Best Side Imaging Fish Finders

Outdoors Magazine is reader-supported. When you buy through links on this site, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

If you’ve decided to get a side imaging finder for your next fishing trip, first of all we commend you on your decision.  

Fishing without a fish finder is mostly guesswork and hope, and using a fish finder gives you an unparalleled advantage, and will make your fishing trip significantly more productive.

And side imaging finders have a lot of advantages that down imaging fish finders lack.  Side imaging fish finders effectively “look” in two different directions at the same time, so can cover twice as much area as their down imaging counterparts. 

Side imaging fish finders can also come in particularly handy for scanning in shallower water, such as rivers or shallow creeks and bays, since their orientation provides a better image there than a down imaging fish finder would.

We’ve had a good scan at the best side imaging fish finders, and have whittled the numerous options down to a Top 5.  We’ve also got a buying guide for you which should give you some direction for making your decision.  

On Amazon, you will find fish finders for every budget, but reading our buying guide should help ensure you get value for money.

Best Side Imaging Fish Finders - Comparison Table

Best Side Imaging Fish Finders - Reviews

Lowrance has produced a great fish finder. 

This one’s available in different screen sizes, including 5 inch, 7 inch, 9 inch and 12 inch.  So whichever one you choose you get a decent size, but as you might expect, the bigger the screen, the bigger the price.

But it’s standout feature is that it offers you double the coverage of traditional fish finders thanks to its transducer’s wide angle CHIRP sonar cone, which gives you not just side imaging but down imaging too.  The side imaging goes up to 300 feet, there’s another sonar which goes straight down, and there’s a CHIRP sonar as well to detect fish arcs.

Although you get 3 different sonar signals, they’re all derived from the one transducer which can be hung mounted or hung in a variety of places, and is even suited to smaller fishing boats or kayaks.

We also love how it comes preloaded with high detailed mapping of 4000 lakes across the US, which is great for helping to decide where to go for your next fishing trip.

And the GPS plotter is so handy, it enables you to add waypoints, follow trails, and navigate.

It has a Solarmax display which means you get really crisp images even in direct sunlight.

A look at the buttons next to the screen will show you how easy it is to use, but as if that wasn’t enough, its ease of use is boosted by it’s autotuning too.

Thanks to its Micro SD card slot it’s really easy to upgrade by for example adding mapping updates or third party maps.

Pros

  • TripleShot Transducer provides double the coverage of other fish finders
  • 300 feet of side imaging, plus down imaging too, and shows fish arcs
  • Available in different sizes, choose the one for your budget
  • Preloaded with high detailed mapping, which can be upgraded
  • GPS plotter
  • Solar max display to see in direct sunlight
  • Super easy to use

Cons

  • The price goes up considerably with screen size

If you want high quality and are willing to pay for it, this is the fish finder to go for!  If we hadn't considered your budget, this would have been our Number 1 fish finder.

One of the things we love the most about it is its huge screen size - you won’t miss a thing on this baby.  It’s available in different screen sizes, including 10.1 inches, 12.1 inches, and a whopping 15.4 inches. All of which feature a high resolution.

The screen provides a High Definition image, is touchscreen enabled, and can be customized to show up to four independent viewing panes.

It uses a built in dual spectrum CHIRP sonar, for really well defined fish arches and water contours and bottom.  You can have it on wide mode for maximum coverage, or a narrower mode for maximum detail.

We also love it’s Bluetooth connectivity, so you can hook it up to your smartphone, all the while keeping your phone bone dry in your pocket.  It also has ethernet networking and dual SD card slots.

It has just about all of Humminbird’s best features, including the Basemap feature whereby you can access a ton of maps on tap, and Autochart Live, which lets you record to map out the water around you.

This model features Mega Side Imaging+ which offers 200 feet of coverage either side of the boat.  And as if that wasn’t enough it offers down imaging too!

The price includes a transducer with mounting hardware, a gimbal mounting bracket, a power cable, and unit cover.

Despite all its top of the range features, it’s really easy and simple to use. 

Pros

  • Huge HD screen
  • Transducer, and other items included in the price
  • Bluetooth compatible
  • Basemap feature - access a ton of maps
  • Autochart Live feature to record your journey
  • 200 feet of coverage either side of the boat
  • Built in dual spectrum CHIRP sonar, use wide mode or narrow

Cons

  • Make sure you order the side imaging fish finder, as it’s also available in down imaging to avoid disappointment

Humminbird is one of America’s favorite fish finder, and a look at this beauty will show you why.

It has a nice and big 5 inch screen - you won’t miss a detail.

We love it’s built in basemap feature, where you get accurate maps for a clear view of underwater terrain you can use to identify navigation aids.  It will show you contours and depth markings too.

This model features a built in GPS system, which finds your position accurate to within 2.5. meters.

But that’s not all, you can map the water out as you drive your boat with Autochart Live which has 8 hours of built in recording time to map out depth contours, bottom hardness etc as you traverse your favorite fishing spots.

It uses a Digital CHIRP sonar high frequency pulse, which can show you fish that other forms of 2D sonar can’t, for much more accurate images.

With it’s Dual Beam PLUS Sonar, you can get a wide beam for more search area, or a narrow beam for more precision, as the two beams combine for even more detail, showing you the fish and the bottom.

Its side imaging leaves the fish with nowhere to hide, as the ultra thin sonar beam scans left and right of the boat, filtering out noise, returning an amazing view of the lake bottom.

It can do down imaging too.

