The Best Side Imaging Fish Finders: When You Need to See Wider

If you want to be a successful fisherman, you need to ensure that you have the proper equipment with you when you set out. Of course, you already have your favorite rods and reels, but what about a fish finder? The best side scan fish finder can provide significant benefits as you head out on the water.

Using the best side imaging fish finder on the market can make a world of difference when you’re fishing.  But which side imaging fish finders are best for shallow water?

We’re glad you asked.

Our Top Pick

Our favorite fish finder is the Lowrance HDS 7. It does fall on the higher end from a cost perspective, so if you don’t plan on spending some money on your fish finder, then this might not be the device for you.

However, this option gives you all the bells and whistles currently available on fish finders. Its StructureScan sonar means you can easily tell the difference between fish and those pesky obstacles that want to keep your lures and lines. Additionally, the device is wireless, so you can access the app store to access and unlock the devices full potential.

The HDS 7 is also a device that can handle multiple tasks at once. If you want to view what’s going on beneath the water while you navigate to your next destination, the HDS 7 can handle that. Even though it’s at the top end of the market from a cost perspective, the HDS 7 is worth the extra money if you can afford it.

Our Reviews of the Best Side Imaging Fish Finders

Here’s a look at some of our favorite side imaging fish finders for shallow waters. If you’re looking for a fish finder that scans deep rather than wide, check out our awesome picks here.

Garmin Striker 7SV

This device focuses on helping you find the best spots on a regular basis. While the Garmin doesn’t provide the latest and greatest features like wifi or map updates, it offers a simple and straightforward interface. The Striker 7SV does an excellent job of providing you a way to plan your excursion while doing the heavy lifting.

Garmin’s fish finders have a proprietary CHIRP sonar that gives it the ability to display images at a higher quality than its competitors. With a traditional device, you get a vague idea of the size and depth of nearby fish. Using the Striker 7SV means you’ll also get the motion, appearance, and density of the fish as well.

Of course, the navigation with the Striker 7SV is top of the line. You can save your favorite spots or plan out your favorite trip. But that’s just scratching the surface. The device will also give you distances, times, turn-by-turn directions, and the best course to take between your ideal places.

You can also use the Garmin fish finder to track your speed, so if you like to trawl you have the ability to set the perfect speed. These features combined means you’ll get a high-quality fish finder if you choose to go with the Garmin Striker 7SV.

 

Pros

  • Excellent CHIRP
  • Top-of-the-line navigation
  • Easy to install

 

Cons

  • Cord is a bit short
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Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO

Like the Garmin Striker, the Dragonfly 7PRO seeks to help you find those preferred areas repeatedly. However, the price for the 7PRO is considerably lower than the Garmin. It might be lacking a few features, but you’ll still get great image quality with the Raymarine Dragonfly. With its wide-spectrum technology, it will show you an accurate picture of what is in the water.

This capability makes the 7PRO perfect for those lakes that have a lot of underwater traps and hazards. You’ll be able to avoid those dangerous spots while keeping your lures and lines. With the Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO, you can easily distinguish between fish and obstacles that lie in wait beneath the surface.

You can also easily connect the 7PRO to your tablet or smartphone over wifi with Raymarine’s Wi-Fish application. This is to give you the ability to share your photos and keep your information in a safe space so you can access it later. Additionally, you can download software updates for your maps or patches to address bugs or defects.

You’ll get a standard system to mount your Raymarine Dragonfly 7PRO, plus an extra-bright screen so you can use your fish finder no matter what the weather. Additionally, the device is water resistant, so you don’t have to worry about it getting wet while you’re enjoying a day on the water.

 

Pros

  • Great value for money
  • Very crisp image
  • User-friendly

 

Cons

  • Control buttons are not backlit
  • No option to turn off Wi-Fi
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Humminbird Helix 5

This fish finder includes chart plotting, navigation, route planning, and location finding, however, it doesn’t have the functionality that other devices offer. Humminbird wants to give its users a way to discover the best spots and remember where they are. Additionally, it serves to provide fishermen a way to keep from getting lost when moving from point to point.

