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Do you want to increase your chances of catching a trophy fish? Thanks to a small device, you will be able to locate big fish in all water terrains and make the most of every day on the water. If you don’t have time to search for the best side imaging fish finders, we did all the research for you!
Additionally, we’ve got many emails by anglers who cannot figure out how side imaging works. They would really like to add this useful tool to their fishing arsenal, but the imaging features are not easy to read. Hence, we prepared a detailed buying guide that explains the difference between down imaging and side imaging and many other features you will have to look for before making a buying decision.
The fish finder emits a signal-beam down to the bottom and this signal returns to the transducer which “translates” the signal into electrical signals and the result is what you see on your screen.
If you never had a fish finder that supports side imaging, it can be quite confusing! To be honest, it is slightly different than down imaging, but this should not discourage you from adding such a useful tool to your fishing tackle collection.
The combination of modern technological advancements and science created helpful devices. A few years ago it was almost impossible to locate fish and exact depths. Fortunately, in the last ten years many fish finders became affordable so you do not have to spend a fortune to buy one.
Before we start with the buying guide, you should know that all brands use different terms.
Obviously, a fish finder with high power can show more accurate results. The measurement unit is wattage. For instance, a good power fish finder that you want to use in depths that reach 150 m should be 500W.
A fish finder with high wattage is recommended for deep waters.
Moreover, the screen resolution of your fish finder should have enough pixels in order to show you a more detailed picture. It is the same thing as in smartphones. If you have a smartphone with a 5 Pixels camera, it will surely take poor quality pictures.
Furthermore, you have to take into consideration that it is difficult to read the screen in direct sunlight. For this reason, you have to choose a suitable TFT screen. The combination of a high-resolution screen and a big size screen is perfect for your boat.
As we mentioned above, the transducer sends a signal (beam) from the bottom of your boat. The beam looks like a cone.
However, some modern fish finders have more than one beam (CHIRP SONAR SYSTEM) to cover more area. In this case if you have a medium-size boat, a 20-30 degree cone is more than enough.
While the fish will pass through the cone, you will notice an arch on the screen. However, if you are still on the water surface, fish signals may appear like lines on the screen.
First of all, we should definitely refer to the feature that makes modern fish finders unique and a must-have item. All fishermen would agree that GPS is the most important specification of a good fish finder. If you do not know the reason, we will explain it thoroughly.
A classic fish finder informs you about the depth of the water, the structure of the bottom, and locates fish. If you are fishing in some specific spots it would be a good idea to have a GPS in order to find them again. Fish finders with built-in GPS give you the opportunity to save thousands or hundreds of spots.
Undoubtedly, this feature is extremely helpful for open sea boatmen or large lake anglers. There is nothing worse than searching for your favorite fishing spot for hours. Thus, the GPS can definitely save you from this time-consuming procedure.
Emphasis should be laid on the fact that most fish finders have an integrated speedometer which is essential for trolling enthusiasts. The floatation and action of your fishing lure are directly affected by the speed of your vessel.
Consequently, fish finders with non-built in GPS are useless. The waypoint navigator will show you the accurate way in order to approach the marked spot on the map.
The best side imaging fish finders utilize a CHIRP Sonar System which makes the bottom depiction look like a real photo of the bottom under your boat. Usually, the transducer of your fish finder emits a signal at a specific frequency that hits on the objects and comes back.
Afterward, the transducer converts the signal into an electric signal and transmits it to your main unit (display). Obviously, two problems occur here. Firstly, if a fish is quite close to the bottom, the transducer is not capable to recognize it as a fish alarm. There is a possibility that it will show it as a part of the bottom bed.
Secondly, if there are some objects or weedy cover in the middle water column, the transducer usually detects them like a fish. Thus, almost all fish finder companies decided to equip their devices with a CHIRP sonar system which sends multiple beams in the water at the same time. The fish finder gains in accuracy and can “translate” the signal without mistakes.
The dual-frequency is 77/200 kHz. with a transmit power of the range of 200 W (RMS). CHIRP will give you a clear picture even in deep waters as it is able to work in 1600ft. freshwater and 750ft. saltwater.
Ice-fishing is considered to be really demanding and you need a fish finder that will show you some exact vertical measurements. Here comes the super built-in flasher. Generally speaking it is a cyclical scale of the depth.
The circle inside shows you the depth of the water and bait and the outer circle informs you about the bottom structure (muddy or sandy). Furthermore, it is highly recommended for every bottom fishing and jigging enthusiast. Humminbird explains exactly what a flasher is and how to use it for Ice-Fishing. Click here to learn more
Unfortunately, if you don’t have a fish finder, you will have to search for different fishing spots until you find productive waters and this might take hours. A side imaging fish finder is able to scan huge areas quickly and shows you different details like vegetation, depth structure, or baitfish.
