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Choosing the Best Garmin Fishfinder

Author Review Marine - Mariner

by | Last updated: Apr 13, 2021

How to pick the right Garmin Fishfinder

 

l    Deciding on which marine electronics to go with can be a bit overwhelming. 

The most common questions we hear are…

 

Which Garmin fishfinder should I buy?

Simple Answer – the one with the biggest screen that will fit your needs and your budget.

Which Garmin fish finder is the best?

The best is the GPSMAP series but may not be what you really need.

Which Garmin fishfinders support Panoptix?

The ECHOMAP series & GPSMAP series.

Which Garmin fishfinder works with LiveScope?

The ECHOMAP & GPSMAP series

What’s the best Garmin fishfinder for a Kayak?

The most popular is the Striker series but… mapping needs and power consumption are most important here.

What is the best Garmin fishfinder for a jetski?

Here, we like the ECHOMAP UHD series.

 

Here is a detailed guide for choosing the Garmin Chartplotter Fishfinder that will do what you want, along with some specific tips to help you start narrowing down your search.

Let’s dive in…

 

 

1 – Screen Size | Budget

 

The quickest way to narrow down your search for the right unit is by deciding first on the screen size and second your budget.

These will be the first two items to decide on because… they will eliminate the largest number of models to consider.

Start with the biggest screen size that is really practical for your application. Then determine the biggest size screen you can fit on your boat, and what size screen you would be able to see the best.

Next… Decide on a budget and how much you’re willing to pay for a unit. The screen size will generally be the biggest cost factor.

 

2 – List Features

 

Put together a list of everything you want the unit to be able to do. Decide what features are required and what you can live without.

Determine what mapping you need and what sonar channels you want like DownVü, SideVü,  UHD, and Panoptix.

If you plan on networking… then list all the items that will be added to the network, like an additional unit, radar,  autopilot,  trolling motor control,  digital switching,  and engine interfacing.

Keep in mind that ECHOMAP units can network to each other but not to the GPSMAP series, and GPSMAPs can connect to each other but not to ECHOMAPs.

Be sure to consider any future items you might want to add to be sure they will be compatible.

 

3 – Compare | Shop

 

Now that we have a good idea of what will fit,  what our budget is, and what we want the unit to do, we’re in a good position to start shopping and comparing.

 

 

Garmin Series Basics

 

When deciding on which of Garmin’s Chartplotter/Fishfinders will fit the bill, think along the lines of GOOD, BETTER, and BEST.

GOOD | Striker Plus Series – If you fish from a canoe, kayak, or on a pond or lake,  this is a great unit with excellent fishfinding capabilities at an affordable price point.  Jump To » Striker Plus

BETTER | ECHOMAP Series –  If you’re looking for a Chartplotter/Fishfinder combo,  then you want to consider the ECHOMAP UHD & Ultra.

The ECHOMAP units will come with pre-loaded mapping, full sonar/fishfinding capability, and a few more bells and whistles.  Jump »To ECHOMAP

BEST | GPSMAP Series – The best in class is the GPSMAP family with 8600 being the top-of-the-line.

These are powerful full network multi-function chart plotters and fishfinders that are designed for full vessel systems management with sizes from 10″-24″.

The GPSMAP line also includes the smaller 742, 942, and 1242 Plus, and for those who are not big fans of touchscreens, Garmin has the 1042xvs and 1242xsv which are non-touchscreen units.  Jump To » GPSMAP

 

More Research…

From here,  we’ve put together a table below comparing the basic features of all 3 families side by side.

Then we have 3 sections, Striker, ECHOMAP, and GPSMAP comparisons that break down each series features and models within the group.

Now… GoFish!

 

 

Garmin FishFinder | Comparison

 

GPSMAP vs ECHOMAP vs Striker

 

This is a snapshot of the Garmin Chartplotter/Fishfinders in a GOOD, BETTER, and BEST comparison.

