Best GPS fish finders: 6 models to find your way and find the fish

The best GPS fish finders incorporate either simple waypoint tracking or full-scale chart plotting. Here’s how to choose the right unit for your vessel.

Best GPS Fish Finders_RG3K9D
Photo: Stephen Vincent / Alamy Stock Photo

Not all GPS fish finders are created equal. In the recreational boating market, navigation electronics fall into two broad categories: chart plotters and fish finders. Generally speaking, many chart plotters are also fish finders. But not all fish finders are chart plotters

That’s because navigation depends on GPS, while locating fish relies on sonar scanning. If you just need to see bottom structure and mark fish, then you don’t need a GPS fish finder. But combine satellite technology with fish-finding sonar, and you have a powerful tool for both navigation and angling. These days, most serious fishermen consider both essential.

The range of upgrades to these two key features — sonar and GPS — is dizzying. Each manufacturer has proprietary versions of sonar, which may range from traditional down imaging to side, forward, and even live views.

Cut through the hype and industry jargon by basing your search on the mapping and the sonar capabilities. Does it come with built-in charts? If so, want kind? Is the sonar a standard CHIRP transducer for basic views below the boat, or does it also offer side and forward scanning?

Once you have determined that you do want navigation capabilities, here are 6 of the best GPS fish finders worthy of any angler’s consideration.

6 of the best GPS fish finders

Best GPS Fish Finders_Garmin EchoMap UHD 72SV

Garmin Echomap UHD

Best overall fish finder with GPS

Reasons to buy:

• Garmin is a leading brand in electronic navigation
• Side-view sonar imaging
• Preloaded maps
• Can be networked with compatible devices

Reasons to avoid:

• Moderately expensive

Building on its reputation for innovation in land-based navigation, Garmin has been a leader in the marine electronics category for many years.

The Echomap UHD is one of the most popular series in the Garmin product line. It is available in screen configurations from 4-inch vertical to 9-inch horizontal, and even the smallest unit is available with GPS and preloaded maps. The chart options include general base maps, US or Canadian coastal waters, and US lakes.

The Echomap UHD also offers a range of transducers. Traditional CHIRP sonar is great for identifying fish arches, while Garmin’s proprietary side-viewing (SideVü) and down-imaging (ClearVü) technology will let you see what is out to the side and directly below your vessel. SideVü and ClearVü are only available on the larger units.

With its GPS capabilities and preloaded maps, the 4-inch model is about perfect for kayaks and small boats, while the 9-inch head unit will fit right in on all but the largest power boat.

RRP: £760/$850 and up

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Best GPS Fish Finders_Humminbird Helix 7

Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MDI GPS G4

Best value fish finder with GPS

Reasons to buy:

• Premium features at an entry-level price
• Crisp down-imaging sonar
• AIS technology
• Preloaded base maps

Reasons to avoid:

• Not a touchscreen unit

For all-around use as both a fish finder and chart plotter, it would be hard to go wrong with the Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MDI GPS G4.

MDI stands for MEGA down imaging, which refers to the crystal-clear views that will help you separate structure from fish directly below the boat.

The Helix comes preloaded with base maps for lakes and inshore waters and it is compatible with Humminbird’s premium charts for both inland and coastal waters.

Humminbird’s AutoChart Live function allows you to create custom maps of your favorite fishing holes, marking every feature right down to the smallest structure as you travel from spot to spot.

The Helix 7 also includes AIS (Automatic Identification System) for monitoring the movement of other vessels. That means you can navigate through high-traffic areas or foggy weather with confidence and spend more time fishing with less time worrying.

RRP: £510/$570

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Best Fish Finders_Lowrance HDS Live 7

Lowrance HDS Live with Active Imaging 3-in-1

Best fish finder/chart plotter combo

Reasons to buy:

• Includes built-in charts with optional upgrades
• Touchscreen display
• Side- and down-imaging sonar

Reasons to avoid:

• Expensive

Available in 7-, 9-, 12-, and 16-inch models, the Lowrance HDS Live series with Active Imaging 3-in-1 has a unit to fit any recreational power boat.

Equipped with an array of angling electronics and navigation aids, the HDS Live series excels both at finding fish and finding your way.

You get built-in maps on 1-foot contours for inland lakes as well as coastal waters. Update those maps down to 6-inch contours and you can customize a detailed picture of your favorite fishing destinations.

And if you opt for the Active Imaging 3-in-1 transducer, you can view brilliant graphic displays of both down- and side-image perspectives.

Lowrance’s FishReveal technology combines traditional fish arch signatures with graphic displays of bottom structure, which eliminates the need to view each separately on a split screen.

And the SolarMAX touchscreen is also viewable from any angle as well as through polarized sunglasses, which is critical when running from spot to spot on bright days.

