When you’re out on the open seas and truly in the thick of it, you may find yourself wondering what the heck you’re doing waiting around for a fish to take a bite. It can be grueling, if not a waste of your Sunday, floating around with all the other boats, waiting for some kind of miraculous catch.
Though fish finders have been around since the '90s, the technology is always changing and improving, so the old school one your dad used on fishing trips back in the day doesn’t even compare to the ones on the market today. That being said, not all fish finders are equal.
Read on to learn about some pros and cons to look out for when you’re choosing the right fish finder for you.
Comparison Chart of the Best Fish Finders GPS Combos
Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5" GPS Fishfinder
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Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ - GPS Portable Wireless Wi-Fi Fish Finder
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Simrad GO7 XSE
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Raymarine Dragonfly Pro CHIRP Fish Finder
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Pros and Cons of Using a Fish Finder With GPS
If you’ve ever been out on a boat in the middle of nowhere, you know how difficult it can be to pinpoint where you are, unless you have a GPS. Knowing where you are in relation to land is not only the safest way to be out on a boat, but it makes fishing much more productive and efficient.
Opting for a fish finder with GPS allows you to not only find the areas with the best fishing, but gives you the ability to record that area and return to it next season or many fishing seasons in the future. This will allow you to speed up your fishing and come home with something you, and your family, will be super impressed with.
While you could choose to go with a fish finder and a separate GPS, this creates a lot of clutter where you really don’t need it: on your boat. By having a fish finder and a GPS in one unit you’ll save yourself money and streamline your whole experience.
The only real downfall of fish finder/GPS combos is their price. As compared to a standalone fish finder unit, a GPS combo option can cost you about twice as much. However, when you consider the price of buying two separate units, you can save yourself some money in the long run.
What Makes a Good GPS Fish Finder?
When you’re on the lookout for a quality GPS fish finder, there are a few distinguishing details to look out for.
CHIRP vs. Side Scanner vs. Down Scanner
While we don’t have to get into the nitty-gritty of sonar technology, you’ll want to consider how you want your fish finder to, well, find fish. Down imaging and side imaging essentially refers to the direction in which the sonar is transmitting waves.
Down imaging will track below your boat, while side imaging will track out to the side of your boat. Keep in mind that many companies have different terms for down and side scanning, so it may be difficult to know exactly what they’re talking about. Don’t worry, we will clarify it all in the reviews later on.
CHIRP is a sonar technology that provides you with an even clearer image of what’s going on around your boat. If you’re doing any kind of deep-sea fishing, this may be a detail to consider.
Screen Size and Quality
First off, consider the screen quality and size. You’ll want to look out for a screen with a color display and decent resolution. While you aren’t watching the Super Bowl, and won’t need an HD screen, a decent screen resolution can make a difference between catching that fish and letting it swim off.
As for screen size, this is really personal preference. Oftentimes you can find a fish finder in a 3”, 5”, or 7” screen, and the decision on which size to purchase will be based off how much you want (or need) to squint. If your sight has turned against you in your older years, a 7” screen might be a worthwhile investment.
Depending on where you’re fishing and how far inland you are, you’ll want to consider how deep the fish finder can track. While how deep the GPS tracks isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality, it does make a difference based on how and where you’re fishing.
Quick Take | Best Fish Finder GPS Combos
Just looking for the top three best fish finder GPS combos? Here they are:
Review of the Best Fish Finder GPS Combos
Now that you have more of an idea of what to look for in a fish finder GPS combo, let’s move on to some of our picks for the best options available online.
Known for their GPS systems, Garmin is one brand you can trust when it comes to knowing exactly where you are in the world. And the Striker 4 Fish finder will let you know exactly where in the world the fish are too.
Available in a variety of screen sizes, this fish finder features a keyed interface with dedicated buttons, so there is no need to deal with touch screens when your hands are probably wet. With crisper images of fish arches, CHIRP sonar ensures that you get a good read on where the fish are located.
The waypoint map allows you to mark and save anything you’d like to avoid while fishing, such as docks, piles of brush, and tree stumps. With a maximum depth of 1600-feet in freshwater and 750-feet in salt water, you’ll be able to get a good reading on just how much potential a certain area truly has.
This fish finder has a transmission power of 200W and clearly displays how deep the water is. Reviewers on Amazon mention that this is the best, budget fish finder that you’ll find, and the details on the colored screen are incredibly helpful for finding fish.
Overall, this Garmin is reliable, budget-friendly, and will provide you with the most important part of a fish finder: the ability to easily find fish. Though there is no touchscreen, dedicated buttons make navigating this product a breeze. The only downfall is that this unit does require a 12-volt battery supply, which can be a bit of a turn-off for some anglers.
The bright, five-inch, color, WVGA display on this fish finder will give you all the visibility you need to track down the fish you really want. With CHIRP technology, you’ll never have to chase down fish again: you’ll know exactly where they are.
This GPS fish finder can track fish as deep as 1500 feet, and Humminbird’s SmartStrike allows you to simply enter in your parameters and the results will appear on the display instantly.
