A Fish Finder is a device that features a highly intelligent Sonar Device. This technology continuously sends out pulses of sound waves, and these sound waves are directed towards the bottom of the lake, river, or ocean that you may be fishing.
When these sound waves or pulses strike objects like fish, structure, vegetation, or the bottom, they are reflected back to the surface. The sonar captures all the information, stores it, and displays the information in a two-dimensional view, which can easily be interpreted by fishermen. As the size or shape of the object changes, the pulses of sound waves received back by the sonar will be shorter or longer.
By mapping this information together it allows the program to illustrate the objects that are below, therefore enabling anglers to identify and catch more fish.
Best Fish Finder under $500
Garmin Striker Vivid 7 SV
Garmin has been making quality Fish Finders for some time now and has earned a well-deserved reputation for quality and innovation. For good reason, this Striker Vivid SV is thought to be one the best value for money Fish Finders on the market for less than $500.
It features a fantastic 800×480 pixel screen that is seven inches wide. This is a good size to view the quality SideVu imaging Sonar, standard two-dimensional Sonar, and Clear Vu Chirp. The sonar operates at a frequency of 150 -240kHz, The Clear Vu operates at a frequency of 425-485kHz, 790-850kHz and the SideVu operates a frequency of 425-485kHz, 790-850 kHz.
This Fish Finder features Wi-Fi, an internal GPS but unfortunately isn’t equipped with a microSD memory slot. This means that upgrading map capabilities are limited.
- Large seven-inch screen – This screen is up to 40% larger than some competitors, and offers beautifully detailed images which are easy to see
- Side Vu Imaging – This a mode of Sonar Operation that allows you to differentiate between texture types and materials on the bottom. It offers an underwater view of the waterway to the sides of the vessel, this image is similar to an aerial photograph and gives one a good understanding of what’s below
- Chirp Technology – Chirp Technology exceeds most common limitations of single frequency Sonar. Chirp continuously sweeps through the range of frequencies. Chirp is an acronym for Compressed High Intensity Radiated Pulse. Chirp Fish Finders transmit a significantly longer pulse than traditional Sonar
- Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi allows anglers to stream Sonar Data directly to their phone or tablet
- Not having a MicroSD means you cannot upgrade maps
Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp SI GPS G2
For quite some time now, the Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp SI GPS G2 Fish Finder has featured on the best Fish Finder under $500 list. Newer and more complex models are now available but these units still offer great value for money.
Not surprisingly, they are still competing with Fish Finders which are equipped with larger seven-inch screens. This quality Fish Finder is the only Side Imaging and GPS Chart Plotter in its class. It features a wide five-inch display screen with an impressive 800×400 resolution which offers superb display specifications. The Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp SI GPS G2 Fish Finder features the XNT 9 SI 180 T transducer.
This transducer is also known as the “compact” side-imaging transducer and is compatible with the legendary Hummingbird’s transducer exchange program. The sonar operates at a frequency of 83-200 kHz, the down imaging operates at a frequency of 455 kHz and the Side Imaging operates at a frequency of 455 kHz. Additional features include MicroSD Slot, Water Level Offset, and Depth Highlight.
This premium Fish Finder is also compatible with Lakemaster cards and Navionics Gold/Hotmaps cards. One disadvantage of the Helix 5 Chirp SI GPS G2 Fish Finder is that it isn’t equipped with Wi-Fi.
- Only Side Image and GPS Chart Plotter in its class – A GPS Chart Plotter integrates GPS data with an Electronic Navigational Chart, this device is used in marine navigation. This technology allows the Chart Plotter to display the ENC (Electronic Navigational Chart) along with the position, heading and speed of the vessel. It may also display extra information from Radar, Automatic Information Systems (AIS) or any additional sensors
- XNT 9 SI 180 T Transducer, compatible with hummingbird exchange program – The Humminbird XNT 9 SI 180 T Transducer mounts securely on the transom (back of the boat or vessel), in contact with the water. This device operates in conjunction with the compact Fish Finder or Sonar system. The Humminbird transom mount Transducer includes a 20-foot power cable, a built-in temperature sensor and all high-speed hardware
- Lower frequency
- MicroSD slot – MicroSD slots allow the fishermen to add more memory to the Fish Finder, with this function you can update your current set-up and store loads more information
- Water Level Offset – This is a fantastic function that allows you to sync the current water level of rivers, reservoirs and lakes to the depth contours of the LakeMaster chart
- Depth highlight – Depth Highlight allows you to stay in the strike zone and easily target productive water. It achieves this by allowing you to select and highlight shade contours in a particular depth range
- Compatible with Lakemaster Cards – LakeMaster Cards provide high-quality maps of lakes in your area, but only if there is a high definition map available
- Compatible with Navionics Cards – Navionics Cards provide the same function but with better quality, higher detail and improved accuracy
- No Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi allows anglers to stream Sonar Data directly to their phone or tablet
- Smaller seven inch screen – Although this screen is significantly smaller than its competitors, it still offers high quality and detailed image
Lowrance Hook Reveal 7 x Triple Shot
Lowrance is another manufacturer which is synonymous with quality and durable Fish Finders. They too have been in the game a long time, and are constantly striving to improve their products. The Hook Reveal 7 x Triple Shot is a really good Fish Finder and is pretty much the same as the Hook Reveal 7, the main difference is that it’s not equipped with chart plotting capabilities.
