Best Fish Finders Under 500
As any fisherman will tell you the best part of being out on the water is the peace of mind that you get from being out in nature and having time to yourself. However, the other important reason to go fishing is to catch some fish, because otherwise what are you doing out there in the first place?
While some fishermen prefer to do things the old-fashioned way and try to reel in a catch by instinct alone, modern people like to use technology to their advantage. While back in the old days you had to guess where the best spot was now you can use a fish finder to make the whole process much easier.
One of the biggest downsides of high technology, though, is the fact that it can cost an arm and a leg. Fortunately, I’ve found some of the best fish finders out there, and each one costs less than 500 dollars. Thus, if you’re on a bit of a budget, you can still get the most out of your fishing experience.
Top Fish Finders Under 500 Comparison Table
Garmin Striker 7SV
Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP DI GPS G2
Lowrance Elite-5X CHIRP
Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 53dv
4" to 9"
Raymarine Dragonfly 5 Pro Sonar/GPS
Lowrance Elite-5 Touch Fishfinder
Top Best Fish Finders Under $500 - Reviews
Most of you will probably recognize the name Garmin and think about GPS systems. While the company is famous for making those devices, it also has created some remarkable fish finder as well. GPS enabling is important for a lot of reasons, namely so that you can track your current position and mark popular areas with a lot of fish. If you don’t have a GPS, then you have to remember your placement by memory, which will not guarantee the best results when you decide to return. If you are deciding between having GPS and not having it, I would always recommend getting it as it will benefit you significantly.
What I like about the Striker 7SV is that the receiver is rugged and well built so it can take a beating. If you ride on rough waters, then you need something that can handle it, and this will be a fantastic option.
As far as performance goes, this model uses CHIRP sonar to give you clear imaging, and you get side, and down view options, so you can see everything around you as well. I would highly recommend this unit for shallows like lakes, ponds, and rivers.
- Tough, rugged housing
- Seven-inch full-color LCD screen
- High-sensitivity GPS built in
- Waypoint map to mark spots and track progress
- CHIRP sonar for better results
- Down and side view options
- Flasher option for vertical fishing
7-Inch Color Display
When it comes to fish finders, you want something that is large enough and clear enough to see exactly what’s going on down below the boat. In this case, you have a wide seven-inch screen, which is more than sufficient to pinpoint your next catch. The other great thing about having such a large display is that you can monitor both your location on the GPS as well as the fish in the water, making it much more convenient.
CHIRP Down Imaging
A fish finder is only as good as its Sonar, and this Humminbird is equipped with the best in the industry. CHIRP is always a reliable system for finding fish and mapping the terrain, and in this case, you get a full range of frequencies to make your picture as clear and detailed as possible. With the transducer that comes in the box, you get 455 kHz: 420-520 kHz 800 kHz: 790-850 kHz. You also get a maximum depth of 600 feet.
When you’re out fishing, part of the process is searching for the best spot to make your next catch. Fortunately, since this system has a GPS built inside, you can track your movement and even mark your maps with the local hotspots so that next time you’re on the water, you don’t have to spend as much time on the prowl. This unit can save up to 2500 waypoints and 50 routes.
- Durable construction
- Extra large 7-inch display
- Full-color screen for better imaging
- CHIRP down imaging sonar
- Built-in GPS with waypoints and marking
- Navionics and charts included
- MicroSD slot for uploading and saving new maps
- Easy to use menu options
- Max depth of 600 feet
- Frequency range of 420-850 kHz
- Gimbal mount provided
- Does not display time for some reason
- Maps are not installed on the device, only on the MicroSD card
As far as fish finder brands go, Lowrance is another winner in my book. I have had great experiences with this company as well as Humminbird, and the Elite-5X is the gold standard for the brand.
First of all, you get a high-definition LCD screen so you can see everything clearly. Second, it comes with CHIRP sonar for better results and a transom mounted transducer that allows you to see everything going on beneath you. While this unit doesn’t have side view imaging, it still works well as a down scanner, and you can adjust the cone to fit your needs with a push of a button.
The other things that I like about this finder is that it comes with a one-year warranty.
- Clear five-inch LCD screen
- Full-color resolution
- Quick mounting system
- Tilt/swivel/quick release
- CHIRP sonar included
- Transom mounted
- Easy to use menu buttons
- 83/200 + 455/800 kHz range
- Down scan imaging
- One-year limited warranty
Choose Your Display Size
With most fish finders, you have to rely on a relatively small screen to see your next catch. The worst ones are also in black and white, making it even harder to differentiate between fish and the terrain below. With the Garmin echoMAP 53dv, however, you can pick the size of your monitor to make it as easy as possible.
The smallest version is only four inches wide, but you can go up to nine if you like. At the larger sizes, you can monitor both the underwater landscape as well as your GPS positioning, making the system far more convenient when it comes to charting hotspots. Each version has full color and high contrast, making it easier to spot the fish regardless of the one you pick.
One problem that plagues some fish finders is that they are not that great at picking out individual fish. The arcs are somewhat flaccid and can blend in with each other when there are multiple targets in the same area. CHIRP sonar, however, is designed to combat that problem, which is why it is the most sought after imaging system. In this case, you get up to 500 watts (RMS), which provides cleaner and crisper lines so that you can differentiate between your next catch and the one you will let get away.
Considering that Garmin made a name for itself by producing GPS systems for cars, it makes sense that this device would also have one inside. While not as comprehensive as other systems, it does allow you to track your progress and mark waypoints so that you can list all of your favorite hotspots for next time.
