Garmin Fishfinder Review: Striker or Echomap? [2019]

Garmin has been making fish finders for as long as I can remember, and I’ve never been let down by one of their products. They’ve given me the ability to find fish easily, and they’ve made it easier for me to navigate the water when I decide to fish in new areas.

The goal of this Garmin fishfinder review is to help you find a Garmin product that will help you experience those benefits, too. First, I want to talk about the different things that differentiate Garmin from other companies, and then I’ll go over six products that have really impressed me over the years.

Why You Should Buy A Garmin

I can sit here and rant about Garmin’s quality for a long time. They’ve been in the industry for quite a while, and they don’t sacrifice the quality of their products just to keep up with other companies. In short, you can expect to have a high-quality product whenever you purchase something from Garmin.

Instead of repeatedly telling you how great of a company Garmin is, I want to go over some of the key aspects of their business model that actually affect you as a consumer and an angler.

A Large Variety

One of the best reasons to buy from Garmin is that they don’t pander to one specific audience. They’ve had enough time to create a wide variety of fish finders, and each one of their products is suitable for a different type of fishing.

They have ice fishing units, saltwater units, shallow water units, deep freshwater units, and portable units, and all of them are made to high standards.

That large variety of products ensures that you can find just about any type of fish finder that you need without having to research a different company. You can trust that anything you buy from them is made to the same standards as other products that you’ve bought from them.

Innovative Technology

A lot of companies just use the same technology that everybody has grown to know and love. While that technology is pretty advanced, and there’s nothing wrong with it, that leads to stagnation in the industry.

A lot of Garmin’s products feature upgraded sonar systems that are innovative and more useful than the systems that we’ve all used for the last twenty years. Menu systems and other small features are also regularly upgraded by Garmin.

A Wide Price Range

This is something that will affect you as a consumer. Some companies tend to pander to budget-minded anglers, and others tend to pander to elite fishermen who have no problems spending $5000 on fish finders.

Garmin has options in both of those price ranges, and they have options in between them. So, you can find something that you can afford without having to look around too much.

I will say that Garmin tends to only focus on the most important features when it comes to their budget models. You’ll usually get a map system and an advanced sonar system, but you won’t get a whole lot of special features.

That’s perfectly fine for a budget unit. In fact, it’s better than what most companies offer with their budget units. However, I like to have a lot of functionality in my fish finders, and I know that a lot of advanced fishermen do, too. If you’re into really robust systems, you might want to pay the extra money for one of Garmin’s more expensive items.

The Benefits Of Owning A Fish Finder

Some fishermen don’t have a problem wildly casting around a lake to find fish. I am not one of those fishermen, and you probably aren’t, either. Fish finders just make it easier to get to the fun part of fishing. Instead of wasting a ton of time scouting for fish, you can use that time to actually catch something.

Fish finders also help you navigate. Modern fish finders have maps that allow you to mark important locations, plot routes, and avoid obstacles without having to take mental notes about the entire lake that you’re fishing on. So, even if you don’t care about knowing exactly where the fish are, you can get a lot out of a decent fish finder.

Now that you know why you need a Garmin fish finder, you can check out my Garmin fishfinder review section to take a look at the best Garmin fish finders on the market.

Garmin Fishfinder Review: TOP 6 Product Reviews

#1 Garmin Striker Plus 4

The Garmin Striker Plus 4 is one of the budget-friendly fish finders I’ll be reviewing. It’s inexpensive enough for inexperienced fishermen to feel comfortable buying it, and it has enough features to make it worth using.

First, it’s about the size of a portable fish finder, but it’s meant to be mounted on a boat. So, it doesn’t take up much more than a few inches of room if you own a smaller boat. However, that also means that you only have a four-inch screen.

It doesn’t have many bonus features, but it handles its main job well. The Striker Plus 4 has a CHIRP sonar system that outperforms your standard down-imaging systems, and it clearly separates individual fish targets to make it easier to see what you’re looking at. The screen is also a high-definition screen, and it’s easy to read if you can handle the small size of it.

Besides its CHIRP sonar and high-quality screen, the Striker Plus 4 comes with an automatic mapping system that can create maps as you use it, and it can make up to 2000 acres worth of maps. So, you shouldn’t have to worry about running out of map space unless you fish in a lot of different places.

Like most Garmin map systems, you can mark any spots that interest you, and you can plot out routes to get you to your target destination quickly.

Pros:

  • Compact for small boats
  • High-definition screen
  • Target separation
  • CHIRP sonar
  • Automatic mapping

Cons:

  • This is a good choice if you want automatic mapping functionality and the ability to see fish underwater. That’s all it does. If you want to have a more robust system, you’ll have to look at the more expensive models.

#2 Garmin Striker 4cv

The Striker 4cv is a lot like the Striker Plus 4, but it’s designed for fishing in very deep spots, and it has an ice fishing feature that makes it a little more flexible than the Plus 4.

First, it has a 3.5-inch screen. That’s even smaller than the screen on the Plus 4. So, obviously it has the same issues if you have problems with the Plus 4’s screen. However, its display is designed to handle long-range scans more. You don’t get the crystal-clear target separation that you get with the Plus 4, but you can see as far as 1750-feet under the water. In case you don’t understand how deep that is, the deepest freshwater lakes in the United States are only a little over 1000-feet deep.

That’s obviously something that is advantageous to ice fishermen. The incredibly long range makes it great for fishing throughout the water column, but it makes it more difficult to fish the shallows.

I would have loved this feature the last time I tried my luck at Crater Lake, but it’s a bit too much for most other fishing situations.

