Last Updated on June 23, 2022 by Donnell Henderson
It’s fun to pit your wits against the wiliest fish in the water. That is until you keep coming up empty. There are only so many “The one that got away” stories that your family will believe.
So, I shelled out some cash and got myself a fish finder. I soon found out why I never caught anything. Apparently, the fish had moved away! The only thing I caught that day was a stubborn cold.
To add insult to injury, when I took it out a bit further, I found out that the fish finder couldn’t find much of anything. The GPS would have had me heading for Australia if I’d listened to it.
I learned my lesson — not all fish finders are created equal. So, this time around, I decided to do my research properly. I wrote this post to share what I learned with you so that you don’t end up wasting your money as I did.
My Top Pick
What’s the bottom line for those who’d like to skip ahead? The Humminbird HELIX 10 CHIRP Mega came out tops as the best fish finder GPS combo in my review. It’s big, it’s beautiful, and the image quality is unparalleled. The screen is easy to read, and it’s easy to use. Even better, it has side sonar. What’s not to love?
The Best Fish Finder GPS Combos
Humminbird HELIX 10 CHIRP MEGA SI GPS G2N — Best Overall Model
This model gets our vote as the top fish finder overall. It produces clear images and features a dual beam sonar. It comes with side sonar and HD transducer. These allow you to get a complete understanding of what lies beneath the water’s surface. It covers 400 feet straight down and 800 feet on the sides.
If you like, you can purchase an additional transducer to extend the range. It’s a highly effective unit and comes with a host of optional extras for all you gadget freaks out there.
What We Liked About It
The unit is easy to install and simple to use. It gives highly accurate results, and the HD display produces crystal clear images. We also like that it includes the HD transducer and the side sonar. It’s very powerful and is ideal if you have a bigger boat.
The unit can also record data and allows you to transfer it to your PC later.
What We Didn’t Like
Why is it that Humminbird still hasn’t caught on to the fact that swivel mounts are useful? Adding these mounts would make this unit perfect. You’ve also got to buy your own cable to connect to your PC, which is a little annoying.
Here’s an unboxing and test run vid for this baby.
- The imaging is amazing
- The unit includes a side sonar
- Easy to use
- Shows bottom hardness, vegetation, and depth
- Has Bluetooth connectivity
- No swivel-mount
- The side sonar is nice but not essential if you’re on a tight budget
- No PC cable
Overall, this is our overall best GPS fishfinder and is an impressive piece of machinery. The range is perfect for fishing on a lake. If you want to go deep-sea fishing, you can buy another transducer to increase the range. The screen is a good size, and the images it produces won’t have your squinting to see the fish.
I give it a rating of 4 ½ out of 5.
Fish will have nowhere to hide with this monster.
Lowrance Elite 9 Ti2 Fishfinder/Chartplotter Combo — Best Navigational Unit
This is a touch screen unit that has a top-grade navigational system and two types of sonar to give you a complete 180° picture of what’s going on in the water. As a fish finder, this model is outstanding. The only fish this won’t find are flying fish. I’ve rated this model as the best navigational unit.
- The option of using the touch screen or buttons
- Has a CHIRP/Structure sonar built-in
- GPS antenna
- Charts for inland and coastal waters in the U.S. included
- Bright 7-inch screen
- Wi-Fi capabilities
What I Like About It
The built-in maps are a useful feature. I also like that you have the option to switch between touch screen and buttons. If you’re using gloves, the touchscreen is a little impractical, so this option is good. The image quality is great, and you can easily overlay charts to see exactly where you are.
What I Don’t Like About It
This might be an unfair comparison, but after looking at the Humminbird’s 10-inch screen, I did wish the screen were a little larger. That said, not everyone wants a mega-sized fish finder, so this is more of a niggle than a deal-breaker.
The fact that it’s geo-locked is not ideal. If you want to take a quick trip down to Mexico to fish, you’re not going to be able to use it.
- Incorporates two types of sonar imaging for a better picture
- Excellent navigational abilities
- Clean design
- Extremely strong mount
- The screen is bright, even in strong light
- Has Wi-Fi capabilities
- It’s geo-locked for the U.S.
- The buttons don’t have enough grip when wet
- Not that easy to use at first
Overall, this is an impressive unit. The pictures are clear, and the data produced is accurate. The touchscreen option is a thoughtful feature as well. Where this unit really shines is in its navigational capabilities.
