Garmin fish finders, from kayaks, motorboats and commercial fishing rigs, have loyal patrons among anglers of all skill levels. The company first made its name in the marine industry in 1990 with its panel-mounted GPS 100, a huge boost to navigating offshore waters. For most people, the mention of Garmin may conjure up an image of a GPS navigation device on a vehicle dashboard or a smartwatch, but for anglers, the first image is that of a fish finder or marine navigation unit.
Garmin fish finders range widely in price, screen size, and features. That can make it tough to decide which is the right model for your particular fishing needs. But not to worry, we will guide you through and help you determine what features are critical and which you can comfortably do without.
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What is a fish finder?
A fish finder uses sonar to give you a real-time image of the area beneath your boat. It does this using a hull-mounted transducer that sends out sound waves. The sound waves bounce off rocks, objects, and fish and return to the transducer. That sonar information is rendered into data that’s displayed on a screen.
With a Garmin fish finder, anglers can locate individual fish, groups of fish, and natural features like reefs. If the device includes a depth finder, it will tell you at what depth these items can be found. Water temperature is often noted too.
Is Garmin better than Lowrance?
Lowrance has a lot more options in the lower price range. The cheaper models still have premium features which make them popular with anyone concerned about cost. Garmin offers great mid-tier prices. Although more expensive than Lowrance, they’re quite affordable and come packed with features.
Is chirp better than sonar?
A traditional sonar transmits about one percent of the time, but CHIRP sonars transmit ascending pulses that are ten times as long in duration. They put dramatically more energy into the water column, 10 to 50 times more, even though CHIRP devices often transmit at lower peak power than traditional fishfinders.
Where Garmin stands out in the world of fish finders is with its use of compressed high-intensity radar pulse (CHIRP) technology to locate fish, a wider field of view compared to other manufacturers’ devices, and access to its detailed GPS maps.
Also, its feature-rich devices are available in a range of prices so that any angler can purchase a fish finder. Many Garmin fish finders include a GPS receiver that enables boaters to mark spots, allowing for more precise mapping of a fishing area that you can refer to again if necessary.
Additional software, such as maps of the area in which you plan to fish, can be installed on the Garmin fish finder. Many models have WiFi capability, enabling wireless data transfer between the unit and a smartphone or computer. The detailed maps can be used to navigate and pinpoint likely spots for a good catch.
5 Best Garmin Fish Finders with GPS
Garmin Striker Plus 5cv
This specific model in the Striker series is one of the most popular, and for a good reason. As a welcomed addition to their stellar line of fish finders, the Garmin Striker Plus 5cv boasts built-in Garmin CHIRP technology alongside its unique CHIRP ClearVü scanning sonar that allows you to map out your surroundings easily. Whether you’re trying to see a school of fish, a targeted fish, the bottom of the floor, or the density of its contents, you’ll be able to easily interpret what you’re seeing and make the best logical choice. Effectively, this model takes the guesswork out of fishing.
Gone are the days of driving your boat aimlessly, sporadically casting your reel blindly and hoping for the best. The Striker Plus 5cv allows you to map out your surroundings and work from there. Another fantastic feature is its built-in Garmin Quickdraw Contours. This feature allows you to view the contours and depth of wherever you choose. It’s not just one-and-done either; their advanced software will enable you to create and store maps with one-foot contours for up to 2 million acres!
The GPS features let you save points of interest, create customized routes, and view your boat’s speed, all while giving you the peace of mind of knowing that you’re in control. It’s not too hard on the eyes either. Its backlit display makes reading in both sunlight and moonlight a breeze. With a 5-inch screen, a durable design, and ultra-user-friendly controls, this model allows you to keep tabs on your comings and goings easily – today and in the future.
- Has 5″ color TFT display
- Garmin Chirp technology
- ClearVü scanning sonar
Garmin Striker 4
For something a bit less high tech and much more portable, the Garmin STRIKER series (which preceded the STRIKER Plus) has a few fantastic smaller models. One of the best ones is the STRIKER 4, which can be purchased with only the traditional CHIRP technology, or with CHIRP and the groundbreaking ClearVu imaging that the Garmin brand is known for.
The small, handheld fish finder can also easily be mounted, but its small size allows it to be much more portable than some of the STRIKER Plus series. Garmin offers a bundle in which a pouch designed specifically for Garmin fish finders can be purchased alongside the STRIKER 4. The sleek case makes it easy to transport the STRIKER 4 from place to place, from boat to boat.