We will not go through highly technical details. Keep in mind that side imaging uses two beams that are extremely powerful and you will get great detail. You will be able to see even the smallest details like the dorsal fin of the fish.
The image you get is 20% clearer than other imaging technologies. Side imaging helps you to see out the side of your boat. More specifically, look at the picture below where you can see that there is a really bright beam in the center and that’s actually the transducer of your boat. The signal pings down to the bottom.
The black space between the bright beam in the center of this image and the colored areas on the left and right side is actually the water between the transducer and the bottom.
Fish will appear in this black space as solid marks. On the other hand, you can also detect baitfish which will show up as a tight cluster or cloud.
Before you get started with side imaging, you should pay attention to the settings of your unit. Just set up sensitivity and contrast in the middle (somewhere around 10 if you use a Humminbird unit). Another thing that will definitely help you is the chart speed. You should set the chart speed to match your speed to get a better and clearer picture.
|Image||Title||Display Size||Key Feature||View On Amazon|
|Top||Humminbird Helix 7 Mega SI||7-Inch||Mega Side Imaging||View on Amazon|
|Humminbird Helix 5 CHIRP||5-Inch||Dual Beam Technology||View on Amazon|
|Lowrance HDS||7-Inch||Smartphone notifications/Preloaded maps||View on Amazon|
|Humminbird Helix 12 G3N MEGA SI+||12-Inch||Huge Screen/Autochart||View on Amazon|
|HDS 7 Carbon Lowrance||7-Inch||TotalScan Powerful Transducer||View on Amazon|
|Garmin Striker 4||3.5-inch||Portable||View on Amazon|
|Humminbird Solix 12 G2||12-Inch||Outstanding Touchscreen||View on Amazon|
|HOOK2 9 INCH Lowrance||9-Inch||User-friendly Device||View on Amazon|
|Lowrance Hook2||5-Inch||User-friendly/Auto tuning||View on Amazon|
|Garmin Echomap UHD 93SV||9-Inch||LiveScope Sonar||View on Amazon|
First of all, all anglers fishing from a boat have the same questions in their mind. How deep is the water I am fishing in? Are there any fish? Gone are the days when fishermen had no idea about the underwater world and they blindly tried to find out the depth. Today, we have these effective tools, although you have to learn to properly use them.
If you are brand new to the world of fish finders, you will not have to look further. We prepared a list with the 10 best side imaging fish finders and added detailed reviews that outline the features of each product.
Undoubtedly, this 7-inch screen fish finder is built to perform perfectly in all water conditions. Of course, the big plus here is the Mega Side Imaging feature that reveals what’s under your vessel like a photo. The new gen3 Helix series is one of the best side imaging fish finders on the market for many reasons.
The unit comes with the Humminbird base map, but you can add other maps too with a lake master card for instance. There is a Micro Sd card slot.
If you click Auto chart, you will be able to create customs maps. It is a great feature for unknown waters. Additionally, the dual spectrum CHIRP sonar system will cover more area and show you a better picture of the bottom and target fish.
When it comes to side imaging, this device features the best SI option you will ever see with increased range and detail. If you are fishing in weedy and murky waters, you can simply adjust contrast or sharpness in order to improve the picture. You can see both sides of the boat or select right or left side to see what is under your vessel.
In addition, the smaller Helix version definitely deserves attention as it is the most powerful unit for small boats and kayaks. Mark your waypoints easily if you find a good fishing spot with a few clicks. To my way of thinking, it is a user-friendly device that all anglers will love.
The backlit LED screen is a huge plus if you fish during direct sunlight and don’t worry if you splash some water on the screen. It is both saltwater and freshwater safe. It is a bit older than the G3 Helix series (released in 2018) it combines two imaging features (side and down imaging).
The device has 4000 preloaded lake maps and I think that it will give a lot of value to your fishing trips. The most outstanding feature is the Dual Beam technology that will cover more area. It is a great extra if you are fishing in big lakes.
If you are willing to invest in the best value side imaging fish finder and you like touchscreens, the Lowrance HDS should be your next fish finder. The high-resolution screen implies a special SolarMax technology that makes it perfect in all light conditions.
Keep in mind that it might be slightly expensive, but you buy a cutting-edge unit with the best maps available. It comes with preloaded C-MAP and if you want to upgrade your software you can just connect the device with your laptop via wifi or Bluetooth.
Wireless connectivity is extremely useful especially if you want to update it quickly without Micro SD cards. Almost all Lowrance depth finders utilize the Insight Genesis maps. Just scan an area you wish, upload your data in the official Lowrance genesis website and you will get back a customized and detailed map.
The outstanding features do not end here of course. Personally, I like the fact that you can connect your smartphone with the device and you will get instant notifications! If you want a sturdy and high-quality tool, go for this device and you will never regret it.
