If you want your fishing experience to bring you joy, you have to get well prepared for it. A very important device you should have in your boat is a side imaging fish finder. With a device like this, you have a much better picture of what is under your boat and where the fishes are. Side imaging is a very advanced sonar feature.
If you already have a fish finder, you may consider having an updated model. If you have never bought a side imaging finder, it is time to get one. In order to support your purchasing decision, in this article, you have a review of the best side imaging fish finders.
As you are searching for the best side imaging fish finder for you, here is a list of some selected models that might fit your needs.
What We Like: Humminbird is a quality brand in the fish finder market, Clear, bright screen, Great operation
Not So Much: Price is high for a 5-inch display, No backlit buttons, The display does not swivel
The Helix 5 SI from Humminbird has a 5-inch color display that shows a left column with data and the two split sided views of the bottom.
The function buttons are conveniently placed on the right side of the display. It has precision GPS positioning and pre-loaded maps. it comes with a transducer that can operate in 83, 200 and 450 kHz with a maximum depth of 1,500 feet.
Customers who have bought this cheapest side imaging fish finder on our list today are very satisfied with their purchase with very positive comments about the functionality and durability of the device.
Technical Details and Specifications
Screen: 5″ diagonal, color TFT, 800H x 480V pixel resolution, with backlight Sonar: Side Imaging, Down Imaging, DualBeam Plus Depth Capability: DualBeam Plus: 1500 ft (457 m) SI/DI: 100 ft (30 m) Frequency and Coverage: DualBeam Plus: 200 kHz / 20° and 83 kHz / 60° Down Imaging: 455 kHz Side Imaging: 455 kHz / 86° (x2) – 240 ft (73 m) on each side of the boat Transducer: Transom XNT 9 SI 180 T Power Output: 500 Watts (RMS) Power Input: 10.8-20 VDC Power Draw: 615 mA GPS: 5 Hz, Internal Maps: Humminbird UniMap (built-in) Routes, Waypoints, Tracks: 45, 2,500, 50 (20,000 points each)
Some customers have used expressions like “great operation” to refer to the product. On the other hand, some buyers have criticized the fact that the buttons do not count on backlight which makes it difficult to use the equipment during night fishing.
Others would prefer that the display could rotate instead of having a single fixed position. There are also buyers who complain that the software is hard to learn and use.
What We Like: 9-inch, color LCD display, Easy to use, touchscreen buttons, Depth up to 750 feet, Mark and track fish schools
Not So Much: Structure and Transducer cords are too short, extensions sold separately, High price, Takes time to learn how to use the software
The HDS-9 Gen2 from Lowrance has easy to use the touchscreen to access all the functions with your fingertip.
The 9-inch, high-resolution LCD screen shows the scanned images as well as the buttons and scroll-down menus that guide you through the functions available. Due to the super-bright function, you can see what is on the screen even on a very bright sunny day.
Scanned images of fish and the bottom produced by the HDS-9 Gen2 can be mistakenly understood as actual pictures due to their resolution. The equipment allows you to mark and track fish schools at depths up to 750 feet.
Product Details and Specifications
Screen: 9″ in diagonal, 16:9, 800H x 480V pixel matrix, full color, with backlight and touchscreen technology Sonar: Broadband Sounder and StructureScan HD Depth Capability: 750 ft (229 m) for Broadband Sounder, 300 ft. for StructureScan Frequency and Coverage: 200 kHz (20°) / 83 kHz (60°) for broadband 455 / 800 kHz for StructureScan, 600 ft (183 m) coverage from side to side Power Output: 500 Watts (RMS) Power Input: 10-17 VDC GPS: 5Hz Internal GPS Antenna Maps: Insight USA Routes, Waypoints: 200, 5,000
You can toggle on or off recorded images of the bottom to create high-resolution pictures on your screen. The equipment comes with a very accurate antenna for GPS positioning and, for easier functionality, it can be paired with an APP called GoFree to use it in your cell phone or tablet.
It can operate with a frequency 200, 455 and 800 kHz. Buyers of this Lowrance side imaging fish finder praise its quality and functionality confirming that it is worth the price.
There is hardly any criticism apart from the time it takes to get used to the operation and the length of the cords that could be longer for easier installation. This high-quality device might not be for you if you go fishing always in the same rivers or lakes that you know very well.
What We Like: Garmin proven quality, Resolution of the screen, Easy to use buttons, Resistance to spills
Not So Much: No touchscreen, Complex software, Manual is difficult to read, Quality of release mechanism
This Garmin side imagining fish finder has a beautiful display of 5 inches with buttons on the right side. Combos may have a different price depending on the add-ons.
Garmin includes in this product its best technology for clear side scanning. The company uses the name of “sidevü” to refer to side imaging due to copyright and brand marks regulations.
The price includes the transducer and a worldwide base map.
The software has pre-loaded the maps of over 17,000 inland lakes, of which over 13,000 are in high resolution. It comes with a 5Hz quality GPS positioning.
Chart plotter features are compatible with other Garmin devices. It operates in 50 and 200 kHz and supports transducers put to 800 kHz. The maximum depth is 2,300 feet in the freshwater and 1,100 feet of saltwater.
