Rick is a former news reporter who decided that the corporate world wasn't for him and took off to travel the world. He's been to every continent (yes, even Antarctica!) and has tried out a multitude of outdoor gear along the way. From tents to hiking boots, he's probably tested it all. Now, he's one of our full-time product testers and experts.
Bryan is one of our leading experts since he's got a vast expertise in practically everything connected to the outdoors. He's been hiking since he was a young boy, was an organizer of kayaking tours which later led to another passion of his - kayak fishing. Now, he's a part-time expert consultant involved in our multiple product tests and topic research.
Last updated: March 27, 2022
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A massive degree of advancement has occurred in technology in recent years, and one of the areas that have been impacted mostly by it is the fishing industry. Many gadgets have been invented to improve the fishing experience of anglers around the world, and one of those performance-enhancing devices is the fish finder. With its ability to help you find fish effortlessly using sound navigation and range system, the importance of a good fish finder cannot be overstated when doing a large scale fishing. Luckily, you can easily find the best fish finder under 500 that will impress you with its features.
However, different companies usually have different priorities when it comes to product characteristics. While some manufacturers decide to channel their energy on designing the best possible display, others choose to provide fishermen with technological capabilities and features that are lacking in other products of similar prices. As a result of this, selecting the best fish finder under 500 dollars is often difficult even for advanced anglers. With that in mind, we have gathered the best fish finders under 500 for you, considering important features like display, sonar type, side view option, and maximum depth.
We spent tens of hours researching and perusing reviews and comments from experts and individuals who want to share their experience, so we have carefully structured this guide in order to enable buyers to choose a suitable product effortlessly. Our comparison table below gives you an idea of the things to come. It is followed by in-detail reviews of each model, giving you all the necessary information, while the included buying guide contains all the tips you need as a buyer when looking for a perfect fish finder.
More features: comes with Navionics+ charts that cover all of coastal US and Canada
Raymarine is a company that was originally known to be prolific makers of high-quality marine electronics, so their seamless and successful entry into the fish finder market wasn’t surprising at all. The Dragonfly 7 Pro comes with almost every feature an angler would require in a fish finder. Of course, there are some models that are bigger than this one, but its wide seven-inch backlight LED screen is adequately large for multiple views.
Typically, this uses a special Dual-Channel sonar that offers stunning DownVision depth images coupled with a conventional CHIRP sonar. Speaking about the extras, the device comes with the ability to expand with a MicroSD and a high number of preloaded maps. The inbuilt software combines NAG and Navionics+ chart for easy navigation but expands easily to include Raymarine Lighthouse charts and Jeppsen’s C-Map. While it doesn’t have the depth maps for inland waters, it works effectively for navigation and fish finding.
One of the most impressive features you will find on this device is the inbuilt Wi-Fi and its compatibility with Wi-Fish mobile application. However, this model doesn’t come with a touch screen, which might be a bit inconvenient for some users. But that doesn’t take anything away from its exceptional performance. It is easy to install, easy to use, highly functional, and gives a lot of value for your investment.
More features: built-in Wi-Fi for access to ActiveCaptain app
Garmin is a company that is often associated with high quality and reliability, and the Garmin Striker 7SV, with its full-color seven-inch WVGA display, delivers all that. The 7SV, featuring the CHIRP ClearVü and SideVü transducer, provides stunning lifelike images of the bottom structure and fish around and under your boat. Moreover, the CHIRP sonar uses a wide frequency range, which helps it to deliver crisp, clear fish sweeps and differentiate close targets.
Furthermore, the device comes with an inbuilt flasher view that enables you to utilize a standard sonar format for ice fishing or vertical still fishing. The unit also boasts an inbuilt accurate GPS system for tracking and marking waypoints to allow you to mark boat ramps, fishing holes, and docks. Weighing just more than one pound, the unit is also very portable and sports a compact profile. Despite being compact, it has a relatively sturdy and waterproof construction, making it ideal even for harsh use in any weather conditions.
For a fish finder with a seven-inch display and side-view capabilities, the 7SV is one of the best options in this price range. The device has an inbuilt Wi-Fi for compatibility with the ActiveCaptain app, which helps improve your overall fishing experience. Although the unit lacks a MicroSD card slot, this is its only evident shortcoming. If an array of sonar capabilities is what you’re looking for, this might just be the ideal unit for you.
