The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Marine Fish Finder: Unlock the Secrets of the Deep

Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional, having the right fish finder can dramatically improve your fishing experience by pinpointing the exact location of fish and underwater structures. Understanding how to choose and utilize these devices is crucial for any successful fishing expedition.

A marine fish finder is an essential technology that uses sonar to detect and display underwater objects. Its primary function is to identify schools of fish, aiding anglers in locating the best fishing spots. These devices provide valuable information on water depth, bottom structure, and the location of potential catches, making them a vital component of any fisherman’s arsenal​​.

Key Features to Consider When Choosing a Marine Fish Finder

When selecting a marine fish finder, several key features should be considered:

Range, Cone Angle, Beam

  • Range: Determines the area coverage, which is essential for locating schools of fish.
  • Cone Angle: Affects the width of the sonar beam; a wider angle offers a broader search area.
  • Beam: Different beam shapes and counts, like multi-beam or side beam, offer various advantages in depth and area coverage​​.

GPS Functionality

GPS integration is crucial for marking fishing routes and points of interest. It aids in navigation and can be a lifesaver in open waters​​.

Display Size

The size of the fish finder’s display can impact readability, especially in bright sunlight. Larger displays offer more detail, while smaller ones are more portable​​.

Graphical Interface

A user-friendly graphical interface is essential for easy interpretation of data. Look for intuitive controls and clear displays​​.

Top Recommendations for Marine Fish Finders

STRIKER Vivid 7sv fishfinder

The STRIKER Vivid 7sv fishfinder delivers a user-friendly and technologically advanced experience for anglers. Boasting a vivid 7″ color display, this device stands out with its new scanning sonar color palettes that enhance the distinction of fish and underwater structures. Supporting Garmin CHIRP traditional sonar along with ClearVü and SideVü scanning sonars, it requires a compatible transducer for optimal performance. The high-sensitivity GPS functionality allows users to mark waypoints, plan routes, and monitor boat speed, while the built-in Quickdraw Contours mapping feature enables the creation of detailed maps with 1′ contours. The added convenience of Wi-Fi connectivity facilitates seamless interaction with the ActiveCaptain app, enabling waypoint transfer, smart notifications, and access to the Garmin Quickdraw Community. The package includes essential components such as the fishfinder, GT52HW-TM transducer, power/data cable, mount, and documentation.

Key Features:

  • 7″ WVGA color display with new vivid scanning sonar color palettes
  • Supports Garmin CHIRP traditional sonar, Clear, and Side scanning sonars (requires compatible transducer)
  • High-sensitivity GPS for marking waypoints, route planning, and boat speed monitoring
  • Built-in Quickdraw Contours mapping with 1′ contours
  • Wi-Fi connectivity for ActiveCaptain app interaction with smartphones
  • Included components: STRIKER Vivid 7sv fishfinder, GT52HW-TM transducer, power/data cable, mount, and documentation.

Lowrance Elite FS 9 Fish Finder

The Lowrance Elite Fishing System (FS) sets a new standard for fish finding tools, providing anglers with advanced features to enhance their fishing experience. The included Active Imaging 3-in-1 sonar, featuring CHIRP, SideScan, and DownScan with FishReveal, offers refined detail of underwater structures and covers. The system is also ActiveTarget ready, allowing users to observe high-resolution images of fish in real-time, responding to lures. With full networking capabilities, including integrated wireless, NMEA 2000, and Ethernet connectivity, anglers can build a comprehensive Elite Fishing System by adding accessories like the Halo Dome Radar or Outboard Pilot. The 9-inch multi-touch screen ensures ease of use, while the preloaded C-MAP Contour+ charts with 1-foot contours on over 15,000 U.S. lakes and 9,400 Canadian lakes enhance navigation and fish-holding area identification. With features like ActiveTarget Live Sonar support and C-MAP Easy Routing, the Elite FS empowers anglers with unparalleled tools for success on the water.