Pros

  • Big 5 inch screen
  • Built in GPS and Basemap feature
  • Autochart live to map the water as you move
  • Digital CHIRP sonar for crisper images
  • Dual Beam PLUS Sonar
  • Great side imaging and also down imaging

Cons

  • The instruction manual is perhaps too technical for beginners, but you can find some good instructions on Youtube

You may have heard of Garmin for their sport and fitness watches, but they actually do a damn good job with other products too, not least of which are fish finders.

This fish finder comes with a dual beam CHIRP transducer that you simply hang over the edge of your boat.  Instead of sending just 1 single frequency, the CHIRP transducer sends a continuous sweep of frequencies into the water which provides a wider range of data, and sends crisper images back to the screen.

We also love how the imagery you get is totally uninterrupted when you switch to different scales of depth, thanks to its Smooth Scaling graphics.

It’s got a great sonar history rewind function too, so you can scroll back to mark points you may have missed.

It’s screen is small but not too small, with a width of 3.5 inches.  And you can swivel the screen on the mount to suit you. The keypad is really straightforward and easy to use.

With it’s built in high sensitivity GPS, you won’t lose track of your fish, and you can see your position in relation to waypoints you have marked.

You can even check your boat’s speed, to ensure you’re trolling at the right speed for the species you’re after.

Pros

  • Affordability
  • CHIRP transducer gives crisper images
  • Smooth Scaling graphics
  • Sonar history rewind function
  • Built in high sensitivity GPS
  • Check Your Speed on Screen

Cons

  • A bigger screen might be nice

Here’s another great fish finder from Garmin.  

The included transducer provides 3 scanning sonars, a CHIRP traditional sonar, a CHIRP SideVu for side imaging, and a CHIP ClearVu sonar too.

When these scanners are used together, you get almost photographic quality images beside and below the boat.

You get a nice big 7 inch screen which you can see in direct sunlight, with a simple user interface on the right of it.

It has a lot of features built in, not least of which is wifi, so you can access the amazing ActiveCaptain app, which gives you smart notifications, lets you access the Quickdraw Contours Community, and more.

Another great built in feature is the Quickdraw Contours mapping software, which lets you create and store maps for up to a staggering 2 million acres.

It has built in GPS which lets you create routes, check the boat’s speed, and mark waypoints.

Pros

  • 3 scanning sonars for almost photographic quality images
  • Big 7 inch screen which you can see in direct sunlight
  • Built in Wifi to use with the ActiveCaptain app
  • Quickdraw Contours mapping
  • Built in GPS

Cons

  • Some customers say that the community maps aren’t as good as ones you get from other manufacturers

Best Side Imaging Fish Finders - Buyers Guide

There are few things to think about before making your final decision, we’ll walk you through each in turn.

Transducer

It is the transducer that sends the sonar beam into the water, so it’s an absolutely essential piece of kit.  However not all fish finders come with transducers, so remember to always check if the transducer is included.  

You can buy the transducers on Amazon if need be, but it’s nice to receive all of your equipment in one go, if you intend to head out sooner rather than later.

Screen size

If you can, go for a big screen.  When it comes to screen size, as a general rule, bigger is better.  Wide screens tend to have a higher resolution and improved color contrast, so they’re particularly handy for giving you accurate readings. 

Backlight

A backlight on your fish finder is once again absolutely essential.  Without a backlight you won’t be able to see the screen when you’re in sunlight.  Not the best when you’re in the middle of a lake and there’s no foliage to provide shade!  We strongly recommend that your fish finder has a backlight.

Battery Life and Power

Where power is concerned, it’s simply a case of the greater the wattage the better.  And fishing is usually an all day job, so look out for a fish finder who’s battery is rechargeable or easily replaceable.

Sonar Frequency

When it comes to frequency, it kind of depends on the depth of the water you’re fishing in.  A 50 kHz unit would be ideal in deep waters, whereas in shallower water a 200 kHz unit would be much better.

IP Water Rating

An IP Water Rating is a measure of how water resistant or how waterproof an item is - pretty important for a fish finder!

Frequently Asked Questions

Do fish finders work in shallow water?

If you want to fish in shallow waters, your first port of call should be a fish finder that gives you side imaging, as this will be more useful to you than down imaging.  That said, there are a lot of models out there that will give you both side imaging scanning and down imaging scanning, so you get a lot more data, and a better picture on the screen.

Some of our Top 5 fish finders have both side imaging and down imaging functionality, specifically our Number 1, our Number 2, and our Number 3.

Is side imaging worth the extra money?

Side imaging fish finders are absolutely worth the extra money - once you tune it in and learn what to look for, the fish are in trouble!  Side imaging will let you ride down a bank and see which docks have fish under them, all the while showing where all the brush piles and stumps and drop offs are and whatever else may be down there. 

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. 

How does a sonar fish finder work?

Sonar communication is based on echolocation, whereby what you see on your display are the contours and shapes that reflect some amount of the sound released by the transducer.  

Inanimate objects like stones or large underwater rocks at the bottom of the river will completely reflect the sound, sending it straight back to the receiver, and this is represented on the screen as clear flat lines.

Fish and other living things like underwater algae and seaweed on the other hand don’t fully reflect the sound.  Due to their movement and unique shape, any fish in the vicinity will obstruct the sound wave path, and change the direction of the sound wave. 

Any underwater activity will show itself as small curved lines on the screen.

Spread The Word

Share on facebook
Share
Share on pinterest
Pinterest