Sonar units are must-have technology if you want to fish quickly and efficiently on the ice. The ability to see what’s directly below your hole gives you huge advantage against anglers who are fishing blind. One big challenge many ice fishermen face is deciding which flasher or combo unit is right for them. There are many great options on the market, but it can be difficult to truly understand what’s available and how to make the best choice for your fishing needs.
To help alleviate this problem, we broke things down into three categories:
– Flagship Flashers
– Sonar Combo Units
– Budget Flashers
And we picked a few units from each category to highlight for you. Many of these units share similar characteristics, but we tried to focus on what makes each of them different. Hopefully this breakdown will help you make an informed decision next time you’re in the market for a new flasher or combo unit.
The Flagship Flasher category is for anglers who prefer the flasher configuration and are willing to spend top dollar to get one of the best units on the market. While this category might not provide the best overall value, it does provide more features and reliability than it’s predecessors in the Budget Flasher category.
Below are the three units we chose to highlight:
Vexilar FLX-28 – Flagship Flasher
Every unit in the Flagship Flasher category can boast a boat-load of features, and the Vexilar FLX-28 is no exception. It has a simple, yet advanced interface that allows you to quickly and easily adjust settings. It’s color select options allow you to do a number of things, including removing green target lines which can suffocate your readout on soft bottom lakes. It also offers a white target option that will help you identify the biggest fish in the school. And that’s just scratching the surface.
– 5 different color pallet selections
– Weed mode for better efficiency in the weeds
– Brightness adjustments for daytime and nighttime fishing
– Low power mode for fishing in ultra shallow water
– Automatic zoom windows
– Approximate weight: 13-pounds
If you’re looking for arguably them most feature-rich pure flasher on the market, take a look at the Vexilar FLX-28. It comes in the Pro Pack II or the Ultra Pack, each with slightly different configurations.
Humminbird Ice 55 – Flagship Flasher
$419.95 – Buy Now
The Humminbird Ice 55 is the cheapest option available in the Flagship Flasher category. It lacks some of the features available on both the Vexilar FLX-28 and the Marcum LX-7, but it’s much more affordable, and it has a few features of it’s own. Anglers have the ability to place a purple target line at a specific depth to use as a visual reference, which can be helpful when you’re marking fish at a certain depth level. It’s large fiber-optic display and backlit LCD views great even on the brightest of days.
– Fiber-optic flasher display
– Purple target used as a visual indicator
– Automatic digital depth readouts
– Battery indicator on LCD
– Approximate weight: 13.5-pounds
If you want a Flagship Flasher with most of the bells and whistles, but don’t want to spend a fortune, the Humminbird Ice 55 is your answer.
Marcum LX-7 – Flagship Flasher
$729.99 – Buy Now
Now I know what you’re thinking… The Marcum LX-7 isn’t a true flasher per se, but it’s capabilities are similar to the units above, and the price point is in the same ballpark as the FLX-28. It’s biggest differentiating factor in this category is it’s multiple viewing options. You can use the standard flasher layout, the recorded history layout or a vertical viewing layout. It’s easy to customize the display just how you like it, including sonar readouts, battery voltage, range, gain and more. The LX-7 doesn’t have mapping, which is yet another reason we believe it makes sense in the Flagship Flasher category.
– 8 inch LCD display
– 1/2 inch target separation
– User-defined on-screen “dashboard”
– Infinite zoom windows
– Approximate weight: 14-pounds
This is the most expensive unit in the Flagship Flasher category, but it provides a lot of value to anglers who are looking for something that bridges the gap between a top-of-the-line flasher and a high-end combo unit.
Sonar Combo Units
The Sonar Combo Unit category is for anglers who are looking for more features and versatility out of their ice fishing electronics. Most of the units below have GPS/mapping technology, recorded sonar history, and various digital readouts. Some even have the ability to use underwater camera technology, extremely detailed mapping and depth highlight options.
Below are the four units we chose to highlight:
Marcum RT-9 – Sonar Combo Unit
$1,699.99 – Buy Now
It’s would take way too long to break down all the features available on the Marcum RT-9. It’s virtually unbeatable from a versatility standpoint. It’s 9-inch screen displays real-time sonar, underwater camera viewing & recording, Navionics mapping, an Android operating system, and more. You can even hook up two separate transducers and display them both on the same screen at the same time.
– Advanced sonar technology
– Navionics mapping technology
– Underwater camera viewing & recording
– WiFi enabled
– Full Android tablet capabilities
– Micro USB and HDMI ports
If you’re willing to shell out the money, the Marcum RT-9 is one of the most advanced pieces of fishing technology on the market. This short preview don’t begin to do this unit justice.
