10 Best Side Imaging Fish Finders (2020): Solidly Built Premium GPS Models With Multi-Imaging Modes, Split Imaging on Ultra-Wide Display & Dual-Spectrum Sonar Technology—Fully Reviewed After Testing (Buying Guide)
- Simon Michel
Side imaging is one of the most significant sonar technologies available for any angler. This tool shows clear images of the underwater and limits the time you spend hunting by letting you know the precise position of a fish. It offers full coverage of the seabed, assisting you in separating a living creature from other lake structures quickly.
Shopping for the best side imaging fish finder can be challenging, even for beginners and professional anglers. Ideally, it is almost impossible for us to exhaust the benefits of side imaging, but to enjoy your investment fully, you need a model that is reliable, easy to set up, and easy to use.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the best-rated fish finders we found after a thorough research process.
What You Will Get Here
- Best Side Imaging Fish Finder Comparison Chart (Updated 2020)
- Our Top 10 Best Side Imaging Fish Finder List
- Overall Best: Humminbird 410950-1NAV HELIX 7
- Best Value for Money: Lowrance HOOK2 5 – 5-inch Fish Finder
- Advanced Choice: Humminbird 409950-1 Helix 9
- Top Combo Choice: Humminbird Helix 7 Chirp SI/GPS G2 Combo
- A List of 6 Other Products We Reviewed
- A List of Other Products We Tested
- What’s so Unique About Side Imaging Fish Finders?
- Side Imaging Fishfinder – A Comprehensive Buying Guide
- Care & Maintenance Tips
- Final Words
Best Side Imaging Fish Finder Comparison Chart (Updated 2020)
Humminbird 410950-1NAV HELIX 7Read Full Review
Lowrance HOOK2 5 – 5-inch Fish FinderRead Full Review
Humminbird 409950-1 Helix 9Read Full Review
Humminbird Helix 7 Chirp SI/GPS G2 ComboRead Full Review
Garmin Striker 7SV with transducer, 010-01809-00Read Full Review
Humminbird 410230-1 Helix 5Read Full Review
Garmin Striker 7SV 010-01874-00Read Full Review
Humminbird 409640-1 Helix 5Read Full Review
Lowrance HOOK2 5 – 5 – inch Fish FinderRead Full Review
Humminbird 409850-1 Helix 7 SI GPS / Fish FinderRead Full Review
Our Top 10 Best Side Imaging Fish Finder List
Undoubtedly, you are going to catch more fish and have insightful detail of the water depth with the Hummingbird 410950 version. The unit is packed with many high-end features to make your water navigation and fish-hunting a bliss. It can penetrate down to 125 feet, making it ideal for areas around the ocean shore, lakes, and rivers. It was fun seeing through water, discovering things we never thought would be there.
It has a 7-inch screen with 800 x 480 resolution, so you are guaranteed of clearer and detailed image in all lighting conditions. The vast display size enables you to split the screen to enjoy multiple viewing options. And with its advanced GPS, you can always obtain accurate position readings.
The 410950 model has both side and down imaging so it can detect water depth, temperature, speed, time, and coordinates. Besides, you can quickly locate the right fishing spot and save it for the future.
Compared to other models on this list, this one was highly rated, and its many positive reviews indicated that other users were satisfied. However, it did not come with the map SD card.
- Dimensions: 10.5 x 3.7 x 5.8 inches
- Weight: 5.3 pounds
- Maximum Scan depth: 125 feet
- Screen size: 7-inch
- Display: Color
- Resolution: 800 x 480
This is a fantastic model with excellent features for the price. It produces quality images while helping you to gauge target distance. It comes with a power cord and mounting hardware to secure the finder to your boat.
The Hummingbird 410950 is the ideal fish finder for anglers who desire to be on top of their game.
The Lowrance HOOK2 Fish Finder is the cheapest model on this list yet having many outstanding features. It is equipped with a triple shot transducer that can rapidly scan the pictures in separate views and update the same on the 5-inch screen. There is the auto-tuning sonar that combines with the phone-like menus to reduce the time you spend to dial.
It was easy to set up for us and some users reported mounting the transducer even on the transom, trolling motor, or inside the hull. Measuring at 9 x 7.5 x 7.1 inches and weighing 3.6 pounds, we noticed this Hook2 version was the perfect option for kayaks and other small fishing boats.
The Hook2 comes complete with an SD card for you to save your trails and waypoints or upgrade your mapping. Besides the GPS that assists in navigation, this model comes pre-loaded with US inland mapping of about 4000 lakes. This will help you narrow your search down to highly productive waters.
