yes” but savvy fisherman employ different tactics in different situations. Some fish finders are better out in the open ocean while others are more suited for your local lake. Ice fishing is a completely different animal, so it’s highly advisable to purchase a fish finder that was designed specifically for such conditions.
How Do I Update my Fish Finder’s Software?
Fish finder manufacturers occasionally provide software and firmware updates for their models. This is done to fix minor system bugs and help your device run more smoothly. Update instructions vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and usually involve downloading data from your computer onto an SD card. You then insert the SD card into the fish finder and turn the device on. At this point, the device will prompt you to install the update and walk you through the process. You should visit the manufacturer’s website for more details.
How Much Should I Spend on a Fish Finder?
You can find fish finders under $100 as well as more than $2,500. How much you spend should correlate with how often you fish, the type of fishing you do, your personal budget, and the features you require your fish finder to have. For more about fish finder pricing see the “Price” section of our Buyer’s Guide above.
You now have all the information you need to compare the best fish finders of 2016. Study each one closely to make sure it will meet your needs and provide you with the results you demand. If you have further questions about any of the fish finders mentioned in this article, or if you would like to see us add your fish finder question to our FAQ, we’d love to hear from you. Don’t forget to let us know what you think of these fish finders in the Comments section below.