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NMEA Boater Blog
'Top Dog' fishfinders/sonars for 2019

If you’re looking for the right new electronic device to put aboard your boat, we’re here to help. Every year the staff at Marine Electronics Journal asks manufacturers to name the one product in several categories that they consider to be their "best and brightest.”  Categories range from autopilots to wireless devices of all sorts.

By best and brightest, we aren’t necessarily looking for the very latest technology or the model with the most bells and whistles. Instead, we’re looking for the one VHF or radar model in a manufacturer’s line of VHFs and radars that stands out in their estimation as the one with the highest overall marks, from functionality to popularity. This year our list of equipment includes 16 categories--we call the lineup the Best & Brightest Boating Electronics.

For the next several weeks The Mic will roll out the results. The 2019-2020 Best & Brightest roster will be published in the MEJ Buyers’ Guide, which we publish in July and distribute at various boat shows. But if you’re narrowing down your search now, this is when you need the information—so stay tuned to see a variety of electronics that are worth considering. We lead off with fishfinders/sonars.

Furuno DFF3D

Turn your NavNet TZtouch or TZtouch2 MFD into a multi-beam sonar that can see 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. The DFF3D allows you to explore fishing spots and find fish in deep water far faster than conventional single-beam sounders. The main beam penetrates right under the boat to a depth of over 1,000 feet, and the side beams to over 650 feet, depending on water conditions. Detect fish like never before with a variety of display modes, including Cross-Section, 3D Sounder History, Single or Trip-Direction Fish Finder, and a side scan display. The DFF3D is designed for deep fishing, so you can catch fish like the pros.

Garmin PanOptix LiveScope

Panoptix LiveScope is the first and only live real-time scanning sonar. It gives anglers easy-to-interpret live scanning sonar images of structure, bait and fish swimming below and all around the boat, even when it’s stationary. LiveScope features two modes in one transducer—LiveScope Down and LiveScope Forward— and can easily be adjusted to fit the angler’s fishing techniques. Simply point the LiveScope transducer down to see directly below the boat, or forward to see around it. Either view provides incredibly sharp, real-time scanning sonar images up to 200 feet down or away from the boat, and the view automatically changes on your compatible Garmin chartplotter screen. LiveScope also has an attitude heading reference system (AHRS) that constantly adjusts sonar beams to compensate for boat motion.

Simrad/Lowrance Active Imaging

Active Imaging sonar delivers superior clarity and high-resolution images of fish and structure at an exceptionally long range. The high-level clarity, target separation and detail of Active Imaging will help you find more fish by making it easier to quickly identify fish-holding structure like rockpiles, standing timber, weedbeds, ditches and drop-offs, all with refined detail at a great distance from your boat. Get the best of CHIRP sonar and DownScan Imaging on one screen with the Simrad/Lowrance exclusive FishReveal that helps you easily recognize fish from structure and cover with a high-detailed DownScan Imaging view.

Humminbird SOLIX 15 CHIRP MEGA SI+ G2
With a large 15.4 inch display and advanced technologies like Dual Spectrum CHIRP Sonar, AutoChart Live, WiFi, Bluetooth, Ethernet and NMEA 2000 networking, coupled with Humminbird Basemap with US coastal coverage, the SOLIX 15 CHIRP MEGA SI+ G2 is an imposing force sure to strike fear into the hearts of fish everywhere. And, with MEGA Side Imaging+ and MEGA Down Imaging+, it’s even more frightening for fish, as there is nowhere left to hide. The intuitive Cross Touch interface makes even the novice look like a seasoned-veteran.

Koden’s KDS-8000BB sonar is a powerful, high-speed 8-inch broadband sector sonar engineered for the most demanding commercial fishing vessels and applications. The KDS-8000BB is a black box sonar designed to integrate with a wide range of displays to accommodate individual vessels and customer preferences. Koden also offers a high-resolution 17 inch monitor as an option. This multi-beam sonar is a true broadband system that can be easily set from 130 to 210 kHz in 0.1 kHz steps, allowing operators to adjust frequencies on the fly to fine-tune the ideal set-up for each fishing situation. Conditional memory settings make it easy for operators to select and recall favorite system parameters and settings to match different environments, locations and fishing situations.

B&G ForwardScan

The award winning ForwardScan forward-looking sonar shows what lies ahead, allowing sailors to avoid potentially dangerous areas and sail with confidence in unfamiliar waters. The B&G ForwardScan sonar system offers an effective range of eight times the actual water’s depth, real-time updates and a built-in configurable shallow depth alarm. Sailors have access to historical sonar logs showing depth history in relation to their boat’s current position, as well as an exclusive depth interpretation representation, known as Heading Line View, which uses a color-coded heading line extension to illustrate shallow water, medium water depth and deep water. B&G ForwardScan can also be viewed on a smartphone, and operated from a tablet when used on vessels equipped with the B&G GoFree WiFi-1 system.

