Fish Finder Review 2023 – Which sounder should I buy for my Kayak, tinnie or boat? With kayak fishing and boating booming, this has become a very common question. However, this question is generally answered by your available budget, fishing style and features required. This guide will walk you through the available features and price ranges to help you make an informed decision.
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Watch the video below of s roadtesting a Lowrance Elite ti2 7 sounder in a Hobie Pro Angler Kayak. You can also see more Kayak Fishing Videos.
Fish Finder options based on tier
We generally separate sounder fish finders into 3 separate categories entry-level, mid-tier and high end. Which have a contrasting price point and set of features designed for different applications.
Entry-level fish finder recommendations are generally priced between $400 and $1,000
- Lowrance Hook Reveal
- Garmin Striker plus
- Garmin EchoMAP Plus series
Mid-tier fish finder recommendations are generally priced between $1,000 and $1,500
- Lowrance Elite FS
- Simrad Go series
- Garmin EchoMAP UHD
High-end fish finder recommendations are generally priced at $1,500 and above
- Lowrance HDS Pro ( superseded HDSL Live in 2023 )
- Simrad NSS evo3 series
- Garmin echoMAP Ultra
- Furuno FCV series
- Garmin GPS Map 8400/8600 series
Sounder Marine Electronic Modes
- Traditional Sonar
- Side Scan ( Also known as Side Imaging and SideVu )
- Down Scan ( also known as Down Imagining and DownVu )
What is traditional sonar scan
This is the typical view that Sounders have used for many years. Omitting a beam at different frequencies and getting a 2D reading. This is what a traditional scan looks like.
What is Side Scan
Side Imaging provides an underwater view of the bottom and sides of the boat a bit like a live Aerial photograph. Generally a max distance of 75 meters on either side of the boat. Different brands call these different things Side Scan (Lowrance), SideVu (Garmin) & Side Imaging (Humminbird). This technology works by omitting sonar beams in a cone shape spread over a wide angle. Side Imaging transducers usually operate between 100kHz and 500kHz. When using Side Scan it’s a good idea to move slowly under 6 knots to allow the sounder processor to keep up and provide accurate and detailed readings.
What is Down Scan
Down Scan provides a live photo-like image of the bottom and structure below the Boat. The technology name is different amongst brands Lowrance calls this DownScan, Garmin calls it DownVü whilst Humminbird calls it Down Imaging.
Down Imaging is generally set at a frequency of 800 kHz (45°) and 455khz (75°). The best images come when moving slower and in shallow waters
Traditional 2D sonar shows a radius under your boat whilst Downscan gives a clearer view with more detail straight down of what is underneath you. Both can be very useful, but it’s great to have both.
Down imaging vs Side imaging
Fish Finder Review 2023. This image really represents the difference between side imaging, down imaging and traditional 2D sonar. Each view tells a different story. Down scan has a narrow beam pointing down giving you a clear view of what’s directly under you, Traditional gives a general view of a radius to the sides and underneath you and side imaging casts a beam out to each side of the boat giving you a lot more detail of fish and structure in the distances.
Best entry level low-cost fish finder and sounder for 2023
Lowrance Hook Reveal fish finder review 2023
These new fish finders just hit the market in Jan 2020 and are a successor to the very popular Hook 2 range. These sounders are considered entry-level tier with an affordable price point but a nice set of features. With powerful performance with fish-finding tools including, Autotuning Sonar, DownScan Imaging and now FishReveal technology. These make fish easier to see by combining CHIRP sonar and DownScan Imaging on one screen. Navigating is simple with the GPS Plotter, which makes the route, trail and waypoint navigation easy.
The Lowrance Hook Reveal is available in the following options
- Hook Reveal 5 inch with GPS Plotter, Maps, DownScan and deep water performance
- Hook Reveal 7 inch with GPS Plotter, Maps, DownScan, SideScan and deep water performance
- Hook Reveal 9 inch with GPS Plotter, Maps, DownScan, SideScan and deep water performance
These units are one of the most affordable and one of the most popular sounders used for kayaks and smaller boats. Lowrance has marketed this as the world’s easiest sounder to operate with set and forget technology meaning this sounder requires little to no manual configuration and automatically updates the settings depending on the system and depth that you are fishing. You can go into the settings and adjust the colours, depth, chirp and sensitivity but we typically don’t see too many people playing with the settings of these units.