DISPLAY TYPE
Full HD
IPS
TouchScreen
Screen Sizes
SONAR SUPPORT
CHIRP Traditional
Standard Scanning
UHD
Livescope Support
CHARTS | MAPPING
Auto Guidance
Built-In Charts
Quikdraw Contours
CONNECTIVITY
WiFi | Bluetooth
Force Trolling Motor
Networking
NMEA 2000
HDMI In/Out
Radar Support
XM Weather
*BEST*
GPSMAP
8600
10-24
BETTER
ECHOMAP
ULTRA
10|12
UHD
7|9
6|7|9
7|9
7|9
7|9
7|9
GOOD
Striker
PLus
Keypad
4-9
5|7|9

 

OUR TOP PICKS 

 

 

j Most Popular ► UHD 93sv

This has recently been the most searched model on RM. With the newer GT56UHD Transducer.

Most Popular - Garmin UHD 93sv

 

 

j Editors Choice ► Ultra126sv

Full Charting, full Sonar, and excellent for single or multiple-station installs.

This is the one we’re planning to install on the SeaStalker this summer.

Editors Choice - Garmin Ultra 126sv

 

 

j BEST MFD ► GPSMAP 8616xsv

These are just beasts… awesome to use and top of the line.

Best Chartplotter - Garmin GPSMAP 8616xsv

 

 

Striker Plus Series

“Fishfinder with Built-In GPS”

 

Choosing the Best Striker Fishfinder

l   First, in the GOOD category, we have the Striker Series which has four sizes to choose from… 4″, “5,  7″ &  9” and have easy-to-use keypad controls.

 

An excellent fishfinder with a built-in GPS, the Striker family is perfect for single station installations. The Striker series is also considered an excellent Garmin fish finder for kayaks because of the low power consumption.

Keep in mind though, it’s not a Chartplotter. There is no mapping and you cannot add mapping or charts. If you need mapping then move up to the ECHOMAP series.

Although this series does not have mapping, Garmin added a premium feature (usually included with their upper-end models) called Quickdraw Contours.

Quickdraw Contours allows us to create 1′ custom fishing contours for any body of water. It’s like creating your own chart of the area with custom depth shading.

 

Garmin Sonar Mapping - Garmin Quickdraw Contours

 

There is enough internal storage for up to 2 Million acres of on-the-water contour maps and 5000 waypoints.

You also have the ability to record and save up to 50 tracks. You can also create up to 100 routes.

Built-in WiFi for access to ActiveCaptain for software updates, waypoint transfers, smart notifications and access to the Garmin QuickDraw community is available on the 7″ and 9″ models.

The entire Striker Plus line comes boxed with a transducer and a trolling motor mount to make installation simple and quick.

 

Entry Level | GOOD
Striker Plus 4

Striker Plus 4cv

4"

Striker Plus 5cv

5"

Striker Plus 7cv

Striker Plus 7sv

7"

Striker Plus 9sv

9"

KeyPad Control
Plus 4
Traditional Sonar
4cv | Traditional + ClearVü
Yes GPS | No Charts
Quickdraw Contours
KeyPad Control
Traditional Sonar
+ ClearVü
Yes GPS | No Charts
Quickdraw Contours
KeyPad Control
7cv | Traditional
+ ClearVu
7sv |Traditional
ClearVü + SideVu
Yes GPS | No Charts
Quickdraw Contours
Built-in WiFi
KeyPad Control
Traditional
ClearVü + SideVu
Yes GPS | No Charts
Quickdraw Contours
Built-in WiFi
Striker Series | Reviews and Prices
► Plus 4 | Traditional Sonar
► Plus 4cv | Traditional + CV
► Plus 5cv | Traditional + CV
► Plus 7cv | Traditional + CV
► Plus 7sv | Traditional+CV+SV
► Plus 9sv | Traditional+CV+SV
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Model and Screen Size Specifics…

The 4″ comes in two flavors: The Striker Plus 4 comes with traditional sonar and the Striker Plus 4cv comes with CHIRP traditional and ClearVü sonar. 

The Striker Plus 5″ only has one version: the 5cv with CHIRP traditional and ClearVü sonar.

If you have space, the best unit for the price is the Striker Plus 7″ which comes in two versions. Plus 7cv with CHIRP traditional and ClearVü and Plus 7sv with CHIRP traditional, ClearVü, and SideVü.