Humminbird ICE Helix 7 – Sonar Combo Unit
Helix 7 – $599.95 – Buy Now
Helix 5 – $449.95 – Buy Now
The Humminbird ICE Helix 7 is your middle of the road option in the Combo Unit category. It’s 7 inch display is very clear and bright enough to view on sunny days. Probably the biggest calling card for this unit is the Depth Highlight feature, which allows you to highlight specific depth ranges on your detailed LakeMaster maps. This can be extremely useful for finding areas to fish quickly and efficiently.
– 7 inch display with LED backlight
– Micro SD card slot for detailed maps and GPS waypoints
– Depth highlight feature to highlight contour ranges on your map
– Great for both on-ice and in-boat
– Approximate weight: 12.5-pounds
If mapping technology is important to you, you’ll want to take a serious look at the Humminbird ICE Helix 7. It’s an excellent unit for ice fishing, but also works great in the boat when the ice melts. If you’re looking to save a little money, you can jump down to the Helix 5 which features a smaller five-inch display, but has all of the same functionality as the Helix 7.
Garmin Striker 5 Ice Bundle – Sonar Combo Unit
$399.99 – Buy Now
The biggest calling card for the Garmin Striker 5 Ice Bundle is price point. At just under $400, this unit is a great value for anglers looking for recorded history and GPS technology. It doesn’t have mapping capabilities, but you can still mark waypoints on your fishing hotspots. It also boasts two cone angles, one of them being 24 degrees, which is wider than you’ll find on almost any unit.
– Two cone angles (8 and 24 degrees)
– 11 hour run time
– GPS and recorded sonar history
If you’re looking to get into the Combo Unit category at a mid-level flasher price point, the Garmin Strike 5 Ice Bundle should be you pick.
Lowrance Hook-5 Ice Machine – Sonar Combo Unit
$499.00 – Buy Now
Lowrance brings it’s sonar technology to the ice world with it’s Hook-5 Ice Machine. Similar to the other units in this category, you’ll find split screen capabilities, mapping technology and a recorded sonar history.
– 5-inch display
– CHIRP sonar technology
– Mapping and recorded sonar history
– Approximate weight: 12 pounds
If you’re looking for a simple, portable combo unit, and you use and like your open water Lowrance units, take a look at their Hook-5 Ice Machine. It might be a good fit for you.
The Budget Flasher category provides some superb value for new and veteran ice anglers alike. While these units lack some of the high-end functionality in the two categories above, they have all the baseline features that you need to consistently catch fish under the ice, without breaking the bank!
Below are the three units we chose to highlight:
Humminbird ICE 35 – Budget Flasher
$299.95 – Buy Now
Probably the biggest thing that sets the Humminbird ICE 35 apart in the Budget Flasher category is it’s dual beam transducer. You can choose between 9 and 19 degrees with the turn of the dial, narrow for deep water and wide for shallow. Another cool feature on this unit is the battery status indicator that’s displayed right on the front of the unit.
– Dual beam transducer (9 or 19 degrees)
– Large 3-color fiber optic display
– Battery status indicator
– Approximate weight: 12-pounds
If you’re looking for a budget flasher, but still want some of the bells and whistlers, the Humminbird ICE 35 is your best choice. It’s dual beam transducer, adjustable zoom and large fiber optic display provide a few premium features that won’t cost you a premium price.
Vexilar FL-8 SE – Budget Flasher
$279.95 – Buy Now
Chances are, you know someone who still uses his old FL-8 he bought over a decade ago. Vexilar makes some of the most durable units on the market, and the proof is in the pudding. One of the biggest differentiating features with this unit is the Dave Genz Blue Box “case”. It’s a versatile, unique system for using your flasher and storing additional gear.
– Dave Genz Blue Box (case)
– Proven reliability & longevity
– Fits on top of a 5 gal. bucket
– Approximate weight: 10-pounds
If your biggest priority is long-term durability, the Vexilar FL-8 SE is probably your unit of choice. It’s proven track record, paired with the versatile Genz Pack makes it an enticing package.
Marcum VX-1i – Budget Flasher
$319.99 – Buy Now
One of the biggest calling cards of the Marcum VX-1i is it’s power. It boasts 1,000-watts of output power, which means better target separation. It’s also the lightest unit within the Budget Flasher category, weighing in at just 9-pounds.
– 2 inch target separation
– 1,000 watts of output power
– Deluxe Red Padded Soft Pack Case
– Approximate weight: 9-pounds
If you’re looking for a budget flasher with a little more power, the Marcum VX-1i might just be for you. It’s powerful, durable, portable, and comes with nice padded soft pack case.