- Durable construction
- Full-color display for easier viewing
- Multiple screen sizes available (4"-9")
- Easy to use menu buttons
- Clear imaging with CHIRP DownVu Sonar
- Gimbal mount included
- Built in GPS for positioning and tracking hotspots
- LakeVu maps installed already
- 500-watt RMS sonar for better scanning
- Smaller screen can be hard to read
- Maps are not comprehensive, so you may have to download new ones
Five-Inch All Weather Screen
With some fish finders, the device only works well in calm and ideal conditions. This means that if you hit some rain or other inclement weather, you have to worry about it damaging the internal components. Fortunately, the Dragonfly is built to handle all kinds of environments, so you don’t have to shield it from a few drops of water.
Not only that, but the five-inch screen is spectacular. It provides high-definition images, and it is backlit so that you can read it even in direct sunlight. Overall, this screen is much better than the competition.
Dual Channel Sonar
When using a fish finder, you want to be able to both locate your next catch while also mapping the terrain below you. Most models, however, have a single sonar transducer to do both, which can have mixed results. In this case, though, you get Down Vision for mapping, and then a secondary CHIRP sonar to find the fish. This means that you get better images every time and you won’t have to worry about the two merging on your screen and muddling your results. Best of all, you can watch both in real time, side by side.
Wi-Fish Mobile App
Although wi-fi capabilities are limited to your phone carrier and your location (as with any wireless technology), this app still enhances your fishing experience. Not only can you save maps and waypoints on your phone, but you can review your imaging results, share them with friends, and save them for later. This way you can compare hotspots and see how they change over time with the season. If you’re a serious fisherman, this app will be your best friend.
- Durable, all-weather construction
- Large and easy to read 5" screen
- Simple menu navigation
- Backlit display with high-resolution color images
- Dual sonar for more straightforward mapping and imaging
- Mobile app for sharing and data storage
- Gimbal mount included
- Saves up to 3000 waypoints and 15 routes
- North American maps included
- Built-in 50 channel GPS
- Wi-fi is spotty in some environments
- May have to download extra maps for full coverage
- Directions may be hard to follow for some users
The last model we will look at is the Elite-5 from Lowrance. I have to say that this particular fish finder is one of the most high-tech, so if you’re into gadgets, then this will be the one for you. The most notable thing about it is that it comes with a wide touch screen so you can navigate quickly and easily.
Other high-tech features include wi-fi capabilities and Bluetooth so you can connect with your smart devices and sync up your maps and whatever else you want.
As far as performance goes, this unit does come with CHIRP sonar, but you have to buy a separate
transducer. That is the only significant downside of this device, but it shouldn’t be enough to be a dealbreaker. Overall, this is the best fish finder under 500 and a gadget lover's dream.
- Touchscreen technology
- Five-inch full color LED screen
- CHIRP sonar included
- Down scanning available
- No transducer included
- Easy to navigate menu
- Wi-fi and Bluetooth capabilities built in
- Internal GPS enabled
- Quick release mounting bracket
How to Choose the Best Fish Finder Under $500
When looking at different models of the fish finder, you have to make sure that the size matches your needs. For the most part, you want to get a unit that is large enough to make it easy to read. If you get one that is too small, you will have a hard time differentiating between fish and other debris on the screen, which will defeat the whole purpose of having a fish finder in the first place.
Also, make sure that you get one that will fit onto your boat where you would prefer to have it. Technically speaking, you can mount your finder anywhere you like, but you should have it near your boat controls so that you can adjust your placement as needed. Thus, be sure that you have enough room to fit the finder that you want.
Color vs. Black and White
One of the most important aspects of a fish finder is how the information is presented to you. With that in mind, you can either see things in color or black and white. Color models are usually more expensive, but they can be much easier to read. Some black and white units don’t have enough contrast to differentiate the different sizes of fish, which means that you could get a model that is useless out on the water.
Overall, I would highly recommend color instead, unless you get a big screen and high contrast for black and white.
When looking at different fish finders, you will see that some of them mount to your boat while others can be cast out into the water. If you do get one that sticks to your boat, then you will have to make sure that it comes with a separate transducer that you also mount to the bottom of your craft. For units that can cast out on a line, you will monitor the results from a receiver, which is usually your Smartphone or tablet.
As far as performance goes, each model has its advantages and disadvantages, so it will depend on the type of fishing that you do. As a rule, though, I would recommend cast finders for shallow waters and shore fishing, while mounted finders will be great for trolling or deep sea fishing.
Another significant part of fish finding is how the transducer and sonar work. Most models will cast downward, which means that you get a view of the area directly beneath your boat (or the finder if it is by itself). The signal spreads out like a cone, meaning that the closer you are to the transducer the less likely it will spot anything. Wider cones mean that you see more, while narrow cones are great for depth fishing.
While most finders only cast downward, some also emit sonar to the sides so that you can get a comprehensive view of what’s around you. If you do shallow fishing like on a lake or a river, I would highly recommend that you get a model that does side as well as down imaging so that you can see everything all at once.
When comparing all of these best fish finders under 500, it can be tough to narrow it down to just one. However, my personal favorite is the Garmin Striker 7SV because it has the most high-tech options of all of them. I am a gadget type of guy, so I love the fact that this unit has everything I need to stay synced up while I’m on the water.
If, however, you’re not impressed then I would say that the Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP is your best option, as that has the best performance and features that you could want.