Help selecting a Fishfinder/Chartplotter

jcampbell577jcampbell577 Posts: 181 Deckhand
Looking to purchase a fishfinder/chartplotter for my 16 foot Hewes. I live in Jacksonville FL and will be fishing inshore 99% of the time so shallow water creeks as well as the deeper areas of the St.Johns river and inlet / jetties. Once and a while I might go offshore on a calm day and fish the beaches but I wont be heading out very deep in a boat like mine.

All that being said, what you do guys recommend. I really do not want to spend over $500 and would feel much more comfortable the closer I get to $300. I am a total newbie when it comes to fishfinders but I've been looking at the Garmin and Lowrance models. Lowrance also has rebates on all of their models at the moment. They have some with the smaller screens for around $300 but I don't know if that is too small.

Also, maybe a dumb question but how detailed are the maps on these things and are they really necessary for mainly inshore fishing?

Any and all help is appreciated! Thanks in advance!


  • Egrets LandingEgrets Landing Posts: 935 Officer
    If you get a Garmin, you will be stuck with one map and one map only so if you don't like it, you have no other options. At least with the other mfgs, you can load different maps. Get the Lowrance. The Garmin has no advantages at all in any area of comparison when compared to a Lowrance or Humminbird.
  • StratosStratos Posts: 149 Officer
    For that price range, I personally think the Humminbird Helix is the best option. For $500 you can get a unit with 2 sonar, down imaging, side imaging and GPS. Down sides to the unit are the size of the display screen and you can't network it. But all in all it's a nice little unit.
  • Mr.SnookMr.Snook NaplesPosts: 83 Greenhorn
    I second that on the Garmins I have a 740s on my flats boat and while it's been a decent unit I decided I wanted a little more detail on the charts so I purchased the Blue Chart G2 Visions for SWFL and I have been less than impressed with it. I really wanted the sat images but quickly found that the quality sucks big time when zoomed in which is the only way they would be any help to me, I also found using the sat images slowed the unit down and actually for me made it more difficult to navigate so I turned the sat images off. Also just recently the unit started loosing the map from the screen, the tracks & nav aids were there but no map. This can be a issue in the back country when all of a sudden my map goes poof. I played with the unit and spoke to a buddy of mine who's kind of a geek and we think it's in the G2 chart. So now I have to try and call Garmin to see what if anything they will do for me. The thing isn;t that old but if I remember correctly it was around $200 for the chart.

    So with that said if I and when I replace the Garmin I will be going for something that will allow me the option of using other charts.
  • jcampbell577jcampbell577 Posts: 181 Deckhand
    The Humminbird Helix 5 is an impressive option. It has Downscan and Side Scan with GPS and Sonar all for about $500. Anyone have any experience with this unit?
  • sharky12sharky12 Posts: 191 Deckhand
    Agree with the above. Both good choices for the money. Couple notes:
    If you get the Helix you will need to buy a chart for it. It comes with basic info. Chart for the area would be the preloaded Navionics+. Thats going to bump you another $199 but get the whole USA. So total price there about $500.

    If you do the Lowrance Elite, thats also a great plotter as Egret mentioned especially for the price. There you can get the same Nav+ but as a bundle but for $70 more that should put you right at $380 I think. Just take the chart and plug into your computer on either one. Update the area on the website so you have one foot contours for St Johns and such. Both come with fresh and saltwater navugation data on it but you need to update to get the one foot contours.
  • jcampbell577jcampbell577 Posts: 181 Deckhand
    So if I go with the Helix it would be the one with side imaging which is $500. If the maps cost $199 that puts me at $699 which is way too much so if thats the case I can cross that one off.

    The Garmin Echomap 54dv is $599 and currently has a $100 rebate so im looking at $499. It comes preloaded with the g2 maps so its ready to go.