The largest model in this series is the Striker Plus 9sv which comes with CHIRP traditional, ClearVü, and SideVü Sonar.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that the Garmin’s Striker series doesn’t support Panoptix, and isn’t weather or radar capable.

 

ECHOMAP Series

“Excellent Charting & Sonar but No Radar or Weather Support”

Choosing the Best ECHOMAP Fishfinder

 

l   Next in the BETTER category, we have the ECHOMAP Series.

The Echomap Series comes in 3 flavors… The ECHOMAP Plus, ECHOMAP UHD and the ECHOMAP Ultra.

These are complete Chartplotter – fishfinder units and come with full mapping options, Garmins’ new Ultra High Definition sonar, and support for Panoptix.

 

ECHOMAP Series | BETTER
ECHOMAP Plus 4"

Lake Maps or
Coastal Charts

ECHOMAP UHD Series

9" sv
Lake Maps or
Coastal Charts

7"cv or sv
Lake Maps or Coastal Charts

6" cv
Lake Maps or
Coastal Charts

ECHOMAP ULTRA Series

10"|12"
LakeVu &
BlueChart g3

KeyPad Controls
CHIRP Traditional
+ ClearVü
Basemap | LakeVu G3
or BlueChart G3
Quickdraw Contours
7"/9" Touchscreen
6" KeyPad
6"|Traditional
UHD ClearVü
7"/9" | Traditional
UHD ClearVü + SideVu
LVS Sonar Ready
Basemap | LakeVu G3
or BlueChart G3
Quickdraw Contours
Wifi +
Networkable (1)
Large IPS Touchscreen Displays
Traditional
UHD ClearVü + SideVu
LVS Sonar Ready
LVS Ducer Port
Basemap | LakeVu G3
or BlueChart G3
Quickdraw Contours
Wifi +
Networkable (2)
ECHOMAP Series | REVIEWS | PRICES
Ultra 102sv | Basemap + UHD
Ultra 106sv | BlueChart g3+UHD
Ultra 122sv | Basemap+UHD
Ultra 126sv | BlueChart g3+UHD
UHD 63cv | LakeVü g3+CV
UHD 64cv | BlueChart g3+CV
UHD 73cv | LakeVü g3 + CV
UHD 74cv | BlueChart g3+CV
UHD 73sv | LakeVü g3+CV+SV
UHD 74sv | BlueChart g3+CV+SV
UHD 93sv | LakeVü g3+CV+SV
UHD 94sv | BlueChart g3+CV+SV
► Plus 43cv | LakeVü g3 + CV
► Plus 44cv | BlueChart g3 + CV
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ECHOMAP UHD | Plus

Echomap UHD Series - Choose the Right Garmin FishFinder

There are 3 UHD sizes and one small 4″ Plus version specifically designed for kayaks with multiple sonar and mapping options.

The UHD stands for Ultra High Definition. UHD  scanning sonar redefines scanning sonar and is what this family is built around. 

 

TIP: Garmin offers several versions across each family. How you know what the unit will do is by looking at the numbers on the unit.

 

The first number represents the size of the screen, the second number represents the mapping option.

 

Example: 93, the first number is a 9 so we know it’s a 9″ screen. The 73 is a 7″ inch screen, etc.

 

The 2nd number determine what mapping is built-in. So…a 3 it would have inland maps built-in and a 4  would have coastal maps built-in.

 

The 93 would have your inland lakes maps; that means it comes with 17,000 Lakes built-in 13,000 at 1′ contours.

 

The 94 would have your coastal maps built-in. That would give you the Coast to about 50 to 60 miles offshore.

 

Unfortunately for offshore Florida, it does not include the Bahamas but it does include the Great Lakes.

 

ULTRA HIGH-DEFINITION SIDEVÜ

ULTRA HIGH-DEFINITION CLEARVÜ

 

UHD gives you the ability to see everything below and off to the sides in amazingly sharp, crisp detail.

This makes it easy to scout a fishing area quickly because you can see everything in a larger area the first time with crystal clear images.