The clarity of the display was impressive, and it allowed us to scroll back to recheck a spot. However, it didn’t have a map chip for Canadian lakes.
- Display size: 5-inch
- Dimensions: 9 x 7.5 x 7.1 inches
- Weight: 3.6 pounds
- Display: color
- SD Card slot
This package fits the bill. It is available in 7, 9, and 12 inches display options. The side-scan has helped us to locate fish under docks and has proved to be a real game-changer. Besides, the auto-tuning helped took away the guesswork, so we could spend more time fishing.
It had so many functionalities, and we would recommend it to anyone looking for a cheap and reliable fish finder.
The Humminbird 409950-1 Helix 9 is designed to take the dedicated angler to the next level. Its most separating feature is the standard dual-beam transducer that can take pictures of the seabed when the boat is moving at high speed.
Helix 9 has two SD card slots, which translates to more storage space for maps, waypoints, and images. An AIS technology is installed in the sensor to provide more information in murky areas or dirty water. The screen is about 9 inches wide, extremely bright, having about 65,000 colors, and with the precision GPS, it can show positions pretty well.
Though it was highly functional, it didn’t come with the HD transducer that could show both the fish and its shadow.
- Dimensions: 13.4 x 7.1 x 4.2 inches
- Weight: 5.6 pounds
- Scan Depth: 150 feet
- Frequency: 455KHz
- Display: 65,000 colors
- Display resolution: 480 x 800
We were quite pleased with this Helix 9 model, looking at its faster processor and high image quality. It was an excellent value and had all the functions of the high-end models, so it was worth the extra bucks.
The Humminbird Helix 7 will enhance your angling experience by brilliantly showing you abundant fishing spots that most Sonars out there cannot. It has a GPS locator, and the ultra-bright LCD delivers maximum clarity even in direct sunlight.
Another thing that makes this model stand out is the Smartstrike feature that allows you to key in your parameters while the results appear will appear on the screen instantly, limiting the time you spend to search for spots.
Amazingly, this unit gives you AutoChart Live that enables you to record your data; then, recreate maps of your favorite fishing spots in real-time. The down-scan can display holes, weeds, drop-offs, and various sized symbols of fish. It has a built-in map of over 10,000 lakes in the US so that you can fish and navigate with confidence.
It was easy to read and use, but the available cover did not meet our expectations.
- Dimensions: 1.1 x 10.5 x 5.8 inches
- Weight: 3.1 pounds
- Maximum Depth: 1500ft
- Display type: color
- Screen size: 7 inches
The unit was great and functioned as we expected. You will be happy with the purchase, but be prepared to spend a little extra to buy a better protective cover.
A List of 6 Other Products We Reviewed
The Garmin Striker 7SV comes with a high-power transducer that can emit multiple frequency signals to provide insightful details over a wide area. The Chirp sonar can generate either 77KHz or 200KHz beam on the sensor. Many reviewers reported the high-frequency sonar gave near-photographic images with detailed information on the fish and water floor.
Its scan depth is also excellent, allowing you to see up to 2300 feet in freshwater and 1100 feet in saltwater. It has a triple display screen for every frequency. The built-in flasher comes handy if you are ice fishing, as it allows you to view your data in the classic flasher format.
The 7SV model has an IPX7 water rating, meaning it can withstand water splashes. So, you should not worry when fishing in saltwater or when there is a sudden downpour.
Like other items on this list, this one comes with lots of essentials like mounting hardware, power cable, etc. However, a few users complained that the cords were not long enough.
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 2.3 x 5.5 inches
- Weight: 1.7 pounds
- Waterproof rating: IPX7
- Max. Depth: 2300 feet
This is a well-made unit with exceptional value. It has an intuitive interface and operates flawlessly. The best part is that this model is waterproof and functions perfectly in salt and icy waterbodies. You can set it to split-screen for multiple frequency detail, so you get excellent information clarity at a low price.
The Humminbird 410230-1 is built to perform in all fishing conditions, meaning you can use its ice fishing viewing option in winter or the 2D display mode in the summer. You can easily switch between Max mode and transparent mode to decide how much detail you want to see. It has both the side and down imaging features to know the water structure under your boat.
As expected, it uses the Humminbird base map to provide you details of the US coastal areas along with over 10,000 lakes in North America. With this, you can quickly drop your waypoints on natural lakes to map out the best fishing spots.
It has a single transducer, but you can select the mode and frequency range. Besides, many users expressed their happiness about the dual beam’s flexibility that enables them to choose between a narrow beam for enhanced image accuracy or a wide beam for the broad search area.
