Technology moves at warp speed these days. If you bought a fish finder/GPS combo device a few years ago, it’s probably out of date by now. Or, perhaps more important, it could be missing some of the new features that can help you find, and catch, more fish.
Before we look at some of today’s tech devices, let’s review what we’re talking about.
A fish finder is a device that sends sonic waves down into the water (or sideways in some cases), waits for the sonic waves to echo back to the boat, and then visually displays what it discovered: the rocks on the bottom, vegetation, sunken logs and, hopefully, a school of big fish waiting for your bait to arrive.
These days, many fish finders are paired with powerful GPS capabilities, or signals that bounce off satellites orbiting the earth and return, enabling the machine to pinpoint your current location on the planet, down to about a meter. Many of the current GPS systems paired with fish finders enable the user to mark and save locations for future reference, so if you find a great place full of hungry fish, you can come back again next weekend to the same place.
The variations in these products include things like color and 3D displays of the bottom views, underwater temperature gauges, chartplotting, weather forecasting and alerts and much more.
Color sonar is pretty cool, as it can display underwater terrain in amazing detail. Even better is dual-channel CHIRP sonar. Originally developed for the military, the Compressed Hi-Intensity Radiated Pulse sonar gives off longer pulses and transmits a sweeping range of frequencies, which results in the processing of more information.
Other variations to consider is mounting (fixed or portable), screen size, and location of the transducer, or the antenna that emits the sonar signals.
Here are just a few of the combo products on the market today.
Garmin Striker 7 SV
Probably the best-known name in marine electronics, this Garmin fish-finder/GPS combo features a revolutionary CHIRP transducer which enables the angler to see fish clearly up to 750 feet below and 750 feet to the side with its DownVu and SideVu scanning sonar. The seven-inch high-quality screen is easily readable even in bright sunshine. The high precision built-in GPS enables you to mark your position and way-points along the way, and the entire unit is rugged and waterproof. Retails for around $379.
Lowrance HDS-9 LIVE
One of the most sophisticated fish finders on the market (and the price indicates it), this machine features Active Imaging, for pinpointing fish-holding areas like rockpiles, standing timber, weedbeds, ditches and drop-offs and returns the highest resolution images of fish and structure at a greater distance than other machines. LiveSight real time sonar will show you the fish right down to their fins and the CHIRP sonar in FishReveal mode almost makes it unfair. Real time GPS mapping, down to ½ foot increments, enables you to find the hot spots and return to them over and over. Prices for around $1,999.
Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro
The powerful, accurate built-in 72-channel GPS system can save your waypoints (up to 3,000) and tracks. Insert a microSD card and expand your memory. Raymarine’s CHIRP DownVision technology will show you the underwater terrain in stunning detail and the dual-channel sonar will even let you search for a specific fish species. The unit has a seven-inch HD color screen, and with its built-in WiFi capability, you can mount the unit on your helm and view the sonar pictures on your smart phone. Priced at around $400.
Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP GPS G3
The Humminbird line of fish finders include MEGA side and down imaging with its DI transducer that will provide clear terrain imaging as well as enhanced fish separation. The low q CHIRP means much better fish arches, better target separation, and an overall more pleasing 2D sonar experience. The SwitchFire sonar controls enables the user to adjust the sonar strength, useful in changing water conditions. The Bluetooth capability allows you to view results on your smartphone. And the unit’s GPS system not only contains hundreds of maps and charts, but enables real-time mapping of your favorite fishing grounds. Prices for this unit start at $550.
If you’d like some advice, stop in at McShane’s. We’re always happy to share our experiences with various fish finders, and pass along opinions and experiences of our customers.