Whether it is Christmas and the Mrs is looking for a great gift for her favorite fishing buddy, the boss man just gave you a nice pay raise and you are looking to splurge, or you are just getting into this and it is you’re first time being informed about the vast options of fish finders out there—this article has you covered!
I will be covering 8 of the best options on the market today that correspond to almost any budget range. Off the bat I can tell you that although there is an extensive selection of tech out there, the Humminbird brand stays true to my personal needs and desires when I’m out on the boat—but perhaps your needs, reader, differ slightly from mine…
Why might someone want a Fish Finder, then? Well, for starters, high quality fish finders provide a considerable amount of detail when exploring the depths of the water from the surface level, leering down into six to eight feet of depth. To some fisherman, this may very well meet their needs, however, what if you want to explore the crooks, crevices, structures and cover in 15 and 20 feet?
That’s precisely where side-imaging comes in to play! With side imaging technology, fish finders can identify all kinds of things at the bottom of a lake bed easily and with insightful detail! On top of that, you can set waypoints for spots you’ve found that might be ideal for fish to hang out.
But before anyone can make any decisions on how high-tech they should go, we need to cover some options…
8 Best Side Imaging Fish Finders Reviews
Summary of the product—With a 5-inch screen, CHIRP dual beam plus sonar, and accurate internal GPS system, the Helix 5 offers a reliable tool with just enough bells and whistles to get to where you need to go and do what you want to do in an efficient manner while on a budget.
- The display on the device is large enough to notice minor details (structures, size of fish, etc.) and small enough to stay portable
- High quality and complete map sets that define the details of even the smallest lakes, providing information on structures and even boat launch locations
- Meets most needs for the purposes of depth, temperature, speed, finding fish, and identifying structures.
- Complex interface that takes some time adapting to and getting familiar with (the menu and system settings may be tricky to navigate and arrange) for first time users
- System requires manual software updates that can be cumbersome to figure out
- Maps also need to be updated and download may take around 5 hours
- Plotter function not up to par in comparison with other products. On lakes it is manageable, but fishing on tidal rivers will most likely be problematic.
Summary of the product—This product is, by far, top of the class. The pristine detail that comes with the Mega side and down imaging technology, even at depths of up to 125ft, are staggering.
With a just over 15-inch device positioned in front of you while navigating the waterbed, you might just forget you’re on top of the water and imagine yourself roving Mars. Of course, the internal GPS receiver might remind you that you are not actually that far off world.
But when it comes to discovering what sorts of treasures lie in the world of fish, the SwitchFire Sonar will reveal all. The SwitchFire is also accompanied with a transducer, a device that converts deviations in physical quantities (like pressure or brightness) to electrical signals and vice versa. In other words: fish-finding badassery.
- Covers depth of 3,500 and 5,000ft
- Pinpoint-accurate waypoints
- Mega imaging technology able to produce incredibly detailed pictures far off to the sides of the boat that identifies natural and manmade structures in high waters with a distinct sharpness, revealing even the sonar shadows of what lies below
- Technology is right for practically any fishing situation
- Large size that isn’t exactly portable. Although this is understandable, it may require additional equipment to have the device installed properly and securely onto your boat.
Summary of the product—With consideration to shipping or the inclusion of a two-to-three year warranty. I decided to go ahead and include it anyway.
The Garmin Striker Plus has pretty much got it all: a transducer for Garmin’s signature CHIRP scanning sonar, Quickdraw Contours mapping software, built-in WiFi access to ActiveCaptain, and of course the GPS.
ClearVü and SideVü CHIRP sonar scanners offer impeccable detail at high and wide frequency ranges. The Garmin Striker Plus comes with a standard depth aptitude of 800ft, but when used in conjunction with the transducer, it can reach depths of up to 2,000ft.
What’s great about this product is that the embedded technology within it really do complement each other more than deterring from the overall experience or capabilities of using it. The ActiveCaptain app allows users to receive notifications and waypoints from other users.
- Comes with ActiveCaptain, an app that promotes user interactions with other Garmin users that have access to the platform. Who needs to catch virtual Pokemon when you can share great fishing spots in real time?
- Quckdraw Contour feature: uses GPS and the 2D sonar information to allow users to draw maps on the body of water you’re on, and is believed to be able to save up to 2 million acres of drawn contours
- Very affordable unit
- Does not come with any charts nor can it be upgraded to include additional charts through Micro SD chips
- Only comes with a mount for transducer
Summary of the product—If you’re leaning toward the other extreme and wanting to get something from the lowest price range, this product will meet you there and deliver.
Equipped with an internal GPS and chart-plotting UniMap cartography, you surely won’t get lost when trying to get back to that killer spot you found last week.
It’s strong and durable but needs micro SD cards to hold optional maps and for saving waypoints you need, but as long as your boat speed is roughly 3-4 mph, it will have no problem imaging on the move.
- Besides the size of the monitor, the processors between the Helix 5 SI and 7 SI are the same, meaning you can cut down on costs by sticking to the older model
- Does exactly what it is intended to do: be a great fish finder with GPS and side imaging that can create waypoints
- Glare from the sun makes this device particularly hard to read
- Imaging can be affected by conditions of the water as well as the tendencies for the boat to rock side-to-side, meaning results collected may be subjective to weather patterns
- Ram mount possibly needed depending on one’s set-up, as the standard base for the product does not rotate left or right
- No lighted buttons to help with night-time fishing
- Standardized charted maps are rather limited and may be necessary to purchase additional chart data, which may or may not be as complete as they ought to be
Summary of the product—An upgraded version of the previous listing, the Helix 9 SI comes with a 9-inch pixel display that utilizes side and down imaging as well as sonar dual beam plus technology.
