14 Great Fish-Finder Options for Limited Budgets

Get the most for your money with these marine electronics choices.

With the incredible palette of electronic wizardry available to boaters today, how do anglers sift through the choices and land a good bargain sounder? As with any purchase decision, finding value is key to solving the equation. In other words: Buying on a budget does not mean buying the cheapest piece of gear that will do the job.

A sounder, in particular, represents the most significant electronics unit for saltwater anglers. With a sounder, we find depth, bottom contour, structure, bait and fish. Wherever and however you fish, your sounder should be your best tool. Stephan Kerkhofs/Shutterstock

Expert Opinions

I asked the major U.S. electronics manufacturers to make two sounder suggestions to the budget-minded consumer: One targeting inshore anglers aboard 18- to 23-foot boats; the second targeting offshore anglers running 23- to 30-footers. Yet no such request could possibly cover all bases. Does a budget buyer want a unit that can expand its capabilities with his needs and his wallet? Does he want a dedicated fish finder only or a fish finder/plotter combination? What is his budget, and how much flexibility is there? “Our approach always starts with a list of questions, such as what type of boat they have, what kind of fishing they do,” says Scott Heffernan, sales manager at The GPS Store, a mainly online seller located in Ocean Isle, North Carolina. “Once we know that, we can present units that not only fit the boat, but also fit the application best. Then we can give them options of the latest technology.” Chris Woodward
About 10 to 15 percent of buyers pick a dedicated fish finder rather than a combination fish finder/chart plotter, Heffernan says. “But we are seeing most people going to a single unit that does everything.” Three of the units in this article are fish-finder-only models. Although, among the units suggested, you can often find a fish‑finder-only version in the same series. Most of the inshore units range in display size from 5 to 7.5 inches. Some offer touch-screen capability; others don’t. The offshore suggestions range in screen size from 7 to 10.2 inches, and one includes side- and down-imaging. A number offer some form of CHIRP sonar as a built-in -capability, though in several cases, more-expensive transducers must be purchased to showcase that aptitude. If a unit is listed as “capable” of various functions, that means it has that functionality built in and doesn’t require a separate module. Many of these units can also be upgraded. Chris Woodward

Cost Factor

Features that drive up prices for sounders include screen size and sonar options. “You can take something that’s in the $2,000 range and expand it out quickly to the $8,000 or $9,000 range,” Heffernan says. The inshore units listed here range in price from $650 to $1,095, and the offshore units cost $1,250 to $2,700. But manufacturers say they can pretty much meet any price point. “As we educate, we’re seeing more people go toward the new technologies,” Heffernan says. “It’s more than just being able to see a wreck on a fish finder. With side scan, you can see the outline of the wreck rather than just X marks the spot. So you can get to the outside of the wreck to target different species. “If somebody is researching, I suggest they get an idea of how much room they have and an idea of what they want to do with the unit, and then look at the manufacturers’ websites. There are advantages to each line.” Chris Woodward

Furuno, Inshore Budget Angler

GP1870F (7-inch wide-format, includes plotter, internal antenna): $995 525-5PWD transom-mount transducer: $100 TOTAL: $1,095

Furuno, Offshore Budget Angler

FCV587 (8.4-inch, fish finder only): $1,695 525STID-MSD through-hull transducer: $325 TOTAL: $2,020

Garmin, Inshore Budget Angler

GPSMAP 547xs (5-inch, includes plotter, charts, internal antenna, CHIRP/DownVu capable): $789.99 HD-ID/DownVu transducer: $99.99 TOTAL: $889.98

Garmin, Offshore Budget Anglers

GPSMAP 741xs (7-inch, includes plotter, charts, internal antenna, CHIRP/DownVu capable): $1,499.99 TM150M CHIRP transom-mount transducer: $299.99 TOTAL: $1,799.98

Humminbird, Inshore Budget Angler

899ci HD SI (7-inch, includes transducer, plotter, side/down imaging, internal antenna): $999 XNT 9 SI 180 T transom-mount transducer: (included) TOTAL: $999

Humminbird, Offshore Budget Angler

ONIX8ci SI Combo (8.4-inch, includes transducer, plotter, internal antenna, side/down imaging): $2,699 TD-XHS 9 HDSI 180 T transom-mount transducer: (included) TOTAL: $2,699

Lowrance, Inshore Budget Angler

HDS-7 GEN2 Touch (includes transducer, plotter, charts, internal antenna; StructureScan, Broadband and StructureMap capable): $1,249 Skimmer transom-mount transducer: (included) TOTAL: $1,249 Note: Company chose to only provide inshore option.

Raymarine, Inshore Budget Angler

Dragonfly7 (7-inch, includes plotter, charts, internal antenna, CHIRP/DownVision, transducer): $899.99 CPT-60 CHIRP DownVision transom-mount transducer: (included) TOTAL: $899.99

Raymarine, Offshore Budget Angler

a77 (7-inch, includes plotter, charts, internal antenna): $1,134.99 P58 transom-mount transducer: $99.99 TOTAL: $1,234.98

Simrad, Offshore Budget Angler

NSS8 Sport (8-inch, includes plotter, internal antenna, broadband sounding): $1,299 P66 TD transom-mount transducer: $149.95 TOTAL: $1,448.95* (* $200 rebate through June.) Note: Company chose to only provide offshore option.

Si-Tex, Inshore Budget Angler

SVS-760F (7.5-inch, fish finder only): $749 P66 transom-mount transducer: $150 TOTAL: $899

Si-Tex, Offshore Budget Angler

CVS-128 (8.4-inch, fish finder only): $1,499 Radarsonics 250C transom-mount transducer: $180 TOTAl: $1,679

Standard Horizon, Inshore Budget Angler

CPF190iNC (5-inch, includes plotter, internal antenna): $549.99 DST521 transom-mount transducer: $99.99 TOTAL: $649.98* (*$50 rebate through July w/ purchase of C-MAP Max)

Standard Horizon, Offshore Budget Angler

CPN1010i display w/ FF525 black-box fish finder (10.2-inch, includes plotter, charts, internal antenna): $1,999.99 DST520 through-hull transducer: $119.99 TOTAL: $2,119.98* (*$200 rebate through July w/ purchase of C-MAP 4D)