For the price, you pay it offers a really good range of features including traditional scan, down scan, side scan, maps, plotter, and sd card slot for software updates and chart upgrades. The main difference between the Hook 2s and the Hook reveals is the new fish reveal technology. This is where they have new colours and overlays on the downscan setting with a lot more colours, defined shapes, and clarity to help you identify fish easily. These improvements allow you to easily identify the difference between fish, bait, and structure
For me, the downside to these sounders is 2 major things. No touch screen, having to use buttons to reposition maps, zooming and general features is so frustrating. Also quite poor readings in certain situations. when moving at a reasonably slow speed you get a lot of interference and poor readings and the readings can also be quite poor really shallow water, deep water and certainly. That’s because the transducer is much smaller and casts out a weaker signal and the returns are not as accurate as your higher-end models like the elite ti12, HDS Live, Simard, go and NSS EVO 3s.
In terms of usage, it has very easy Navigation, home button select button pages allow you to move between modes easily. You can also easily add and customise split screens, Enable plotter, Mark waypoints and change basic system settings and controls
In summary, at that entry-level space, the hook reveals are a really good choice. You get a lot of features for that lower price point. The screen is sharp, has great colours, and easy to flick between the scanning modes and is easy to manage waypoints. The downside is the readings are just as not accurate. That being said if you fishing from a kayak or a tinnie maybe you don’t need readings in deep waters when moving around. If you are new to boating and kayaking these would make an excellent option.
Garmin Striker Vivid fish finder review 2023
In 2019 Garmin released the first of their STRIKER series. A cut down version of the Echomap series at an affordable price point. The key difference being that these trimmed down versions had no maps or data storage. However the take up on these sounders was excellent and now Garmin has made some updates to this series adding a transducer update, and a new colour scheme.
All the Striker devices come with a high sensitivity receiver so fishers can not only see fish and structures below the boat but can also quickly mark their favourite spots. When trolling the GPS will update position once per second giving you an extremely accurate positional report for waypoints, dialling in the exact trolling speed and optimising lure presentation. You can also share waypoint data across Striker Plus units as well as the new Echomap Plus series.
- Features 7 vivid colour options for sonar to easily identify fish and obstacles
- Built-in GT20 transducer gives you both Garmin’s CHIRP traditional and ClearVü sonar
- Maneuverable tilt/swivel mounting bracket
- Highly sensitive GPS for navigation and find waypoints
- Easily mark your fishing spots, create routes and keep track of your speed
- Built-in Quickdraw contour mapping to spot any obstacles or sandbanks
- Join in with the Garmin Quickdraw™ community to download and share fishing maps
The striker vivid series has the following size options available for consumers.
Best mid tier fish finders and sounder for 2023
Lowrance Elite FS fish finder Review 2023
Released in December 2020 the new FS versions of the Elite sounder build upon the success of the previous Ti and Ti2 models. Refining existing features and adding new such as high-resolution active targeting, and multiple networking options. There are more colours, more detail and more customisation for a mid-tier sounder that offers a bucket load of features that you would expect out of a high-end unit. These units are a little more expensive than the previous Ti and Ti2 models but are still great value for money. Lowrance market these range of sounders for Avid Weekend anglers. Providing a heap of functionality without the premium price tag.
The Elite FS includes touchscreen functionality, the ability to syn and connect with Trolling motorsCHIRP Sonar, Down Imaging, TotalScan, including StructureScan HD. As well as Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity for downloading software updates directly, custom maps and pairing to other units.
The Lowrance Elite FS comes in the following options
- Elite FS7 + Active Image + 3-1 Transducer + CMAP – RRP $1,599
- Elite FS9 + Active Image + 3-1 Transducer + CMAP – RRP $1,899
Check out the video below which highlights how we found a school of pinkie snapper our elite ti2 sounder on a small boat on traditional sonar scanning.
Simrad Go Series
Available in 4 sizes and 2 models spanning the XSC and XRS range which is a little confusing to understand. The Simrad GO series offers buyers an intuitive touchscreen that smartphone users will find instantly familiar. Easily tap to create or select waypoints, pinch to zoom, or tap and drag to pan smoothly across charts. Simple home screen and menu layouts make all functions quickly accessible, with large and clearly-captioned icons that are easy to recognise and tap.