With the Humminbird Helix 5, you’re getting a simple, easy to use, affordable fish finder. If you prefer straightforward devices, this is the one for you. There aren’t a lot of buttons and apps to mess with and you’re ready to start fishing right out of the box. You’ll get excellent fish arches when using the Helix 5, as the fish finder focuses on using a wide-spectrum sonar.

You’ll be able to use the Humminbird Helix 5 in any weather with a high-resolution screen that is designed for use even in direct sunlight. The device is entirely waterproof and instead of a touchscreen interface, the Helix 5 has buttons, which makes it easier to use when the weather turns cold.

If you have a small boat, the Helix 5 is the ideal fish finder for you. It’s easy to install and small enough that any power supply will power it. It’s a rugged, durable device that boasts a design of thick and heavy plastic. That means you can bump and band the device around and not have to worry about breaking it.

There are plenty of options available on the fish finder, however, most fishermen will have the information they need when it boots up. As a result, the Helix 5 is a great choice for those who want an affordable fishfinder that just works. You won’t have to mess with a lot of complicated setup to start finding fish. Just mount the fish finder and get going.

You can also easily find your way around with the Helix 5. It shows your current location, recommends fishing spots, and plots out potential routes for your day. If you need to store maps or additional data, the Helix 5 has an SD card slot. You can also keep your favorite locations on an SD card so you don’t have to worry about remembering them in the future.

 

Pros

  • No-fuss and simple to use
  • Affordable
  • Power-efficient

 

Cons

  • Has fewer features than other models
  • Flimsy clips
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Lowrance HDS 7

If you want all the bells and whistles available on a fish finder, then the Lowrance HDS 7 is the device for you. This fish finder sits at the upper end of the fish finder market. The HDS 7 comes with a 7-inch screen that lets users choose between a touchscreen interface or using physical buttons to navigate the device.

That means you can use the fish finder in any type of weather. If the weather is cold and you need to wear gloves, you can interact with the device using its buttons. On the other hand, you can use the touchscreen anytime the weather is nice or you’re the type of person that prefers not to use the physical buttons.

The screen on the HDS 7 is crisp and sleek, giving you HD resolution and a wide spectrum of colors. You can run several apps at the same time on the device, which means if you want to, you can run it as both a navigation tool and a fish finder without missing a beat.

You can also access the internet via the Lowrance proprietary software, which gives you the ability to install new software updates, broadcast anything on the device to your smartphone or tablet, and add third-party applications available from its app store. As a result, there is always something new being added or updated, so you know that if there are bugs or defects discovered, they’ll be addressed soon.

The HDS 7 is also easy to mount on any type of boat, even though it is a little on the bigger side. Lowrance’s StructureScan sonar is a proprietary CHIRP sonar that gives you the ability to easily differentiate between underwater obstacles and fish.

If that’s not enough, there are also a wide array of additional options available with the HDS 7 fish finder. These include XM radio, AIS and DSC VHF, SonicHub Marine Audio, and many more third-party offerings which are compatible with the Lowrance HDS 7. With these add-ons, you can use your HDS 7 as a control center on your vessel, letting you manage everything on your boat from the fish finder itself.

 

Pros

  • Has both touch screen and physical button controls
  • Anti-reflective screen
  • Software updates

 

Cons

  • Low-quality preloaded maps
  • Might not work in countries outside the U.S.
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Garmin Striker 4

The Garmin Striker 4 fish finder is about as middle-of-the-road as they come. This device has built-in GPS functionality, offers a quality sonar, and includes the ability to mark your favorite fishing spots so you don’t have to remember them at a later time, say, six months later after all the ice has thawed and the snow has melted.

If you want a fish finder that makes your fishing day as productive as it can be, then you need to get a Garmin Striker 4. It’s durable enough that you can take it out on the water with you every day and not have to worry about it wearing down over time. It’s a solid, straightforward device that doesn’t offer a lot of extra features. What it does do, however, is work.

