Technology is giving anglers everywhere a great advantage when it comes to dominating the outdoors. Honing in your skills can now come with knowledge of water depth, temperatures, current, and advanced underwater imaging. Any fisherman looking to put these abilities on their side should work with the best equipment available at the most competitive prices. The 3 highest rated fishfinders priced under $500 are: Lowrance Elite 5 CHIRP, Garmin echoMap 53dv and Humminbird Helix 5 SI.
Lowrance Elite 5 CHIRP
This model is one of the most versatile on the market, combining traditional sonar, DownScan imaging, and CHIRP sonar into one package. Three CHIRP settings, low, medium, and high, allow you to customize to location. The Low/Medium is excellent for deep-sea fishing, and the Medium/High option is perfect for freshwater usage. The strength of each individual setting is as follows:
• Low gives you optimal fish-marking capabilities at all depths.
• Medium offers a wider search zone, but it is less detailed.
• High is best for tracking details like fishing lures, minnows, or fish that are settled on the bottom.
You can use the DownScan option to move up and down the water column quickly. Comparing DownScan images, broadband images, and CHIRP images is a good way to tell the weeds and drift wood apart from the fish. Trackback sonar history lets you view past images so you don’t have to turn back the boat to scan the same terrain again. Finally, you can create your own maps, which is invaluable when fishing small, uncharted bodies of water.
Garmin echoMap 53dv
Garmin echoMAP 53dv gives you GPS and DownVü Imaging which is great for those fishing high-structure environments. The views of the lake bottom and underlying structure are exceptionally realistic. The DownVü image clarity is especially striking. Garmin’s Auto Guidance system also aids in navigation. This patented system can find both the quickest and safest course between point A and point B. Shallows and other dangers are recognized and averted, and you can adjust the automatic route to suit your preferences as needed.
The fishfinder provides audible alarms for shallow/deep water, battery voltage, fish below the vessel, water temperature and drift. The unit gives you full control of the output. You can change the scroll speed – higher speed for more detail while moving, slower speed to keep the output displayed longer. You can choose to display fish symbols in addition to displaying fish arches and the depth reading for the fish. You can eliminate weak sonar returns by using Noise Reject option. You can also change the color scheme in the sonar display. The screen can be split – you can display 2 frequencies side by side, or sonar and down image side by side. Split size option allows you to change the size each display. The Garmin echoMap 53dv comes with a quick-release mount that both swivels and tilts.
Humminbird Helix 5 SI GPS
The Humminbird Helix offers a bright display screen with sharp-cut lines. It gives you side imaging along with down imaging, which is a feature usually reserved for much more expensive fishfinders. The unit is compact yet very powerful. It can reach to a depth of 1,500 feet, and its pixel count is astounding for its screen size. Its GPS mapping runs well with major MicroSD cards, like those of LakeMaster, HotMaps, or Navionic. As the best representative of the Helix 5 models, SI GPS brings you superior image features usually reserved for larger fishfinders. Among these “extra” features are Down Imaging, Side Imaging (SI), DualBeam two-dimensional sonar, and GPS. The Humminbird Helix 5 SI GPS comes with a standard compact side-imaging transducer, but it is relatively inexpensive to upgrade to a high-definition one. Even without the upgrade, the picture is incredibly clear and detailed, but it is worth a small additional fee to improve your screen view even more.
All three of the fishfinders reviewed above are top-of-the-line equipment. Yet, it is impossible to avoid asking the question, “Which one is the best?” The Lowrance Elite 5 CHIRP is tempting for its versatility, and the Garmin echoMap 53dv scores high for its cartography and its Auto Guidance system. Yet, in the final analysis, the Humminbird Helix 5 SI GPS isthe best bargain. Its side-imaging capability is a feature not provided by the other two models. When the great 2D sonar and multiple imaging methods of the Humminbird Helix 5 are weighed against its low cost, it is clear that this is the model that gives you the best “bang for your buck.”
|Lowrance Elite-5 CHIRP||Garmin echoMap 53dv||Humminbird Helix 5 SI GPS|
|Screen Size||5 in||5 in||5 in|
|Screen Resolution||480 x 480 pixels||640 x 480 pixels||800 x 480 pixels|
|Display Type||256 Color TFT||Color VGA||256 Color TFT|
|Imaging||2D and Down Imaging||2D and Down Imaging||2D, Down Imaging and Side Imaging|
|Transducer Type||Transom Mount/Trolling Motor||Transom Mount/Trolling Motor||Transom Mount/Trolling Motor|
|Transmit Power||250W RMS, 30,000W Peak to Peak||500W RMS|
|500W RMS, 4000W Peak to Peak|
|Sonar Frequency||(50/200 kHz or 83/200 kHz) 2D|
455/800 kHz Down Scan
|50/77/200 kHz, DownVu||200/83 kHz 2D
455 kHz Down Imaging and Side Imaging
|Maximum Depth||1000 ft/2500 ft 2D|
300 ft Down Scan
|2,300 ft @ 77 kHz freshwater|
1,100 ft @ 77 kHz saltwater
|1500 ft 2D
100 ft Side Imaging
|GPS Antenna Type||Internal||Internal||Internal|