7 Best Garmin Fish Finders: Reviews & Brand Comparison

Many fishers share the memory of catching their first fish on some lakeside with a little spincaster. With time and experience, that spincaster became a spinning reel and then maybe a fly rod or a baitcasting reel. As we improve, so does our gear, which allows us to catch the fish we never could before. For many anglers, the next step is buying a high-quality fish finder.

Companies like Garmin make some of the best units you can buy. With this technology, you gain unprecedented views of what is happening in the water below you. You can map surface topography, track fish location and depth, and even see how fish are reacting to your bait. If you’re ready to make that leap, this review is just what you need.

Preview

Model

Screen Size

Max Depth

Check Price

Garmin Striker 4cv with Transducer, 4' GPS...

Garmin Striker 4cv

4.3”

Traditional: 1,900 ft.; ClearVü: 750 ft.

Garmin Striker Plus 5cv with Transducer, 5'...

Garmin Striker Plus 5cv

5”

Traditional: 1,900 ft.; ClearVü: 750 ft.

Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual-Beam...

Garmin Striker Plus 4

3.5”

1,600 ft freshwater, 750 ft saltwater

Garmin GPSMAP 1242xsv, SideVu, ClearVu and...

Garmin GPSMAP 1242xsv

12”

5000 ft

Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with...

Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer

3.5”

1,600 ft freshwater, 750 ft saltwater

Garmin Striker 4 with Portable Kit

Garmin Striker 4 with Portable Kit

3.5”

1,600 ft freshwater, 750 ft saltwater

Garmin Striker Plus 5 Ice Fishing Bundle with...

Garmin Striker Plus 5 with Ice Fishing Bundle

5”

1900’


Why Choose Garmin?

Many companies make fish finders these days, and several companies are making very good ones. However, there are no companies that have the same combination of experience, research capability, and quality manufacturing that Garmin does. When it comes to fish finders, the quality we strive for could only be found with Garmin.

Garmin was founded by two electrical engineers from Kansas back in 1989. With the manufacture and design of new GPS units, the company quickly grew into a multinational entity that made equipment so advanced that the U.S. military is one of their customers. GPS and other tracking technologies are their specialties, which has led them to make some of the best fish finders in the world. Their popular Striker and EchoMap series of fish finders are a staple in fishing tournaments and are even used aboard marine biology research vessels.

Here are just some of the advantages we’ve found that Garmin offers:

  • Reliable Quality
    Garmin products are made to last. They are often built to military specifications and are meant to be tried against the elements. 
  • Cutting Edge Technologies
    We will cover all of this in more depth later, but Garmin utilizes some remarkable developments in sonar technology to offer unprecedented clarity. They include other advancements in screen technology, Wi-Fi capabilities, GPS tracking, and more.
  • Accessibility
    Garmin products are easy to use and affordable, which is actually a little surprising given the amount of advanced technology that goes into them.
  • Integrated Systems
    Garmin’s suite of marine products are Wi-Fi enabled and can be linked together to give you multiple streams of information and guidance. This is advanced tactical fishing at its best.      

What Should I Look For When Buying A Garmin Fish Finder?

Navigation

Garmin fish finders and chart plotters come with built-in navigational capabilities using Garmin's state of the art GPS. Using this feature, you can create waypoints, set markers, plot routes, and even track your boat speed.

The navigation technology also allows for contour mapping of the surface under the water. These maps can then be saved and uploaded to share online. You can also download maps created by others in your area. Above the water and below, Garmin fish finders offer guidance and where you need to be.

Sonar Technology

Garmin uses a cutting edge sonar technology known as CHIRP. Traditional sonar only uses one or two frequencies to create an image of what is underneath the water, but CHIRP uses multiple frequencies. This more comprehensive range of frequencies leads to a higher resolution image that is more accurate to what is beneath you.

Garmin offers fish finders with their CHIRP technology, but you can also get devices equipped for ClearVü and SideVü. These are much higher resolution versions of the technology which look down into the water and out from the sides of your boat respectively. The final image is almost photorealistic.   

Depth Range & Target Separation

The depth range and target separation of a sonar system are connected to what is called a transducer. While a fish finder contains the brains that process information and display it on a screen a transducer goes under the boat and sends out the signals to generate the data that creates the image. Garmin offers a wide range of transducers for all kinds owatercraft.