KFish-7 is a compact dual-frequency (50 and 200 KHz) fishfinder that has a 7 inch color TFT day-view LCD display and 600 watt thru-hull transducer (choice of plastic or bronze). KFish-7 applies advanced digital sounding technology and eliminates all noise and interference with excellent sea bed discrimination. Fish Marks is one of KFish-7’s new features that automatically calculates and displays the size of fish or school. The Sonar Sound feature notifies the user when there is a fish or school beneath the boat and also determines the size by sounding an alarm. KFish-7 has an NMEA 0183 interface for connections with other onboard navigational equipment.
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 1kW CHIRP offshore sonar found in our Axiom Pro models. The RVX1000 black box 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 supports 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. 

The SI-TEX CVS-128B broadband sounder is offered with two transducers and lets users "fine-tune” optimum high/low frequencies between 24 and 210 kHz in 0.1 kHz steps, enhancing species-specific fishfinding abilities while reducing interference from other vessels. Capable of displaying two selected frequencies simultaneously on its brilliant 8.4 inch, vertically oriented color LCD display, the CVS-128B provides excellent viewability on open or closed boats. Advanced digital filtering technology ensures superior target detection and separation of fish targets under a wide range of conditions, making this an ideal choice for coastal and offshore fishermen. The 2 kW output CVS-128B operates in depth ranges from 10 to 3,600 feet. Its top-grade standard features includes a sleek IPX5 waterproof case, Auto Cruising/Fishing modes, A-Scope, and audible and visual alarms. 

Matching transducer to the task

Airmar PM411LWM/B275LHW

Unlock your sounder’s full CHIRP potential with Airmar’s CHIRP-ready transducers: superior resolution, more coverage under the boat, unmatched deep-water tracking and amazing detail, including thermoclines. Tournament captains are achieving winning results by combining the ultra-wide, 2 kW, pocket-mount transducer, PM411LWM, with the wide beam B275LHW thru-hull transducer, ideal for marking marlin and swordfish. Combining a low-frequency range of 40 to 65 kHz, a medium-frequency range of 80 to 130 kHz, and a high frequency range of 150–250kHz, this setup reveals more fish in the water column than before. We’ve got exactly the right CHIRP-ready transducer for every sounder brand, boat type and any fishing scenario.

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Comments | Leave a Comment
Page 1 of 3 ( 13 comments)

Jp:(8/11/2018 5:28:29 PM) "I have a 2018 Yamaha f40 la and Humminbird helix 7 di , I would like to leverage the nema 2000 capability of the helix 7 to display engine info, what do I need , Humminbird does have a gateway and lowrance makes a Yamaha nema cable, but I'm reading connectors are proprietary . How can I get what is needed?

Since these products are not NMEA 2000 certified there is little assurance that they will share data with each other.

1. Here is the link to see all NMEA 2000 certified products:

2. The NMEA 2000 cables and connectors are from many manufacturers: Here is the link for approved cables and connector manufacturers:

AC/DC grounding distance:(8/2/2018 1:29:35 AM) "What about the grounding points of AC /DC systems? can they be grounded at the same point?
If one system has both AC and DC can they both be grounded to a common buss-bar that has only one conection to the hull?

Here's what Ed Sherman, electric tech guru at the American Boat & Yacht Council, said:

The ultimate goal should always be to tie ac and dc grounds together on board at a single point. In ABYC Standard E-11, it is described as “the engine negative terminal or its buss.” It is most commonly done at a buss."
Hard-Over with Brushed APilot Pump:(12/18/2017 5:37:05 PM) "Jim.
What do you mean by ...."Garmin GHP 20 with SmartPump...Because it is a brushless system, it is fail-safe and won’t execute a hard-over turn the way a brushed pump can."

Thanks for the note. Since the description came from Garmin I contacted the company for an explanation. Here's what one of their engineers told me:

On brushed DC actuators, a single-point failure in the drive circuit (shorted wire or blown component inside the controller) could cause the motor to run full speed in one direction and take the rudder all the way to one rail. A brushless actuator relies on timing-controlled commutation, so a short or component fail would cause the actuator to stop moving rather than moving at full speed.

Hope this helps,

trawlerdeejay:(10/13/2017 3:46:51 PM) "Excellent article. I had no idea what the differences were between o183 and 2000, Thank you so much."
Darryl:(3/27/2017 10:17:15 PM) "Putting the MSRP with each unit reviewed would have been helpful. If each unit was actually tested, the reports on each unit would have been helpful too.

Thanks Darryl---we generally don't mention prices due to confusion over so many variations---MSRP (mfg. suggested retail price), MAP (min. advertised price), MRP (min. resale price) and then there are internet prices on some websites that go their own way. But your point is well taken--buyers need to know if something is in their price range. We'll work on it.
There is independent testing of some of these products on sites like but the information we receive from manufacturers rarely cites the results of any shootouts they may conduct against the competition's products. "
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