Key Features:

  • Active Imaging 3-in-1 sonar with CHIRP, SideScan, and DownScan with FishReveal
  • ActiveTarget Live Sonar ready for real-time fish tracking
  • Full networking capabilities with integrated wireless, NMEA 2000, and Ethernet connectivity
  • 9-inch high-resolution multi-touch screen for easy use and installation
  • Preloaded C-MAP Contour+ charts with 1-foot contours on over 15,000 U.S. lakes and 9,400 Canadian lakes
  • C-MAP Easy Routing and Navionics Autorouting capability
  • C-MAP Genesis Live on-screen mapping for real-time mapping
  • Full touchscreen control of Power-Pole anchors and Ghost Trolling Motor
  • FishReveal technology for enhanced fish detection.

Lowrance HOOK2 Offshore: Best for those on a budget​​.

The Lowrance HOOK2 4X Bullet fishfinder is the epitome of simplicity and efficiency, making it the world’s easiest fishfinder for both beginners and seasoned anglers. The 4-inch SolarMAX screen provides crisp and clear views of fish and underwater structures, aided by the excellent clarity and daylight visibility of the high-resolution display. With Autotuning sonar, the hassle of manual adjustments is eliminated – simply plug it in and fish. The user-friendly menu operation and dedicated keypad ensure quick and easy navigation through functions, requiring fewer key presses. The Lowrance Wide-Angle Broadband sonar guarantees optimal traditional sonar views for staying on the fish. Equipped with a built-in GPS Plotter, this fishfinder allows you to save waypoints, follow trails, and navigate accurately to your favorite fishing spots. Whether you prefer front-dash or quick-release bracket mounting, installation is a breeze. The HOOK2 4X Bullet is a reliable and straightforward companion for anglers seeking a hassle-free fishing experience.

Key Features:

  • 4-inch SolarMAX screen for crisp and clear views
  • Autotuning sonar for automated sonar settings
  • Easiest-to-use menu operation and dedicated keypad
  • Lowrance Wide-Angle Broadband sonar for the best traditional sonar views
  • Built-in GPS Plotter for saving waypoints and navigation
  • Easy front-dash or quick-release bracket mounting installation

Simrad GO9 XSE Chartplotter: Combines fish finding with GPS​​.

The Simrad GO9 Multifunction Display is a versatile and indispensable addition to sportboats, center-consoles, and smaller cruisers, offering a host of features to enhance your on-water experience. The included C-MAP DISCOVER card provides comprehensive coverage with Vector Charts, Custom Depth Shading, Tides & Currents, high-resolution Bathymetric contours, and extensive coverage in the US and Canada. The GO9 comes equipped with an HDI Med/High/455/800kHz transducer supporting Medium and High CHIRP, along with DownScan Imaging, providing clear fish detection and detailed views of underwater structures. Boasting radar-ready functionality, the GO9 ensures safer cruising and more productive fishing with seamless connectivity to Simrad radar solutions. With built-in connectivity, users can mirror the display to a smartphone or tablet, accessing charts, radar, and other functionalities from anywhere on board. NMEA 2000 connectivity opens up integration options, making the Simrad GO9 a comprehensive and responsive technology hub for an enhanced on-water experience.

Key Features:

  • Multifunction Display for GPS navigation, sonar support, radar capability, and more
  • Included C-MAP DISCOVER card with Vector Charts, Custom Depth Shading, Tides & Currents, and high-resolution Bathymetric contours
  • HDI Med/High/455/800kHz transducer for Medium and High CHIRP, plus DownScan Imaging
  • Radar-ready with plug-and-play connectivity to Simrad radar solutions
  • Built-in connectivity for mirroring the display to a smartphone or tablet
  • NMEA 2000 connectivity for enhanced integration options

Additional Technology Portfolio:

  • SolarMAX IPS high-definition displays with multi-touch technology
  • System expansion options with Simrad modules and accessories
  • Advanced fish-finding tools like the deepwater S5100, Active Imaging 3-in-1, and TotalScan
  • Increased situational awareness with legendary HALO Pulse Compression radar
  • Automated control with fully integrated Simrad autopilots.

Lowrance Hook Reveal 5: Compact with a 5-inch display​​.