On the downside, you won’t be able to use it outside the U.S., so I did have to lower the rating to 3 ½ out of 5.
With this model, you’ll never have to worry about the one that got away.
Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP DI GPS G2 — Best Budget Pick
If you’re looking for a solid unit that performs at a much higher level than its price would suggest, this is a great buy. This is a budget pick, but it does have the CHIRP sonar that makes Humminbird’s other models so popular.
The image is surprisingly good. There are not too many flashy features, but it has everything that you need.
- Precision GPS chart plotting
- 5-inch bright screen
- CHIRP sonar
- SwitchFire system
What I Like About It
The imagining is extremely clear, and you get a detailed image of the bottom and fish. The SwitchFire feature allows you to clear up the image when you’re in shallower water. You can opt to buy another transducer to push the range from 1,500 ft to 2,500 feet.
What I Don’t Like About It
It’s a smaller screen, and the buttons are pretty small as well. It has pared down functions which are adequate for most anglers but nothing to write home about.
- Excellent imaging
- Good price
- Has all the basic functions you need
- Easy to install
- On the small side compared to other units
- Buttons can be difficult to get a grip on
Overall, this model is basic, but it has all the essential features. Performance-wise, it’s comparable to much more expensive models. This is the best fishfinder GPS combo for those on a tight budget. See our picks for fishfinders below $200.
My overall rating is 3 out of 5.
You cannot beat this budget buy.
Garmin GPSMAP 1042Xsv — Coolest in Show
Garmin is a well-established brand and offers high-quality equipment. This model excels at marine navigation and can interface with other radar systems. I’ve rated this unit the coolest in show because it can help you monitor digital weather reports, your engine, and a whole lot more.
Check for hazards and plan out your route accordingly using the Auto Guidance Tech. Create detailed maps in high definition while out on the water or use any of the 30,000 maps that are included. It creates great images. So much so, that you can even see the lure as you’re reeling it in!
- Crystal clear imaging
- Compatible with a large selection of transducers
- Allows monitoring of your engine and other equipment
- Excellent navigational features
- Will link into an Apple product
- Simple enough to use
- A wide range of extra features
What I Like About It
It has powerful, professional-grade navigation and produces high-quality, accurate information. If you’re a gadget freak, you’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven.
What I Don’t Like About It
It’s meant more as a navigation device. You’ll have to buy a separate transducer to find the best fish, and this ups the cost.
- Networking capability is outstanding
- Compatible with a range of transducers
- Has a touch screen
- Reputable brand and great customer support
- You have to buy the transducer separately
- There are more features than you really need
- No PC connection cable
- Won’t work with Android devices
Overall, this is a serious piece of equipment for anyone spending a good amount of time on the water. It has many more uses than just finding fish. I think the features are awesome for any sailor.
That said, do think about how many of the features you actually need. The costs add up quickly when it comes to adding on the transducer.
Overall, I’d give this a solid 4 out of 5.
Make your friends drool with envy.
Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO Sonar/GPS – Best Portable Model
Sometimes portability is more important than actual size. I rated this the most portable model because it can be used on a range of different mounting systems. It’s perfect for dock fishing and small vessels. It’s also quite a good bargain considering its quality and the features you’re getting. We actually did an entire roundup post on portable models and you can get to it here.
This unit features CHIRP sonar and includes a transducer. The image quality is clear, and the range is 900 ft. It’s not quite as good as the Garmin or Humminbird models, but it’s also not as pricey.
It does come with a range of U.S. charts already loaded. The GPS is powerful and, overall, this is a good option.
- CHIRP sonar included
- Great image quality
- Built-in GPS
- An LCD screen that won’t fog up
- Bright colors
- Good contrast
- Works with the Raymarine App
What I Like About It
It’s easy to use and can be installed in a range of different crafts. The screen is bright, even on the sunniest day and doesn’t fog up. It’s a very compact model that offers excellent GPS navigation and good image quality.
What I Don’t Like About It
The Wi-Fi runs in the background even when the device is on standby. This drains battery power. If you like night fishing, you might not like this unit since the buttons are just about impossible to see in the dark.