UHD sonar can be shared seamlessly across multiple networked ECHOMAP units.

This family also supports Panoptix real-time Sonar

 

 

Common Question: If I want to fish freshwater inland and saltwater offshore, do I need to have two units on my boat?

 

The answer is no.

 

If you have an inland map unit and you want the offshore maps or vice versa you have the option to buy the maps and put the SD card in the unit or download them via an ActiveCaptain account.

 

An EXCELLENT list of features 

  • Easy to use keypad control – 4″|6″
  • Touchscreen with key-assist – 7″|9″
  • Bright, sunlight-readable displays.
  • Quick-release bail mount for fast and easy mobility.
  • 6″ Can share waypoints and routes with ECHOMAP PLUS, UHD, or Striker models.
  • 7″ | 9″ Share waypoints, routes, and Sonar with other ECHOMAP Plus UHD and Ultras models.
  • NMEA 2000 interface with FUSHION-Link audio system, sensors, and engine data, and autopilot.
  • Built-in WiFi for pairing with free ActiveCaptain app for access to OneChart to purchase and download new charts, smart notifications, software updates and access to the Garmin Quickdraw Community data.

 

 

Powerful Built-In Sonar

  • NEW Ultra-High Definition Scanning Sonar
  • 6″|7″ CV models include CHIRP Traditional and Ultra-High Definition ClearVu
  • 7″|9″ SV models include CHIRP Traditional and Ultra-High Definition ClearVu and SideVu
  • 7″|9″ Supports Panoptix and Panoptix LiveScope System
  • Will share sonar with other ECHOMAP units

 

ECHOMAP Ultra

“10” & 12″ Chartplotters with Full Mapping, UHD & Livescope”

Echomap Ultra Series - Choosing Right Garmin FishFinder
 

The ECHOMAP Ultra models are 10″|12″ Chartplotters with built-in UHD. The 106/126 models come preloaded with both BlueChart g3 and LakeVu g3 Mapping.

They have larger screens than the UHDs and the sonar has a slightly stronger power output @ 600 Watts.

There are 4 models to choose from, with and without charts.

These units are available with or without transducers.  Options include the older GT54 or the newer GT56  transducer which offers somewhat better image quality.

 

Feature List

  • IPS displays with wide viewing angles.
  • Super Bright 1200 nits Screen.
  • Touchscreen with key-assist Controls
  • Built-in Cartography:
    • BlueChart g3 charts that cover the coastal U.S.
    • US LakeVu g3 maps that cover 17,000 total lakes, 13,000 with 1′ contours.
    • Built-in Auto guidance.
  • Networkable via Ethernet for Sonar and User Data sharing.
  • NMEA 2000, WiFi for ActiveCaptain app.

 

The ECHOMAP Ultra units are my favorite from a feature-cost standpoint. The sonar is excellent and the g3 mapping coverage is very good.

The only downside is that the chart coverage does not include any of the Bahamas. I’m on the east coast of Florida so that is kind of a bummer.

 

ECHOMAP Recap:

The ECHOMAP Plus, UHD & Ultra will not support radar and are not weather capable.

ECHOMAP units will only talk with other ECHOMAP units.

So if you want to share a sonar or mapping the ECHOMAP has to be paired up with another ECHOMAP unit.

They will not network with the GPSMAP series.

 

Tip: Another point to remember. If you have or intend on using ECHOMAP Ultra, that has both inland and coastal mapping and you want to pair it up to another ECHOMAP unit, save some money and get one without mapping and share from the Ultra.

 

If you buy an ECHOMAP 93 or 94, 73 or 74 with internal mapping you cannot share mapping with that ECHOMAP Ultra.

 

GPSMAP Series

“Multi-Function Network Chartplotter with Ultra-Bright, Hi-Resolution displays and premium features.”

Choosing the Best Garmin GPSMAP Chartplotter | Fishfinder

 

l   Lastly… GPSMAP Series in the BEST category.

These are the Top-of-the-line Garmin. They go from IPS touchscreen sizes 7″ all the way up to 24″.

This series also includes 10″ and 12″ units that are not touchscreen but button operated with a rotary dial.