    The Lowrance Elite 5 Chirp Gold is $569 and supposedly comes preloaded with Navionics + Charts. They offer at $100 rebate so your looking at $469.
  • Egrets LandingEgrets Landing Posts: 935 Officer
    I have probably had discussions with 50 people this month alone that are loosing their garmin because they want a different map or they they hate the photos garmin uses and want an alternative. Map preferences, particularly for shallow water boaters, end up being just as important as the unit they run and if you are not happy with what you are seeing on the screen, you are just not going to be happy period. So take a lesson from all the others that have already made the Garmin mistake and get a unit that provides map options. Would you buy a car if it only could run on one mfg. set of tires that wasn't so great?
  • Tropic RatTropic Rat Posts: 112 Deckhand
    Whatever you get, just do not go to West Marine. I questioned their "expert" the the store about the rebate for the 54DV and he insisted there is no rebate. He only repeated the rebate on the chip. This is the third time they have given me false information ( or lied) on a Garmin product.

    Sooo.... went to the Garmin website and OF COURSE, there was the $100.00 rebate.

    By the way the 54DV has a slot for a diffrent chip, but comes pre loaded with Blue Chart g2- which I find to be quite adequate for my needs
  • ctothctoth Posts: 5 Greenhorn
    I bought the 74dv last week and have only had a little time to play with it. Coming from a 498 the menus are different but easy to navigate. G2 map seems adequate for my needs but i'll update my review once I get some more hours on it.

    BTW, i bought it at Westmarine, which i try to avoid, but they had the same pricing i could find anywhere and they had the rebate forms on the counter. They did have the price marked as the 74sv, so I had to have them check for the dv. I'll get some screen shots posted once I get an SD card and this holiday weekend is over, I am staying away from the crowds!
  • jcampbell577jcampbell577 Posts: 181 Deckhand
    Are there any features of capabilities the Lowrance has that the Garmin does not? It seems like the big difference is personal preference.
  • bronconutbronconut Posts: 13 Greenhorn
    EBay has some great prices on the Humminbird models.
    498, 598, 698, etc....
    And you can press a button and pop the unit off the bracket to prevent theft.
  • rehartlinerehartline Posts: 725 Officer
    Humminbird fan here. I fish inshore and use side scan. I'm not aware of anything else with side scan that is competitive with Humminbird. The standard maps are not bad, you don't need to upgrade on day one. Check out the Helix 5 or 7 in a store. Humminbird customer service is top notch as well.
  • avmechavmech Posts: 1,263 Officer
    Offloaded Garmin years ago because of their cartography. Was using Blue CHarts, always showed me about 100 yards due east of my actual location. Very comforting when running narrow channels at night.....

    Switched to Lowrance with Navionics chips, currently HDS8 Gen 2, no issues.

    Have a handheld Garmin that is about 2 years old and the cartography is the same crap. Stand in the west side of my yard, it shows me on the street 100 yards away to the east. Turned off their cartography, using just the sattelite pics it shows my location well.
    Joined: Oct 7 2002
    Member #10822
  • Buc FanBuc Fan Posts: 67 Deckhand
    I am currently shopping for a chartplotter/fish finder as well. I am leaning towards the Hummingbird Helix 5 si but also considering the Lowrance Elite-5 Chirp and the Raymarine Dragonfly 5 Pro. I mainly fish shallow water bays but also get out near shore and head down to the keys often hitting up patch reefs and flats. I'm trying to stay under $500 but wondering if I need to spend that much for the type of fishing that I do. Opinions?
  • captfields85captfields85 Posts: 50 Greenhorn
    Check out the Raymarine Dragonfly Pro bundled with Navionics+. I love mine. There are some great deals out there right now with all the spring sales. I was at Cabelas yesterday and I would say all the manufacturers had some great bundled deals going on.
  • HFFHFF Posts: 134 Deckhand
  • Seacraft 71Seacraft 71 Posts: 2 Greenhorn
    The Garmin maps are the same as any other chart plotter. I have used the Simrad, Furuno, Garmin. and they are all excellent units, it's just some are a lot easier to use.
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