Product Details and Specifications
Screen: 7″ diagonal, 800H x 480V pixel resolution, WVGA color, backlit Sonar: Broadband CHIRP Sonar, Dual Frequency HD-ID, CHIRP DownVü, CHIRP SideVü Frequency and Coverage (with the supplied transducer): 2D CHIRP Sonar: 150-240 kHz 24°/16° DownVü CHIRP: 425-485kHz 2° fore to aft / 50° side to side, 790-850 kHz 1° fore to aft / 30° side to side SideVü CHIRP: 425-485kHz 2° fore to aft / 50° side to side, 790-850 kHz 1° fore to aft / 30° side to side Max. Depth Capability: Freshwater: 2,300 feet (701 m) Saltwater: 1,100 feet (335 m) Transducer: GT52HW-TM (12-pin) Max. Power Output: 500 Watts (RMS) GPS: 5Hz, Internal Maps: LakeVü HD Routes, Waypoints, Tracklog: 100; 5,000; 50,000 points (50 saved tracks)
Buyers of this model like very much the resolution of the screen, the resistance to water drops and the functionality of the buttons. On the other hand, there are criticisms about how complex it is to use to learn the software and use the equipment with its best functionality.
Some buyers have also complained about the fact that the manual is too long and not easy to read.
Besides, there have been complaints about the quality of the release mechanism. Despite those drawbacks, there is an overall satisfaction of the buyers with the Garmin Echomap series models.
How Side Image Fish Finders Work?
Side imaging is today the most powerful feature a fish finder has. The side imaging devices have to be mounted in your boat, they are not castable devices like other fish finders. For best results, you should mount your side imaging sonar on the transom of your boat.
These devices have two sonar beams, one to the left and the other to the right side allowing you to see on the device screen a scanned image of the bottom and locate where the fishes are.
The beams scan at a right angle from the ax of your boat, that is the reason why they are called “side imaging”. The devices available in the market have a reach of up to 300 feet on each side.
Due to two beams point to the sides, these devices have a lot more capability than standard sonars. Standard sonars have a cone-shaped beam pointing downwards.
T hat is why side imaging fish finders can locate a lot more fish and with more precision. When you see fish on the screen, you will know where to put the bait for a good catch.
The side scan fish finders normally present the image on split-screen with a dark band in the center which is the turbulent water underneath your own boat. The side imaging finders show an image in two dimensions and you have to interpret them following what is stated in the user´s guide of your device.
For example, some devices show fish as a dot, some depict an elliptical form on the screen to show where they are located. In daylight fishing, you will probably see on the screen the fishes as well as the shadow they cast on the bottom.
What to look for when buying Side Imaging Fish Finder?
When you make up your mind to buy a side imaging fish finder, you will soon realize that there are several different brands offering this kind of device in the market and those brands have many different models which might be confusing if you do not know to narrow down to the specifications that are desirable to your fishing activity.
First, the ordinary side imaging sonars can scan depths up to 150 feet, so if you plan to fish in deeper waters, you will have to buy higher priced equipment.
I fused in depths larger than their capacity, side imaging devices will only show a blank screen because their beams cannot reach the bottom.
Type of boat
The type of boat you plan to use in your fishing adventure is also a deciding factor. In general, you can not mount the side imaging fish finders on kayaks and inflatable boats without modifications that add up to your cost.
This is due to the shape of the transom. The side imaging sonars are designed for motorboats, bass boats, or any other kind of boat with similar transom design and mounting features.
Transducers and Frequency
You have to make sure the model you pick comes with a transducer, otherwise, you will incur the extra cost and time to have a transducer ordered and delivered to you.
Related to the transducer, a convenient feature to have in your side imaging sonar is the dual frequency. In fact, these sonars operate in frequencies from 50 to 800 KHz. In the lower frequency, side imaging sonars have more range whereas, in the higher frequency, they can show images with more resolution.
That is why it is convenient to pick a sonar model with the dual capability, you can use it in the lower frequency and change to it when you want to better identify an image.
The display is an essential feature when you are going to select which sonar to buy. Bear in mind that what you see on your display is a scanned picture of what is down there.
It is not a camera image. Some models do offer the feature of an added camera, but that is not what you regularly see on your screen.
So, back to the displays. The larger the display, the better you will see the picture, that is a general truth. On the other hand, the larger the display, the higher the price of the model. And sometimes you do not have space in your boat for a large display.
So, a good recommendation is to check the space you have available in your boat and buy the largest display possible within your budgetary conditions.
It is also very desirable to have a touchscreen instead of a screen with buttons around it because the majority of people is so much used to have a touchscreen in other devices, such as the cell phone. In addition to the size of the display, you should check for the screen resolution and the general user-friendliness of the software, that is, how easy it is to learn and to use.
You can check that by watching some videos posted on the internet, downloading information about a specific model or you can ask your retailer about it. Additionally, if you have to mount the side imaging sonar every time you go fishing, check for the quality of the releases and locks as well as how easy it is to install and remove them.
Prices of side imaging sonars can vary from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the features, general quality, and size of the display.