Sure, cool new fishfinder technology like down-scan imaging (DSI) and Structure Scan in Lowrance fishfinders could help you catch more fish, but that stuff costs big bucks, right? Not anymore. Lowrance has just announced the introduction of their Elite-4 and Mark-4 fishfinders, a series of compact units that bring the price of one of these modern fish-finding technologies down enough to fit anyone’s budget. In fact, these new units are so darned inexpensive that even the Congressional super-committee would unanimously agree they’re a great buy.
The Elite-4x DSI MSRP’s at $269, and you can easily find it on the open market for a hair under $200. Sure, this is a very small unit with a mere 3.5” display. But little units like these are great for small, open boats that have tight consoles and little room for mounting electronics. And since that’s the environment most of the Elite-4 and Mark-4 units will live in, Lowrance made them waterproof to an IPX-7 rating. That means they survived a three-foot immersion in water for up to 30 minutes, so spray and rain should have zero effect on them.
These units are also available in combo fishfinder/chartplotter versions, which include a built-in GPS antenna, a world base map, and a MicroSD card slot you can use to add Navionics Gold or HotMaps chartography data. That’ll bring MSRP up to $349 for the top of the line unit. But IMHO it doesn’t make much sense to get a combo unit this small when you're choosing new electronics. A 3.5” screen with 320 x 240 pixels is simply too tiny to “split” between fishfinder and chartplotter, so you’ll have to constantly switch between functions, which eliminates many of the advantages of running a combined unit. If you want a chartplotter, you’d probably be a lot happier with at least a 5” screen. That puts you into the $600 to $700 range for a unit like the Elite-5 DSI, but it’ll be money well spent. Consider these smaller DSI units for boats that already have navigation covered, or don’t really require a chartplotter in the first place.
Down-scanning functionality is no different than on more expensive units, and depth range is limited to 200 feet because those high-frequency waves that provide such wonderful detail don’t penetrate very far through the water. If you plan to fish in lakes, bays, and rivers that don’t require seeing any deeper, then these units should be a top pick.
If you’ve dealt with $200 fishfinders before, you’ll be shocked at the top quality picture the dual-frequency 455/800 kHz transom-mounted transducer paints. Detail blows away that of “regular” fishfinders in this price range, with target separation of mere inches. As a result, you can clearly see whether those marks are fish, weeds, standing timber, or rockpiles. That’ll let you fish like a pro—without spending like one.