Mounting Type

Garmin’s fish finder displays can be mounted however you want. A tilt-swivel mount is included for installing the display on your boat but you can also buy a flush mount kit if you prefer. Extra cables and connection options are available as well if you prefer to keep the display handheld.

Power Source

Garmin fish finders work off of rechargeable batteries which you can keep powered through your boat’s onboard power systems. Most fish finders draw about 12 V and can also be charged with an appropriate car charger. Garmin's portable fishing kit includes an additional battery and smart charger making it an excellent choice for anglers who spend a lot of time on the water.  

Transducer

A transducer is the electric component of a sonar system that generates sonar signals, sends them out, and detects the returning signal. This is effectively the "eyes" of the system. A Garmin fish finder should include the appropriate transducer when you buy it but you can always buy another to modify your system's capabilities. They come with different abilities in terms of beam angle, depth, and compatibility with your hull. A dual-beam transducer is a good choice if you’re not sure where to begin. 

Data Storage & Connectivity

The Garmin fishfinders offer enough data storage for up to 2 million acres of contour mapping. Built-in GPS also saves your waypoints and routes so you can navigate safely. Advanced models offer built-in Wi-Fi so you can access apps and smart notifications connected to the system.

Performance Features

Garmin products are built for performance. They come in an array of sunlight readable waterproof display options with resolutions up to 800 x 480 pixels. Each unit is lightweight and made with rugged impact-proof casings too. With CHIRP sonar Garmin fishfinders are very accurate, even at fast speeds and the entire system is portable in case you need to move it from one boat to another.  

Price & Warranty

Garmin offers competitively low prices especially once you consider the quality of the technology they use. Varying screen sizes and accessories allow the products to be offered at a range of prices to fit most budgets. A 2 year limited warranty is also included for all of Garmin’s marine products.


7 Best Garmin Fish Finders Reviewed

1. Garmin Striker 4cv

Best Garmin Fish Finder

Screen Size

4.3”

Max Depth

Traditional: 1,900 ft.; ClearVü: 750 ft.

Beam

Dual Beam

Special Feature

Very lightweight (0.7 lbs)

Mounting

Tilt/swivel mount

The Garmin Striker 4cv is almost the smallest fish finder in the series but it is also the best Garmin fish finder. It's smaller size allows it to be among the most affordable models yet it is big enough not to compromise on functionality. This particular model, designated with "cv," includes traditional CHIRP sonar as well as ClearVü technology. This provides a remarkably clear view of surface features under the water while also highlighting exactly where the fish are hiding. The Garmin Quickdraw™ Contours mapping software is also built-in to this set so you can create and store up to 2 million acres of surface maps with 1’ contours.

That storage and mapping capacity is supported by the GPS technology that Garmin is known for around the world. With the fish finder GPS, you can track your boat speed, set waypoints, and follow routes you have created. With these features, you can mark schools of fish and key underwater structures that you want to return to. The display itself is adjustable and customizable. The fish finder is designed so you can modify the settings to suit your needs. A GT20-TM transducer is included with this model which offers both the traditional and ClearVü beamwidths.  

Pros
  • Includes ClearVü technology
  • One of the most affordable models
  • Very portable
Cons
  • Less intuitive than other systems

2. Garmin Striker Plus 5cv

Best Garmin GPS Fish Finder

Screen Size

5”

Max Depth

Traditional: 1,900 ft.; ClearVü: 750 ft.

Beam

Dual Beam

Special Feature

Side by side view for sonar and navigation

Mounting

Tilt/swivel mount

The Garmin Striker Plus 5cv is like the slightly older and wiser bigger brother to the 4cv. The models share the same features but the Striker Plus 5cv offers a larger, more user-friendly screen. This model includes the traditional CHIRP sonar as well as ClearVü technology providing high-resolution images of underwater features along with fish locations. Like the 4cv this model also has the built-in Garmin Quickdraw™ Contours mapping software so you can create and store maps with 1' contours for up to 2 million acres. The Garmin GPS is included as well so you can set waypoints, create routes and track boat speed.