The Simrad GO Chartplotter navigation display expands the capabilities of sportboats, cruisers, and smaller centre consoles with plug-and-play support for Simrad Broadband Radar, Halo Pulse Compression radar systems. Behind a super-bright, multi-touch widescreen display lies a built-in GPS receiver, wireless connectivity, and industry standard NMEA 2000 networking. Connect with smartphones and tablets, control your onboard sound system, monitor engine data, and choose from an array of built-in sonar technology to cruise with confidence and find fish like a pro.
- Easy to use multi-touch interface
- Supports the widest range of charts
- Built-in Broadband Sounder™, CHIRP sonar, StructureScan® HD imaging or ForwardScan™ sonar support (transducer required)
- Radar display for Simrad Broadband 3G™/4G™ and Halo™ Pulse Compression radar (GO7 XSR, GO9 XSE, GO12 XSE)
- Compatible with the Simrad WM-3 SiriusXM satellite weather module
- Quick Navigation:
Garmin EchoMap UHD
The Garmin EchoMap UHD 65CV Combo is a user-friendly fishfinder series. available in a bright 6, 7 or 9-inch display. The Chartplotter features a CHIRP traditional sonar, a transducer for high-def scanning, and a quick-release bail mount for ease of use. You can use the pre-loaded maps to navigate with ease, or make your own maps with the Quickdraw™ Contours mapping system. The built-in ActiveCaptain app gives you all-in-one access to the OneChart™ feature, smart notifications, and access to the Garmin Quickdraw™ community. You can share your maps with the community or take advantage of other maps from expert anglers. It has built-in Wi-Fi® connectivity, so you always have access to up-to-date info. The GT24-UHD Transducer supports ultra high-def ClearVü, which provides a crystal clear image of the world beneath your boat.
- Supports ultra high-definition ClearVü
- Crystal-clear view with great resolution
- Sunlight-readable 6” screen
- Great target separation in freshwater and saltwater
- Build-in Wi-Fi for the free ActiveCaptain app
- Includes GT24-UHD Transducer
- Quick-release bail mount for quick, easy removal and storage
- Pre-loaded maps for easy navigation – or you can create your own
Best high end fish finders and sounder for 2023
Lowrance HDS Pro review 2023 ( superseded HDS Live )
The HDS Live was superseded in December 2022 by the HDS Pro which will make its way onto the shelves on most fishing retailers by Q1 2023. The HDS Live had a shelf live of 4 years released in 2019 and superseded what was the popular HDS Carbon series. It was one of the first sounders on the market to have Active imaging, Fish Reveal technology which is now found in many sounders today like the Elite FS, and Hook Reveal range ). You can also buy upgraded hardware to enable features like Structure Scan and live sight. ( to see things happening in real-time, like dropping your lures dropping, or fish chasing your lures ). All your major retailers by default will sell this unit with the Active 3-1 transducer and CMAP.
The new HDS Pro has upgraded active target 2 live sonar and now includes fish reveal on side scan and active target imaging, which are impressive updates.
When the unit was released its major selling points were
- Clear high-resolution touch screen, great colours,
- quad-core fast processor,
- excellent readings and a good mix of auto and manual settings,
- Wi-Fi to pair with other units and apps,
- a whole range of frequencies and chirp settings 50khz through to 800khz which is basically the shape and direction of the beam to give you different readings. Most commonly using 83khz to 200khz
- analogue and HDMI ports on the bigger units,
- multiple SD card slots,
- and large memory to store up to 3000 waypoints and 100 routes.
- Wireless remotes
- Pair multiple units. ( might have them at different parts of the boat or use one for maps and the other to find fish ).
They come in 4 sizes 9, 10, 12 & 16 inch screens
These units are so intuitive. Easy settings and easy clear apps to navigate your way around almost like a smartphone. Easy Navigation, a simple operating system which has icons and titles making it very easy to understand. It’s very simple to set up Split Screens, Change colours and much more.