If you want to reveal the secrets of the underwater world and you have a big boat, you should look for getting a 12-inch screen fish finder. One of the best side imaging fish finders is the Humminbird Helix 12 which has a huge screen and the package includes everything you need to get started.
You can connect this device in multiple ways as it features two Micro SD slots, Bluetooth connectivity, and Ethernet, but I am sure that you will not have to upload any maps. It comes with Humminbird Basemaps and you can create your own mapping by using Autochart. We tested this device on a fly fishing trip in San Diego for Wahoo, and the image was absolutely stunning.
Moreover, the dual spectrum CHIRP utilizes two options. The wide option for wider coverage and the narrow. I would use the narrow for small lakes and ponds. Find out what happens beyond your vessel!
Locating fish in depths up to 300′ cannot be achieved by many units, but the Lowrance HDS is able to do that. Admittedly, almost all anglers associate this brand with high-quality and reliability. But what’s so special about this fish finder?
I would like to outline the fact that the device comes with a Totalscan transducer. It is not just another transducer because it does both structure scan and down scan. However, you should install your transducer properly if you want to have excellent results. We attached an official Lowrance Video about How to install your TotalScan Transducer.
The combination of different bottom scanning technology will you the advantage of locating big fish everywhere. The last key feature I would like to outline is that you can control your device directly from the display but you can also connect your smartphone and adjust the settings from there.
When it comes to kayak fishing, you will need a small but powerful fish finder. I am sure that the Garmin Striker 4 is the best kayak side imaging fish finder you will ever get. The unit has a IPX7 waterproof rating and it is lightweight like a feather! The screen is 3.5″ but it is really clear and you can mark every waypoint you want thanks to the excellent GPS.
Additionally, you can navigate certain routes with accuracy and it gives you a really sharp image! When I got this device, I was not sure if it will cover my needs and I was quite suspicious. It might not be a side imaging fish finder, but it is a good device for those who have small vessels.
The flasher is a big plus for ice fishing and jigging! If you are fishing in lakes, I would highly recommend the Garmin Striker. Just to let you know the device features Down Scanning and Garmin calls it ClearVu (they recently changed the name from DownVu to ClearVu).
Sporting the most developed and cutting-edge imaging technologies, it is not difficult to say that the Humminbird Solix 12 is a tool for the real fisherman. The menu is user-friendly and you can control your device through the keypad or directly through the touchscreen.
It is a ready-to-go unit that comes with a transducer, mounting hardware, and a cover to protect the unit from dust or water. Furthermore, the device has a multi-screen option where you can place two or three displays on the screen. Personally, I use side imaging and maps together.
In this price range, it definitely deserves the first place in the list with the best side imaging fish finders. You can also synchronize your device with your smartphone through Bluetooth.
Lastly, it would be important to mention that it is NMEA-2000 compatible so you can connect it with other Humminbird devices or receive information about your fuel and engine gauges.
Undoubtedly, the Lowrance Hook2 is the perfect fish finder for beginners or a perfect present for a fish enthusiast! I bought this device for my dad and he was really excited and could learn the settings within one day. It offers CHIRP sonar scanning and comes with a TripleShot Transducer with preloaded US Lake maps.
One of the easiest and best side imaging fish finders with a really helpful setting which you will not find in other devices and it is Auto tuning. You will spend more time rigging your tackle and less time adjusting different settings. Just plug it in and hit the water!
There is no doubt that this device has gathered attention when it comes to durability and ease-of-use. It is slightly different than the Tripleshot model.
The powerful GPS and navigating options will bring you to your previously saved fishing spot and you can also calculate the distance between point A and B by clicking the spots. Mark the spots with different icons like an anchor or blue fish!
It is a 5-inch device which you can even install in your kayak. The only downfall here is that it is a Lowrance X5 model and that means that you cannot upload any maps.
Lastly, if you are a big fan of touchscreens, you should take a closer look at this Garmin Echomap. It is equipped with an LCD 9″ touchscreen and utilizes Panoptix Sonar which is an improved live sonar imaging technology. You will see everything that’s going on under your boat and see it live.
Additionally, the high-frequency sonar will give you a detailed picture like a photo! One of the things I love about this unit is that it has integrated Navionics maps with 17000 Lakes so you don’t have to pay extra money to get a mapping card or upload data from your laptop.
I was really surprised when I tested its side imaging feature because it showed even the smallest rock at the bottom!
Do you need some tips that will make you fishing like a pro? Undoubtedly, a good fish finder, technique, and excellent fishing gear play an important role. However beyond these, there are some secrets that could bring you to the next fishing level.
All avid anglers who have spent their whole life on the water faced specific issues. Consequently, they had to find some handy solutions. These solutions may be simple, but you don’t have to overlook it.