Like other Humminbird versions on this list, the 410230-1 is equipped with a powerful GPS/WAAS receiver that provides fast positioning to an accuracy of 2.5 meters.
We found it was not compatible with Autochart live, but users could import their maps. Also, the plastic mount vibrated when the boat was running at high-speed, resulting in blurry images. But we fixed that problem by buying and installing a metal bracket.
- Dimensions: 1.13 x 7.55 x 4.28 inches
- Weight: 4.05 pounds
- Display size: 5 inches
- Resolution: 800H x 480V
- Display: color
- GPS Receiver
Overall, this equipment worked well, producing precise and clear images with fantastic detail. It was top-notch easy to set up and use.
This model is an excellent option for people that desire to locate and see the fish more clearly.
Garmin is dedicated to giving you the benefits of side imaging fish finder at a cheap rate, and this Striker 7SV model is highly fantastic.
So, what makes it unique?
Its main component is the transducer that uses its Clearvu and Sidevu scanning sonars to send out multiple signal layers for a broader range of information. The Garmin Chirp sonar was found to provide crystal clear images with exceptional target separation.
That is not all; this Striker 7SV version has a built-in Wi-Fi for communicating with your smart devices to access the ActiveCaptain app for the software upgrade, community maps, and other notifications. There is the quickdraw contour mapping software that lets you create and store maps with 1-foot contours for up to 2 million acres.
Besides marking your position on the water, the included GPS shows your speed on the screen so that you can easily control it for the lure you are using. The large 7-inch display gives you a better view of the bottom, and the user-friendly interface makes the navigation of its features easier.
It does not come with GPS mapping nor have the ability to add lake information via an SD card. But that was not a big issue for us since we created our maps with the built-in quickdraw contour software.
- Resolution: 800 x 480
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 2.3 x 5.5 inches
- Weight: 1.7 pounds
- Screen size: 7 inches
- Transit power: 500W
This is an excellent system. It is responsive, accurate, and easy to use. It is multifunctional yet affordable, making it one of the best side imaging fish finders at this price point.
If you are a fan of Humminbird, this unit might interest you. The device measures at 8.5 x 6 x 4 inches and weighs 4.14 pounds, making it the most compact choice on this list.
It comes with a dual-beam transducer that works for both side and down imaging, but what makes it outstanding is that you can use the two simultaneously. Besides, it can also display details of depth, surface water temperature, and the GPS speed. It works well in shallow and deep water and can scan up to 1500 feet.
You can split the screen using the dual-beam plus. There is a GPS function that you can use for mapping. It is easy to use and comes with all the things you will need for its installation.
We observed the learning curve of this model would be tough for most beginners since it did not come with a printed manual. Also, the screen was a little hard to read under direct sunlight.
- Dimensions: 8.5 x 6 x 4 inches
- Weight: 4.14 pounds
- Display: color
- Screen size: 5 inches
- Max. scan depth: 1500 feet
This model is in the mid-range price compared to our most superior choice yet packed with excellent features. It can provide you with accurate information to a depth of 1500 feet, so if you want to boost your fortunes out there on the sea, this unit is for you.
The Lowrance HOOK2 version is a powerful fishfinder with advanced sonar technology. It has a built-in wide-angle CHIRP sonar cone that can transmit multiple frequencies over an extended area. What is even more intriguing about this device is its widescreen 12-inch Solarmax display. As a result, you get large and clear images, even in daylight.
The Lowrance HOOK2 comes with integrated US coastline and lakes mapping that lets you find depth changes, roadbeds, and favorite fishing spots. A micro SD card slot is included to help you save waypoints or upgrade your mapping with an optional chart card.
It does not come with an installation kit or instruction manual, but there are videos you can watch on the device.
- Dimensions: 14.8 x 9.6 x 11.4 inches
- Weight: 8.95 pounds
- Screen size: 12 inches
- Display: color
- Built-in mapping
Overall, this is one of the few good ones we came across looking at its quality specs. The images were excellent, and it did put us on the right spot. It was easy to use, thanks to its intuitive navigation keys. Though it was a little expensive, its value was hard to beat.
The Helix 7 SI fish finder is another exceptional release from Humminbird, but what set it apart from other models on this list is its HD color screen. It means you will enjoy top-quality images of life forms and underwater structures. For example, it will enable you to see both fish and their shadows to know their exact position in the water column. Unlike most models out there, this one allows you to zoom on the pictures without losing its much clarity.
It is also equipped with a superior GPS function that lets you mark positions on the map and accurately track the locations you have come across. It has a single SD card slot that accommodates maps of lakes within the US and Canada. However, it will not accept a standard lake map chip.
