Crappie anglers have never had a better range of choices for fish finding electronics, and from units designed for boats to anglers casting from shore, you’ll find the right model to suit your needs and budget.
If you’re in the market for new crappie fish finder, we’re here to help. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to help you buy the best fish finder for crappie.
Quick glance at the top fish finders for crappie fishing:
Table of Contents (clickable)
Related: Best Crappie Lures
Display Size: 10.1”
Resolution: 1024 x 600
Frequencies: CHIRP Full Mode (150-220 kHz), Narrow Mode (180-240 kHz), Wide Mode (140-200 kHz; soA Downar 50/83/200/455/800 kHz and 1.2 MHz)
Side Scanning: 800 ft. (455 kHz), 250 ft. (800 kHz), and 400 ft. (MEGA) (up to 800’)
Down Imaging: Yes; MEGA Imaging+
Maximum Depth: 1,200’ (3,500’ with an optional 50 kHz transducer)
Transducer Angle: 20°, 42°, 60°, (2) 86°, and (2) 55° @ -10dB
Target Separation: no less than 2.5”
If you’re a long-time reader, you’ll know that we’re big fans of the Humminbird lineup of fish finders, and the Helix 10 is among our favorites. Packed with game-changing features, this is the true benchmark for high-end performance, and a close look at its capabilities shows why.
This Humminbird offers an incredible screen. While a 10-inch diagonal isn’t the biggest on the market, Humminbird knows what it’s doing. Easy to read even in the brightest sun, the Helix 10 offers superb resolution and the kind of detail that sets it apart from its competitors.
The Helix 10 just might have the best sonar system available, and its powerful CHIRP system provides unparalleled detail. With three built-in “modes” for switching between transducer angles and sonar options, you’ll find the right frequencies and angles for your situation. Shallow or deep water--wherever you find yourself--the Helix 10 has you covered.
It also offers side scanning and down imaging, providing better water coverage than ever before. Both of these are radical improvements on the fish finders of a decade ago, providing an almost miraculous view of the bottom.
I’m particularly impressed with the down imaging Humminbird brings to the table. It’s simply stunning in its detail, and for slab fanatics hunting for the best cover for crappie, this is a hard feature to ignore.
The Helix 10’s down imaging is the best on the market.
The standard fish finder view is excellent as well, as the CHIRP sonar provides plenty of target separation and detail.
A full-features GPS and detailed maps are built-in as well, allowing you to navigate easily and--most importantly--mark hot crappie spots for location and analysis.
The standard fish finder view is excellent for locating schooling bait as well as the predators that feed on them.
As with all advanced fish finders, you’ll want to spend some time with the manual learning the ins and outs of its abilities, and once you do, you’ll be rewarded with an extremely capable fish finder.
Display Size: 9”
Resolution: 800 x 480
Frequencies: CHIRP and standard sonar
Side Scanning: Yes, SideVu
Down Imaging: Yes; DownVu
Maximum Depth: ???
Transducer Angle: ???
Target Separation: ???
Not everyone can afford the hefty price tag of the high-end Humminbird, and for less than half its cost, the Lowrance Hook2 9 offers plenty to like.
Is it a direct competitor for the Helix 10?
Probably not. Let’s see why.
The Hook2’s 9-inch diagonal screen is easy to read, offering lots of detail and color. Honestly, I have simply no complaints on this front, and while its Humminbird rival might be a smidgen better here, it’s almost apples to apples.
Lowrance’s screen is very, very good.
Where the high-end differentiates itself is electronics, and clearly, there’s a difference. Lowrance is cagey about the details, and even after an exhaustive search, we couldn’t find precise frequency, transducer angler, or maximum depth information.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does prevent direct comparison.
Performance in the real world is good, however, and the Hook2’s CHIRP certainly works, providing plenty of detail and allowing you to see the crappie next to the ball of shad. In the traditional fish finder mode, I’ve had no issues whatsoever--it works, and works well.
But to my eye, the sidescanning and down imaging suffer greatly in comparison with the Helix 10. They just don’t provide the stunning detail of the Humminbird, and it’s clear that the extra money makes a big difference in the latest tech.
As with the Humminbird, you’ll be much happier with the Hook2 if you spend some time getting acquainted with the manual.