These are mainly geared for those who want full networkability, radar capability, powerful 1Kw sonar, bigger screens, and a full vessel management system.

 

GPSMAP Series | BEST
GPSMAP
10"|12"
Non Touch

no sonar or xsv

GPSMAP
7"|9"|12"
Touch

7x2/9x2
no sonar or xs

12x2
no sonar or xsv

GPSMAP 8400/8600

10"|12"|16"
no sonar or xsv

17"|22"|24"
Network Sonar Only

Keypad Unit
Radar Capable
XSV = 1kW Traditional,
ClearVü & SideVu
Fully
Networkable
Preloaded
g3 Coastal & g3 LakeVü Charts
Digital Switching
Support
Mid Size Touchscreen Displays
Radar Capable
XS = 1kW Traditional Sonar & ClearVu
XSV = 1kW Traditional, ClearVü & SideVu
Fully
Networkable
Preloaded
g3 Coastal & g3 LakeVü Charts
J1939 Engine
Support
Digital Switching
Support
Hi-Res IPS Touchscreen Displays
Radar Capable
HDMI In/Out
XSV = Traditional, ClearVü & SideVu
LVS12 LiveScope Port
Fully
Networkable
Preloaded
g3 Coastal & g3 LakeVü Charts
J1939 Engine
Support
Digital Switching
Support
GPSMAP Series | REVIEWS | PRICES
742xs Touch
942xs Touch
1242xsv Touch
1042xsv Keypad
1242xsv Keypad
8610xsv
8612xsv
8616xsv
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GPSMAP Plus Series

A Powerful chartplotter with a full 1kW built-in fishfinder.

“Small in size…Big on features.”

How to choose a GPSMAP Plus

 

The GSPMAP Plus comes in 3 sizes, 7″, 9″, and 12″ and is available with or without built-in sonar.

742, 942, and 1242 are non-sonar models while the 742xs, 942xs and 1242xsv have sonar built-in.

For the non-sonar units, you can add a black box sonar or pair it up with another Garmin GPSMAP unit that has built-in sonar and share.

Xs means Traditional and ClearVü, and xsv means it has Traditional, ClearVü & SideVü scanning sonar.

 

Packed with Features

  • J1939 engine connectivity for easy integration with the engine including Yamaha.
  • OneHelm capabilities for control of third-party equipment like connecting to EmpirBus digital switching and other third-party systems.
  • Fast processor with Garmin Marine Network support for sharing sonar, maps, user data, radar, IP cameras with multiple units.
  • NMEA 2000 & NMEA 0183 support for autopilots, digital switching, FUSION-Link audio, weather & AIS
  • Integrated ANT support for use with Quantix 5 & 6 marine smartwatch, gWind Wireless 2 transducer, GNX Wind instruments, and wireless remote controls.

 

  • Very easy to use:
    • Touchscreen controls that are bright & sunlight-readable.
    • Built-in WiFi for pairing with the ActiveCaptain app for smart notifications, chart and software updates, and access to the Garmin Quickdraw Community data.

 

  • Excellent Built-In Cartography
    • Preloaded BlueCart g3 charts and LakeVu g3 maps with AutoGuidance technology.
    • Built-in Quickdraw Contours to instantly create personalized fishing maps on-screen with 1′ contours as you fish.
    • Premium support for LakeVu g3 Ultra and BlueChart g3 Vision cartography featuring high-resolution relief shading.

 

  • Premium Built-In Sonar – xs|xsv 
    • 1242xsv = 1kW Single channel CHIRP, ClearVu and SideVu.
    • 742 & 942xs = 1 kW Single channel CHIRP,  ClearVu but no SideVu.
    • Does not support the UHD frequencies.
    • Will share sonar with multiple units.
    • Support for black-box sonar for additional expandability.

 

GPSMAP 1042xsv and 1242xsv

Non-Touchscreen Units

GPSMAP 1042xsv 1242xsv - Choose Right Fishfinder

 

Unfortunately, Garmin does not make hybrids; 95% of their units are touch-screen, but they do have 2 non-touch GPSMAP units available. They are the 1042xsv and the 1242xsv.