- Easy to create instant waypoints
- Easy to add your own waypoints
- Easy to navigate around waypoints using maps and waypoint screen
- Storage and copy backup your waypoints
Auto vs manual.
The auto does a great job at auto-adjusting to where you’re fishing. So certain settings will automatically change depending on the depth and range. That being said you can easily adjust the frequency, gain, depth, chirp settings to get clearer readings. Now this can work really well if your find clutter on the screen ( weedy areas like WPort ) or if the readings are a bit weak.
Settings heaps of stuff here you can customise, I generally only change things such as miles/kilometres, feet/meters. Stuff along those lines.
For the most part, the unit does an excellent job in auto for traditional and downscan, however, you may want to consider manually changing the range when using side scan.
High chirp ( amazing detail for shallow water ) Low Chirp low-frequency wide beam great for deep water.
- Low CHIRP or 50kHz—Lower frequency means higher power for deep-water fishing.
- Medium CHIRP or 83kHz—Specifically designed to give the widest coverage area, 83 kHz is ideal for watching a bait under the transducer in shallow water.
- High CHIRP or 200kHz—Higher frequencies display a higher resolution image making it easy to discern fish from structure or structure from the bottom.
- 455kHz—Built into StructureScan HD and SpotlightScan, 455kHz allows for scanning of a large range with picture-like detail.
- 800kHz—Also built into StructureScan HD and SpotlightScan, 800kHz yields less range but even higher resolution detail than 455kHz.
- 7 inch $1,749 on special at BCF with 3-1 active transducer + CMAP
- 9 inch $3,399 on special at BCF with 3-1 active transducer + CMAP
- 12 inch $4,599 on special at BCF with 3-1 active transducer + CMAP
- 16inch $TBC at BCF with 3-1 active transducer + CMAP
Power consumption – This is higher than some competitors like the Garmin UHD series and Simrad Go series.
2-year warranty 1 year on the transducer
It’s a great mid-range sounder. It’s one of the most popular sounders on the market and has been since its release in 2019. It has a high resolution, fast processor, great colours, excellent readings and a good mix of auto and manual settings. Its also fairly priced. This is a great unit for those with runabout boats or those with kayaks who want the best of the breed. Including active imaging, which provides greater detail without sacrificing range or having to change frequencies. There’s also active Imaging 3D enhancement, FishReveal, LiveSight Forward & Down – giving you a much more comprehensive view of fish activity. You can even integrate the sounder with other units, live radars, google maps, weather updates, music, and smartphones.
Simrad NSS Evo3 fish finder review 2023
SIMRAD was founded in 1946, and is now part of the Navico group which includes Lowrance. Simrad is world-class leader in high-end fishing electronics. The Evo3 released in 2017 supersedes the Evo2 which was released in 2014 which was a terrific unit.
The NSS7 evo3 complements the larger screen sizes of the NSS evo3S range with a high-definition 7-inch display that delivers a big-picture view of high-detail, C-MAP US Enhanced inland and coastal charts, Radar, Active Imaging Sonar, and more. NSS evo3 has integrated wireless connectivity and an HDMI out, allowing you to mirror your display to your smartphone, tablet, or an onboard TV.
- SolarMAX IPS display with extreme viewing angles; viewable through polarized sunglasses
- Preloaded, high-detail C-MAP US Enhanced inland and coastal charts
- Full operation via touchscreen or keypad controls
- Touchscreen control of sonar, radar, autopilot and accessories
- Industry-standard connectivity to engines, sound systems and more
- Automatic routing support, plus easy trip planning with TripIntel
- Flexible installation with low-profile flush mount or bracket mount options
Now for those who don’t know Simrad and Lowrance are owned brands of the parent company Navico, with the Lowrance brand covering the low and mid-end sounders range and Simrad being their high-end sounders. When you think of low-end sounders like the Lowrance hook reveals there are a few things that are really frustrating including poor transducer readings, Non Touch Screen and low resolutions.
However, The NSSO EVO3 is the complete opposite.
- High-quality wide beam transducer which will give you really accurate readings to identify fish and structure.