These key features are what defines Garmin’s Striker series of fishfinders. Navigation and mapping are what Garmin does best. The nice thing about the 5” display of the 5cv though is that the larger size allows for better side by side viewing of the GPS, traditional CHIRP sonar, and ClearVü sonar. At best, the smaller 4" display allows for a split-screen with two streams showing. Having all three, however, makes for a much more dynamic fishing experience. The Garmin Striker 4cv still stands out as the best fish finder but, for the money, the 5cv is a very strong contender in second place.

Pros
  • Larger user-friendly screen
  • Side by side screen capability
  • Portable and affordable
Cons
  • Mapping doesn’t work as well as other models

3. Garmin Striker Plus 4

Best Garmin Fish Finder For Kayak

Screen Size

3.5”

Max Depth

1,600 ft freshwater, 750 ft saltwater

Beam

Dual Beam

Special Feature

Includes flasher

Mounting

Tilt/swivel mount

The Garmin Striker Plus 4 is the best Garmin fish finder for kayaks. Of all the fish finder models it is nearly the smallest and cheapest one you can get. The system relies on traditional CHIRP sonar from a dual-beam transducer. This won’t give you the same resolution of surface features that you would get from ClearVü enabled systems but, if you are fishing from a kayak, the size and number of fish you'll be catching will be appropriate for what you can see. Not to mention you can always upgrade the transducer later on if you feel the need for higher performance CHIRP.

This fish finder system includes the standard GPS capabilities of all Garmin fishfinders. This means you can set labeled waypoints, create navigational routes, and track boat speed. This system also uses what is known as a flasher. Basically, whenever you are stationary on the water the sonar can give you comprehensive real-time view of everything below you in one easy to read ring-shaped user interface. Everything from the top of the water to the bottom of the water column shows up. This can be used for everything from ice fishing to jigging for crappie.

Pros
  • Very portable
  • Very affordable
  • Flasher system is useful
Cons
  • Doesn’t include lake maps like other fishfinder models

4. Garmin GPSMAP 1242xsv

Best Garmin Fish Finder For Livescope

Screen Size

12”

Max Depth

5000 ft

Beam

Dual Beam

Special Feature

FulWi-Fifi and ANT connectivity

Mounting

Tilt/swivel mount

The Garmin GPSMAP 1242xsv stands in a class of its own. Garmin doesn’t even classify this as a fish finder technically but as a chartplotter instead. Both the screen size and the price tag are bigger than anything else on this list but, with this system, you get what you pay for and more. The GT52-TM transducer is equipped for Garmin CHIRP sonar, CHIRP ClearVü, and CHIRP SideVü scanning sonars. Each of these viewing modalities can be viewed at the same time on the 12” color display. The device also supports Panoptix™ all-seeing sonar, including Panoptix LiveScope™ sonar. All you have to do is add the appropriate transducers.

The system also comes preloaded with U.S. LakeVü g3 maps and BlueChart® g3 charts featuring Navionics® data and Auto Guidance technology. These are some of the best commercially available cartography resources on the market. The GPSMAP 1242xsv also has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity giving you full access to the ActiveCaptain app. On top of this you also benefit from built-in ANT connectivity for integration with other devices. There are also built-in sail assist features, easy GPX waypoint transfer, rapid heading and position updates, and more. If you choose this system it will be one of the most transformative integrations you make on your boat.

Pros
  • Full suite of sonar technologies
  • FulWi-Fifi and ANT connectivity
  • Excellent navigational resources
  • Fantastic system overall
Cons
  • These units are expensive

5. Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer

Best Garmin Fish Finder With Transducer

Screen Size

3.5”

Max Depth

1,600 ft freshwater, 750 ft saltwater

Beam

Dual Beam

Special Feature

Includes flasher

Mounting

Tilt/swivel mount

The regular Garmin Striker, 4 with its included dual-beam transducer is the cheapest model of this size followed closely by the Striker Plus 4. Like the Plus, 4 this model is also well suited for small craft. It is very similar to the Plus, 4 but the Plus 4 is a little bigger and just a hair nicer. Both systems rely on traditional CHIRP sonar from a dual-beam transducer. This doesn’t give you the same resolution of surface features that you would get from ClearVü enabled systems, but, as mentioned, it works perfectly for the fishing you'll be doing from smaller and lighter craft. As with the Plus 4 model you can also upgrade the transducer later on if you feel the need for higher performance CHIRP.

