In this modern world where technology helps in the advancement of a lot of ordinary appliances, people are finding work much easier to accomplish.
These amazing advancements in technology not only made life easier for everyone, but it also made hobbies and interests more fun and enjoyable.
Before, the sonar technology is used by ships to detect other ships or objects nearby to avoid accidents or collisions. Now, the same technology is being used to help fishing enthusiasts and people who do fishing for a living, and life hasn’t been easier for them ever since.
This article tackled the different types of technology used in a fish finder instrument, the top five best fish finders under 500 you can find in the market, and some buying guide and tips on how to select the best fish finders available.
What is a Fish Finder and How Does It Work?
A fish finder, or also known as sounder in some countries particularly in Australia, is an instrument that uses sonar technology to detect and find fish even if it’s miles away.
The fish finder instrument usually displays in a graphical manner the measurement of the reflected sound which is later interpreted by an operator who can read the graphs. The interpreter can tell if what lies beneath is either a school of fish or underwater objects. The operator can also locate the best area to go to for a guaranteed good catch.
Fish finders are usually used by commercial or sports fishermen to make catching fish easier for them. Before, serious training is needed to be able to learn to read and interpret the graphical data displayed on fish finders, but now, due to the advancement in technology, anyone can easily read fish finders as the instruments becomes easier to navigate and understand.
The technology behind fish finder is somehow easy to get a grasp on. It mimics the same concept used by bats, which is the sonar energy. In this technology, a wave is produced underwater powered by a fish finder and scours the ocean for any object, living, or nonliving.
When the wave hits something, it is reflected back in the display screen of the instrument with its size, shape, and composition.
Some fish finders have an associated built-in GPS navigation system, and some have fathometers.
Fish finders with GPS navigation system is a part of the modern electronics and can search in a wider scope as it shows you the exact location of where to fish best, while find finders with fathometers can help you measure and determine the depth of the water.
Fathometers and fish finders use the same concept of technology, so the two have been merged, thus creating a powerful instrument that not only tells you the depth of the ocean but also what lies beneath.
Different Fish Finder Technology
Fish finder instruments would always be a part of the greatest breakthrough in fishing. It moves the fishing industry to a whole new level, and life hasn’t been easier.
The technology behind fish finders differs in types. Each type suits different types of person and usage. So, if you find yourself looking for the best fish finder that can satisfy your needs, check out these different types of fish finder technology and see which one will suit you best.
1. Standard Sonar
The standard sonar is the most commonly used type of technology used in fish finders. It is also the oldest type that reach extreme popularity during the 1980s and the 1990s.
It uses one or two beams in 200 or 50 kHz, which is the standard beam used in fish finders, to ping and reflect the results on the LCD screen on the fish finder. Before the LCD screen is in a regular black and white format, but after a few tweaks later, it became colored.
The colored screen became more popular as it is easier to read colored indicators such as red means hot,which indicates stronger returns or a good place to fish, and yellow or green means cold, which means weaker returns or not the best place to fish.
Fish finders with standard sonar technology are also one of the cheapest but most decent fish finder instruments you can find. For only a few hundred dollars, you can score yourself a colored one with a nice small screen that is perfect for your small fishing needs.
It is best used by those who considered fishing as a hobby for small-time, individual fishing enthusiasts or sports fishing.
2. Side-scanning Finders
The side-scanning fish finder uses a high-frequency beam to take a clear picture or imagery of what lies exactly beneath your keel. The beams are in 455/800 kHz and serve as the best for it uses a more modern technological approach.
The downside of this technology,however, is the complexity of how to use it, as it requires trained operators to interpret the data it gathers; in addition, this can go from expensive to very expensive.
It’s best used for big commercial-type fishing.
3. Scanners or Imagers
The scanners or imagers use the same beam a side-scanning finder use, which is 455/800 kHz. This fish finder can take a clear picture of what is beneath in an MRI-like manner.
This type of fish finder technology is like an advanced standard sonar as some of the main concept of the former was retained, but a lot has been added.
You can also get quality scanners for a couple of hundred dollars.
