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What sort of sonar device is right for me?

Many anglers wonder what type of sonar would best fulfill their needs. The angling experts at Happy Angler have collected a few pointers to help you find just the right type of sonar or sonar & chartplotter combo device to improve your fishing and boating experiences.  

Regular sonar – the most affordable solution

Regular sonar is familiar to many. It remains the most popular sonar type and it is a sure choice for both angling and boating. The sonar beam produced by the transducer is round and its width at the bottom depends on the used frequency and the depth of the water. Regular sonar is a basic feature in nearly every device on the market today.   


A sonar device equipped with CHIRP technology can send pulses at several frequencies simultaneously! This makes for a clearer separation between fish and bottom structures and it also reduces clutter on the screen. Most often CHIRP technology is integrated into a device's regular sonar but it can also be found in sidescan and downscan sonars.


Downscan imaging – photo-like view under the boat

This technology excels at finding fish, fish schools and bottom structures and vegetation. The sonar beam produced by the transducer is very thin but wide, resembling a fan. This means that this technology is not suited for vertical fishing or ice fishing as it is difficult to get the lure into the thin, fan-like sonar beam.
When used in trolling, seeing the downrigger ball on the screen is unlikely for the same reason. Most devices have both regular and photo-like sonar technologies. By dividing the screen you can see both views at once, allowing you to make the most out of both technologies! Photo-like sonar images offer even active anglers a new perspective on familiar fishing spots and devices with this feature make for an excellent tool in both casting and trolling.

Sidescan sonar – the most accurate view of bottom contours

Sidescan sonar technology is similar to the photo-like downscan imaging technology described above. The difference is that while downscan is directed under the boat, sidescan looks to the sides. Sidescan sonar technology is an excellent aide in trolling, jigging and studying bottom structures. It allows scans reaching dozens of meters directly to the sides of the boat.

Interpreting images produced by sidescan sonar requires a bit of familiarity, but once you know what you are looking at the technology opens up very useful angling opportunities. In a sidescan sonar image, the boat is in the middle. The bottom is shown on both sides of the image and the area in between is middle water. The transducer beam of a sidescan sonar is fan-like and thin, just as it is with DSI sonars. Depending on the device, sidescan sonar can be an integrated feature or available as an accessory device or transducer. Finding fish schools and scanning underwater rocky spots and shallow patches are the most important reasons for getting a sidescan sonar.

Find fish wherever you are – the choice of anglers on the move

Do you know where the deeps and shores of the lake by your summer cottage are where you could find zander on a summer's eve – or where to find schools of perch that would so perfectly fit your smoker? Cottage owners usually only have a traditional rowboat at their summer location. On a rowboat, there is no electricity available from batteries connected to the boat's motor. From our selection you can find portable sonars and sonar/chartplotter combos that operate on batteries, rechargeable or disposable. A portable device is easy to install and take with you wherever you go. A sonar/chartplotter combo as part of a mobile angler's kit may sound strange at first. However, the maps and GPS of the device allow you to seek new fishing waters even across long stretches of wilderness. Before you leave home, you locate the target area on the map and save it in the device's memory. As you make your way to your target you can check your map and GPS location from time to time to keep you on track. Once you find that terrific fishing spot, you can save its exact location on the map and find your way back the next time.
Regular sonar
DSI sonar
Sidescan sonar
Combo device
Easy observation of bottom contours and depth Regular sonar with improved target separation Easier identification of individual fish and fish near the bottom Scans of bottom contours and structures to the sides of the boat Contains both sonar and chartplotter
Identifying individual fish and fish schools depends on the device and the settings Improved separation of individual fish and the structure of fish schools Better separation within fish schools. Is it several zander or a lot of little fish? Makes it easier to find fish schools, rocks and shallow patches

Finding your way to fishing spots is easier with charts

Best option for vertical fishing or jigging when you want to see the lure on the screen Better separation is based on several sonar frequencies transmitted at once Sonar beam is a thin fan that rarely shows lures or downrigger balls

Interpreting the sonar image requires familiarity but gives a lot of information

Also displays the speed of the boat

The foundation of nearly all sonars   The same device also often has regular sonar Often an accessory, but may also be included in a combo device

May include several sonar technologies, depending on the model

Casting Casting Casting Casting Casting
Trolling Trolling Trolling Trolling Trolling
Vertical fishing Vertical fishing     Vertical fishing
Vertical jigging Vertical jigging     Vertical jigging
Boating   Boating   Boating
    Search for underwater targets Search for underwater targets Search for underwater targets


More detailed maps from the community

Lowrance's Insight Genesis service allows users to upload their own maps and download maps made by others. The service can be tried for free by simply registering at The maps made by other boaters can be found under Social Map. The use of the service in your own combo device requires that your device is able to save depth and location information. Of the devices in our selection, this capability is present in devices in the Elite-5/7 series and newer.

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