The Helix 5 is gimbal mountable or you can opt for an in-dash mount. Reviewers mention that this GPS fish finder combo is the best bang for your buck and operating it is a breeze. Another reviewer mentions that the down imaging is impeccable, giving you a good view of everything going on underneath your boat.
Overall, this Humminbird option provides you with quality down-imaging and a good view of what’s going on around the boat. A five-inch screen provides you with enough room to see a large portion of the map. Though this portable unit doesn’t include a carrier, that shouldn’t be a deterrent.
Best for the Money:
Simrad GO7 XSE
For a GPS fish finder combo with all the bells and whistles, check out this option from Simrad. An enormous seven-inch color, multi-touch, display gives you lots of visibility for finding the perfect spot to fish.
Simply tap to create or select waypoints, and pinch to zoom in on the area to find exactly what’s going on around you and what is up ahead. This Simrad fish finder is fully-customizable, allowing you to take advantage of the features that you need most.
A CHIRP-enabled sonar provides you with the best view of the landscape, while WiFi and Bluetooth allow you to upload all of your information quickly and reliably. The unit is installed on a bracket-mount display and the widescreen is backlit with an LED for when the sun is shining directly on your fish finder..
This unit from Simrad is ideal for the fisherman who wants it all. The large seven-inch screen gives you a ton of visibility of the map around you, and Chirp SONAR tops it off. One reviewer does mention that the unit is slow to update if you speed your boat up and then slow it down, but this doesn’t mean that will be the case for every fish finder.
With a four-inch, all-weather screen, this Raymarine Dragonfly Pro fish finder will help you see what’s important when the water gets rough. A high-definition, LED-backlit display provides you with plenty of visibility when you need it most. Download Raymarine’s mobile app and you can track the sonar data in real time.
The ball-and-socket design of this fish finder allows plenty of flexibility in terms of mounting. Dedicated buttons make operation easy and streamlined, while still providing you with plenty of useful data.
Raymarine’s CHIRP Downvision and a 600-foot maximum depth provide the user with incredibly clear, photo-realistic images of what’s going on underneath your boat.
The all-weather display on this fishfinder makes is a good option for those that find themselves fishing in less than ideal weather conditions. Mounting the unit is easy with the included ball-and-socket design mount. The CHIRP down vision provides the user with all sorts of visibility.
The major downfall of this product, however, is that the screen is a bit smaller at only four-inches, and the buttons aren’t backlit, which can be a problem if you find yourself out at sundown.
Why add yet another screen to the mix when you can just use your smartphone? The Deeper Smart Sonar PRO utilizes your smartphone screen to show you all the details of where the fish are and your current location. Ideal for shore, boat, or ice fishing, this fish finder allows you to cast and scan the water deeper.
The sonar in this fish finder enables you to map the area from the shore and the data is seen in real-time on your phone. Though this process works like WiFi, there is no internet required to use it.
As for the scanning itself, you can switch between narrow and wide beam scanning with ease. Though this option only scans down to 260-feet, it is a solid option for shore fisherman looking to get a more accurate reading of what is in the water nearby.
As for ice fishing, this fish finder will operate down to -4 degrees Fahrenheit. Reviewers mention that you shouldn’t toss it too far in shallow water, as there’s a high chance it can break on rocks.
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind fish finder that will allow you to shore fish, this is the unit for you. WiFi connectivity allows you to upload data quickly and efficiently, and you can save space on your boat by using your smartphone as the screen. With that said, this fish finder may be a deal breaker for those that either don’t have a smartphone or those who don’t want to rely on one while fishing.
How to Use a Fish Finder with GPS
Now, before you set sails for the open seas with your shiny new GPS fish finder combo, make sure that you know how to use it! In the video below, you’ll find some useful, practical tips for using your fish finder properly. Overall, you’ll want to keep the following details in mind:
- Identify whether you are fishing in shallow or deep waters. This will give you an idea of how to adjust your fish finder.
- Zoom in and out to get a better idea of what you’re looking at on the map.
- White lines indicate streams or rivers.
- Darker contour lines indicate places where there is a drop-off, or bigger change in depth.
- Blue lines indicate areas where the water is shallower.
- Look for obscure changes in the contour lines to find places where the fish are spawning.
At the end of the day, make sure to consider what you’re fishing for. Different fish will be in different areas, and this will affect how you use your fish finder.
For a complete overview, check out the video below!
How to Care For and Maintain a Fish Finder GPS Combo
Though cleaning your fish finder may have not crossed your mind, it will once you get back from a long day of fishing. Hard water stains, fish blood and guts, and all sorts of slime can tack onto your fish finder and cleaning it is a breeze when you have the right supplies.
In the video below, Joshua from Salty Scales recommends using a mirror glaze to get it clean. It’s important to note that you shouldn’t spray any cleaner directly on the unit as it can damage the screen.
Whether you’re a pro or just fish occasionally, a fish finder GPS combo can really step up your fishing game. Sooner or later you’ll find yourself with more fish than you know what to do with.