Whether you’re an experienced angler or a novice, fishfinders are excellent devices that will make your fishing expeditions more enjoyable and productive.
A fish finder can help you explore new areas, discover prime fishing spots, and see what is beneath the water surface. That being said, every fishing enthusiast would agree that shopping for the best fish finders can be quite a meticulous task, especially if you’ve got a limited budget.
Fortunately, most well-known brands have started manufacturing feature-packed fish finders that are available for less than a thousand dollars.
This guide will help in making your buying process shorter as we will be reviewing 5 of the best-selling fishfinders out there. We will also be including a short buyer’s guide and a FAQ section so you can find yourself the best fish finder under $500. So, you ready to find out? Keep reading!
We have carefully handpicked the 5 fish finders based on its build, features, and functionality to ensure that you don’t miss out on quality just because you’re on a limited budget. Without further ado, the following are the 5 fish finders that we believe are the best amongst the best in the market today.
This product comes from a brand that has made its name for producing quality fishfinders and the Hummingbird 41020 stands up to its name – It is priced competitively and packs all the incredible features that you would expect from high-end fishfinders.
Its robust 2D sonar makes use of CHIRP, which helps in providing highly precise and accurate images of what’s under the water’s surface. This unit comes with 3 sonar functions - Side imaging, Down imaging, and Duel Beam, all of which allows you to scan the water below more widely and with accuracy.
The SwitchFire enables you to control how your returns look. It has two display modes - Clear and Max mode, which lets you select how much detail you wish to see or not see. Besides the 5” color display featuring an LED-backlit that shows detailed images, the 410210 boasts an integrated Base Map, which helps you better navigate through the waters.
Other excellent features include Autochart Live and GPS. The former lets you mark the favorite fishing spots so you can locate them again with ease. Most customers of the 410210 loved how easy it was for them to install it.
Our runner up, the 410190 Helix is also another excellent product from the same brand mentioned above and is from their popular Helix 5 Series. The Hummingbird 410190 packs a large 5” color display screen.
Besides being a powerful device with a depth range capacity of 1500 ft, it also boasts a dual-beam feature. While it lacks the GPS or the Side imaging or Down imaging functions, it offers everything that is needed to scan underneath the water surface and identify fish.
Moreover, it’s user-friendly functions make it an excellent choice for newbies. Like the previous unit, this one too boasts the SwithFire feature, allowing you to have additional control when scouring favorite fishing spots.
Its split-screen functionality and at 4000 watts, the Hummingbird 410190 can even separate targets to two and a half inches. Furthermore, you can mount the unit on a pedestal, in-dash, or gimbals. Plus, it boasts a sturdy construction.
The Hummingbird 410150 PiranhaMAX is another excellent fish finder and a great value for money. Like all Hummingbird products, this one boasts a top-notch built quality and packs some incredible features.
The functions aren’t the most powerful on this unit. It also doesn’t feature the CHIRP sonar and the down imaging is available only in select models. Nonetheless, thanks to its dual-beam function, it allows for a respectable coverage of the water and transmits precise returns followed by detailed target separation. Plus, it enables you to identify contours quickly.
The lack of additional features, however, makes it ideal for novice anglers since it’s still a reliable device and user-friendly. Its 4.4” LCD offers sharp and vivid imagery, offering you a clear view of what’s below the water.
Additionally, the keyed interface is quite easy to use and intuitive, and it comes with a swivel and tilts mount, which makes it more convenient to use the device.
The Garmin 01550 is the perfect choice for those looking to get a compact fish finder. Its lightweight and compact size make it ideal for small boats and kayaks, and the integrated GPS helps in navigating unfamiliar waters.
Thanks to its dual-beam function, the Garmin 01550 boasts an excellent fish-finding capability and its sturdy design allows you to use it on any fishing environment. Though the 4.3” display may be small for some people, it displays clear fish arches and crisp images and even boasts a split-screen feature.
In terms of depth readings, it is highly sensitive and is accurate in both deep and shallow water. Another great thing about the Garmin 01550 is the ability to show the boat speed and even the water temperature.
With its Waypoint map, you can easily locate lucrative fishing locations and mark docks, brush piles, and stumps, and develop a route for you to get back without losing your way.
Finally, we have the MOOCOR Fish Finder, which is more of a professional tool. Not only is it a powerful unit, but it also features an underwater camera along with an HD LCD monitor, making it ideal for ice fishing & sea fishing.
