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My first fish finder was an ancient Lowrance something or other. It was a big chunky thing with reel to reel graph paper.
I’m sure I was never using it properly or getting the most out of it.
However, the old device helped me to establish the water depth, identify the submerged structure and the ocean floor contours.
It led me to more fish and I caught more fish. Importantly, it taught me a heck of a lot about finding fish.
It still works, by the way, and it was already old when I last used it 15 years ago.
Is that a plug for the enduring Lowrance? Maybe – But it’s the digital age, and boy how things have changed.
The following article will reveal my selection for the 5 best side imaging fish finders.
Why does my opinion matter?
Well, I’m your typical angler, and probably just like you. I love catching fish. It’s not the fish finder technology that floats my boat, it’s catching fish.
A fish finder that leads me to catch more fish is something I want in my boat or my kayak, and I expect you do too.
Let’s Identify the top side imaging fish finders first.
Following this, a brief explanation of what a side imaging fish finder is should prove helpful for many of you.
Third on the list is a bare-bones buyers guide, followed by a review of my top choices.
Stay until the end of the article for my 1st place selection.
5 Best Side Imaging Fish Finders
Last update on 2023-12-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
What is a Side Imaging Fish Finder
Many anglers familiar with fish finders will already know this. You might be surprised, however, to learn how frequently this question is asked.
Here’s my, “I’m a mere fisherman and no technical boffin” answer to this question.
A side imaging fish finder scans the water at the sides of your boat. Look to your port, look to your starboard.
This is where your side imaging fish finder is looking or scanning. Distances will vary depending on the power of your fishfinder.
It’s brilliant because unless you are jigging or bottom bouncing, you are generally casting out from your boat.
In contrast, a traditional down view fish finder is scanning directly down underneath your boat.
Agreed, this is a highly simplified explanation but it shouldn’t be considered overly simplistic. It pretty well explains it in a nutshell.
I can assume there will be many of you champing at the bit to learn more.
It’s not that sort of article, however, you can read my full explanation that details the difference between traditional down imaging fish finders vs side imaging fish finders.
How to Choose the Best Side Imaging Fish Finder: What Do You Look For?
There are so many products on the market that searching for the best side imaging fish finder for you can be a little like searching for a needle in a…well, a stack of needles.
There’s a lot of great fish finders out there and it’s likely there are a handful or more that will suit your needs and budget.
There’s a huge list of considerations and they go all the way down to how easy they are to clean.
This guide is going to highlight these critical considerations. Moreover, more subjectively, my considerations.
Size: On what will you be mounting your fish finder? A large boat? A modest Kayak?
There are some fish finders no bigger than your mobile phone. Others are particularly large and in excess of 15 inches.
You need to consider the available space and mounting location in your boat or kayak. A big screen is wonderful but not if it will sink your kayak.
Water Proof: Will your fish finder be exposed to the elements? Is there a chance it may be completely submerged?
The kayak angler is very wise to purchase a waterproof model for obvious reasons.
It should be noted that many boats have no cover and the fish finder will be exposed to the elements.
From downpours to bar crossings, water can be damaging. A high level of water resistance is very important.
Touch Screen and/or Buttons: Many have both touch screens and buttons. An absence of buttons is great for cleaning and longevity; less moving parts and places for water ingress.
However, touch screens require clean hands. You may also be using gloves which must be removed to operate the screen.
Power: This is a case where more is more, and more is desirable.
The greater the wattage the faster your machine will crunch the numbers and the clearer and sharper images are likely to be.
Keep in mind this will impact the operational longevity of your power source.
Frequency: High kHz (200) will be ideal for the shallows whereas low kHz (50) will deliver better images from the depths.
Machines that allow you to customize frequencies allow the user to refine the frequency to suit the location.
See Also: Top Shallow Water Fishfinders Reviewed
Screen Size: The bigger the better. The bigger the display the more you can see and the easier it is to read.
Of course, you will be limited by the space you have but bigger is better is a useful rule of thumb, particularly for touch screens.
Color or Monochrome: Color is more expensive in all circumstances. If you’re on a budget and you’re desperate for a fish finder, sure, it will be fine.
However, the difference between color and monochrome is chalk and cheese. Do yourself a favor and save up for the color screen.
Comparatively, the detail of color is so far superior that I don’t even know why they make monochrome anymore.