This fish finder system includes the standard GPS capabilities of all Garmin fishfinders so you can set labeled waypoints, create navigational routes, and track boat speed. This system also uses a flasher. Whenever you are stationary on the water the sonar can give you a comprehensive real-time view of everything below you in one easy to read ring-shaped user interface. Everything from the top of the water to the bottom of the water column shows up. Just like with the Plus, 4 this system is perfect for everything from ice fishing to jigging for crappie.

Pros
  • Cheapest option available
  • Very portable
  • Includes flasher system
Cons
  • Not as waterproof as other models

6. Garmin Striker 4 with Portable Kit

Best Garmin Fish Finder For The Money

Screen Size

3.5”

Max Depth

1,600 ft freshwater, 750 ft saltwater

Beam

Dual Beam

Special Feature

Includes flasher

Mounting

Tilt/swivel mount

When you buy a smaller fish finder like the Garmin Striker, 4 one of its greatest attributes is its portability. It is small enough to be handheld and it is easy enough to move it from one boat to another. That's why Garmin makes a portable fishing kit for their fish finders. These cases are tough water-resistant compartments that hold your fish finder kit securely so you can move it from one place to another. If you were to buy the kit and the fish finder separately you would end up paying more than if you were to buy them together. Garmin bundles are almost always a good value and this is the best Garmin fish finder for the money.

The fishing kit also includes a backup battery for your fish finder as well as an AC charger. This allows the fish finder to be truly portable and doesn’t leave you relying on external power sources to keep the system running. Just charge the fish finder with the backup battery and you will be good to go for a while. As for the fish finder itself, well, you get the exact same unit you would get from the previous selection on this list. Some anglers don't need the case so the bundle is extra, while others are more mobile with their gear.

Pros
  • The bundle offers a great value
  • A rechargeable battery is included
  • A special transducer mount for kayaks is included
Cons
  • The suction cup mount included with this kit doesn’t stick well on most surfaces

7. Garmin Striker Plus 5 with Ice Fishing Bundle

Best Garmin Ice Fishing Finder

Screen Size

5”

Max Depth

1900’

Beam

High-Wide

Special Feature

Perfect for ice fishing

Mounting

Tilt/swivel mount

This last offering on our list is a fantastic bundle for the anglers that would use it. This takes the Garmin Striker Plus 5 that we previously covered and expands on it with the portable fishing kit and a specialized transducer for ice fishing. In effect, this bundle turns the Plus 5 into an ice fishing fish finder by making it portable and allowing it to benefit from the built-in flasher. Other anglers might just install the system directly on their boat so this bundle wouldn't be as valuable but, for those anglers who like to get out on the ice, this setup is perfect.

The portable kit includes everything you need to keep the fish finder running. You get an extra rechargeable battery and a charger for it. The bag itself is water-resistant and sturdy. It is meant for the outdoors and will protect your equipment during hikes to your fishing hole. The included GT8HW-IF Transducer is perfect for ice fishing and is designed to be lowered down through the ice so you get a full picture of what is happening down below. The Striker Plus 5 offers all the same features covered earlier so you get the nicely sized screen, the GPS capabilities, and the ability to modify your view with additional transducers as needed. 

Pros
  • The bundle is a great value
  • The Striker Plus 5 is ice fishing ready with this kit
  • Built-in flasher
Cons
  • Does not include the regular ClearVu transducer

Garmin vs. Humminbird & Lowrance

Lowrance and Humminbird are both older companies than Garmin with a wider selection of relevant products. Still, Garmin stands out. Although similar technologies are used across all three brands Garmin offers them in unique combinations. Lowrance seems to provide the greatest variety of the three followed by Humminbird and then Garmin. Garmin offers the best GPS of the three which makes sense because they are a global leader in the technology. 

As far as price is concerned Garmin appears to be middle of the pack. Lowrance tends towards lower prices while Humminbird is often higher. Garmin's middle of the road prices offers the best value of the pack though. Garmin products really stand on their own already but combined with their suite of apps, custom programs, limited warranty, and customer support they are worth every penny.