Maximum depth: 1500 feet (2500 with optional transducer)
MicroSD slot: yes
Dimensions: 1.1 x 7.5 x 4.3 inches
More features: internal GPS chartplotting with built-in UniMap cartography
If you’re looking to engage in saltwater fishing, then you certainly need a high-quality fish finding device that is capable of withstanding the corrosive effects of salt water. However, with a device like the Humminbird 410210-1 Helix 5 Chirp GPS G2, you don’t necessarily have to break the bank in order to own a high-quality fish finder. Apart from being one of the most popular fish finders around, this device is also suitable for both saltwater and freshwater fishing. With its detailed five-inch screen and built-in software to plot charts accurately with the inbuilt GPS, this isn’t a device you can ignore.
In addition to the backlit five-inch color display, the device also has a MicroSD slot to save waypoints or load alternative maps. The incorporated CHIRP digital sonar allows you to simultaneously or individually see all CHIRP ranges due to its capability to utilize a wider frequency range than regular sonar. This allows the provision of accurate information and images of higher resolution to help you find fish wherever they may be hiding. And with its capability to resolve images to 1,500 feet, the Humminbird HELIX 5 pierces deeper than most fish finders on the market. Due to this, it is one of the best options for offshore fishermen.
Owing to the built-in GPS, you will get to receive accurate positional information from about 2.5-meters, which helps you to find the best spots easily. To aid your adaptation with the device, it has a very intuitive system, and it also has an industrial design which enables it to withstand all sorts of conditions. The only drawback is the included mounting hardware, which doesn’t rotate left or right. Apart from that little shortcoming though, this is the right option for you if you’re looking for top of the line technology, crisp imaging, accurate GPS, and loads of adjustable features in your fish finder.
Display: 800H x 480V WVGA, 7″ 9-bit color with LED backlight
Sonar type: CHIRP
Side view: no
Maximum depth: 1500 feet
MicroSD slot: no
Dimensions: 1.13 x 10.54 x 5.8 inches
More features: Dual Beam PLUS sonar; Transducer standard: XNT 9 20 T
Hummingbird is probably the most popular manufacturer of fish finders on the market, and it’s little wonder that two of their top devices have been featured here. With advanced technology and a seven-inch color WVGA display, the Humminbird Helix 7 Sonar G2 is totally deserving of its spot among the elites. Affordable, highly functional, and easy-to-use, this model is a reliable ally in your fishing journey. But while the manufacturers have optimized it for daylight viewing, it can faintly washout under the sun, so it’s better to cover it with something or use inside your yacht, for instance.
Like most fish finders of this size, the Humminbird Helix 7 Sonar G2 allows you to either have a single view or multiple windows for the majority of the data viewable on a screen. Moreover, the device utilizes a 2D pulse sonar with Humminbird’s SwitchFire technology to differentiate between the structure, bottom, and fish. This feature allows you to easily and quickly find your target. And with a depth capacity of 1500 feet, you can rest assured that this device will penetrate the most profound part of the water.
One of the few drawbacks is the lack of a cover for the unit, which often leaves most buyers disappointed. Anyways, you can buy it separately should you need it. Having said that, this device will provide you with almost everything you require once you are used to the display.
More features: comes with SplitShot transducer and US inland lake maps installed
Featuring most top of the range features, it is not difficult to see why the Lowrance HOOK2 7x with TripleShot Transducer and GPS Plotter is one of the most popular fish finders on the market. The device has a quite decent seven-inch display, which should be large enough for most needs. Also, the device gives rapid access to different modes of display and adjusts itself automatically to deliver the best images for the type and conditions of your selected sonar signal. And owing to its remarkable split-screen feature, you can even simultaneously view four different screens.
Furthermore, the HOOK2 boasts an incredibly intuitive system, which despite lacking a touch feature, is quite easy to use. The inbuilt GPS system delivers accurate geographic info and allows you to confidently navigate through the water and quickly get to your desired location. The included MicroSD also will enable you to store about 3,000 waypoints and around 100 navigation routes. The most remarkable feature on this device, however, is the TripleShot Transducer. This feature enables you to use CHIRP, and both scan sonar modes (side and down imaging) all at once.
While the Lowrance HOOK2 features a gimbal-style mount, you can as well mount it on the dashboard of your boat. Moreover, it is capable of resolving images to 500 feet, providing temperature information and also a shallow water alarm. However, a lot of buyers are of the opinion that the device is overpriced.
If you are one of the people who have an inclination towards the aquatic life and hope to go fishing sometimes, then you might be considering acquiring a fish finder. Therefore, we will discuss various tips aimed towards helping you to find the ideal fish finder in the section below.
How to make the most out of your fish finder
While you can connect most fish finders to your tablet, desktop computer or tablet via USB cords, the best models such as the Garmin Striker 7sv and the Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro Chirp Fish Finder enable you to connect using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi technologies. This gets rid of the need to utilize any sort of hardware to transfer data, thereby making the procedure seamless and quick. Apart from moving data from your fish finder to your phone, Wi-Fi also allows you to use some fish finder-compatible apps on your smartphone.