The screen, though small at 3.5”, boasts clear color visuals for great tracking. With this small fish finder, anglers can also mark and return to spots where they find fish, just like with the larger STRIKER models. It also displays speed data on the screen, as well as anglers to share their data with other STRIKER models and the now-discontinued Garmin EchoMap models. The STRIKER 4 includes a flasher, a tilt and swivel mount, and the CHIRP transducer for producing amazing results.
- ClearVu imaging
- Small and compact, ideal for kayaks or small boats
- Perfect for portable kits
- 3.5″ color screen
Garmin STRIKER Plus 7sv
The STRIKER Plus series is the best of the best of the Garmin fish finders. Their large and best-equipped model is the STRIKER Plus 7sv, featuring a 7” screen and multiple mapping and chart plotting features. It also has the ability to connect to Wi-Fi, allowing anglers to access the Garmin website and ActiveCaptain App for more features, upgrades, and more.
The LCD screen automatically adjusts to the lighting of the environment, so no matter what time of day or what location the device is in, it will set itself accordingly for the best visuals. The high definition screen makes details easy to see from anywhere on the boat, and the adjustable tilting set-up will allow anglers to fix the screen in whatever direction they desire for best access. The screen displays the water temperature and features Ultrascroll, allowing it to keep up with the targets even despite a boat’s speed.
It also boasts a highly sensitive and precise GPS, allowing anglers to accurately map and track their locations. The CHIRP sonar system also creates crystal clear images and pinpoint accuracy of the location of potential fish. The high-resolution screen coupled with the sensitive CHIRP technology also creates a perfect distinction between game fish, bait fish, and vegetation or obstacles near the boat.
The STRIKER Plus series is relatively inexpensive for all the features it comes with, and the STRIKER Plus 7sv is well worth its price tag.
- 7″ color screen
- Built-in Wi-Fi for access to ActiveCaptain app
- Built in GPS
- Built-in Garmin quickdraw contours mapping software
- Amazing quality SideVu technology – see structure to the side of your boat
Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 54cv with transducer
The echoMAP CHIRP 54cv boasts a sleek, sophisticated, durable, and cutting-edge series of equipment that puts the angler in the driver’s seat of his or her own destiny. Just like the Striker Plus series, it holds built-in ClearVü scanning sonar that shows you much more of what lies beneath the surface of the water. This aspect can’t be overlooked, as the top-class technology allows the user to accurately map out their surroundings using high-frequency sonar. The result is crystal-clear imagery of your surroundings that will set you on the right path for the rest of your day, no matter how you look at them.
Its unique CHIRP applications work with Garmin depth sounder technologies that allow the angler to take a deeper dive into the environment around them by using continuous frequencies to map the makeup of the area. What sets this model apart is its built-in high definition mapping system of United States waters that effectively lets you know where you are and where you’re going at any given moment.
Its portable design makes it a cinch to take with you, wherever you go. Between its expansive sonar abilities and its helpful transducer, it may already be a top option for any fishing guru. But the Quickdraw Contours system allows the angler to truly be in control of his or her own destiny by creating custom maps of your favorite locations. As if that wasn’t enough, the useful 5-inch screen provides straightforward navigation while the internal 5 Hz GPS regularly updates your position as you move.
- 5.0 inch diagonal screen size
- CV series comes with built-in 500 W CHIRP traditional sonar and CHIRP ClearVü scanning sonar
- Garmin quickdraw contour mapping
Garmin echoMAP Plus 44cv
Don’t let the size of this fish finder fool you! This compact GPS combo has a great range of features to put you on the fish! It has a nice bright screen readable on the sunniest of days. It includes both traditional CHIRP Sonar for along with Garmin’s own ClearVü scanning sonar technology for near photographic images, which will give you a competitive edge over other units on the market.
The echoMap Plus 44cv comes preloaded with GPS charts for the coastal US. A great feature of Garmin devices is the Quickdraw Contours Mapping – basically, you can create your own personalized fishing maps onscreen with 1′ contours. This is great if you want to map out an area in detail.
Due to its size, this is a great unit for small boats and kayaks. Even though it’s small, it comes packed with great features and the ability to split the screen display between GPS and the ClearVu sonar is very handy. Overall for the cost, this is a perfect unit.
- 4.3” bright, sunlight-readability screen
- Comes with a GT20 Transom Mount transducer
- Garmin ClearVü scanning technology
- Built-in QuickDraws Contours software
- Comes with Navionics data and preloaded LakeVü g3 maps that cover 17,000 plus lakes and up to 1’ contours
- 5Hz GPS Antenna
Buyer’s Guide: Features to look for before you buy
Included in the Garmin fish finder package, the transducer is the eyes and ears of the device. The way it operates is similar to a submarine’s sonar, sending out a “ping” toward the lake bottom or seafloor, and listening for the echo. The transducer is mounted on the boat’s hull in one of three common configurations:
- Transom: Typically attached to the boat’s stern on the flat outside of the hull (the transom) below the waterline. This mount is easy to set up and doesn’t impact the hull, but its location next to an outboard motor increases the likelihood of interference from the screw and the motion of the boat. Transom-mounted transducers don’t perform as well when a boat is traveling at high speed.
