Down Imaging and Side Imaging Explained

Lots of people get confused when they start looking at high-end fish finders. And I won’t blame you – many of the technology is confusing names, and if you’re not familiar with these devices they can seem foreign.

One of the biggest sources of confusion comes on so the imaging models that are available. Many Humminbird models feature either side imaging were down imaging. Some of them even include both as a combo. So what is the difference?

For starters, side imaging uses a very narrow transducer beam. They normally work up to the low end of 200 feet. Of course in some water and they will work a little farther, but always play it safe. Just because something is rated as the Naples sound 600 feet, in practice you might only get three or 400 feet of visibility.

Side imaging takes a picture off the sides of your boat or other watercraft. This can be useful not only for fish finding, but just for general navigation. Especially if you know that there are obstacles off the side of you, using this can be a real lifesaver.

Similarly, down imaging simply takes a snapshot of what is underneath you. This is where you find a much higher power transducer. Each because you rarely fish off the direct side of your boat, you need to know what fish are directly beneath you.

Since you only choose one, choose the down imaging. It makes catching fish much easier because you will be using it more frequently, side imaging is best for the full navigation and visibility purposes that it offers.

Now some models also include both as a combination unit. With these, you will be able to see the most area underneath and around your boat. This is really great and very useful feature.

But of course, a model with this much technology does not come cheap.

You need to examine the costs and returns you’ll get from it. If having the ability to avoid side obstacles prevent you from wrecking your boat, well it was definitely worth it. For example a buddy of mine sunk his new boat on unmarked reef. I sometimes wonder if he had had been able to see 360° around his boat if it would’ve happened.

But is it all doom and gloom? Of course not.

The fact is fish finders are great pieces of technology. Down imaging & side imaging are some of the highest imaging protocols that are out there. If you can afford a model that includes these, it is well worth it. Not for the peace of mind of navigation, but simply for the amount of fish you can see.


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