Fish Finders For Dummies

Electronics have become an essential tool to the modern angler. Quite often they are featured in our FishVault monthly fishing subscription boxes. Of all the electronics that have changed the fishing landscape, fish finders are front and center. But, do you know how to properly use one? With so many options and varieties, we thought it might be helpful to give you a crash course on using a fish finder.

What is a Fish Finder?

Fish finders are apparatus used to seek and catch fish, and they’re important in locating specific aqua creatures under water. Fish finders gives the fisherman the options of viewing the depth, aqua structure, fish hiding locations, speed and also depth temperature. Fish finders use a transducer to transmit sonar waves into the water, and then interpret the resulting sonar returns to generate an image of what’s in the water underneath the boat. 

Different Types of Fish Finders

2D sonar

2D sonar is the oldest type of fish finder technology, and is thus often called traditional sonar. 2D sonar uses a round transducer that shoots a sonar cone down into the water which widens as it travels through the water.

Down imaging fish finder

Similar to 2D sonar, a down imaging fish finder also works with a sonar beam shot straight down into the water, but unlike 2D sonar, its sonar beam is very thin, and doesn’t widen as it travels down through the water. Because of its narrow sonar beam, down imaging shows a narrow cross section of the water and the bottom straight underneath your boat, and thus generates a very high level of resolution.

Side imaging fish finder

As the name suggests, a side imaging fish finder uses a transducer that shoots two sonar cones sideways on each side of the boat. Side imaging is ideal for scanning large areas of a lake in order to find fish holding structure, which is why it’s also often referred to as structure scan. Once you find interesting structures with side imaging, such as rock piles, trees, or ledges, you can then investigate these spots in more detail with either 2D or down imaging. 

Live sonar

Live sonar is one of the most recent sonar technologies, and shows sonar returns that are updated in real time. This is very different from other types of fish finders, which usually show an image consisting of historical sonar data. While live sonar isn’t good for scanning large areas in search of fish holding structures, they are great when you do find fish, as you can see exactly where they are, and how they react to your lure or bait. 

What type of fish finder should you choose?

The best way to choose a fish finder is by deciding what sonar technologies you’ll need, as well as the size of your budget. If you’re a beginner, it’s generally best to get an entry level unit since these are designed to be easy to use straight out of the box. For starters, we would recommend an entry level fish finder that comes with 2d sonar, down imaging, and side imaging capabilities, combined with an all-in-one transducer that covers all these options.

Lowrance, Garmin, and Humminbird are all brands that offer state of the art finders at different price points and features. We hope you found this article helpful and would love to hear how you have used a fish finder to improve your fishing results. And don’t forget to keep an eye out on the monthly FishVault fishing subscription boxes where electronics are often an item that our subscribers get.