- Shoot-through: Also known as in-hull, this transducer is glued to the inside of the hull. It’s recommended for use only with fiberglass hulls because wood, aluminum, or foam-sandwiched hulls can make accurate readings difficult. However, when mounted correctly and properly tuned, this transducer returns accurate readings at just about any speed.
- Through-hull: This transducer is mounted by drilling a hole into the bottom of the hull. Because there’s little to no interference, a through-hull can give very accurate readings of the waters beneath the boat, even when traveling at higher speeds. On the negative side, there’s a hole in your hull.
The latest Garmin fish finders have full-color screens that color-code the data returned to the transducer so that it’s easier to discern what’s beneath the boat: clear water, schools of fish, individual fish, and contours of the lake or sea bottom. The screen also displays a wealth of additional information, including time, water temperature, water depth, and boat speed. Some units offer a touchscreen that makes it easier to zero in and even zoom in on specific readings to look for additional detail.
Many Garmin fish finders have a global positioning system incorporated into the device. It’s helpful for locating the position of the boat in relation to other navigation points, like the lakeshore or docks. It can also be used to mark waypoints for the route back to the dock.
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Garmin fish finder prices:
Garmin fish finders come in a range of sizes, from handheld portable units (great for kayaks and other small personal watercraft) to larger devices mounted near the controls of a bigger boat, such as the cockpit of a motorboat. Prices vary according to the size, features, and accessories and range from $99 to $699.
- Handheld: Handheld fish finders with 4-inch screens cost between $99 and $179.
- Midsize: Midsize fish finders with 5-inch and 7-inch screens cost between $254 and $399.
- Large: Large fish finders with 7-inch to 9-inch screens cost between $499 and $699.
- Learn how to use the device before heading out to fish. Being able to properly read and interpret what you see on a Garmin fish finder screen is the only way to really get the best value out of the device. Although today’s fish finders do a good job of interpreting the various transducer signals, you need to be familiar with the device, the area in which you’ll be fishing, and which signals can be mistaken (by the device or you) for something else, such as a supposed school of fish actually being underwater vegetation.
- Know the underwater environment where you’re fishing. Fish finders provide information on features below the water, such as the lake bed or seafloor, rocks, dense vegetation, or underwater debris. Because different fish species prefer different environments, knowing what the underwater environment is like will give you a better idea of what type of fish you’re seeing on the fish finder screen.
- Don’t forget to bring a charger. For smaller Garmin units, consider adding a portable pack that includes charging accessories. These fish finders quickly eat up battery power.
- Increase the speed of the screen scroll. This will give you a readout as close to real time as possible.
- Use an SD card to store and retrieve data. Garmin fish finders that do not have WiFi capability typically have an SD card slot. You can use the SD card to perform map and software updates, too. Be sure to update the software on a Garmin fish finder as soon as you purchase it.
Q. My fish finder isn’t giving me much detail. Is there a way to improve what it’s picking up?
A. When a fish finder isn’t returning good data for whatever reason, try “peaking” the transducer. It’s a way to fine-tune the settings so the transducer will return a clearer picture even in difficult conditions. Do this in four steps: First, change the range to three times the actual water depth; second, increase the sensitivity until you see a second “bottom” underneath the first one on the main screen; and third, slowly reduce sensitivity until you have a pretty good read on the first “bottom” result. Finally, put the range back to its normal setting.
Q. I pick up what looks like a school of fish below my boat, stop and cast my line, but no luck. A fellow angler said my fish finder is “running behind.” What did she mean?
A. The sonar pulse that a Garmin fish finder sends out can take a little time (milliseconds) to return. If you’re underway, in a few seconds you’ll be past the spot the fish finder just surveyed. If your screen is scrolling too slowly, you may not see that school of fish until you’re well past it. Increase the scroll speed of the screen. As soon as something interesting appears at the far right of the screen, slow down the boat.
We hope you enjoyed this article featuring the best Garmin fish finders. Garmin makes a wide range of quality fish finders to suit all types of fishing and budgets. There is a unit for different experience levels as well.
The Garmin STRIKER and STRIKER Plus series both feature some fantastic products and technology from the Garmin brand. With ClearVu and SideVu technology, these are the best fish finders and produce some of the best imaging around. Moreover, we hope you found a great gift that your loved one is sure to treasure for years to come.
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