The Lowrance HOOK Reveal 5 Fishfinder combines advanced sonar technologies with user-friendly features to enhance your fishing experience. The FishReveal feature combines the target separation of Lowrance CHIRP sonar with high-resolution images from DownScan Imaging, making it easier to find and identify fish on the display. With Autotuning sonar, anglers can spend more time fishing and less time adjusting settings, as the system automatically optimizes sonar settings based on fishing conditions. The 5-inch SolarMAX display provides crisp and clear views, even in direct sunlight, ensuring excellent clarity and visibility. Additionally, the device includes high-detail inland maps for almost 4,000 US inland lakes, and the SplitShot transducer offers wide-angle high CHIRP sonar for fish finding and detailed images of fish-holding structures. This fishfinder embodies the Lowrance legacy of innovation and reliability, delivering a top-notch product for anglers of all levels.

Key Features:

  • FishReveal for enhanced fish identification
  • High-detail inland maps for almost 4,000 US inland lakes
  • SplitShot transducer for wide-angle high CHIRP sonar and DownScan Imaging
  • Autotuning sonar for automatic optimization of settings
  • 5-inch SolarMAX display with excellent clarity and daylight visibility

Lowrance Elite FS 9: Another excellent GPS combo option​​.

The Lowrance Elite Fishing System (FS) offers anglers a powerful and comprehensive toolset for an enhanced fishing experience. The 9-inch multi-touch screen provides high-resolution views and is equipped with features such as Active Imaging 3-in-1 sonar, ActiveTarget Live Sonar, and preloaded C-MAP Contour+ charts, ensuring anglers can locate fish and underwater structures with precision. The system supports full networking with integrated wireless, NMEA 2000, and Ethernet connectivity, allowing seamless data sharing between multiple displays and the option to expand with accessories like the Halo Dome Radar or Outboard Pilot. The ActiveTarget Live Sonar provides high-resolution images of fish movements in real-time, enhancing the ability to track and adjust fishing techniques. With a high-resolution multi-touch touchscreen, full touchscreen control of accessories, and advanced mapping capabilities, the Elite FS is a game-changing solution for anglers seeking efficiency and success on the water.

Key Features:

  • Integrated wireless, NMEA 2000 Ethernet connectivity
  • ActiveTarget Live Sonar ready for real-time fish tracking
  • Active Imaging 3-in-1 ready for refined structure and cover detail
  • C-MAP Easy Routing and Navionics Autorouting capability
  • C-MAP Genesis Live on-screen mapping for real-time mapping
  • Preloaded C-MAP Contour+ with 1-foot contours on 15,000+ U.S. lakes and 9,400+ lakes in Canada
  • High-resolution multi-touch touchscreen for easy interaction
  • Full touchscreen control of Power-Pole anchors and Ghost Trolling Motor
  • FishReveal technology for enhanced fish detection.

Additional Features:

  • Ethernet networking for data sharing between multiple displays
  • ActiveTarget Live Sonar for tracking fish movements in real-time
  • Active Imaging 3-in-1 for refined detail at a long range
  • Preloaded C-MAP Contour+ charts for efficient fishing area identification.

Hummingbird HELIX 7 G4: Combines CHIRP and GPS features​​.

The HELIX 7 CHIRP SI GPS G4 fish finder by Humminbird is a top-tier angling companion, boasting an array of features to elevate your fishing experience. The 7-inch ultra-wide display provides ample room for viewing pre-loaded split screen options, while the Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar ensures a clear view of fish arches and structures beneath the water. With both wide and narrow search modes, this technology allows you to customize your fishing approach. The addition of SwitchFire Sonar puts you in control of sonar returns, enabling adjustments for water depth, temperature, and turbulence. Ethernet networking capability facilitates the creation of a powerful fishing system, connecting multiple fish finders and accommodating add-on technologies like Minn Kota i-Pilot Link, 360 Imaging, and CHIRP Radar. With AutoChart Live, GPS, and Humminbird Basemap built-in, the HELIX 7 CHIRP SI GPS G4 is a versatile and advanced tool for anglers seeking precision and efficiency on the water.