We’ve asked many anglers across the globe and took part in several fishing discussions. Fishing is a challenging hobby and there is nothing better than inventing genius ways to overcome some problems.
Over time your rod grips get dirty especially if you have a cork rod grip. You buy a nice white rod and after a few fishing trips the nice white turns into a dirty grey grip with lots of cracks. You could avoid that with proper care or a fishing rod grip wrap.
There are numerous rod wraps on the market made of durable saltwater safe materials like polymer and they are totally inexpensive. Believe me, you will never regret it. This wrap will not only protect your rod but also your hands.
A wrapped rod grip minimizes fatigue and gives you better control. You can make your own wrapped grip out of paracord.
Gone are the days when old fishermen used paper charts and maps. A serious angler must know the water structures, depth, and mark his favorite fishing spots. There is one app that makes the above aspects possible.
Navionics is the best navigational app designed both for inshore anglers and boaters. Just download it on your mobile phone and you will see that it will change your fishing life. Additionally, this app is also compatible with almost all fish finders and chart plotters, but many devices come with built-in maps like C-MAP. The best side imaging fish finders we mentioned above come with preloaded maps.
There is nothing better than DIY fishing lures! You can create “killer” lures with simple household items or coins.
It is not only a unique hobby but also a nice way to save some money. If you are fishing for bass, you probably understand the struggle of losing lots of lures. There are many materials you could use to construct your own lure and these include wood, spoons, beer bottle caps etc.
You probably have a lot of lures that you don’t use. Personally, my tackle box has a lot of stuff that I don’t use. Many years ago, when I was younger, my dad used to steal my sister’s nail polish to paint his lures!
It is a great way to refurbish your old lures and make them look like tasty fish bites! Furthermore, you can paint your jig heads. You should choose light colors because they attract fish.
Beyond this fact, they are more visible in muddy water conditions. On the other hand, if you like your lure color but just want to refresh them, you can use transparent nail polish. It will protect your lure from saltwater corrosion.
It goes without saying that a fish finder is the best way to find the best fishing spot. However, many boating fans do not have a fish finder but there are numerous ways to detect a good fishing spot. Hundreds of years ago, fishermen observed the moon, the waves, and seagulls in order to find the perfect spot.
Look for seagulls circling over a spot. There is probably a baitfish school and other predatory fish.
The most famous rig amongst the fishing community is the Carolina rig. It is a simple multi-purpose rig used for different target fish like surf perch, bass, trout, etc. If you are fishing with soft plastic worms or live bait, this is the perfect rig for you.
Thread a slipper weight on the leader line, a small 7mm yellow or orange bed, and attach the swivel. Afterward you will have to tie on the leader fluorocarbon line and attach the bait hook.
Unfortunately, all we inshore anglers face the same problem. Our rig snags all the time while we are fishing! Certainly, you can use a bobber but it scares away the fish. A marshmallow may be the answer to this problem.
Slice a marshmallow into small pieces and run the hook through this small piece. Then, you can hook your live or plastic bait and you are ready to cast the lure. It works like a float and the bait will not sink. Moreover, the marshmallow’s smell may attract some fish.
Keep your hooks, swivels, or plastic baits in a jar or coffee container. An organized tackle box will help you a lot. Personally, I spent hours searching for my favorite hooks and since I put all my stuff in jars I had all the necessary tools at my fingertips.
The line spooler is probably a must-have for every angler. The spooler will help you to spool up your reel quickly and prevents twists and bird nest.
However, we would like to suggest one more inexpensive way to spool up your reel with a DIY line spooler. Grab a plastic fishing line spool, poke a wooden stick through the center, ask a friend to hold the stick, and start spooling. Your friend must hold the spool steadily.
Obviously, when you are fishing on the ice, frozen rod eyes is a big problem! It is a big frustration which ruins your fishing day. You can apply some Vaseline or lip balm on the guides but the best solution is special ice of paste.
The paste is really cheap and you can buy it in your local fishing tackle store. There are also ice off sprays available. However, you must be careful before choosing an ice off material. Petroleum-based pastes can damage both your line and fishing rod.
Finally, the fish finders we reviewed are great combinations of the latest technological advancements. However, we cannot say that these are exactly the best side imaging fish finders, but they will surely cover all your needs. What is not love in these fish finders?
Keep these things in mind. The CHIRP allows you to see the bottom under the boat and there are special systems for vertical fishing. Furthermore, the combination of unique vertical fishing technologies like Side Imaging and high sensitivity GPS will surprise you.
We think that these factors are enough to show you that the reviewed fish finders have all the features you need. Fishing is the best outdoor activity to help you disconnect and enjoy nature. Garmin, Lowrance, and Humminbird are here to improve your fishing experience.