I’m happy with it. I’ve used it a few seasons now. Sure, I’ve wondered what the bottom looks like from time to time. Yes, I’ve had moments where I couldn’t tell if I was looking at a school of fish or a tree. It is tough to see in the sunlight. It would be nice to have GPS. Come to think of it, I’ve heard great things about downscan imaging…
Maybe it’s time to upgrade?
Your fish finder can be your most important tool on the boat some days. Even when it’s not, it’s still an important factor to having a good day versus not. So what kind of price can you put on a tool like that? While budgets are different for everyone, the best fish finder under 300 dollars will be the best fish finder for most of us. At the $300 price point, you’re maximizing all the key features while sacrificing on only a few things, like screen size. For this article we will focus on fish finders under $300. In continuation of our Top 3 series, this is our Top 3 Guide on the best fish finder under 300 dollars.[supsystic-price-table id=9]
Key Features – Searching for the best fish finder under 300 dollars
In today’s fish finder market, you should be focusing on three key features: GPS, CHIRP Sonar, and DownScan imaging. Some fish finders differentiate themselves with additional features, but the core important ones are the three listed. Anything more could be considered “fluff.” Some of it is cool, but don’t let those features supplement the core three. Let’s break down those three key features some more.
GPS is such a crucial feature for anglers because it gives us the ability to find where we are at all times but more importantly, where we were when catching fish. Not all of us are old salts that know all the best spots like the back of our hand, so we have to rely on GPS to help us navigate to spots we’ve either had success at before or think would be a good place to try. Chart plotting is huge here, and a very effective tool to stay efficient on the water. I highly recommend you only consider units with GPS capabilities. If you don’t, eventually, you will wish you had it.
CHIRP Sonar is the latest advancement in sonar technology. It provides a clear, crisp, highly detailed image that is far superior to standard sonar imaging. What’s the difference? Garmin has an awesome page explaining CHIRP Sonar, but essentially, CHIRP Sonar sends a continuous sweep of frequencies, ranging from high to low, to the bottom, picking up much more detail on the return. Standard sonar sends only one frequency at a time which limits how much information can be gleaned from it. This can mean the difference between seeing a couple of fish together versus a clump of color. It also improves fish arches, making them much easier to recognize.
The best example of how far fish finder technology has come has to be the advent of DownScan Imaging. It is absolutely unreal how clear and detailed a picture can be displayed because of this technology. DownScan Imaging, or Down Imaging as Humminbird refers to it, is a higher frequency sonar that produces a much more detailed image. DownScan Imaging is ideal for seeing the bottom and structure cleanly and clearly. If you frequently fish structure, knowing exactly what you’re dealing with can be all the difference in how you present.
Lowrance Hook-4 – Searching for the best fish finder under 300 dollars
The Lowrance Hook-4 is our pick for the best fish finder under 300 dollars. This unit is the only vertical display in our Top 3, and we find this makes it easier to see all the information necessary. The Hook-4 utilizes Advanced Signal Processing (ASP) which reduces the need to adjust settings manually in order to see fish, structure, and bottom detail more clearly. The Hook-4 also incorporates Insight Genesis maps that you’ve created from your own sonar logs, allowing you to use your own custom maps. Overall, this device uses all three key features beautifully and also includes some interesting features that put it over the top for us.
Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro – Searching for the best fish finder under 300 dollars
Another great fish finder on the market is the Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro. It has one of the nicest displays of the Top 3 and appropriately sized at 4.3 inches. Compatible with Navionics and C-Map charts, it also works with Raymarines’ LightHouse charts, making it an extremely versatile GPS. It’s rugged all weather design guarantees no fogging in the display. What’s also really cool is the ability to stream sonar data from the Dragonfly 4 to a compatible smartphone or tablet, using WiFi technology. This is a great feature for bass anglers who spend a lot of time up front trolling rather than behind the console.
Garmin Striker 5DV – Searching for the best fish finder under 300 dollars
The Garmin Striker 5DV is a new model from Garmin. I really like this unit because not only does it have each of the core features I look for, but it’s got some really great addons to complement those key features. For instance, I really like their built-in waypoint map that changes the map screen to a solid white, allowing you to easily view paths taken on the water. This is extremely helpful when looking to cover tracks from a previous visit, or finding specific areas that you fished earlier. Additionally, you can use these waypoints to identify exactly how to get back to the dock. I also like how this fish finder has a flasher option built-in to its programming, so you can switch to it when vertically jigging. The resolution on the screen is nice and sharp which allows you to see every little detail.
If you feel underwhelmed with your current fish finder, or perhaps you’re looking to buy your first serious fish finder, you cannot go wrong with either the options listed above. The Lowrance Hook-4 is our favorite, but the Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro and the Garmin Striker 5DV are both exceptional fish finders for under $300. The most important piece to searching for a fish finder is identifying the three big features- CHIRP Sonar, Down Imaging, and GPS. These three units have all of those features and they do them extremely well. Pick one up and next time you’re out on the water you’ll be so happy to be fishing with the best fish finder under 300 dollars.