It is best used for sports fishing or individual fishing enthusiasts.
4. Compressed High-intensity Radar Pulse or CHIRP
CHIRP technology, as what it is most commonly known, may seem to show that it uses an entirely different type of energy, which is radar, but in all sense, the technology behind CHIRP is the same as any type of technology present in fish finders.
The CHIRP technology, unlike its predecessors, sends out pings which go through different frequencies in a very fast succession. The lines and graphs that you see in other fish finders that use a different type of technology became more vivid in the CHIRP technology. Here, you will be able to see the different world underneath in high resolution. It is like seeing what’s beneath the water surface in a different perspective.
As this is the most advanced technology of fish finders, expect the price tag to be hefty.
It is best used if you usually roam around the edge of the mainland edge and a full-blown fishing enthusiast. Perfect investment for huge-type commercial-type fishermen.
The Top 5 Best Fish Finders Under $500 Review
If you’re a die-hard angler and in need of a fish finder instrument but a little short on cash, this review is the best for you. You will find in this review that you can score quality fish finders in a budget that will not exceed $500. You can check out what fish finders are available in the market and the Best Fish Finders Under $500 that will suit your needs.
1. Garmin Striker with Built-in GPS Fish Finder
This fish finder by Garmin is among the best fish finders under $500 that you can find in the market. Rated 4.4 out of 5 stars, the Garmin Striker has a built-in GPS navigation system allowing a bigger coverage and a guarantee that you can never go lost while enjoying a little fishing in the ocean.
It is very easy to use, and the mobile phone look makes the interface user-friendly. The 3.5-inch colored fish finder has also incorporated the CHIRP technology that makes value for money even better.
The CHIRP technology includes 77/200 kHz sonar transducer and can be upgraded to GT8 or GT15 that can be sold separately and can transmit power to up to 200 W RMS.
The best feature of this fish finder is the user-friendly interface that is through the clickable keypad that allows you to navigate different menus and options.
The GPS navigation system is also a great feature as it allows you to mark favorite fishing spots and places where you can get big fish. The amazing detail of the colors on the fish finder can also help you check out places where you can achieve stronger returns.
The accuracy and efficiency are the two of the most boasted feature of this Garmin Striker fish finder as it can help you achieve the perfect catch.
Lastly, what makes this device very dependable is that you can place it and use it on as many boats as you want, just mount it on your boat and it is ready to go. Just remember to buy a good removable stand so you can use it on other boats.
- Easy to mount and no installation needed
- Has a built-in GPS navigation system
- Can save favorite fishing spots and has location setting
- Utilizes CHIRP technology at such a cheap price
- Accurate from shallow to deep waters
- Perfect for small- to medium-sized boats
- Easy to use and navigate
- CHIRP technology is upgradable
- Can sometimes be inaccurate when it comes to bigger boats
- Problems in reading may sometimes occur on medium to large faster boats
Overall, the Garmin Striker is the best fish finder if you’re a newbie in the business as the simplicity of the instrument makes life easier for you. It is best used in sports and recreational fishing.
2. Humminbird Helix 5 with CHIRP Technology and GPS Navigation System Fish Finder
If you’re looking for a perfect companion for your fishing needs, check out the fish finder from Humminbird. This best fish finder under 500 has a built-in GPS navigation system using the advanced CHIRP technology and has rated 4.7 out of 5 stars.
The 5-inch color WVGA display monitor is a quality LCD that displays everything you need to know about finding fish. It can display as a fish finder or as a map for the GPS or both if need be.
The CHIRP technology of the Humminbird offers 83/200 kHz frequency which can be upgraded. It also has a memory card slot so you can save maps and waypoints or upload saved maps from your computer to your fish finder device.
Humminbird has been in the business of innovating fish finder instrument so expect nothing but the best as it launched in the Helix 5 the newest operating system and user interface that features an 800H x 480V and a 5-inch color display complete with back light.
It also has a built-in Anima Cartography for easier distinction of what lies beneath the surface of your keel.
The CHIRP technology also uses a dual beam with additional sonar with 4000W PTP output to make sure of precision and accuracy that the monitor displays.
