Friday, December 10, 2010

The Fish Finder - Part 1

 Tips to help you choose the best fish finder for your bass fishing needs.

Whether you're going after Fall bass, Winter bass or getting ready for Spring, a good fish finder is a tool that every bass fisherman should consider seriously. Your fishfinder / depth finder is your eyes under the surface of the water.

Since marine electronics can be a sizable investment, you should make sure you don't spend more than you need to; and get a unit that fits your needs.

The fact is, most people who own a boat with a fish finder never learn to use it correctly. It's easy to find information on the internet on how to use a fish finder. The problem is, it's mostly geared to promote a particular brand or sales there of. And most give you nothing really useful. So this will be a 2 part post. Today I'm going to help you decide what unit would be best for you. Later I'm going to have another post on how to use a fish finder. There is a lot to learn on both these subjects; so get a cup of coffee and get ready to learn about fish finders.

Fish Finder Power

The power or wattage of a fish finder is most important for deeper water aplications. If you fish mostly visible cover in extremely shallow water (2 to 4 ft) and never fish deep water structure, you may only need something to tell you how deep the water is and show you whats on bottom . In this case most any cheap unit on the market will give you an accurate depth reading and will work just fine for you.

On the other hand If you fish deep water structure at all (deeper than 6ft) Your needs are going to be met best by a unit with at least 3000 watts peak to peak power. The more power the better readings / detail you will get.

Fish finder Pixel

Pixel as in power is also the more the better. The picture you get on the screen of your fish LCD is made up of individual pixels. Simply put the more pixels the unit has per vertical line, the more clear and distinguishable the readings will be. Pixels also play a huge role in giving you detailed readings are vital for distinguishing fish from other objects. If you fish deep water at all, a minimum of 640 vertical pixels is going to meet your needs best.

Fish Finder Transducers

Basically fish finders are under water sonar. The transducer is the component which mounts on or inside the boats hull. It sends down a signal which bounces off the bottom back to the transducer which sends the information back through the transducers cable to your screen translated into a picture of whats under the water. I Know, it's amazing isn't it?

As complicated as it may sound, transducers are fairly simple when it comes to choosing one. Most fish finders come with 1 basic, standard 20 degree cone angle transducer and a bracket which mounts the transducer to the outside Bottom of the boat. This transducer will work just fine.

Because it's Important and relates to learning to use your fish finder, (Which I'll be focusing on in the next post) I'm going to elaborate a little more on the transducer.

If you've read my blog in the past you know that I believe in keeping my tackle choices simple; and the same is true when it comes to electronics used for fishing. If you've been looking at electronics recently, you probably know that today's fish finders are very advanced and most include a wide variety of bells and whistles such as gps, side finder, and color view capabilities just to name a few.
All these features are great; but can make things very complicated for you if your just learning to use a fish finder. So I recommend starting with a good simple unit with adequate power, pixel and a standard 20 degree cone angle transducer. Unless you fish extremely shallow water as I mentioned above in this case it's fine to go with a wider cone angle transducer. You'll understand my reasoning for this when we get into learning to use your fish finder.

Fish Finder Brands And Prices


Before I talk about brands, just for the record, I am not affiliated with or sponsored by any of the companies that I may mention. Any recommendations or reviews I give are strictly based on my personal experience with the product.

There are lots of good fish finders on the market. And you don't have to spend your kids college fund or your own retirement to get a decent unit that will meet your needs.

Some of the best cheaper units that I've used are sold by Eagle Electronics. If you don't mind spending a little more for your fish finder Lowrance is the parent company of Eagle and makes what I believe to be the best. I've used Lowrance units on my own boat for 25 years. They have always been very dependable and I've never had any reason to change.
Another good brand that I've used on occasion is Garmin . I have lot's of friends who use Garmin consistently and I have not heard any complaints about their product. Hummingbird also makes a good fish finder. However it has been my experience that some of their cheaper units don't have a manual depth scale, which I consider a very important feature.

Whether you choose a bare bones cheaper unit or a top of the line with all the bells and whistles, there is one very important feature that your fish finder should have. That feature is a manual depth scale mode. This allows you to set the depth scale at the depths you desire and stops the scale (which is usually in automatic mode as the default setting on most units) from changing automatically. A constantly changing depth scale can become confusing; especially for an angler who is learning. Also the automatic depth scale setting takes away from the power of the unit and can sometimes cause distorted or false readings. I consider a manual depth scale mode feature to be a must on any LCD fish finder. I will also elaborate on this in the next post.

Hopefully what I've talked about so far will help those of you who have not gotten a fish finder yet choose one. For those who already have one, I'll be talking about learning to use a fish finder next time.

I know there are lots of questions you may have on this subject. Please feel free to use the comments to ask any questions you may have about fish finders.



Pull-Start said...

I just got my first boat 14ft glasscraft bass boat. I am looking to get a decent fish finder for around $150. However, when looking at fish finders all I am getting is a bunch of hype about bells and whistles. I either want a hummingbird (this is my preference) or Lowrance. What do I need to do in this situation?

FISH said...

Thanks for your comment Pull Sart. Bells and whistles are what sells fish finders, simply because 99% of the people who buy them are inexperienced and do not understand how to use them. Thats why the sales people tout all the great (useless) functions they have.

The two most important things I look for in a unit is a manual mode depth scale and power. Lowrance does make a unit in your price range that puts out 200 watts and should work well for you. Its the mark 5x. It retails for just over $200 but I was able to locate one online for $159. Humming bird may have one as well. I'm not sure.