RRP: £1,118 to £3,634/$1,250 to $4,100

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Best Fish Finders_Garmin Striker 4 Portable Kit

Garmin Striker 4 Portable

Best portable GPS fish finder

Reasons to buy:

• Compact 4-inch screen
• GPS for marking waypoints
• Comes with a carrying case and rechargeable battery
• Premium transducer upgrades

Reasons to avoid:

• Small display not optimal for large boats
• Does not have built-in maps

In the world of portable fish finders, a 4-inch screen with entry-level technology is the norm. Portable units are mostly intended to show bottom contours and mark fish, and that’s about it.

The Garmin Striker 4 Portable raises the bar by also incorporating GPS in a compact package that includes a 12-volt battery and a carrying case.

There are no built-in maps, which means this unit is not a chart plotter. But the GPS is great for marking fish-holding structure such as brush piles, ledges, and creek beds. Set waypoints on the screen so you can return to hotspots again and again.

The suction cup-mounted transducer is ideal for vessels ranging from kayaks to small bass boats. Choose between wide and narrow sonar cones according to the water depth and the level of detail you wish to see.

Anglers will find the color graphics best for fishing from a boat, but there is also a traditional “flasher” display for ice fishing. The unit will even auto-zoom to give you a greater or smaller field of view according to water depth.

RRP: £197/$220

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Best GPS Fish Finders_Lowrance Hook 2

Lowrance HOOK2 GPS 5 Ice Machine

Best GPS fish finder for ice fishing

Reasons to buy:

• Crisp color graphics
• Available as an ice-fishing package
• GPS enabled
• Sold with a transducer

Reasons to avoid:

• Not a chart plotter

The Lowrance Hook 2 offers about as many options as any fish finder in its class. It is available with or without GPS, with a standard or premium transducer, as an all-season pack for ice fishing, and in a range of screen sizes from 4- to 12 inches. You can get it with or without preloaded base maps.

The GPS-only version is great for identifying bottom features and fishy structures. In larger screen sizes, the GPS can be paired with Lowrance’s premium maps to make it a true chart plotter.

But for ice fishing, the all-season pack is the way to go. While other units offer ice fishing bundles and all the bells and whistles of a console-mounted display, they are far more expensive. The Hook 2 series keeps the tech simple and the cost down.

Smaller screen sizes are perfect for fishing from a kayak or canoe in summer, while still being small enough to carry out on a frozen lake in winter.

The 4-inch version is available as an All-Season Pack, but for winter we like the 5-inch unit paired with Lowrance’s Ice Machine set-up because it comes with preloaded base maps, the carrying case, a battery, and tackle storage.

RRP: £354/$399

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Deeper CHIRP 2

Deeper Sonar CHIRP 2

Best castable GPS fish finder

Reasons to buy:

• Networks with your smartphone
• CHIRP transducer
• Good for shore fishermen

Reasons to avoid:

• Awkward to cast
• Expensive for the number of features

Shorebound anglers don’t have a lot of options for determining the water depth. That’s where castable fish finders have found their market.

The Deeper CHIRP 2 leads the way with a spherical CHIRP transducer that can be attached to any fishing line. Cast it out to create a picture of bottom features — and fish — as you reel in.

This model includes an onboard GPS receiver to pair with your smart device. That means you can mark the location of creek ledges, deep holes, brush piles, and other underwater structures while you create bathymetric maps of the lake bottom with the sonar scanner.

The CHIRP 2 is a three-frequency transducer producing cone angles from 7 to 47 degrees, which means you can choose between more coverage or more detail.

But the Deeper CHIRP 2 is not just for bank anglers. It is perfectly adaptable to kayaks, small boats, and even ice fishing with a variety of mounting accessories (sold separately).

Any vessel that needs a quick view of the bottom in a highly portable package, even just to check water depth, can find a use for these castable fish finders.

RRP: £322/$360

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What to look for in the best GPS fish finders

A fish finder without GPS is of no use for navigation. If you decide that you do need GPS technology in your fish finder, then the next consideration is the type of charts it includes, if any at all.

Without charts or maps, a GPS fish finder is limited to marking waypoints and tracking routes. There is no real chart plotting capability.

The most basic built-in map is some form of world base map. These are useful for general wayfinding and orientation. Premium charts and maps are usually sold as an upgrade, and they will show more detail of bottom contours, shoreline features, and aids to navigation.

The line between fish finder and chart plotter is admittedly a little blurry. Some units serve one or the other purpose exclusively, while many perform both functions equally well.

Not every vessel needs a GPS fish finder, but if you do, then focus on the available map support and the sonar capability to find the right combination for finding fish as easily as finding your way.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.

This article Best GPS fish finders: 6 models to find your way and find the fish appeared first on Motor Boat & Yachting.

Source: https://www.mby.com/gear/best-gps-fish-finders-123389