There is AutoChart Pro, which allows users to draw and upgrade maps of their areas of navigation that were not initially captured in the package.
Compared to the Lowrance HOOK2 series, this one was a little more complicated to operate, but it had a much clearer screen.
- Dimensions: 5.6 x 10.5 x 5.8 inches
- Weight: 5.4 pounds
- Screen size: 7 inches
- Resolution: 480 x 800
- Display: HD color screen
- Scan depth: 100 – 1500 feet
This Helix 7 SI fish finder lets you see the world below like never before on a crystal-clear HD color display. You get fantastic underwater coverage down to 1500 feet. With its built-in GPS and dual beam plus transducer, you can always narrow your search for more productive fishing.
So, if you are looking for the ideal fishfinder with high-tech features at a reasonable price, this one is for you.
A List of Other Products We Tested
- 01 Lowrance HOOK2 9 - 9-inch Fish Finder
- 02 Lowrance HOOK2 Fish Finder/Depth Finder
- 03 Elite-9 Ti2-9-inch Fish Finder Active Imaging 3-in-1Transduce
- 04 Garmin STRIKER Plus 7sv with CV52HW-TM Transducer
- 05 Humminbird Helix 10 G3N Fish Finder
- 06 Lowrance HDS-7 LIVE - 7-inch Fish Finder
- 07 Humminbird 409950-1KVD Helix 9 SI GPS KVD Finders
- 08 Lowrance HOOK2 5 - 5-inch Fish Finder
- 09 Humminbird 409990-1 Helix 10 SI 600x1024 Sonar with GPS, 10.4"
What’s so Unique About Side Imaging Fish Finders?
Side imaging sonars can emit pulses down the sea across an extensive range, to create images of the seafloor.
Unlike down imaging equipment that only directs waves beneath your boat, a side view fish finder directs its beams to your boat’s sides, ensuring broader coverage of the water. This helps you to find fish and pick the right fishing spot quickly.
An average side scan unit comes with a transducer that you can mount on the transom of your boat. This system uses two sonar beams that are angled at both sides of the ship; together, they produce clear images of the lake bottom, simultaneously revealing fish, contour changes, composition transitions, and structure.
If you are using a split-screen tool to scan a specific area with both sides and conventional finders, you will observe that the side scanner will display a lot more fish than the standard finder. Since side imaging models take near-photographic images from both sides of your boat, you will be able to determine the actual location of the fish and the right spot to place your bait.
Besides, side image finders enable you to differentiate a fish from an underwater structure quickly. For example, it will take clear pictures of grasses, tree branches, shipwreck, etc., helping you to know where a fish could hide. To crown it all, SI models are accurate and user-friendly, making them an excellent option for most beginner anglers.
Side Imaging Fishfinder – A Comprehensive Buying Guide
This is an essential component of any fish-finding tool. It sends sonar waves through the water and transforms the returned signals into images of objects, creatures, or structures. Your fishfinder must come with a compatible transducer, as separately buying them would be too expensive.
2. Screen Size
The best transducer feedback will be useless if you cannot interpret its output. As such, you should always pick a model with a larger screen size and excellent resolution as it will be more functional at providing accurate detail of the images.
There is a possibility that you will not always fish in the dark, so you should consider buying a fish finder with a backlight that allows you to view in the sunlight.
The frequency of an ideal SI finder is between 455KHz to 800KHz. Try to check the range to know its operational limits. If you are fishing in shallow water, choose a high-frequency sonar; but if you are searching for structures, 800KHz is ideal, as they offer well-refined images.
5. Fishing boat
If you are using a kayak, you should pick a lightweight and compact image finder. Before you buy your ideal sonar, ensure that its mounting tool is compatible with your boat, as this will save you a lot of effort, time, and money.
6. Depth and range
Most side imaging finders can only go up to a depth of 1500 feet, making them more suitable for shallow water. However, if you are planning to fish in deeper water, choose a unit with both side and down imaging technology.
The power rating of the device will determine its response speed. As a rule of thumb, always opt for models with higher wattage.
Our listed devices are accurate, thanks to their GPS and temperature gauge that will help you track the location and type of fish with less effort.
Since you will be using your finder near water, there is no way you can prevent it from getting wet. Therefore, you need one that is waterproof and will be tough enough to withstand the daily bumps that hit any fishing equipment.
10. Screen Color
Select a device with a color screen as it will provide you a better understanding of the sea bottom to quickly differentiate the fish from other sea creatures.
