Best Garmin fish finder: 6 models to meet the needs of any angler

Garmin’s array of award-winning fish finders ranges from the simplest depth sounder to high-tech command centers that control your entire vessel.

Garmin is an undisputed leader in marine electronics. In fact, it has won the National Marine Electronics Association’s Manufacturer of the Year award for seven years running. In 2017, Garmin further solidified its market position with the acquisition of Navionics, whose electronic charts are practically synonymous with marine navigation. The company’s product line now includes both chart plotters and fish finders, and many of its models function as both.

Within the Garmin family, the fish finder brands are the Striker, Echomap UHD, and GPSmap series. Striker units offer a variety of entry-level options. Echomap UHD fish finders include three subdivisions (UHD, UHD2 and UHD Ultra), which are marketed according to price and performance. The GPSmap series is Garmin’s top-of-the-line fish finder and chart plotter offering.

Each of these series encompasses multiple models, screen sizes, features, and price points, which ensures that any boater can find the right unit for their vessel. To help you cut down on the homework, here are six selections that we think will steer any angler in the right direction.

6 of the best Garmin fish finders

Best Garmin Fish Finders_GPSmap 8600

Garmin GPS Map 8600 Series

Best top of the line Garmin fish finder

Reasons to buy:

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• Premium technology from a leader in marine electronics
• Built-in maps and charts
• Side-view sonar with up to 1,000 feet

Reasons to avoid:

• Sonar limited to 10-, 12-, and 16-inch models
• Transducers sold separately

When navigating to your fishing spot is just as important as finding fish once you arrive, the Garmin GPSmap 8600 series has everything you need to get on the fish and get back safely.

This feature-rich series is actually marketed alongside Garmin chart plotters, with screen widths up to a whopping 24-inches. But only the 10-, 12-, and 16-inch models support sonar capabilities, making these smaller 8600 head units Garmin’s top-of-the-line fish finders.

The units are sold with or without transducers, which will add from $200 to $500. Opt for a transducer and you will get Garmin’s proprietary SideVü and ClearVü technologies, traditional CHIRP sonar, Panoptix, and Livescope all in the same package. You won’t miss a fish below, ahead of, or anywhere around your boat, all served up in real time.

In addition to Garmin’s best sonar tech, you also get premium built-in coastal charts and freshwater maps as well as Navionics data. The sleek 8600 series will network with sonar, radar, AIS, media players, cameras, autopilot, on-board weather devices, and just about anything else you need to find the fish and then find your way home with confidence.

RRP: £2,435 to £5,305/$2,800 to $6,100

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Best Fish Finders_Garmin EchoMap UHD 72SV

Garmin Echomap UHD Series

Best all-around Garmin fish finder

Reasons to buy:

• Garmin’s workhorse fish finder
• Large range of screen sizes
• Preloaded maps for both lakes and coastal waters
• Networkable with other UHD devices

Reasons to avoid:

• Confusing array of choices

The Echomap UHD is one of Garmin’s most popular series, but not necessarily the easiest to, uhm, navigate. There are actually three divisions of Echomap, which include the standard UHD models (6- 7- and 9-inch), the UHD 2 (5- and 7-inch) and the UHD Ultra units (10- and 12-inch)

All bear the Echomap mark and use a similar interface, keypad configuration, and firmware, but the performance and price range vary significantly. In short, Garmin packs the most power and performance into its larger Echomap UHD Ultra units, and at a premium price.

Some of the noteworthy differences between the high and low end include screen size, resolution, networking capabilities, transducer support, and GPS refresh rates. The higher the GPS refresh rate, the more accurate the reading because your position is calculated more often.

There are also a range of transducer options to choose from, including traditional CHIRP sonar, SideVü, and ClearVü sonar. Or you can opt for all three in the same unit.

You’ll have to do some comparison shopping to determine the right model for you, but suffice to say you can’t go wrong in the EchoMap line. It’s just a matter of matching the screen size, budget, and performance to your angling needs.

RRP: £260 to £2,549/$300 to $2,950

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Garmin Striker 4 Portable Kit

Garmin Striker 4 Portable

Best portable GPS Garmin fish finder

Reasons to buy:

• 4-inch screen is great for kayaks and canoes
• GPS will mark waypoints and tracks
• Comes with a carrying case and battery
• Premium transducer upgrades

Reasons to avoid:

• Display is a little small for large boats
• No onboard maps

When searching for a portable fish finder, its best to focus on units bundled as a package that includes not only the head unit but also the transducer, a carrying case, and a rechargeable power source.

The Garmin Striker 4 checks all those boxes while packing a high-speed GPS receiver into the bargain. There are no built-in maps to perform chart-plotting functions. However, the unit is perfect for fishing from a kayak or canoe while scanning bottom depth and marking brush piles, ledges, channels, and other fishy structure. The unit will also display boat speed and surface temperature.

The CHIRP transducer mounts with a suction cup to any vessel, and the package includes a foam float for suspending the transducer in an ice-fishing hole. Come winter, switch the unit to “flasher” mode and jig fish off the bottom right through the ice.