They still have most of the same features as the GPSMAP series.

They’re not going to have the J1939 engine port and they don’t support OneHelm for things like digital switching.

They support NEMA 2000, are fully networkable and you can pair them up with a touchscreen unit so you can have the best of both worlds.

 

Features Include:

  • Built-in support for Garmin CHIRP traditional, CHIRP ClearVu, and CHIRP SideVu scanning sonars.
  • Preloaded BlueChart g3 charts & LakeVu g3 maps.
  • High-sensitivity internal 10Hz GPS and GLONASS receiver.
  • Fully network capable with the Garmin Marine Network, NMEA 2000 connectivity & NMEA 0183 support.
  • Built-in Quickdraw Contours support for user-generated HD fishing maps with 1′ contours on any body of water.

 

GPSMAP 8600 Series

Garmin’s Premium Units | BEST

GPSMAP 8600 Series Family - Choosing the Best Fishfinder

 

The 8600 series is the best of the best from Garmin.

Basically, everything Garmin makes or builds for a boat will hook up to a GPSMAP 8600 series.

Things like radar, instrument packs, cameras, trolling motors, Fusion audio, and digital switching and a bunch more..

This series comes in a 10″, 12″, 16″, 17″, 22″, and 24″ screen.

The 8610, 8612, and 8616 come with or without built-in sonar.

The 8617, 8622, and 8624 come without sonar and black box sonar will be needed or you will need a second unit with sonar to share.

 

Full-Featured:

  • A Full HD IPS touchscreen display ads a wide viewing angle, superior clarity, and excellent sunlight readability even with polarized sunglasses.
  • The xsv series is equipped with a built-in 1kW dual-channel CHIRP and Ultra-High Definition scanning sonar. It has support for a full range of frequencies including 260/455/800/1200kHz and supports the Panoptix LiveScope system and the full line of Panoptix sonars.
  • Easily Expandable:
    • Full Garmin Marine Network ready, plus NMEA 2000 & NMEA 0183 support for autopilots, digital switching, Fusion-Link, weather, VHF, AIS, and other sensors.
    • A J1939 port for engine integration.
    • Garmin Marine Network allows for sharing sonar, maps, user data, radar, IP cameras, and Panoptix all-seeing sonar among multiple units.
    • Integrated ANT support for use with quantix 5/6 marine smartwatch, gWind Wireless 2 transducers, GN Wind marine instruments, and wireless remote controls.
    • The exclusive OneHelm feature connects to many third-party devices for full control of your boat and Chartplotter.
  • Preloaded with Garmin BlueChart g3 coastal chars and LakeVu 3g inland map which have integrated Navionics data and Auto Guidance.
  • They are definitely pretty… and they come with the ability to install multiple displays flat mounted edge-to-edge to create a sleek glass helm look in a flush design.
  • SmartMode station controls enable presets for one-touch access to docking, cruising, fishing, anchoring, and more.
  • Built-in SailAssist provides data displays and pre-race guidance needed to gain that competitive advantage for the racer.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi pairs with the free ActiveCaptain app for access to OneChart, smart notifications, Garmin Quickdraw Community data, and more.

 

Glass Cockpit | Design

One-Touch control from a single source across multiple displays.

 

Glass Cockpit - Choosing the Best Fishfinder
 
If you’re looking for that true glass cockpit, the 17″ 22″ and 24″ are the units you want to go with. 
 
They’re the best premium units out there with the fastest processors and usually seen on boats over 30 feet up to 150′ – 200′.
 
They are the definition of full integration with everything Garmin makes. That’s things like multiple marine radars, multiple autopilots, engine data, WiFi connectivity, and media. 
 
The 8600s have a bunch of expandability options in all sizes from the 10″ up to the 24″ screen.
 
 
Full Vessel Integration
Garmin GPSMAP 8600 - Vessel Integration
Wrap Up…

If you made it this far… you are very dedicated 🙂 and thank you!

Finally, we’ve included the Garmin Brochure if you need more reading.

 

Garmin Marine Electronics | Brochure

Garmin Marine | PDF Brochure


 

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