It features a wide seven-inch display screen with 800×480 resolution. The sonar operates at a frequency of 200 kHz, the DownScan operates at a frequency of 455-800 kHz and the SideScan operates at a frequency of 455-800 kHz. This Fish Finder offers excellent value for money especially if you are looking for SideScan capability. This Fish Finder also features innovative “FishReveal” technology.
This technology has been designed to reveal fish arches while exposing the realistic bottom structure of the DownScan, it achieves this by combining traditional sonar and then overlays DownScan into one amazing view. This Fish Finder is also equipped with a MicroSD Slot but doesn’t feature Wi-Fi capability. The Lowrance Hook Reveal 7 x Triple Shot is similar to the Garmin Striker Vivid Sv, in quality and price.
- Large Seven Inch Screen – This larger screen offers 800×400 resolution for bright and detailed images
- SideScan Capability – SideScan is similar to the SideVu Technology from Garmin. This is a mode of Sonar Operation that allows you to differentiate between texture types and materials on the bottom. It offers an underwater view of the waterway to the sides of the vessel, this image is similar to an aerial photograph
- Fish Reveal Technology – This technology combines traditional 2D Sonar pictures with DownScan and StructureScan. This allows for easier identification of targets and forms a more detailed image of what is below. Fish Reveal technology significantly enhances the images on your screen
- MicroSD slot
- No Wi-Fi
Raymarine Axiom 7 Pro
The Axiom 7 Pro is one of my favorite Fish Finders under $500. It is important to note that this Fish Finder is only available at this price, when not fitted with a Navionics Mapping Card. Don’t let that put you off, it is a great Fish Finder. In some cases, smaller is better, and this holds true for the Axiom 7 Pro.
It features a slim and compact design which is great for small boats and kayaks. The screen is five inches long with 800×480 resolution. The display is optically bonded for a dramatically improved viewing experience. This is achieved by combining glass and a gel bonded to the display.
Additional features include dual-channel Chirp and Downvision sonar technology, combined with excellent display results in fantastic images on the Fish Finder. Chirp technology offers increased detail and target separation, by simultaneously pinging across a range of frequencies. This quality Fish Finder comes standard with a built-in Wi-Fi and MicroSD Slot.
- Optically Bonded Display – By Optically Bonding the screen, significantly improves the viewing experience
- Slim Compact Design – The slim and compact design allows this Fish Finder to be easily fitted to small boats and kayaks
- Dual Channel Chirp – Dual Channel Chirp refers to the main (head) unit being able to transmit and display two separate discrete non-chirp frequencies through the same solitary element, this is done at the same time. Single Channel Chirp transmits and displays both high and medium chirps at the same time, this is done through the same transducer
- Downvision Sonar – This technology is made possible by the CP100 network Sonar Module. The CP100 brings Chirp DownVision technology to the multifunction displays. It delivers a photo-like view of what’s underneath your boat or vessel. This allows you to image the bottom structure with incredible detail while simultaneously targeting fish
- MicroSD slot
- Smaller screen – The smaller screen could be seen as a disadvantage but the viewing experience is still outstanding
- No Navionics mapping card capability
Lowrance Hook Reveal 7 x SplitShot
Lowrance makes another appearance with the fantastic Fish Finder. It features a bright, highly detailed widescreen, which is seven inches long. It is a nice combination of sonar features and screen size.
It offers a dedicated Down Scana Sonar and a split-screen along with the 200 kHz two-dimensional Sonar or GPS Chart Plotter. The model also features Fish Reveal Chirp Overlay with DownScan structure. The Lowrance Hook Reveal 7 x SplitShot is equipped with a MicroSD Slot.
This will allow the use of C-Map Insight Pro Map Chips, and save sonar readings of your favorite fishing grounds. You will also be able to create and view your own custom map using the Genesis Live Onboard mapping function. The Sonar chirp operates at a frequency of 200 kHz, the DownScan operates at a frequency of 455-800 kHz. No Wi-Fi with MicroSD Slot.