Maximum depth: 330’
Maximum range: 330’
Transducer beam angle: 7, 16, and 47 degrees
Frequency: 100 kHz, 290 kHz, and 675 kHz
Target separation: .4”
Compatibility: iOS 12.0 and Android 5.0 forward
Battery life: up to 8 hours
Charging time: 75 minutes
Deeper realizes that anglers on the shore need to know just as much as their buddies in a boat, and from the location of brush piles, to the topography of the bottom, to finding schools of shad, their CHIRP model offers stunning performance.
Let’s get right down to it.
The CHIRP has a depth of 330 feet, brought to you by a more powerful transducer rather than an ultra-low frequency. For deep lakes, that can be a real advantage, but it’s hardly the selling point of this excellent system.
Instead, it’s the CHIRP sonar for which it’s named, running through the frequency bands to provide more information than traditional systems. CHIRP by itself is a game-changing upgrade, but add to that target separation of less than an inch, and you get fish finding excellence that competes with name-brand traditional systems like Humminbird, Garmin, and Lowrance.
That, plus a battery that charges faster and lasts longer, separates the CHIRP from the Pro+, making this a worthy upgrade over that already capable option.
At this price point, the Deeper CHIRP is ridiculously good.
Paired with your smartphone via Bluetooth, the screen size and quality vary--of course--but the images it provides are clear and easy to read.
Display Size: 4.3”
Resolution: 272 X 480
Frequencies: 200/455/455 kHz
Side Scanning: No
Down Imaging: Yes, 320’
Maximum Depth: 320 ft (20) 455 kHz, 600 ft (20) 200 kHz
Transducer Angle: 28°, 16°, and 74° @ -10dB
Target Separation: 2.5”
For kayak anglers, a big screen can be a problem, and I find that anything bigger than the size of a phone just gets in the way. Humminbird has known this for a while, offering the outstanding PIRANHAMAX, and while certainly not full-featured, you get a lot of fish finder for your money.
The heart of this unit is the excellent XNT 9 DI T transducer, offering dual-frequency sonar at 200 and 455 kHz. This provides excellent overall depth and detail, and when paired with the 4.3-inch screen, it features admirably sharp images. That DI in the name indicates “down imaging,” a system that provides much more precise images than conventional sonar systems.
As you can see below, this is much more than a marketing gimmick.
While not rivaling the tech in the Helix 10, blobs become stumps on the Piranhamax screen.
That’s a feature competitors can’t match, and if you’re in the market for an inexpensive fish finder, this is an excellent choice, in no small part due to this tech.
With a range of transducer angles to choose from, you can select wider beams for shallower water or narrower beams when you’re out deep. And with as much as 600 feet of bottom-finding sonar, most anglers will be well served. When paired to electronics that provide 2.5 inches of target specification, whether you’re after crappie or bass, pike or perch, you’ll be able to see the fish you’re looking for.
So what’s missing?
CHIRP, side-scanning sonar, a big screen, GPS, and maps. The otherwise capable PIRANHAMAX can’t help you with waypointing, course charting, or GPS marking.
That said, it offers great performance for anglers who are budget-conscious or fishing with a paddle rather than an outboard.
Display Size: 3.5”
Resolution: 320 X 480
Frequencies: CHIRP 50/77/200 kHz
Side Scanning: No
Maximum Depth: 1,600’ freshwater; 750’ saltwater
Transducer Angle: ?
Target Separation: ?
The Striker’s standard fishfinding screen is easy to read.
The Striker 4 offers a 3.5-inch screen that gives up some room to its Humminbird rival. And certainly, Humminbird’s down imaging provides a clearer image--no contest. So what does the Striker do to earn a place on our list?
The heart of the Striker 4 is an excellent CHIRP-capable transducer, broadcasting on frequencies ranging between 50 and 200 kHz. That provides great depth and range, as well as excellent fish identification. So while image quality lags, fish finding doesn’t--and that’s what this tech is all about.
Garmin has chosen not to disclose which transducer the Striker 4 is paired with, so we can’t tell you specifics like beam angles and target separation. But what we can say is that this unit works like a charm, is easy to navigate, and provides excellent budget-priced GPS features like waypointing and marking. These features are nothing to scoff at, and if you’re willing to give up image quality to the Humminbird, this Garmin might be the best budget fish finder for you.
Sonar is just sound. It’s beyond the range of human hearing, but in principle, no different than any other noise.
Sound takes the form of a wave, with crests and troughs or peaks and valleys. Higher frequencies pack more of these oscillations into a given span of time than do lower frequencies.