So, if you’re into accuracy and precision, you will not go wrong with Humminbird Helix 5. Although the price can be a little higher compared to other brands, the Humminbird Helix 5 is still cheaper if you’re going to compare it to a higher and more powerful fish finder technology which is expensive but still comparable to the Humminbird series.
- No installation required, just mount it to a suitable stand
- Easy to use
- Graphs and colors are easy to read
- Uses CHIRP Dual beam technology with sonar
- Has a built-in GPS navigation system
- Has memory slot for a MicroSD so you can change maps and no problems about running out of memory for saving waypoints
- Has a built-in Anima cartography for a precise internal GPS plotting
- Can be used in another boat
- Compatible with any boat sizes
- Can be a little expensive, but it still worth the price as it is valued at less than $500
Overall, the Humminbird Helix 5 has remained true to its word of always delivering best quality fish finder equipment. The dual beam and CHIRP technology have really made this extra powerful but at a reasonable price.
3. Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro Navionics+ Dual Channel Center Fish Finder
Raymarine has been in the business of manufacturing the best electronic equipment for use in the marine with a target market of people who are into recreational and commercial fishing and other marine-related activity. The business, which dated back in 1923, is known to produce the best-quality electronic equipment for fishing.
So, if you want something that will worth your money but still value at something you can afford, you will never go wrong with the Dragonfly 4 Pro from Raymarine.
This fish finder is an all-weather fish finding instrument with a 4.3” high-definition LED with backlit display for a screen.
The Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro uses a dual channel sonar with a wide range CHIRP technology which captures a crisp, clear, photo-like images. It also has an additional second CHIRP technology that uses a conventional sonar channel which targets small to big fish.
The best feature of this fish finder from Raymarine is you can use your mobile phone as screen or display image as you can stream live sonar data directly to your smartphone through the Raymarine’s own app called the Wi-Fish mobile app which you can download for free.
Through the Wi-Fish App, you have the option to save your day’s catch and share it to your associated social media accounts such as Facebook or Instagram. You can also rewind your fishing activity and re-watch it whenever you want or check and study your areas of improvement.
The built-in GPS system also included a wider scope for bodies of water to fish from that include US rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. The GPS navigation system can also help you with planning on where to fish next or go back to the same spot where you love to fish.
If you live overseas, you can always purchase separately the Navionics with a chart of where you are located so you can still use it anywhere.
- Easy to mount and use as it comes with a transom mount and CHIRP transducer
- You can use even outside the US as you can purchase a separate chart for your location
- Has a mobile app called the Wi-Fish where you can link your social media account
- Has a built-in GPS navigation system
- Uses two types of fish finder technology, the CHIRP and the dual sonar
- You can watch a live stream from your smart phone
- Easy to use and navigate
- Can be used in places outside the US
- If linked to the smart phone, it can use up so much battery for your mobile phone
- Charts that are sold separately allow you to use it outside US territory are expensive
Overall, the Raymarine Dragonfly 4 has exceeded our expectations as it was able to surpass its predecessors from Raymarine. The newly improved Dragonfly 4 has not only made this fish finder more powerful than its counterparts but also made fishing more fun and exciting.
4. Garmin Echo 100 Fish Finder
If you’re somewhat an old school and would like to stick to the simple and uncomplicated fish finder instrument, then the Garmin Echo 100 Fish finder is highly recommended.
This fish finder shows a black and white display image on 4” display screen. It also comes in different depths from 600 feet to 1500 feet in range that all differs in display screen and price.It has eight levels of grayscale so you won’t be confused about the different variables it displays.
This very classic style fish finder from Garmin shows only important details that would make it easier to read even for novice or those who are only starting in the fishing industry.
The Garmin Echo 100 also features an innovative design which targets the tracking technology. It gives fast data about the fish, its structure, and the bottom information.
The technology used in Garmin Echo is a single-beam sonar that uses a frequency of up to 200 kHz, has a sonar power of up to 100 watts, and monitors up to a 600 feet water depth.
