Fishfinders Under $400

By Michael Vatalaro

Imaging fishfinders come to the small screen near you.

Find the fish before you can catch themWhether your craft is large or small, you've got to find the fish before you can catch them. (Photo: Jason Arnold)

High-frequency fishfinders, sometimes called imagers, can produce almost photo-like images of the bottom using higher-frequency soundwaves, but often at the expense of range. For anglers in shallow water, this isn't a problem. Even better, imagers are now available in smaller, more affordable units, making them ideal for small craft, including kayaks. Here are five options to choose from:

Wi-Fish with phone

Wi-Fish

Want to see the fish, but don't need another screen? The Wi-Fish sonar module from Raymarine does the work of a dual-channel fishfinder but connects wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet, making use of its screen instead. You don't even have to mount it above deck, if, say, you'd prefer not to clutter up cockpit space. It features the same wide-angle imaging as the Dragonfly, plus the CHIRP frequencies as well, and it includes the transducer. $199 | raymarine.com

Lowrance Elite 3x DSI

Lowrance Elite 3x DSI

The Elite 3x DSI is a high-frequency imager (455/800 kHz) in a small package. The 320 x 240 pixel color screen powered by an LED-backlit display makes for easy sunlight viewing. Flip between frequencies at the push of a button, and quickly zoom up to 4x to check out key pieces of structure. $129 | lowrance.com

Raymarine Dragonfly 4dv

Raymarine Dragonfly 4dv

Raymarine's Dragonfly series offers a lot of utility in a small package. Available with dual-frequency sonar, plus charts and Wi-Fi, in 4- to 7-inch screens, you can build an ideal system for a smaller boat. The base-model 4dv ($199) offers crisp sonar images of the bottom, by sending out sweeping pings from 320-380 kHz in a 60-degree arc under the boat. Add CHIRP frequencies with the dvs model ($249), or charts and Wi-Fi capability with the Pro version ($349). raymarine.com

Garmin Echo 301dv

Garmin Echo 301dv

A dual-beam, dual-frequency fishfinder with a 3.5 inch, 320 x 240 pixel color screen, the Echo 301dv can flip between 50-, 77-, and 200 kHz as needed and display traditional sonar or imaging of the bottom, or both in split screen. Includes the transducer. $219 | garmin.com

Humminbird PiranhaMAX 197c DI

Humminbird PiranhaMAX 197c DI

Another dual-beam fishfinder with a 3.5 inch screen of the same 320 x 240 resolution, the Humminbird distinguishes itself with wider sonar beams than the competition — up to 74 degrees for its 455 kHz imaging display. But it also can display a narrow beam — 28 degrees for traditional 200 kHz. $149 | humminbird.com 

Installing A Fishfinder On A RAM Mount

An adaptable mount that lets you swing your fishfinder out of the way can be a big help on a small boat.

Small swivel ram mount

It can be difficult in smaller boats to flush-mount modern plotters with larger, 7-inch screens. Choosing a readable, safe, useable location for bracket mounting without adding obstructions in an already compact seating/floor plan may also present challenges. One solution is to use Ram Mounts.

Ram Mounts are cast from aluminum, extremely strong, and most importantly, adjustable, with interchangeable product plates and ball sockets with matching pivots. These use large hand knobs (no tools required) to change positions. Twist to lock, and you're good to go. I mounted a Lowrance Elite 7 HDI using a small swivel Ram Mount (see photo above). It uses less room and is snuggled in an unused corner on the passenger side, but it allows the boat operator to view the screen easily.

You can also create alternate mounting positions, but be sure to allow extra length for the wire leads to the second location.

— Cliff Steele

— Published: Spring 2015


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