Choosing a fishfinder you’ll be happy with is no easy task. Take these five factors into consideration, however, and you’ll be able to make an informed pick.
Get the largest screen size possible for the fishing boat you own. The bottom line is that more LCD territory equals more detail on the screen. Plus, most of today’s fishfinders have multiple functions and the ability to split the screen into different windows. While this is convenient, it shrinks the view, so a larger screen offers easier visibility.
Keep in mind that your boat is often a limiting factor when it comes to fishfinder size. Crestliner boats, for example, have helms designed for mounting large fishfinders. Other makes and models have windshield designs or dash mounting spaces that can accommodate only small fishfinder units.
Play around with units of approximate equivalent cost from different brands. Fishfinders offer a variety of menu systems and user interfaces, so explore to find out which ones are more intuitive to you.
Most of today’s midrange and high-end fishfinders also have GPS/chartplotter functionality. If you always fish in small lakes or ponds or never go far from the boat ramp, you may not need GPS at all. But if you're an explorer, it’s often worth stepping up to a unit that offers navigational capabilities even if it costs a bit more.
Consider whether you need side-scanning abilities. Side-scanners have come down in price in the last few years, but they still cost more than a simple down-looking unit. There’s also a steep learning curve involved when it comes to interpreting what you see on the screen.
Side-scan may be more or less useful depending on what type of fishing you do. For example, if you mostly jig vertically or fish baits on the bottom in deep water, you won’t find that it’s much of a help. But if you cast light tackle in shallow water, it can help you identify hotspots you wouldn’t otherwise find.
Consider whether you want networking abilities. Some fishfinders can “talk” to the boat’s accessories, like trolling motors, Power Poles, and stereos. For many anglers with relatively simple aluminum fishing boats, this sort of functionality is overkill. But if you have a high-tech tournament-level boat like an MX series bass boat, more advanced systems like this may be worth the expense.