2021's Best Fishfinders/Sonars
7/12/2021

Searching for the right multifunction display or fishfinder or just about any other piece of electronics for your boat can be a bewildering experience because of all the brands and models to pick from. Identifying the one that has the functions and features you need can be daunting. We’re here to help.

Below we share the results of an exercise we do every year at Marine Electronics Journal. We call it the Best & Brightest Marine Electronics. We ask manufacturers to name the one model in a particular category of boating electronics they consider to be their best. It’s not necessarily the most technically advanced or newest or the one with the most whistles and buzzers, but rather the model they rate highest in that category for one reason or another. Could be the functions and features it offers, or maybe it breaks new ground in maximizing effectiveness or utility, or maybe it’s the most popular as measured by sales to boaters. In some cases it has proved itself over the years as the go-to device.
 
Garmin Panoptix LiveScope

Panoptix LiveScope is an amazing sonar technology—it’s live, real-time scanning sonar. See easy-to-interpret live scanning sonar images of structure, bait and fish swimming around your boat, even when your boat is stationary. You get both LiveScope Down and LiveScope Forward modes in one transducer. And you can easily adjust the transducer mode to fit your fishing techniques; use LiveScope Forward to see around your boat, and use LiveScope Down to see directly below it, up to 200 feet for both modes. The view automatically changes on your compatible Garmin chartplotter screen. Attitude Heading Reference System (AHRS) stabilization keeps your sonar view steady, even in rough conditions. Panoptix LiveScope includes a choice of transom/trolling motor mount or thru-hull mount transducer options.

 
The RVX1000 3D CHIRP sonar module offers owners of LightHouse 3 Raymarine eS-Series, gS-Series and Axiom XL multifunction displays access to the same RealVision 3D and powerful 1-kW CHIRP offshore sonar found in our Axiom Pro models. The RVX1000 black box sonar module is a versatile, five-channel sonar solution for both inshore and offshore fishing. Connect any RealVision 3D transducer and gain instant access to CHIRP SideVision, DownVision, high-frequency CHIRP and amazing RealVision 3D sonar. RVX1000 also features a second transducer connector to support its 1-kW high-power CHIRP sonar with low, medium and high bands.  Select from a wide array of Airmar broadband CHIRP transducers to tailor the sonar experience to your boat and type of fishing.  

Furuno DFF-3D

You may think you’ve seen 3D sonar in action, but Furuno’s DFF-3D Multi-Beam Sonar takes 3D to new depths. We’re talking depths of over 980 feet, with side scanning over 650 feet. See fish and bottom structure as you’ve never seen them before in fantastic detail. The DFF-3D turns your TZtouch/2/3 MFD into a multi-beam sonar that sees 120 degrees port to starboard, allowing you to see the depth and direction fish schools are moving while displaying the seabed condition in real time. You can even create and save stunning shaded relief charts on your TZtouch3 with PBG (Personal Bathymetric Generator) of the seafloor. Bottom images are drawn with shaded relief, depth contours, and variable colors, making it easy to identify hidden structure and ridges that hold fish.

Lowrance ActiveTarget

The high-resolution ActiveTarget Live Sonar system reveals live-action views of fish moving in and around structure as they respond to lure presentations. This new technology delivers top-of-the-line live sonar functionality to the HDS LIVE Ultimate Fishing System, as well as HDS Carbon and Lowrance’s recently introduced Elite FS displays, bringing ActiveTarget Live Sonar capability to a wider range of displays and pricing options. Offering three viewing options, ActiveTarget can be set to Forward, Down or Scout mode. Forward and Down views allow anglers to track fish in front of or below the live sonar transducer, and Scout mode delivers an ultra-wide, overhead view of structure and fish activity in front of the transducer, ideal for finding bait balls and big schools of fish.

SI-TEX SCS-1000

The new SI-TEX SCS-1000 CHIRP echosounder module turns popular NavPro chartplotters into high-performance, feature-packed CHIRP echosounders. This waterproof, shock-resistant module works with various thru-hull or in-hull transducers from Airmar or Radarsonics. Integration with Airmar transducers enables Xducer ID detection that automatically selects the power output and configures the sounder parameters to suit the individual transducer. Features include advanced filtering to eliminate unwanted noise and sharpen target separation for a clean and detailed display. The SCS-1000 also provides single- or dual-frequency operation, zero line rejection, alarms for temperature, shallow and deep water, and echogram history. The Point on Map function allows users to place a mark on the echogram, then later find it on the map for further investigation.

Koden KDS-6000BB

With true broadband technology and high-speed scan rate, Koden’s KDS-6000BB Digital Searchlight Sonar is increasingly popular with commercial and sportfishing captains alike.  It is the first professional searchlight sonar that lets operators fine-tune output frequency from 130 to 210 kHz in 0.1-kH steps, as easily as tuning a radio dial. This nearly limitless frequency selection allows fishermen to "dial-in” the optimum frequency based on target species, water conditions and range.  Six programmable Condition Memory (CM) keys allow for instant recall of favorite setting parameters. Digital Signal Processing delivers high-resolution presentation of forage and fish targets at closer ranges, while reducing display noise when operating at longer ranges. Available in 15° and 20° scanning sector angle steps and four presentation modes, which makes the KDS-6000BB even more powerful.

Onwa KM-Sonar

The Onwa KM-Sonar is a black box fishfinder, in effect an accessory that links to existing Onwa MFDs or use PC software to enable fishfinder functions. The Onwa KM-Sonar requires a transducer connected to the unit for full functionality. The operating frequency is 50 and 200 kHz with a transmitting output power of 1 kW RMS. The wide input supply voltage, 10.5-32 VDC, is suitable for a range of vessel types.

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