Comparing CHIRP to Traditional Sonar

Sonar stands for sound navigation ranging because the technology works by using sound waves and computers to create an image of something. With traditional sonar a device called a transducer would put out a single frequency of a sound wave, and then it would interpret the soundwaves that bounced back off of objects to form an image. This works well enough but the image created from a single frequency of a sound wave isn't very accurate. A single frequency will only bounce off some things but not others. 

CHIRP sonar solves this problem by using frequency ranges from low to high and processing the waves that bounce back from each. More frequencies equate to more resolution in the final image. Evolutions of this technology called ClearVü and SideVü offer higher resolution below the boat and to the sides respectively. A fishfinder built on CHIRP sonar is definitely the way to go.   


How to Set Up & Use a Garmin Fish Finder

To set up and use a fish finder you will first have to install its components. Start by picking where you want to mount your fish finder and drill holes there to attach the mount and run the wires. You should add generous amounts of sealant and then run the power leads (make sure the battery is turned off first) as well as the wires for the transducer.

Next, you have to install the transducer. There are a few ways to do this but usually, you attach it to the back of the boat with a mount. To do this you will need to drill your holes and attach the transducer mount using plenty of sealant. Then attach the transducer to the mount. Hook up all of your wiring as you go. Make sure the battery is turned off before connecting the final wires to the fish finder. If all went as planned the fish finder should fire up when you turn everything back on. 

Garmin fish finders are built to be pretty intuitive. Once yours is up and running and you are out on the water your screen will show you what is below you in the water. On a traditional CHIRP sonar screen, the water depth will be marked on the right and the most recent sonar imaging will also be on the right. Things you just passed over will be on the left. Solid features like rocks will show up as solid yellow shapes while fish will show up as distinctive red curves.

All Garmin fish finders are customizable and you can easily change the settings to suit your needs. The best way to learn what you like is to just use the system. It is very user friendly so once you get it hooked up, you should hit the water and see what you can find. 


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What kind of maintenance is needed for my Garmin fish finder?

For minor maintenance, you must keep your Garmin fish finder clean by wiping it down with a soft damp towel and then drying it by hand afterward. You should also buy the Garmin protective cover to go over the fish finder when it is not in use. When transporting your fish finder you should use a transport case too. More significant technical or mechanical issues you can always contact Garmin's great customer support.

How do I know which Garmin transducer I have?

The easiest way to identify what kind of transducer you have is to look for the label or tag attached to the transducer cable. This should give you the model number and other relevant information for what you need. It is essential that that you have the right kind of transducer installed on your boat because they aren't all the same.

Certain transducers are only appropriate for certain boat hulls so you must be careful not to use the wrong kind. Having the right kind of transducer is also important because of power concerns. You need to have the right battery and wiring configuration for the transducer you have. 

How do I get in touch with support for my Garmin fish finder issues?

You can always start with the Garmin Support Center which allows you to use the product name or serial number to find relevant information and support. You can also call them directly Monday-Friday from 7 am to 7 pm at 800-800-1020. Garmin has a great support network. They specialize in products built for the rugged outdoors so they're accustomed to any of the challenges you might face.

What is better, down imaging or side imaging?

Neither down imaging or side imaging is better or worse than the other. Down imaging offers sonar-based imaging that shows you what is in the water beneath your boat while side imaging (like Garmin’s SideVu) shows you what is off to the sides of your boat. Side imaging can scan more water quickly and is perfect for shallow waters while down imaging works better at faster speeds in much deeper waters. Combine them both in your boat and you will be unstoppable.

Where can I find the best price on Garmin fish finders?

The best strategy for getting the best value you can on a Garmin fish finder is to look at both Amazon and on Garmin's website. Often, Amazon has fish finder models on offer that you can't find on the Garmin website and you can even get them for lower price too. Other times Garmin has the best offer directly on their website. It pays to do your research and shop around.  


Conclusion

Garmin is a world leader in GPS technology but they have also carved a space for themselves as a world leader in a wide selection of extreme outoors gear. Their range of fish finders not only stand up against older more experienced companies but actually surpass them.

Our top pick, the Garmin Striker 4cv, is a perfect example. It is portable, affordable, ruggedly built, and ofs up sharp real-time images of what is happening beneath the water. It is not only the best Garmin fish finder but one of the best fish finders on the market overall.