Resolution: Detailed images are important and the less you have to interpret the better. Look for the highest pixel count you can get. Check out the video linked earlier for a sample of high-resolution imaging.
Keep in mind, the resolution will stand for nothing if you can’t see anything on your screen due to reflection from direct sunlight.
Check this feature, particularly if there is little adjustment in the mount. Some machines are far better at combatting the effects of direct sunlight than others.
Mounting: Some fish finders can be mounted permanently to your boat. Others sit on a gimbal from which they can be removed, some easily, some less so.
What you will need to establish is if you have to remove your fish finder after ever session for security reasons or if you can leave it in your boat.
Portable fishfinders are great for quick removal. Be aware, some machines advertised as potable can be quite challenging to remove or mount quickly.
Extras: Does the machine come with Wi-Fi connectivity? Is it upgradable, Wi-Fi connectivity makes upgrades easy. Can I use a different transducer?
Does the machine you’re eyeing off have down imaging and a side imaging and CHIRP? This is a brilliant function delivering outstanding images and versatility.
Does the machine have an SD card slot? Ideal for data saving and transfer. Does it have GPS, a library of maps, and can I use it to plot and mark waypoints?
As a rule, the more the extras the pricier the model. However, you can still get an astonishing list of extras at a great price with many models.
Where extras are concerned you really have to do your research and weigh up budget and necessity.
Also Read: Best Fishfinders for Bank Fishing
The Transducer: The transducer is the second critical component of your fish finder. That’s the part that sits in the water and emits the sonar.
For most fish finders, the transducer will come supplied with the fish finder. To learn more about transducers follow this link.
Follow this link for a deeper explanation of the jargon.
NOTE: Different companies have proprietary names for down scanning and side scanning. For example: Garmin call side scanning SideVu and down scanning ClearVu.
The Top 5 Side Imaging Fish Finders Reviewed
1. Humminbird SOLIX 15 CHIRP MEGA SI GPS
In my humble opinion, it doesn’t get any better. The price may well take your breath away but value for money and affordability are subjective.
It really does live up to its aspirational price point. If you’ve got it, spend it. The big beautiful touch screen is just the start of the great list of features.
Firstly the images are astonishingly crisp and defined. The MEGA detail is phenomenal.
The MEGA side and down imaging produce photo-like images from up to 125 feet to the side and below.
It’s loaded with connectivity and comes with every extra imaginable. Can you see fish? Not only can you see the fish, but you can see who they’re texting.
- Too many to list
- The huge touch screen is easy to navigate, intuitive and easy to use. A logical and informative display of information
- Down scan side scan and CHIRP
- Marking super-accurate waypoints is child’s play
- MEGA imaging technology delivers a picture and resolution truly second to none
- It is suitable for just about any fishing application
- Comprehensive list of extras
- Excellent connectivity
- Mounting may be a challenge, particularly if frequent removal is required
- It’s expensive. But this ‘CON’ comes with a qualification. It lives up to the price
2. Humminbird Helix 7
The Humminbird Helix 7” is a highly portable model that is dripping with features.
The landscape screen layout allows for plenty of ‘fish finding’ while critical data is easily read at the side of the screen.
Of course, you can adjust for preference. The display is excellent. There are no hassles with the view under direct sun.
The display is very bright (adjustable) and the 480 x 800-pixel resolution delivers a crisp image.
Mounting and stowing is very easy and the compact size makes it a great option for a smaller vessel.
The GPS function allows for confident navigation, and waypoints are easily recorded.
Considering the power of the Helix 7, it draws relatively low volumes from your power source. Again, brilliant for the smaller, less well-equipped vessel.
- Delivers an excellent image
- Robust and hardwearing
- Compact size yet very powerful
- Price point meets function and extras
- Mounting and stowing are super-fast
- No networking ability
- Initially, navigation can be a little challenging
3. Lowrance Hook 2, 7 Triple Shot
For kayak anglers, the Lowrance Hook 2, 7 Triple Shot must feature on your shortlist for purchase.
At this price point, competing brands will find it difficult to beat. The TripleShot transducer provides Down Scan, up to 300’ of Side Scan and CHIRP.
You really miss nothing with this comprehensive coverage. The GPS is rudimentary yet provides everything you need from navigation to plotting waypoints.
The unit is pre-loaded with US maps but the SD slot allows you to install maps from your neck of the woods.
The screen delivers a very crisp and functional display.