- You can do that across more depths, and motor along a little bit faster
- Dual processor, High-resolution touch screen available in sizes from 7 inches to 16 inch
- Outstanding definition and colour settings
- It does all the basic features exceptionally well, like a plotter, charts, multi-screen
- There’s also some really advanced stuff in here that I’ve never used like autopilot and halo radar integration
There is a lot of familiarity in operating system and dashboard across all Simrad and Lowrance units, going back to the main screen allows you to easily switch between traditional, down scan, side scan and split screens. And making your own custom split screens is very easy. Some Favourite features are the quick toggle scroll to zoom in on maps, zoom in on schools of fish
If you are in the market of buying a sounder you need to understand there are some massive fundamental differences between the low, mid and high-end sounders. The low and mid-end units are almost what I would classify as a set and forget and what I mean by that is the settings are usually left on auto and that means that the depth and readings will automatically adjust depending on where you are fishing.
These higher-end units require a lot of user manual control and tweaking that’s why it’s imperative you get familiar with the features and how to control the settings. In particular, you will find that you are constantly changing the gain, frequency, sensitivity, noise reduction and depth settings all depending on the location that you fishing. And you can easily do that using the touch screen and making minor adjustments like this. However, you will find that your constantly tweaking these settings and for some people that can get a tad annoying.
Now, these sounders will be out of the price range for many anglers, but id always stress sometimes spending a tiny bit more and the features and quality will last much longer and improve your experience on the water.
Garmin ECHOMAP Ultra fish finder review 2023
The ECHOMAP Ultra Series combo fishfinder, with its bright, sunlight-readable 10″/12″ keyed-assist touchscreen display, has all the tools you need for successful fishing. It includes an all-in-one transducer for CHIRP traditional and Ultra High-Definition ClearVü and SideVü scanning sonars. It also includes preloaded BlueChart g2 coastal charts with Auto Guidance technology.
ECHOMAP Ultra Series Fishfinder features:
- 10”/12″ keyed-assist touchscreen combo includes all-in-one transducer for CHIRP traditional and Ultra High-Definition ClearVü and SideVü scanning sonars
- Built-in support for the full line of Panoptix™ sonars and the Panoptix LiveScope™ scanning sonar system, including Panoptix LiveScope LVS12 sonar
- Preloaded with BlueChart® g3 Australia and New Zealand coastal charts with Auto Guidance1 technology
- Share sonar, waypoints and routes with other ECHOMAP Ultra 10” and 12” units as well as ECHOMAP Plus 7” and 9” units
- Built-in Quickdraw Contours mapping software instantly creates personalized fishing maps on-screen with 1’ contours as you fish
- Built-in Wi-Fi® connectivity pairs with the free ActiveCaptain® app
- NMEA 2000® connectivity and support for heading sensors, autopilots, digital switching, weather, FUSION-Link™ audio system and more
- Panoptix Sonar Support
Garmin GPSMAP 8400 and 8600 series fish finder review 2023
The Garmin GPSMAP series of sounders are very impressive. Accurate and detailed images and fast processor that keeps up with the highest demand of SideVu and DownVu. We have done water testing using a Garmin 8410SXV with GT54UHD Transducer and the results were very impressive. Bright colours, clear readings and some amazing images when using downvu and sidevu. We also marked up fishing with ease using the traditional modes. We also had no issues changing transducers, pairing devices and syncing with the mobile app to transfer GPS marks. Comes in 10, 12 and 16 inch high definition touch screen.
Serious sport fishermen, cruisers, sailors and sail racers demand serious equipment. The easy-to-use, easy-to-install GPSMAP 8400xsv chartplotter/sonar combo delivers MFD performance in a combo-size package. It features a full HD in IPS touchscreen display for wider viewing angles, superior clarity and sunlight readability, even with polarized sunglasses. Multiple displays can be flat mounted edge-to-edge to create a sleek glass helm look or can be mounted flush. 10” Touchscreen Chartplotter/Sonar Combo with Full HD In-plane Switching (IPS) Display
Features a 10″, 12″ and a 16″ full HD IPS touchscreen display
Built-in support for the full suite of Garmin sonar capabilities
Fully network capable with NMEA 2000® connectivity and the Garmin Marine Network
Includes ANT® technology and Wi-Fi® networking
SmartMode™ station controls enable quick, one-touch access to the information you need
Best fish finder for your kayak
When buying a sounder for a kayak you need to give a lot of thought to the size of the sounder ( considering many yaks have a small workable area ). The mounting system, battery location and transducer installation.