It lets you scan the underwater topographic and monitor if the fish took the bait or not. Its portable LCD monitor can still show clear readings in bright areas and it also boasts multiple features such as low battery reminder, 4X digital zoom, and high-fidelity video.
The underwater camera boasts a superior lens that allows you to see the underwater world. Its 15m cable wire enables you to clearly see in deep waters. Plus, the cable is anti-pressing, water-resistant, and cold-resistant so you won’t have to worry about corrosion. Thanks to its high bearing tension of 40kg, you can catch bigger fishes.
There is an array of varying units out there and with most of them packing numerous additional features, it’s quite understandable for any buyer to get lost when shopping for fish finders.
Plus, you may have to consider the fishing locations and see if the device is fit for it. By knowing the features that you’ll need and ones you can do without, you’ll be able to find the ideal fish finder without having to spend so much.
All that said, the following are some key features that you have to consider before purchasing fish finders:
This is an important component of the fishfinder and is responsible for sending sound waves underneath the water’s surface and gather sonar readings. When these waves are emitted into the water below, they bounce off various objects and gives you an accurate direction of where the fishes are. There are three essential aspects you need to consider when it comes to transducers - they include installation type, cone angle, and operating frequency. You can fix the transducer in various locations, hence it can be fixed wherever it’s convenient for you. Generally, it’s mounted on a trolling motor or a transom. The transducer you pick depends strongly on the cone angle. As such, you should pick one that is ideal for the fishing type you’re participating in.
Global positioning systems or GPS is another critical feature to consider before buying a fish finder. By getting a unit with a GPS, locating the best fishing spots and maping your routes won’t be an issue. Also, if you have any favorite fishing spots, it can mark the location for you to easily locate them again. Fishfinders with GPS can also perform both depths sounding and chart plotting. The depth sounder is the device itself and the chart plotter shows your location constantly, eliminating the need for a separate device to know your location. Regardless of which fish finder you end up buying, a GPS will surely improve your fishing experience.
This is another key feature worth looking into when buying fishfinders. You need to pay close attention to its display color, size, detail, and contrast as they’re very important in determining whether or not you can interpret what is displayed on the screen. See how many pixels the unit you’re planning to buy has. Remember the more pixel it has, the clearer and smoother the image will be, which will allow for easy deciphering. Additionally, a color display will not just be pleasing and vibrant, it’ll make it easier for you to read.
If you still have some questions concerning the device, fret not. We understand that purchasing a device like the fish finder can give rise to several questions, especially if you’re new to the device. To help you with that, we have handpicked three of the most burning questions people have about fish finders.
In terms of installation, there are numerous ways to do it. For small boats, the transom mount is the most typical way. This involves securing the transducer at the boat’s rear, right below the water surface. Then you need to fix the power cord either via the rear hull or to the edge of the boat and then connect it with the head unit. The thru-hull method is another alternative way to install fishfinders.
Though a little trickier, this method doesn’t involve any screwing/interference to the boat hull. Here, you just need to fix the transducer inside the boat hull (usually inside a small box full of silicone to make sure no air or gaps exist between the hull and the transducer. This makes it possible to send uninterrupted signals from the transducer and into the water.
Transducers are an integral part of fishfinders. It helps in converting electric pulses into acoustic energy or sound waves and back again. Simply put, transducers work by sending out sound waves and then receives the echoes, which the echosounder can read or interpret what is underneath the water surface. You can know if the transducer is working by feeling its face while the sounder is running. If it’s working, you’ll hear the transducer tick or sense pulses.
Generally, most fishfinder display will show the same, unless it’s a 3d scan, side scan, or down scan. A fish finder typically displays the bottom surface as yellow. Generally, the unit won't display any color between the bottom and the surface. When there are marks or disturbances shown at the bottom, it can either be floating debris or fish. Remember that the fish is likely to be a large one if the mark displayed is larger and thicker. Also, if you find any arches, it’s more than likely to be a fish. A large ball is generally a bait ball so you should look out for larger blobs or dots around the ball because it indicates that a predatory fish is nearby.
Fishfinders are must-have tools for any fishing enthusiast. Plus, they’re a worthy investment as long as the quality meets your expectations.
Over the years, the quality of fishfinders has significantly improved in comparison to its previous models. Sonar and GPS technologies are improving each year and even the displays are becoming more durable and robust. To pick the best fish finder under $500, you need a good strategy and we’re certain that this comprehensive guide will help you find one that matches your requirements.