Fish Finder vs Side Imaging: WTF Is The Difference & Which One Will Help You?

Fishing has been one of my favorite pastime activities and I know it is for a lot of you too! Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just a beginner, the latest technological advancements in fishing equipment are making it easier to catch fish and have more successful fishing trips.

Two of the most popular tools for fishing enthusiasts today are fish finders and side imaging. These devices revolutionize the fishing game by providing more accurate information about what’s happening beneath the surface of the water.

However, the question is, which tool is better for your kayak fishing adventures? What does each one do? It can be confusing to learn about these so in this article, I will discuss what each one does, how each one can help, and then see which one is best suited for your needs. With that said, let’s take a look under the water (pun intended!)

The Differences Between Fish Finders and Side Imaging Devices

fish finder setup

Fish Finders are the go-to tool for many anglers because of their simplicity and accuracy. I own three of these and love them for the ease of use of locating fishies!

These electronic devices use sonar technology to locate fish, water depth, and underwater structures and come in various forms. Most fish finders come equipped with a display screen that shows a 2D image of what’s happening beneath the kayak.

With a fish finder, you can quickly and easily determine where fish are located, and then strategically plan your next move. These devices are particularly useful for kayak fishing because they allow you to navigate shallow waters without the risk of damaging your equipment.

On the other hand, side imaging offers a more sophisticated approach to fishing. This advanced technology generates detailed, high-resolution images of the lake or ocean bed, providing anglers with a clearer, three-dimensional view of what is happening beneath the surface.

Side imaging can also reveal underwater vegetation, rocks, and other structures that can help you find fish. However, the downside to side imaging is that it requires more time to learn and operate which may discourage some anglers.

Price Differences Between Fish Finders and Side Image Devices

someone using a fish finder

Another deciding factor for kayak anglers choosing between fish finders and side imaging is the price.

Fish finders tend to be more affordable while side imaging devices come with a hefty price tag. If you’re a beginner who wants to test the waters without breaking the bank, a fish finder is certainly the best option.

However, if you’re willing to invest in a high-quality device, side imaging could be the game-changer that takes your fishing to the next level.

The type of fishing you engage in can also determine which technology to use. For shallow water fishing, where the fish are more visible, a fish finder may be sufficient.

But for deep-sea fishing or fishing in large bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, or rivers, a side imaging device is highly recommended. This is because these bodies of water typically have more underwater structures, which in turn, means more fish to catch.

Is a Fish Finder the Same as Side Imaging?

No, while they both use sonar technology to detect objects in the water, they are not the same.

A fish finder is designed to locate and track fish based on their movements and underwater structures.

Side imaging devices generate detailed images that reveal much more data than just fish locations. They also give you visuals on other objects such as underwater vegetation, rocks, and more that can help you locate fish.

Which One Should I Get: Fish Finder or Side Imaging Device?

a fish finder on a kayak

The answer truly depends on your fishing needs and experience level. If you’re a beginner, a fish finder is likely the best choice since it’s easier to use.

More experienced fishermen, however, may opt for a side imaging device to get an even more detailed view of what’s happening beneath the surface.

Both are extremely helpful to use when kayak fishing!

What are the Disadvantages of Fish Finders When Compared to Side Imaging?

The main disadvantage of a fish finder is that it can only provide basic information such as the water’s depth and fish locations.

As explained earlier, side imaging devices provide a much more detailed view of what is happening beneath the surface.

Now, personally, I did find it much harder to operate side imaging but once I got familiar with it and when I’m in deeper waters, I tend to use my side imagine device. In shallow waters, my fish finders are a life saver!

How Shallow Will Side Imaging Work?

Side imaging technology works best in depths of up to 300 feet although it does have some advantages over traditional fish finders in shallower waters.

Side imaging can provide more detailed images and data about the underwater environment which can be beneficial if you’re fishing in shallow water or areas with a large amount of vegetation or debris.

How Shallow Will Fish Finder Work?


Fish finders can typically work in depths of up to 300 feet or even deeper depending on the model.

However, they tend to be more reliable and accurate in shallow waters since they emit fewer signals that can interfere with the sonar readings.


The decision to choose a fish finder or side imaging device for your kayaking adventures depends on various factors such as your budget, the type of fishing you practice, and your experience level.

I find that both devices have their pros and cons and both are helpful given what environment you’re in. I’ve caught fish using both devices and the job is made so much easier when using either one.

Whatever you choose, make sure to learn how to effectively use the device and take advantage of all the features it has to offer!

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