It is much like any other Helix, except that it harnesses a faster processor and brighter screen. It is a pretty solid product, considering the price, and will meet the expectations of most consumers.
- Very intuitive design to navigate the device’s options.
- Dual beam outperforms any of its cousins as it is capable of using both side and down imaging even at high speeds. This differs from the KVD Helix 9 SI, which comes with a transducer, which cannot detect anything except when at idle speed
- Compatible with I Pilot
- Brighter screen makes the whole device easier to use, night or day
- Upgradable software
- Does not have HD Transducer like the Helix 10 or 12, and therefore cannot detect fish as easily as the later generations
- Directional pads are sometimes unresponsive
- Sound may not be loud enough for some users
Summary of the product—The cousin to the previously listed Helix 9 SI, the KVD offers slightly different specs from the rest of the family.
The KVD employs sonar coverage at a standard sonar frequency and features AutoChart Live, a life saver if you’re looking to cut down costs on additional software upgrades or map packages.
AutoChart allows users to draw their own map of an area while navigating through its waters, if for whatever reason the particular body of water has not yet been charted in the stock package.
- Comes with transom transducer and auto chart live
- Like its brother/cousin unit, it also has an easy-to-use interface that provides clear detail
- Great representation of the Helix brand and performs well in the face of competition
- Contour XD Cartography has mapped out roughly 3,000 U.S. lakes
- HD radar and display with sufficient brightness to service in the dark
- Dual memory card slot for additional memory storage
- Upgradeable software
- Unable to convert measuring units to anything other than stock. So, if you’re using the metric system, you may need to learn to adapt to something different from what you’re used to
Summary of the product—What is there to say about the Garmin Echomap Chirp and transducer.
For starters, the 7-inch screen and 800 x 480 pixel resolution provides clear and detailed digital representation of objects, structures, and fish below the surface.
The CHIRP sonar feature shoots out repetitive sonar frequencies to detail wide arrays of available information and target separation.
The device comes stocked with detailed maps of lakes in the U.S. and Canada but also welcomes additional downloaded maps.
- 5 Hz GPS navigation system that offers excellent waypoint marking capabilities
- CHIRP technology grants breath-taking clarity, target definition and separation
- Lakevü and Sidevü of the SV series comes with preloaded maps and accurate sonar scanning features
- Outstanding chart-plotting competencies
- Release mechanism for device not optimized
- The 7-inch screen may be considered by some to be too large for needs
- It is a pretty complex device and is recommended potential buyers to review the user’s manual prior to purchase to ensure all or at least most of the features meet your angler needs
Summary of the product—A much larger product than most of the ones covered on this list, the Humminbird Helix 10 SI comes with a 10-inch display that offers side imaging and dual beam sonar capabilities.
The 10-inch display may be intimidating at first, but the additional size makes room for a plethora of supplementary features.
Bigger, brighter, faster, and stronger than any of the previous models of the Helix series, the 10 comes with still carries similar features that older models had such as the HD transducer: meaning side and down imaging.
However, the updated sleek body, improved graphics, featured Lakemaster mapping options, and additional options in depth, speed, and temperature really show off the improvements made from older models.
- Comes with neoprene cover providing heavy duty protection to the device
- AutoChart Live
- SmartStrike: Contains same maps from Lakemaster, but with Contour Elite Software, allowing users to scan lake maps for apt fishing spots.
- High resolution screen
- Side and down imaging
- Lack of CHIRP sonar
Things to Look Out for When Investing in a Side Imaging Fish Finder
The above list is my top pick for fish finders that implement side and down imaging technologies. However, if you want to branch out from the list I have made here, independent investigation is always encouraged.
With that in mind, I will list below some characteristics of devices that you may want to consider in order to help you filter out the products that seem good on paper from those that will actually perform the way they sound out on the water:
Comparing frequency ranges might just seem like a bunch of numbers at first but paying attention to this can be very helpful in sorting out how powerfully the sonar scanners perform. Frequency ranges are often classified as either single, dual, or multiple.
The general rule of thumb here, though, is the higher the frequency, the more detail on screen. However, this can be misleading at times as some people suggest that lower frequencies are ideal for deeper waters, while higher frequencies are preferable toward shallow water.
No brainer! The wattage of the unit provides the response time. Higher the watts, stronger the power!
What’s all that power and high frequency going to do if you don’t have a decent resolution to see all those pretty details? Well, not much. You guessed it, and the same rule applies here, the higher the resolution and, generally, the larger the screen is going to mean you get to see more detail.
Transducers, as I explained at the beginning of the article, make it possible to find fish by emitting sonar waves out through the water, then receiving similar waves in response. These sonar waves are translated into digital representations of nearby objects, structures (natural and artificial), as well as living creatures like fish! Transducers, or any technology similar to them, are essential to the fish finding tool.
The best metaphor I can offer here is movies. Would you rather watch a movie in color or in black and white? Actually, I am myself a fan of the classics, so, I’ll rephrase the question… Do you think black and white movies or color movies provide more in-focus and peripheral detail?
I’m willing to bet you’d say color. The same applies to fish finders, as high-res screens that utilize a variety of colors to distinguish the information on screen are becoming more popularized and reliable when out on the water!
Keep these little bits of info in mind when you’re out there looking for more options of fish finders that are available online!
This article hoped to show readers that there are a considerable variety of options out there when wanting to invest in a reliable fish finder with side imaging technology.
Some people believe that when investing in a fish finder, you either want to go with the biggest and baddest or spend the least amount of money and go with the cheapest product on the market. Little do they know that there are PLENTY of other products on the market that will meet whichever needs and often fulfil whatever desires you may have for your ideal fish finder.
Although pricing may, should, and probably will forever be a factor when deciding on which product out of any given selection you have, there are plenty of mid-range options to filter through.