Key Features:

  • Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar for well-defined fish arches and clear views
  • 7-inch ultra-wide display with pre-loaded split screen view options
  • SwitchFire Sonar for customizable sonar returns
  • Ethernet networking capability for a powerful fishing system
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • AutoChart Live, GPS, and Humminbird Basemap built-in

In-Depth Analysis of Top Marine Fish Finders

Diving deeper into the features of some top models:

Garmin GPSMAP 8616

For serious anglers, cruisers, sailors, and sail racers, the Garmin chartplotter/sonar combo is a game-changer, delivering multifunction display (MFD) performance in a compact and user-friendly package. Boasting a full HD in-plane switching (IPS) display, the touchscreen offers wider viewing angles and superior clarity for confident navigation. The built-in Garmin Navionics+ provides comprehensive inland and coastal mapping, while the chartplotter supports both traditional and scanning sonar (transducers sold separately). The system’s network connectivity options, including ANT technology and Wi-Fi networking, ensure seamless integration with your marine setup. With SmartMode station controls, users can enjoy quick, one-touch access to essential information. The Garmin chartplotter/sonar combo is a sophisticated and versatile solution for marine enthusiasts seeking top-notch performance in a streamlined design.

  • Price: $5,599.
  • Features: Full HD IPS LED displays, touchscreen, Bluetooth, and networking options.
  • Pros: Fast updates, high resolution, and great viewing angles​​.

Humminbird APEX 13-19

The APEX 19 MEGA SI+ CHARTPLOTTER sets a new standard for anglers with its unmatched sonar imaging on an impressive 18.5″ Full-HD Cross Touch touchscreen. Equipped with industry-leading MEGA Side Imaging+, MEGA Down Imaging+, and Dual Spectrum CHIRP sonar, this chartplotter delivers exceptional clarity and target separation. The dedicated sonar channel supports accessory 2D CHIRP transducers up to 2kW, offering even more performance. Integrated with advanced network options like NMEA 2000, HDMI In/Out, WiFi, and Bluetooth, the APEX provides a customized display of information. With features such as AutoChart Live, internal GPS, Humminbird Basemap, and Dual Ethernet Ports, users can build a powerful, professional-grade fishing system. The APEX Series redefines multifunction displays, elevating your fishing experience to new depths with its innovative technology and comprehensive connectivity options.

  • Price: $4,299 – $5,299.
  • Features: Full-HD Display, Dual Core Processor, Bluetooth, and one Boat Network compatibility.
  • Pros: High clarity, fast processing, and customizable menus​​.

Humminbird HELIX 12

The HELIX 12 CHIRP MSI+ GPS G4N from Humminbird is a powerhouse fishfinder featuring a 12.1″ display and a suite of advanced sonar technologies. With MEGA Side Imaging+ and MEGA Down Imaging+, anglers gain crystal-clear views up to 200 feet on either side and 200 feet below the boat, providing 20% more detail and 60% more range capability than previous models. The Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar enhances target separation and fish clarity. Boasting internal GPS with Humminbird Basemap, AutoChart Live, Wi-Fi, NMEA 2000, Bluetooth, and Ethernet networking, this model offers comprehensive connectivity. The HELIX 12 is One-Boat Network Compatible, seamlessly integrating with Minn Kota and Cannon products for enhanced boat control and fish-catching features. With its robust features and large display, the HELIX 12 CHIRP MSI+ GPS G4N is a top choice for anglers seeking advanced sonar capabilities and seamless integration with other marine products.

  • Price: $2,440.
  • Features: 1280×800 resolution, Clear Glass, and customizable settings.
  • Pros: User-friendly, excellent for side imaging​​.


Q: What’s the difference between CHIRP and traditional sonar? A: CHIRP sends a continuous sweep of frequencies, offering better target separation and clarity.

Q: Can I use these fish finders in both freshwater and saltwater? A: Yes, many modern fish finders are versatile and can be used in different types of water bodies.

Q: How important is the GPS feature in a fish finder? A: GPS is vital for marking fishing spots and navigating, especially in unfamiliar waters.

What Features Should I Look for in a Marine Fish Finder?

When choosing a marine fish finder, it is important to consider advanced features like marine sonar technology for navigation. This technology provides accurate and detailed information about the underwater environment, helping you locate fish and navigate safely. Look for a fish finder with high-quality marine sonar technology for navigation for better fishing experiences.

Conclusion: Making the Right Choice for Your Needs

Choosing the right marine fish finder depends on your specific fishing needs, budget, and the type of fishing you engage in. Whether you need advanced features or a simple, budget-friendly option, a fish finder exists for you.

This concludes our comprehensive guide on the best marine fish finders. With the right knowledge and a suitable device, your fishing trips can become more productive and enjoyable.