It also has the same basic map system as the Plus 4. You can mark interesting spots, and it will automatically generate new map features as you travel around the lake.

Pros:

  • Great for fishing in really deep lakes
  • Sonar system is powerful
  • The map system is impressive

Cons:

  • The display is kind of murky. You can see everything that you need to see, but it’s not as clear and crisp as what you get with the Plus 4.

#3 Garmin Striker 4

The Striker 4 is basically the original version of the Plus 4. It has less features, but it’s a little more compact, and it comes in two different variants. It’s also a little cheaper than the Plus 4. There’s also another Striker 4 that comes with a carrying bag and some fun extras. It’s more expensive, but the additional items will really round out your setup.

There’s not a lot to talk about with the Striker 4. It has the same features as the Plus 4, but each feature is a little less developed. If you don’t need the long range and advanced target separation of the Plus 4, you can save quite a bit by just buying the normal Striker 4.

Pros: 

  • Great discount option with an advanced kit option
  • Well-rounded unit

Cons:

  • The screen isn’t that great. It’ll definitely work, and it shows enough information to help you fish efficiently. However, the Plus 4 does it better. 

#4 Garmin Striker 7SV

The 7SV is a great option for just about any fisherman. It provides high-quality sonar returns, and it’s more flexible than any of the budget-friendly options.

The 7SV has a seven-inch screen, and it’s capable of producing photo-realistic sonar returns that the cheaper options can’t even attempt to replicate. Those photo-realistic sonar returns allow you to see every detail as if you were snorkeling in crystal-clear water.

Besides that, the 7SV has a much more advanced mapping system. The map system shows more details than just a few landmarks and the position of your boat. It shows full maps of the area you’re in, and it comes pre-loaded with thousands of maps that will allow you to navigate new areas with ease.

As an added bonus, the 7SV comes with a digital flash system that makes it easier for you to use it while ice fishing.

Pro:

  • CHIRP sonar with ClearView display
  • 7-inch screen
  • Long-range scanning

Cons:

  • Sometimes the sonar returns drop in quality when you’re scanning depths that are near the end of its range. That’s not a big deal. Most lakes and rivers don’t even come close to being deeper than what it can read. However, it’s worth knowing in case you go to a really deep lake.

#5 Garmin Echomap

The Echomap is an advanced fish finder with quite a bit going for it. It doesn’t have a digital flash or a bunch of fancy features, but it has some of the best sonar technology on the market.

First and foremost, the CHIRP sonar unit that this fish finder uses combines the functions of down-imaging and side-imaging systems to create one of the most reliable sonar systems you can get. Instead of focusing its sonar waves in one direction, it creates large arcs of waves that pick up fish in nearly all directions, and it separates targets to increase your visibility. Most importantly, the sonar returns are crystal-clear, and they have just as much detail as underwater photos do. The CHIRP system also allows the Echomap to display more information than what the other models are capable of.

The map system is impressive on the 7SV, but it’s even more impressive on the Echomap. The Echomap’s system comes with Blue G2 maps instead of the normal maps that Garmin usually ships. The Blue G2 maps are far more detailed than Garmin’s standard maps, and they’re easier to customize once you get used to them.

#6 Echomap 54cv

If you liked the Echomap, but you felt that it was a little too much for your tastes, you can purchase the Echomap 54cv. The 54cv is a little less advanced than the other Echomap, but it’s also a little cheaper, and it’s easier to use.

First, it has a slightly smaller screen that makes it a little more compact, but it’s still large enough that you can read it easily. It does use the same CHIRP system as the other Echomap, but it’s not as clear and photo-realistic. The lower-quality of the sonar returns is barely noticeable unless you’ve used a lot of fish finders, though.

The map system is also similar, but instead of having just the G2 maps installed, it also has LakeVu maps of the United States and Canada. So, its navigation features are a little more robust. All of the maps are updated five times per second to ensure that you always have the most accurate information possible while you’re on the water. Those advanced navigation features will come in handy if you’re the type of fisherman that likes to travel a lot.

Finally, the button layout is a bit easier to work with. The buttons on the other Echomap are a little cramped together, but the 54cv has plenty of room between its buttons for you to manipulate them with gloves on.

Overall, this is the version that I’d recommend if you’re an avid traveler, and it’s also a great choice if you want an Echomap system that is slightly less expensive. Just know that the sonar returns aren’t as high-quality as the other versions.

Pros: 

  • Echomap features at a lower price
  • More compact than the other Echomap
  • Easier to use with gloves on
  • Robust map system 

Cons: 

  • The screen is just a little bit too small for me. It’s already difficult to read small screens, but when you combine the small screen size with the lower resolution of the sonar returns, it can be difficult to read if you have poor eyesight.

Final Thoughts

Garmin makes products that are extremely varied and useful for any type of angler. I think that, that has been illustrated pretty well in this article. However, one particular unit stands out to me personally.

If I could only pick one of these fish finders, I’d pick the Echomap. When I go fishing with a fish finder, I want that fish finder to provide me with as much information as possible, and I want to see what the underwater environment is like in vivid detail. The Echomap does all of that. If you like the Echomap, but it’s a little too big or complicated for your tastes, you should try the Echomap 54cv.

The other options are all great alternatives that are aimed at different fishermen, though. If you like having a unit that is great for deep water and ice fishing, you can use a Striker Plus 4. If you just want a basic fish finder, you can pick up a normal Striker 4. There’s a little bit for everyone in Garmin’s product line.

Before you make your decision, make sure you read the entire Garmin fishfinder review section. These are the best Garmin fish finders that you can buy, and none of them should be glanced over just because I’ve my personal tastes.

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