Although it will work fine in the ocean, the Garmin Echo 100 is more suitable to work in freshwater lakes and for small craft.
- Easy to mount, as it includes own transducer with a mounting bracket, hardware, and a trolling motor clamp
- Easy to use and navigate
- Available in four depths performance
- Doesn’t require too much power
- More suitable for freshwater fishing
- No built-in GPS navigation system
- Only works perfectly in fresh water
- Not suitable for medium to large boats
Overall, perfect for people who don’t want complicated but easy to use fish finder instrument, and ithighly recommended for beginners to veterans. The amount of this instrument is reasonably priced too.
5. Lowrance Elite – 5x HDI Fish Finder
Lowrance is a brand name known for marine products that can exceed the buyer’s expectations. They are in the business for over 50 years, and they are known for their chartplotter fish finder which is very useful for fishing enthusiasts everywhere.
The 5x HDI technology of Lowrance Elite comes with a 5” color display LCD. It has 50 kHz and 250 watts that can give you clear readings of up to 1000 feet in depth.
Lowrance features their latest HDI technology, which is a combination of the classic broadband sounder and the downscan imaging technology. This combination resulted in a clear, high-resolution display image that would make readings easier for anglers.
The combination of these two technologies allowed the accurate spotting of individual fish as a downscan technology’s main purpose is to find structure. In the monitor, you will see two split screens displaying the bottom and the structure so that everything can be seen effectively from rock formation to sea objects and to fish.
Another good feature of the Lowrance Elite is the advanced signal processing technology. This makes the graphical interpretation easier to read as it automatically adjusts the graphical readings to a simpler form of data. You will be able to distinguish if it is a fish, the bottom, or a structure more accurately and easily.
- Uses two fish finder technologies: a broadband sounder and downscan imaging
- Uses a relatively low amount of power
- Accurately measure the structure and depth of the bottom ocean
- Can work well in small- to medium-sized boats
- Easy to use
- Easy installation as it fits the same cutout of five various dash installations
- Can be upgraded
- Has a transom mount transducer
- No built-in GPS Navigation system
- Solely use for fish finding and not for chart plotting
Overall, the product received 5 out of 5 stars from reviews and one of the most in-demand, easy to use fish finder available. The two technologies present in this product have made other brands that use the CHIRP technology an equal advantage.
This fish finder is recommended for users who want a traditional yet powerful fish finder device for their simple fishing needs.
Buying Guide to Select the Best Fish Finder Under 500
Whether you are a beginner in fishing and you are looking for a fish finder for your fishing needs or a veteran who wants to upgrade into a more powerful fish finder instrument,this buying guide will help you on how to choose the best fish finder available in the market that is worth your money.
1. To select the best, you need to put into consideration how powerful the features are in each fish finder brands. Make sure that the feature it has is something that you will need and will be able to use. For example, if you don’t know how to use a GPS navigation system or doesn’t mind not having one, you might consider buying for an ordinary fish finder without a built-in GPS system.
2. Always check out the following important features:
- Display – check out the number of pixels available in the fish finder and know that the more number of pixel, the higher the image quality. A quality display pixel which is considered acceptable is from 240v x 160h. There are also a lot of display sizes, the bigger the display screen, the better and clear picture.
- Transducer – this is the main part of the fish finder. Its main task is to send sound waves so that you can see what lies beneath you. Its other task is to receive the signal it sent back for interpretation and reading.
The important feature of a transducer is its cone angle, so if you want a bigger perspective, pick a transducer that has a higher degree on the cone. Some transducer also has a more specialized feature, such as multiple beams and the side beams which will give you a better and bigger view and more chances of locating fish in the ocean or lakes.
3. Don’t hesitate to shell out money. If you are a bit tight in budget, there are best fish finders under 500, and most of them are powerful and can cover recreational or sports fishing.
The top five list of best fish finder listed above is just some of the best fish finders that you will find under $500. All of them has been rated accordingly and considered the best fish finder of 2017.
Remember that in choosing the best quality, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be expensive; you can always find something that will fit your budget and your needs if you just know how to select properly and find the right one.