If you have a Hobie Kayak then Lowrance is a preferred brand choice. That’s because most Hobie kayak models come out of the factory Lowrance ready. Lowrance ready mounting brackets underneath the kayak so you can easily attach the transducer that comes with your sounder to the mounting brackets. This means no drilling during installation simply unscrew, attach run the cables through and screw back on.
Some terrific options include
- Lowrance hook reveal 5 and 7 inch models
- Garmin Striker Vivid 5 and 7 inch models
- Lowrance Elite FS 7 inch model
- Simrad Go 7 inch model
Recently decommissioned fish finders
Lowrance Elite Ti2 Fish Finder Review 2023 ( superseded by Lowrance Elite FS in December 2020 )
The Elite Ti2 was released in mid-2018 and build upon the success on the existing Ti models but add even more features such as active Imaging, Fish Reveal and a range of connectivity options. These units are great value for money and Lowrance target this at Avid Weekend anglers. Providing a heap of functionality without the premium price tag.
The Elite Ti2 has CHIRP Sonar, Down Imaging, TotalScan, including StructureScan HD. As well as Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity for download software updates directly, custom maps and pairing to other units.
The Ti2 has touchscreen functionality, the ability to syn and connect with Trolling motors. These are a nice step up from the Hook 2 range providing more scanning, clearer screen and stronger readings.
The Lowrance Elite Ti2 come in the following options
- Elite 7 Ti2 + Active Image + 3-1 Transducer + CMAP
- Elite 9 Ti2 + Active Image + 3-1 Transducer + CMAP
They also come available in 12 inches would be unpractical for a kayak.
These start around the $1,000 price point and go all the way up to $3,000
Check out this image of a school of snapper we found using our elite ti2 sounder on a small boat on traditional sonar scanning.
Lowrance Hook 2 Fish Finder Review 2023 ( superseded by Fish Reveal in May 2020 )
Released towards the end of 2017 the Hook 2 range are your entry-level sounders. Lowrance suggests that these are targeted at casual anglers. They are the most affordable starting from as low as $100 and by far the easiest to use. They do still provide a good level of functionality without needing to change settings or complication. These are very good units for beginners. Everything is pre-setup and ready to use on the water.
These are very intuitive with the simple one-thumb operation, and the ability to switch between down scan, side scan and GPS quickly. The fish finders are available in SplitShot, and TripleShot providing CHIRP, DownScan and StructureScan. As with all products you get what you pay for. These compared to high-end fish finders are missing things such as touch screen, chart plotting, and have limited range, and not as accurate reading. They are however great value for money and will do an excellent job telling you the water depth, temperature, and will give basic readings of schools of fish, bait and structure.
The Lowrance Hook 2 come in the following options
- Lowrance Hook² 4x + Bullet Transducer
- Lowrance Hook² 4x + GPS + Bullet Transducer
- Lowrance Hook² 5x + SplitShot Transducer
- Lowrance Hook² 5x + GPS + SplitShot Transducer
- Lowrance Hook² 7x + GPS + TripleShot Transducer
- Lowrance Hook² 9x + GPS + TripleShot Transducer
They also come available in 12 inches would be unpractical for a kayak.
Lowrance fishfinder options in 2023
Lowrance has a great range of options for both boats and kayaks. As the image below shows the Hook Reveal fit in the entry-level category, Elite FS in the mid-level and HDS Pro into the high-end category. Many of these models have been refreshed with the hook reveal and elite FS getting a decent facelift towards the end of 2020 and HDS Pro being a new release in 2023.
Installing a sounder or fish finder on your kayak or Hobie
If you’re like me you may need assistance having your sounder installed. There are some great local centres that will do this for you at a small fee. This would include AWS in Geelong and SL Hobie. Please call those centres directly to arrange a time to have your sounder fitted.
You can install different branded sounders but the installation of the transducer may be a little more complicated and require some custom parts and installation. A good example of what can be seen in the embedded video below.
Additions or corrections
Thanks for reading this Fish Finder Review 2023. If you have any questions, corrections or additions then please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as we can. You can see more about the new Lowrance fish finders here