The Striker 4 provides accurate readings while you’re out on the water, so you don’t have to worry about getting lost or not being able to find your way from one point to the next. There are a few small inconveniences associated with the device, but nothing that is too substantial and can’t be overlooked.

You’ll get a CHIRP sonar you can rely on with the Striker 4, which is a common trait among nearly all Garmin fish finders. While you’re not going to be blown away by the Garmin Striker 4, you will get a quality device with the functionality to make your day on the water a pleasant experience. (Read our full review.)

 

Pros

  • Solid and durable
  • Great price point

 

Cons

  • Needs external power supply
  • Less-than-great screen visibility in bright sunlight
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What Should You Look for Before You Buy a Side Imaging Fish Finder?

It’s important to know what to look for as you decide which product to purchase. Here are some features you may want to consider before you make your selection:

Range

One of the primary features you want to think about for your fish finder in shallow water is how wide it can scan. Depth matters too, but, of course, if you’re sticking in shallower waters, why cough up the extra money for functionality you won’t use?

Range is more important to have in that shallow river or creek. You don’t want to be limited to the few meters around your boat. Something in the range of 150 feet is a good starting point. Anything less and you won’t have the range you need to find fish when the water is cloudy.

Screen Size

Like your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, screen size is a feature we all consider before making our purchase. This is also the case for fish finders. With all the information available on the screen, you want to be sure you can easily read it.

While you can probably survive with a smaller, 5-inch screen, you might consider upgrading to a 7 or even a 9-inch option. Anything bigger than that might be overkill, however, you will get a lot of detail that you wouldn’t see otherwise.

As you consider screen size, also think about whether or not you’ll be able to view the fish finder in the sunlight. Chances are good you’re not going to be standing in the total darkness while you fish. Additionally, some of the higher-end options have touchscreens, which make things a lot easier to control.

CHIRP

Of course, you’re looking for the best fish finder for shallow water to find the fish. CHIRP is the sonar fish finders use to pick up fish swimming nearby. CHIRP means Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse and is excellent at finding fish. While not all devices have the same quality CHIRP sonar, find one that offers a wide spectrum of range and results.

Here’s a vid that explains how it works:

 

Maps

Fish finders aren’t going to have all the maps you want or need, but if you look for one with an SD card or USB slot, you can load additional maps. Some maps are available to download for free, while others might have a small charge associated with them. Regardless, having a map or the ability to download maps to your fish finder is a very handy feature to have.

Markers

When you head out on your favorite body of water, you want to mark the spots you like most. With this feature in a fish finder, you can do just that. Sometimes landmarks change or your memory fails you, you’ll have a reference point to get you back to that sweet area where the fish really bite.

Durability

Because you keep your fish finder in your boat, there’s a solid chance it’s going to get wet. It might also get bumped and banged off of poles, nets, and various other fishing equipment. Therefore, you need a fish finder that’s going to be tough enough to handle the everyday life of a fisherman.

You want to make sure it’s water resistant at the very least. There’s a good chance your device winds up in the water, plus you never know you might get caught in a rainstorm. Purchase a fish finder that is durable so you don’t have to replace it on a regular basis.

Final Thoughts

There’s nothing quite like a day out on the water fishing, however, when you are ready to head out, make sure you’re taking your favorite fish finder with you. With this device, you have a chance to see just what the fish are doing below the surface. Using your fish finder for shallow water gives you a device you can use to your advantage so land more fish throughout your day.

Focus on finding a device that fits your needs. It doesn’t have to be a high-end fish finder with all the fancy bells and whistles. It just needs to do what you need it to do as you go about your day on the water. Whether it gives you a clear picture of the fish swimming in the water or hearing the latest weather news, there’s a fish finder out there just for you.

Take your time, do your research, and think about what it is that you wish you had when you’re throwing your line into the water. That’s what your best side imaging fish finder should have. The good news is that you can rest assured there’s probably already a device on the market that meets your needs.

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