RRP: £197/$220

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Best Garmin Fish Finders_Striker Vivid 5c

Garmin Striker Vivid 5CV

Best budget Garmin fish finder

Reasons to buy:

• Easy on the wallet
• Transom-mounted transducer is included
• High-speed GPS receiver

Reasons to avoid:

• Not a chart plotter
• No side-view support in the 5-inch version

If you are looking for your first fish finder, then Garmin’s Striker Vivid 5CV would be hard to beat. This assumes you don’t need chart plotting features or fancy side-viewing technology. If you just want to know what’s below the boat in a crystal-clear display, the 5CV is all you will need to get started.

Garmin’s ClearVü technology offers seven different color displays to help you separate gamefish from baitfish and structure. The included CHIRP transducer mounts to any transom and reads bottom features in vivid detail.

While there are no built-in maps, the Striker Vivid 5CV does include GPS for marking waypoints. And the proprietary QuickDraw technology allows you to make custom maps of go-to fishing holes. Add the ice fishing bundle for $100 and hit the perch and walleye in the depth of winter.

You won’t find touchscreen functions in this entry-level package. But at only $300, you won’t have to hide the receipts, either.

RRP: £268/$300

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Best Portable Fish Finders_Garmin Echomap UHD 73cv Ice bundle

Garmin Echomap UHD 73CV FishFinder/Chartplotter Combo with Panoptix Ice Fishing Bundle

Best Garmin fish finder for ice fishing

Reasons to buy:

• Includes carrying case and battery
• 7-inch touchscreen display
• Forward and down imaging
• Built-in charts

Reasons to avoid:

• Expensive
• Heavier than smaller portables

You don’t have to fish from a boat to appreciate sonar technology. Ice fishermen also benefit from electronics that allow them to see what lurks beneath the frozen surface.

The Gamin ECHOMAP UHD 73CV FishFinder/Chartplotter Combo with Panoptix Ice Fishing Bundle will do everything that a console-mounted system can do, but with ice fishermen specifically in mind.

It comes bundled with the Panoptix PS22 transducer, which lets you see what’s going on in front of or below your position up to 100 feet away in real time. The integrated CHIRP sonar picks up traditional sonar readings of bottom structure and fish arches directly below the ice.

In addition to the carrying case and rechargeable battery, the bundle includes a CHIRP transducer float and a swivel mount for the Panoptix transducer (both for ice fishing). The UHD 73CV Ice Bundle also comes pre-loaded with premium Garmin maps as well as Navionics data.

RRP: £1,700/$1,900

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Best Garmin Fish Finders_Cast

Garmin Striker Cast with GPS

Best castable Garmin fish finder

Reasons to buy:

• Highly portable unit that syncs with a smartphone
• Affordable price point
• Useful from a boat or on shore
• GPS is optional

Reasons to avoid:

• Less robust technology than fixed units

Thanks to the new generation of castable transducers, anglers can now reel in a view of the bottom wherever one can toss out a line.

Garmin’s entry into this unique category of fish finders is called the Striker Cast. It is minimalist technology, to be sure, but enough to offer vital stats anywhere within 200 feet of your casting position.

Just toss it out and reel in to read water depth, bottom topography, fish locations, and even the depth of individual fish. It works anywhere from freshwater lakes to saltwater bays. In winter, turn the unit to “flasher” mode and read bottom scans through your favorite ice fishing hole.

There is even a GPS version that allows you to create detailed maps of underwater features on 1-foot contours. This is basic fish finder tech at a basic entry level price.

RRP: £112/$130

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The best Garmin fish finder for your style of angling

Garmin produces a wide array of fish finders and chart plotters. Throw in a variety of screen sizes, transducer options, and map choices, and finding the right one can be challenging.

The two most basic features of any fish finder are its sonar technology and GPS capabilities. It must have sonar to find fish, but not necessarily GPS. After establishing a budget and screen size, decide what type of sonar you want, and whether you even need a GPS fish finder.

The sonar is produced by a transducer, which sends data to a head unit for graphical interpretation. Transducers are typically mounted to the transom or a trolling motor. Some can also be floated in an ice hole for winter fishing.

Sonar options range from basic CHIRP transducers that take in a data “cone” directly below the boat, to side-viewing, down imaging, forward viewing, and even real-time displays.

When selecting your head unit and transducer, consider whether you also require GPS. If so, is it simply for marking waypoints and tracks, or do you require built-in charts for detailed navigation? If the latter, then you will have to decide between freshwater or saltwater charts. Some units include both.

Looking for ice fishing features? Lean toward models bundled with a carrying case, a battery, and a transducer with ice float. Make sure the unit has a flasher mode, which is a traditional display preferred by many ice fishermen.

From there it’s a matter of digging into the details of sonar cone angles, GPS refresh rates, map details, networking capabilities, and the like. Learn to navigate Garmin’s dizzying array of fish finder units and related technologies, and you will eventually find your way to the perfect model for any vessel.

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.


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