- MicroSD slot
- Fish reveal
- Can save Sonar readings
- Can use C-Map Insight Pro – C-Map Insight Pro overs detailed information of the entire US Inland and coastal areas. This can be stored on a single SD card also includes High Definition 1-3ft depth contours for thousands of fishable lakes, Fishing Hotspots (POI’s) and lake specific techniques and tips
- Genesis Live Onboard Mapping Function – The Genesis Live Onboard Mapping Function is a real-time function. It is available on selected Lowrance products and creates an overlay of depth contour mapping, this mapping is based on live Sonar soundings. This technology is particularly useful when fishing lakes and rivers where there aren’t any existing maps
- Can’t share waypoints with another unit
- No Wi-Fi
Fish finders Buyers Guide
When purchasing a fish Finder there are numerous factors to consider. There are vast amounts of technology packed into these units and at times it can be overwhelming, even confusing. Even if you are an old-school angler or prefer the traditional methods of hunting your fish, a Fish Finder can be extremely useful. So what should you consider?
This is no time to economize, there are numerous Sub-Standard Fish Finders on the market that appear to be affordable. Try to avoid these, and support reputable manufacturers. Their units are also affordable but more importantly, they are reliable.
At the same time, there is no need to over the top and spend large amounts of money purchasing a Fish Finder you won’t fully utilize. Check the features, benefits, and accessories of each Fish Finder, and decide on which functions you might use when deciding on your budget.
COLOR SCREEN VS BLACK AND WHITE SCREEN
Black and White Screens can be difficult to read, particularly in overcast conditions and in direct sunlight. Most modern Fish Finders are equipped with Color Screens, which results in a significantly improved image of what’s below.
It is imperative to check the screen resolution before purchasing a Fish Finder. The minimum resolution should be 240×160 pixels. This will offer a decent image, but it might be a good idea to go as high as your budget allows. A higher resolution will give you a much more detailed, crisp, and clean image.
A quality Fish Finder should have a quality GPS. It is vital for underwater topography and to download maps. GPS allows you to mark points, which you can return to on a future fishing trip. If you happen to be tech-savvy, a Fish Finder with Wi-Fi will allow you to connect to your phone, tablet, or any other device. Usability and convenience will dramatically increase, and data recording will be significantly easier.
The accuracy of a Finder is important, for obvious reasons. The key is a quality Sonar, check the cone angle to ensure it has a range between nine and sixty degrees. Once the sound waves are emitted from the transducer, they move towards the bottom and expand as they travel further. This spread is measured in degrees and twenty degrees is the most popular choice.
A Fish Finder mounted to a bass boat will face very different conditions, when compared to one that is mounted on an offshore Kayak. So depending on your method of fishing, water resistance is something to consider. If your Fish Finder is going to be mounted on a ski-boat or kayak, then an IPX7 rating is required. Check the IPX ratings, the higher the IPX number, the greater the level of water resistance.
It is vital to know how to effectively use your Fish Finder to maximize your fishing experience. If you aren’t technologically driven, a Fish Finder with automatic settings might be easier to operate. Some also offer displays that can be enlarged for easier reading. No matter what your preferences or requirements, there is a Fish Finder for all types of anglers.
Each and every one of the Fish Finders mentioned in this article is made to the highest standards. It is a pleasure to review products and brands, where quality and the importance of customer satisfaction are high on the list. Each Fish Finder mentioned is a great deal for under $500, and I could honestly recommend each one to you. Each angler usually has his/her own opinion, and in many cases, it comes down to preference, type of fishing, and type of species being targeted.
However, if I look at the evidence in front of me, the title of “Best Fish Finder under $500” has to go to the outstanding Lowrance Reveal 7 x SplitShot. There is so much technology packed into this unit, it’s a steal at less than 500 bucks. It’s also not just the amount, but the quality and innovation of the technology that really impresses me. With FishReveal, the saving of Sonar readings, C-Map Insight Pro, and Genesis Live Onboard Mapping Function, I feel this model will be competing in the market for quite some time.
There are disadvantages like not having Wi-Fi and not being able to share points, but in all honesty, this is a small price to pay for such a complete package. At the same time, these exclusions make the Fish Finder appealing to anglers with all kinds of budgets.
Technology aside, another great feature of this Fish Finder is the quality and durability. These are extremely important features to consider when looking to purchase, and Lowrance has been focused on this aspect since they started manufacturing way back in the 1960s. Each unit undergoes extensive quality control which results in an impressive five-year warranty.