You can put a lot of useful information into a compact space, and have it remain easily digestible.
The are plenty of mounting options and the Lowrance is very easy to use, making it even more suitable for the kayak angler where space is premium.
- An intuitive customizable screen that is easy to navigate
- Excellent mounting option for the kayak angler
- Down scan side scan and CHIRP provides an outstanding subsurface view
- The well-considered extras list keeps the price down without excluding outstanding core features
- Versatile. Multiple sonar functions
- Just as good for the boat as it is the kayak
- Accessible pricing
- Basic GPS functions
4. Garmin echoMAP PLUS 73sv
This is another brilliant choice for the kayak and small boat angler owing to the compact size and mounting options.
It’s compact yet powerful and features packed. The 7’ inch key assist touch screen (combined with buttons) is excellent.
Information is beautifully displayed and the layout is customizable.
Never mind the blinding sun beating straight on to the screen, it won’t cause an issue with reflection, you’ll still see all regardless of glare.
The addition of Wi-Fi is huge in a model of this style at this price point.
It allows for networking and easy downloads for maps and upgrades and networking with other devices.
My favorite feature by far is the inclusion of SideVu and ClearVu imaging with CHIRP. You can cast your sonar eye such a huge distance in all directions.
The fish have nowhere to hide. It comes preloaded with 17000 preloaded US maps. Use the SD slot for a Navionics card and enjoy the huge benefits of contour mapping.
The built-in Quickdraw Contours mapping software creates personalized fishing maps on-screen as you fish. The Garmin echoMAP PLUS 73sv is a fantastic unit.
- Down scan side scan and CHIRP
- Wi-Fi and networking capabilities
- Built-in Quickdraw Contours mapping software maps while you fish
- A brilliant screen for viewing in the glare
- Easy to navigate
- Compact yet powerful
- Flexible mounting options
- It’s not free? In all seriousness, I can’t see any cons with this model
5. Garmin Striker 4 with Dual Beam Transducer
I love this unit. I’m still astonished as to how they can load up so much functionality yet still maintain such an affordable price point.
This would be my first choice for ultimate portability, versatility, and a tight budget. Firstly, it’s hardly any bigger than your cell phone.
I love a big screen so this took some getting used to. However, it was easy to navigate between functions and screens even with my clumsy thumbs.
Even though the screen is small you still get a quality display of GPS and sonar information concurrently.
The unit can scan to astonishing depths giving it offshore capability.
The dual-beam transducer provides CHIRP for excellent separation of fish and structure. There is also a temperature sensor in the transducer, which was a surprise.
The GPS is highly accurate and marking waypoints is pretty easy once you’re familiar with the user interface. Another favorite feature is Garmin Quickdraw which is Built-in.
You can make personalized contour maps as you fish with a massive storage capability of 2 million acres of data. A brilliant unit.
Check out my review of Garmin Striker 4 here.
- Portability and mounting options
- The dual bean transducer with CHIRP
- Built-in Garmin Quickdraw
- Excellent for ice fishing
- Inshore and offshore capability
- Accurate GPS
- Brilliant display considering the size
- User-friendly instructions
- Small screen, But this is a design feature to keep the unit extremely compact. It just takes a little getting used to
- Connections might not offer the best corrosion protection. At this incredibly low price point, this is predictable. A strict care plan with the use of corrosion inhibitors will mitigate this potential issue.
Firstly, I’d happily have any of these fish finders in my boat and feel confident I’d find more fish more often.
In the perfect world and with a larger boat that I could secure, I’d take the Humminbird SOLIX 15 CHIRP MEGA SI GPS.
I love the huge screen and it’s definitely my top choice for the best side image fishfinder.
If I was looking to seriously pimp my Kayak, my first choice would be the Lowrance Hook 2, 7 Triple Shot.
The screen size, functionality, versatility and mounting options are brilliant. I travel light as I can when I fish.
My small boat needs to be cleared of valuables after every session. For this reason, I can’t go past the pocket size genius of the Garmin Striker 4 with Dual Beam Transducer.
It’s all I need to guarantee I can find fish conveniently and find the same location again later. It’s so easy to use and the imaging is fantastic. What’s more…the price point suits my delicate budget perfectly.
If you liked this review of the Garmin Striker 4 then please share with your friends and family 🙂
And if you’re wondering if side imaging is worth the extra money check out my article here.