Low frequencies penetrate water better than high frequencies. Fish finders with very low-frequency transducers can “see” through the water better, allowing them greater depth.
The weakness of low frequencies, however, is that every oscillation provides data, and with fewer crests and troughs per second, they can’t provide as much information as high frequencies.
Think about your mobile phone for a second. It works in much the same way, which is why 4G can carry more information--more data per second--than 3G. Higher frequencies equal more information.
High frequencies offer greater detail, allowing your fish finder to “find” fish and tell you their size and location.
They can’t penetrate much water, however, and they can’t tell you much about the bottom, including details like structure and cover.
Most fish finders use dual frequencies, pairing a high and low frequency to provide the best features of both. For instance, when you see a fish finder that lists two frequencies, such as 77/200 kHz, that means that its transducer broadcasts at both 77 kHz and 200 kHz simultaneously.
The low-frequency signal reads the bottom, while the high frequency finds the fish.
“One ping only, please.”
The Red October’s sonar used “pings”--bursts or pulses of noise that it sent into the water--striking objects and returning to its transducer for analysis. When the sonar was active, it wasn’t constantly transmitting sound.
Most fish finders aren’t much different. They use dual frequencies in pulses: short “pings” like the one you heard in the video. These short pulses are transmitted together, providing enough data to give the fish finder’s electronics a picture of the bottom and anything suspended in the water column.
But military tech has advanced a long way from the Cold War, and modern sonar systems use something called CHIRP, or Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse.
CHIRP sonar uses much longer pulses than standard systems, starting at the low frequency and moving quickly to the high frequency. These longer bursts, and the range of frequencies between the lowest and highest, provide much more information than standard sonar systems.
As you can see, there are many more peaks and valleys in the CHIRP signal, and each and every one carries information. The military uses CHIRP sonar because it’s simply far more effective than dual frequency sonar. And the good news is that you can use it, too.
Some fish finders now feature CHIRP sonar. It provides better imaging, greater accuracy, and more information.
This isn’t a marketing ploy--it’s real, it’s a fact, and in our opinion, it’s worth paying for.
Obviously, we prefer CHIRP sonar systems. But what else matters?
Target separation is simply a measure of how precise the fish finder’s sonar is at distinguishing individual fish from one another. Smaller numbers mean better performance.
Often a selling point, this is not nearly as important as marketing leads you to believe.
All other things being equal:
Wider angles let you see a greater area below your transducer.
But, and this is a big but, the “specified cone” isn’t the actual area the fish finder reads. Instead, it’s shaped more like this:
Moreover, for a specified beam width, the structure of the bottom can greatly affect performance. And the greater that width, the more likely this problem is.
As a general rule, the shallower the water you fish, the wider the transducer beam angle you want. Too much will create problems, and if you fish in deeper water, you want a tighter, more focused beam angle.
This is exactly what it sounds like. Some advanced fish finders offer specialized transducers that transmit and receive off the starboard and port sides of your boat. The result is a 2-D image of the water column to either side.
Some brands sport a range of as much as 800 feet in either direction!
Obviously, this can be incredibly useful for locating fish, and it’s an increasingly popular option. Be aware, however, that the depth of these side-facing transducers is limited. Side imaging sonar won’t be penetrating the water column very far, though it’s an awesome compliment to a traditional transducer.
Down imaging can provide hyper-realistic images of cover and structure, turning blobs into trees and smudges into brush piles.
For crappie anglers, the ability to differentiate a rock or hump from a brush pile can be game-changing, and down imaging is definitely a feature we look for.
You want a fish finder with good maximum depth, and you want to match this rating to your actual use. Especially if you fish deeper water, like the Great Lakes, or if you’re a saltwater angler, this is something to consider carefully.
Larger displays are easier to read and use, but of course, they cost more, too.
And bigger isn’t always better.
Resolution is a measure of how much detail a fish finder’s screen can provide, and a small screen with great resolution can be easier to read than a large screen with only average resolution.
We think these are now nearly essential considerations in a good fish finder.
From careful waypointing to honey hole marking, GPS and maps add so much functionality that they’re almost a no-brainer.
Whether you chase crappie from a bass boat, a kayak, or the confines of the shore, there’s an excellent fish finder built for your needs--and we hope this article has helped you narrow down your choice.
If it has, we’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below.