- Great portable unit
- Excellent GPS capabilities
- Clear picture
- Has maps pre-loaded
- Has CHIRP sonar
- Good value for money
- You can’t turn the Wi-Fi off
- The buttons are difficult to see in the dark
- Power usage could be better
Overall, this is a good unit for the price. It’s portable, easy to use, and offers excellent performance. I did have to mark it down because the battery power is not as good as I’d like. It’s better for shorter trips overall.
Overall, I give it a 3 out of 5.
Perfect for the fisherman on the go.
Finding the Best Fish Finder GPS Combo for You
Spend a few hours looking for the right fish finder, and you’re bound to get confused fast. Eventually, the choices all seem to swim together, and it becomes hard to determine when you should buy, or when you should cut bait and run.
Most models on the market have similar features. Understanding which of these are essential to you and your needs is the first step to catching the perfect unit. Here are some things to consider.
This is what is actually responsible for finding the fish. It emits a sound wave. This wave bounces back when it encounters an obstacle. This is what gives you a picture of what’s in the water.
It’s important to match the type of transducer to the type of fishing that you want to do. The cone angle of the unit will determine how much ground the waves cover.
A wider angle will cover more of the area around the boat but won’t be able to travel as far. It’s better for shallower water. A signal with a narrower range will cover more depth than width, so it is better when you’re fishing in deep water.
A multi-frequency unit is a good choice if you want to be able to switch between the two. Your Lake Fork Guide has put out a great video explaining how to set up and use these units. It’s aimed at Bass fishers, but it’ll give you a good understanding of the concept.
The transducer is important, but it’s not going to do you much good if the display isn’t up to scratch. A color display is a good option and will help you see what’s going on better. In my opinion, it’s worth paying extra for as it helps the images pop, even in bright sunshine.
If the budget doesn’t stretch to a color display, look for a monochrome model that has a high pixel count and excellent contrast.
Here size does count. Smaller models are more portable, but larger models are much easier to see when you’re out on the water. I’d stick to at least five inches here.
The frequency is important as well as it will determine the depths to which the signal can penetrate. High frequencies are best for shallow water and better definition. Lower frequencies can penetrate further but are more susceptible to distortion.
A unit with multiple frequency settings will be the most versatile.
Fixed or Portable?
A fixed model needs to be permanently mounted. Generally speaking, this would be my preference if you’re out at sea or going to be in rough waters. Even if you’re out on still waters, it’s nice to know that the unit is not going anywhere.
Portable models tend to be less expensive but also less feature-rich and might need frequent tuning, so they’re not my favorite.
GPS is something that I feel is worth shelling out some extra money to have. You can mark out all your favorite fishing spots or check out new ones. With GPS, you’ll be able to always find that great fishing spot again.
They’re also a good idea if you’re out on the open water exploring and are not sure if you’ll be able to get cell service.
Basically, you have two options when it comes to scanning the water — the side scan and the down scan. Here again, it’s about the angle of the sound waves. A down scan allows for more detail. If you’re after a particular fish, this is good because it can pick out more detail.
It’s a highly focused scan, so you’ll only be able to see what’s going on beneath the boat. It’s also not the best option for shallow water because it’s normally much more powerful than a side scan.
Side scans will cover a greater area around the boat, but they won’t penetrate as deeply into the water.
Obviously, you need to determine your budget ahead of time. The more features you want, and the better quality you want, the more you’ll have to pay. That said, this is not a purchase that you want to make based on the cheapest options available.
I’m not saying that you have to break the bank, but you should be prepared to spend at least about $200. It’s a fair amount to spend, but less expensive models might not be as accurate.
The models that I’ve picked are all good options and will serve you well. In the end, though, there can be only one. It was a difficult decision, and I was torn between the Humminbird Helix and the Garmin.
Overall, the Humminbird won the top spot because it is designed specifically for the fisherman. Don’t get me wrong, the Garmin is a cool, great option for fishing, but it’s also a more multi-purpose device. Check out our post where we list the top devices you can get.
The Humminbird comes equipped with a side sonar and wins the fight in terms of image clarity and accuracy. With a range of 400 ft to 800 ft that can be extended with an optional transducer, it offers the best range of all the models reviewed.
It is a dual-frequency model so you can narrow the scanning range if you prefer. The GPS navigation is excellent, and it can be securely mounted. The clincher for me, though, was the display. Its full-color ten-inch display is easy to read even in bright sunshine.
It’s Humminbird all the way at my house and with that, I’ll sign off on my fishfinder GPS combo reviews.