If you want a successful fishing trip, especially in shallow water, the Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse (CHIRP) feature comes handy for picking up a nearby fish.
Whenever you are fishing, you will want to pinpoint your favorite water spots, and you can only do that with the marking feature. So, if the landmark change or your memory fails, you know where to go.
Most fishfinders have built-in drawings or will allow you to download the ones you need. So, to be on the safe side, always look for models with SD card slots.
14. Operating Features
Side image fish finders are increasingly becoming more comfortable to operate as some come with touchscreen interfaces and phone-like navigation keys. However, before buying, check out reviews to know how challenging or easy it is to use.
In comparison with down imaging finders, side depth sonars are generally expensive, starting around $500 and up to $5500. There are other cheaper side imaging fish finders out there, but they mostly have a poor-quality display.
Care & Maintenance Tips
When you are fishing, large volumes of water will come into your boat, sometimes covering your tools with dirt. Bearing this in mind, you should care for your fishfinder regularly to remove grime or saltwater, and protect the cables from rust.
Follow the tips below to ensure your device function well for the years to come.
- When you are cleaning, use warm and clear water with a mild soap, then wipe the excess moisture with a microfiber cloth.
- Never expose your depth finder to extreme heat, especially in a hot car or during the summer.
- Do not clean the LCD of your device directly under running water. If the dirt is much, soak the face in clean water for a while. But try not to submerge it.
- Do not wipe while the sticking grime is on the lens to avoid scratching it. Softening the dirt with water will make mopping easier.
- If your boat remains in the water for a more extended period, algae can grow on your transducer, so it is vital to clean it frequently.
- At the same time, if your fish finder is not in use for a long time, the transducer will not operate normally as before. After you placed it in the water, wipe off the air bubbles from the surface.
- Your cable connectors will quickly corrode if you are continually fishing on saltwater. As such, spray the connections with anti-corrosives at least once every season to check the rate of decay.
Depth imaging is the ideal means for you to quickly find fish when looking at the bottom of the lake from the water surface. It can reduce your search time and improve your output by allowing you to spend more time catching them. This article intends to show you the various options available when investing in the best side imaging fish finder.
Each of the units we reviewed excels in different aspects, yet, Humminbird 410950-1 NAV HELIX 7 is our most preferred choice. It has a dependable side and down imaging technology and offers a Navionics+ map coverage of over 21,000 lakes. It is one of the most durable units out there, and of course, the 7-inch display will not disappoint.
If you are on a limited budget, Lowrance HOOK2 is an ideal option. It comes with a triple shot transducer that allows you to set the screen to see three images at once. If you are considering a hi-tech model, Humminbird 409950-1 Helix 9 will bring good returns on investment.
Now that you have this information, it is time to explore your fishing world at a higher level.
Q. 1: Can you see fish on side imaging?
A. You can easily see fish if you set the right conditions. First, ensure that your boat and the finder’s chart are at an equal speed. Also, try to minimize the area of the scan range. Also, identify the distance of the shadow from the fish to know its location.
Q. 2: How well does side imaging work on a kayak?
A. Yes, it works on a Kayak. Side imaging helps you to find underwater features from your kayak quite quickly compared to using a regular sonar.
Q. 3: What perspective does one see with side imaging?
A. Side imaging view can span at 180-degrees between two sides of the boat. The waves travel from both angles resulting in a horizontal view of the bottom.
Q. 4: Which is better - side imaging or down imaging?
A. Ideally, both types will allow you to make more catch, but it is essential to know when to use them. Side imaging gives you a better picture of the underground water because its powerful transducer shoots signals from both parts of the boat, covering an extensive area. It projects the image in 3D, giving you the best possible view.
The projections from down imaging finder are flat (2D), making it difficult for you to locate the structures. However, SI is more expensive and only works on slower boats on shallow water. So, you must pick a model that fits your fishing style.
Q. 5: Why do beam frequencies matter?
A. Beam frequencies convey information and equally determines their travel distance. A lower frequency beam will travel far because of the fewer obstacles on its path, but you will lose a lot of detail. However, a higher frequency will not go much further, but the display will be more insightful.
Q. 6: How to a mount side imaging transducer on my kayak?
A. You can mount it on a motor or by the side of the boat using the brackets. But, ensure that there are no obstructions on the path of the waves.
Q. 7: Will side imaging work well in deeper water?
A. Bear in mind that each fish finder has its maximum scan depth, and once you exceed this value, it will be impossible for you to get accurate readings. Though side imaging finders are optimized for shallow water, you can still use those with 2D sonars in deeper water. However, at any time, you can easily upgrade your transducer to fit your sighting needs.