Numerous fish finders nowadays boast GPS capabilities, which is a highly useful feature, especially for people that have a tendency of fishing in large lakes and oceans. The GPS system can help you to navigate your way back to the coast easily. The GPS system can also be utilized to save prime spots’ locations so that you can easily return there later. You can also use the GPS system to map favorite places and even track hazardous areas in the water.
If your device has a multi-screen feature like the Humminbird Helix 7 Sonar G2, you are in for a really great time. This function enables you to divide your display, showing two or even more features simultaneously. This function is especially useful when trolling as it allows you to see the bottom and the map at the same time. Some models can even display different bottom views while fishing.
Features to consider while choosing a fish finder
If you really want to select the perfect fish finder for your needs, then you must take some factors into consideration. Below are some of the most critical features you must look for.
A premium-quality display is capable of helping you to detect small details that may be missed otherwise. Besides, a good display is capable of improving your overall fishing experience since you don’t want to squint at your screen for the whole day. In general, you need to look for the largest display you can afford and one that’s sealed to avoid fogging.
The higher your fish finder’s frequency, the more the details that will be sent to your display. While higher frequencies are most effective in shallow waters, deep-sea trawlers and commercial anglers often utilize low-frequency transducers.
The most common frequency range is from 50 KHz to 200 KHz, and the latest fish finders come with several frequencies so that you can either use them simultaneously in split-screen mode or be switching back and forth between different frequencies.
SideScan sonar allows you to scan large amounts of water at once. The average model will be able to scan about 100 feet to every side efficiently. Also, you can easily scan regions without causing any disturbance since you don’t have to go over the areas directly in order to scan them. The shortcomings are that these aren’t as effective in deep-water fishing. Averagely, things start getting blurry when you go as low as 75 feet. At that point, you will begin to notice a drop in the image quality. The Garmin Striker 7sv is one of the models with side-view capabilities on our list.
The best models usually come with GPS capabilities. Of course, it doesn’t make any sense to buy a separate navigating tool when you can have both fish finding and navigation in a single convenient device. GPS-enabled models allow you to store areas where you were previously successful, and they can be used to mark sports with submerged obstacles. Examples of models with GPS capabilities on our list are the Lowrance HOOK2 Fish Finder and the Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS G2.
You must also ensure you get the right size for your needs. Generally, you need to acquire a unit that is adequately large to make reading easy.
If you choose a model that is excessively small in size, differentiating between your target and other water debris will become a problem, which will invalidate your original general purpose of owning a fish finder. Also, the device should be compact to store it conveniently among your other fishing gear essentials.
By now, everyone ought to have already known the importance of getting a warranty when buying things. Electronic devices, in particular, are very risky to buy without getting a warranty as they have a tendency of becoming faulty anytime. Hence, before you choose a specific model, check its warranty terms first.
You also need to look for extra features like Wi-Fi connectivity to be able to connect your fish finder to other devices and use the specialized applications; split-screen feature to use all the possible modes simultaneously, and preloaded maps to navigate easily. However, keep in mind that every fancy feature you have on a fish finder will add to its overall cost in one way or the other.
The side view feature makes fishing a lot easier. It allows you to have a greater side-to-side range to mark fish. Since side view enables your fish to finder to scan two directions simultaneously, you are able to quickly scan more water, and therefore make your whole fishing experience more successful.
Most fish finders made nowadays come with a MicroSD slot, for good reasons. With a MicroSD card, you can store hundreds of navigation routes and waypoints on your device. In addition to that, some models come with actual SD cards which are packed with preloaded maps.
While you may find fish finders that are water resistant, we don’t think a fish finder can be waterproof. Most of them can withstand light rain and occasional water splash, but none of the models on our list can withstand full submersion in water.
Every fisherman deserves reliable fishing tools, and there aren’t many fishing tools that are more reliable than the Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro Chirp Fish Finder. Despite being priced at less than 500 dollars, the device has most features you’d find on high-end models, including a large display, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a MicroSD slot. It is our pick for the best fish finder under 500, and most users will agree with us.
Not many companies are as big as Garmin when it comes to the manufacturing of fishing equipment, and their exceptional brilliance can be clearly seen in the design of the Garmin Striker 7sv. With its side-view capabilities, Wi-Fi connectivity, compact nature, and waterproof casing, this model deservedly takes the second spot.
It’s quite difficult to find a fish finder that is budget-friendly and at the same time functional, so it’s a little wonder that Humminbird has managed to seamlessly combine both in the Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS G. Despite being very affordable, the unit has an inbuilt GPS, a MicroSD slot, and a split-screen feature.