fish finder tips

So you have fallen in love with fishing, and you have a boat but are looking at a fish finder to up your game. We have compiled these fish finder buying tips to help you fish further from the shoreline and know what is under the surface so you can catch that monster fish.

Whether your boat is a fishing boat, a john boat, a canoe or even a kayak, there’s a fish finder that will fit it, and make finding large and small schools of fish, as well as knowing the depth of the water you are boating in a whole lot easier.

Knowing the depth of the water also tells you where the deep drop-offs are, which is where many fish congregate to feed on the smaller fish that school in the shallower waters.

And, since you know the depth of the water with your fish finder, you will know when to watch out for rocks and trees rising from the waters, but not quite out of the water, saving your propeller from possible major damages.

So let’s jump on in to learn about all of our fish finder buying tips:

Type of Boat

fishing boat

Our first fish finder buying tips will have you start with the type of boat that you have, and the type of waters that you will be fishing.

If you stick to lakes, then you can start off with fish finders that are in the lower price ranges. You will not necessarily need to have multiple transducers, and you won’t be needing the fish species identifier options, both of which can add major dollars to the final cost of your fish finder. But you will want a fish finder that can tell the difference between a log on the bottom of the lake and a big trout.

GPS Functionality

Adding GPS functionality to your fish finder is only needed when you are fishing lakes that are very big, or that you do not know well. Another possible scenario is when you are fishing in rivers, where you could get lost taking tributary after tributary, and the GPS function would find your way back.

Keep in mind, this is also not really needed if you have a smartphone (and good reception) with GPS apps downloaded and functioning.

Depth and Water Temperature Readings

Fish finder depth

For beginners, the most basic function that you should be looking for in a fish finder is the depth and water temperature readings. The more accurate the depth finder, the better the fish finder.

Finding those drop-offs, where the lake’s bottom suddenly drops from 20 feet to 120 feet within a 2 or 3-foot distance will help you to find the schooling trophy fish that congregate in these areas.

Shallower water can also be a benefit to find, where there are weed beds apparent, or near shorelines.

Having a fish finder in these types of areas will save the bottom of the boat from finding ground or rocks, as well as saving the propeller.

Zoom Features

After you learn to properly utilize the zoom feature of your fish finder, you will get a better understanding of the areas you are fishing.

fish finder display lines

You will need to understand the various lines that pop up on the screen can be counter-intuitive. For example, in some models, a harder bottom will display as a relatively thin line, while a softer bottom display as a thicker line.

This occurs because sonar waves penetrate softer bottoms to a degree before bouncing back and reporting information to the fish finder. Ultimately, to understand whether the bottom of the area you are fishing is hard or soft, you need to zoom in far enough to see the last five or ten feet of water being reported up by your fish finder.

Transom-Mount Transducer

Most non hand held fish finders come with a transom-mount transducer. This useful feature can get you better results, but only if you know how to calibrate it properly. To get good readings, try adjusting the settings, or changing its location entirely.

When you are receiving poor details and info from your fish finder, these settings and adjustments are often why. By tuning them properly, you unlock the ability to properly use your location features.

Turbulence, such as heavy choppy waves or being located too close to the motor, can also interfere with the readings you’re getting from the fish finder. When you are having interference from turbulence, changing settings in the transom-mount reducer is a possible solution.

fish finder transducer placement


We would be remiss if we didn’t mention this. You need to decide how much money you are willing to spend. There are fish finders on the market from $80 to $2000. Deciding on your fish finder budget will quickly eliminate the ones out of your price range.

Portable or Fixed

Also, you should decide whether the fish finder you need will be portable or fixed.

Portable fish finders usually run off of batteries so you need to make sure you have enough battery life for your fishing trip. They are usually small enough to fit in your pocket. Personally, I like the portable ones as they are ideal for use on kayaks, can be moved from boat to boat, or can also be used to fish off of a dock.

Fixed units are usually wired up to 12-volt battery or power source. They usually attach to a permanently to your kayak or boat with some sort of bracket. However, the “fixed” part is a bit of a misnomer as the main unit is typically removable in order to prevent theft.

We have tested with several different models and the performance of portable vs. fixed units is very comparable.

Best Fish Finder Brands

The best manufacturers for fish finders for beginner fishermen would be Garmin, Lowrance, and Northstar. Each manufacturer has many different fish finder models, as well as accessories, like extra transponders, and cameras for live video feeds from under your boat.

For the more expensive fish finders, you will find that they have things like GPS, fish species identifier, cameras, weather forecasts, and water temperatures at different depths.

Final Thoughts on Our Fish Finder Buying Tips

What are you waiting for? Hopefully, these fish finder buying tips are able to help you get the best fish finder for your hard earned cash. Now grab your crankbait rod, baitcasting reel, digital fish scale, and even your spinning rod under 100 dollars, and jump on your boat to find them fish!

Fish on, and fish safely!

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