If you are passionate about fishing, you might do it for several reasons. While leisure and connection with nature are beneficial and will help you unwind and relax, you also want to get definite results and come home with achievements that will surely attract congratulations.
If you want to catch more fish, you need a fish finder. These devices are essential for anyone that wants to increase their chances of success when they go fishing. While sophisticated tools are intended for commercial purposes and industrial operations, you can also get a fish finder for your small boat.
A digital screen will display the location of any fish beneath so you can get an idea about the activity going on underwater. This article will find the best fish finders for a small boat or kayak. Portable ones are always available, but you can find more options below.
As we tested out various products on a boat, it became clear to us that the absolute best fish finder for the money was Humminbird 410950-1 HELIX 7. If you’re on a budget, our recommendation is the Lowrance Hook Reveal 5.
Here are our category winners:
- Best fish finder for the money: Humminbird 410950-1 HELIX 7
- Best fish finder under $300: Lowrance Hook Reveal 5
- Best fish finder under $500: Humminbird 410220-1NAV HELIX 5
- Best 200 kHz fish finder: Furuno FCV588
Best fish finder under $1,000
Humminbird 410950-1 HELIX 7 CHIRP MSI
There are many options available for you, and you can choose the one you like most. But if you want the best model on the market, this one is no match for its competitors. With a 7-inch screen, the Humminbird Helix 7 display is sharp enough to show you all the necessary information about the activity under the water.
With coverage of up to 125 feet below your pontoon boat, you can see the depths of the lake or river you are currently sailing on. Depending on your style, this information is beneficial if you want the best results. When the order arrives at your doorstep, the package contains a transducer, mounting hardware, and a gimbal mounting bracket.
You can now get the sophisticated equipment used by professionals by purchasing this product that weighs just one pound. Lightweight and portable, you can take it with you anywhere, whether you fish from a small boat or a kayak.
It’s our overall top pick when it comes to the best fish finders, especially those under $1,000.
|Display Type||Color TFT|
|Item Dimensions LxWxH||10.54 x 3.68 x 5.8 inches|
|Item Weight||1 Pounds|
|Model Name||HELIX 7 CHIRP MSI GPS G3|
|Screen Size||7 Inches|
- We received it faster than expected.
- If you’re thinking of upgrading, the Humminbird has all the bells and whistles you want.
- It shows everything much better than other products. There’s no need to wonder if it’s seaweed or something else.
- It’s not the cheapest option out there.
- We had issues with this unit at high speeds.
Best fish finder under $300 – Lowrance Hook Reveal 5-Inch with Transducer
Whether you want to spend $200, $300, or more on such a tool, there are various options you can choose from. Those that are limited will have to focus on efficiency. In contrast, those willing to invest a large sum into such a device will benefit from more extra features and increased performance. But there is one product that can meet any needs for any budget.
You will be able to find fish more easily with this device that uses a highly advanced sonar to detect aquatic activity underwater. A high-resolution display will show real-time images and help you find the best spot to catch the biggest fish.
Weighing just 3 pounds, the Lowrance Hook Reveal is highly portable and can take it anywhere you go. The sonar has a wide angle and can cover a large area below your boat. It helps you increase your chances while also making the fishing activity more fun and interesting.
Here’s the best fish finder under $300.
|Item Dimensions LxWxH||9.02 x 7.13 x 7.52 inches|
|Warranty Description||1 Year|
- It’s a great piece of equipment for the price.
- We love how it features great help with navigation aids and shoreline, which is helpful when you’re somewhere new.
- The instructions provided weren’t great.
Best fish finders under $500
Humminbird 410220-1NAV HELIX 5 CHIRP DI
You don’t have to invest a large sum into these tools, even though they are quite sophisticated and performant. There is an option for any budget, and you can get this model at a reduced price. Because it sells at a price below $500, it is considered a great entry-level option that still delivers incredible performance.
The 5-inch display is sharp and will show you all the activity below the water. Thanks to this device, you can get a clear view under your boat even if the water is not clear. The digital sonar will help you see individual fish, and you can catch the biggest one using the guidance from this tool.
The Hummingbird generates real-time maps, and customers are always satisfied with their choice. The rate of success at fishing is significantly increased after installing this device on your boat.
|Item Dimensions LxWxH||7.55 x 3.3 x 4.64 inches|
|Item Weight||3.8 Pounds|
|Model Name||HELIX 5 CHIRP DI GPS G2 NAV|
|Screen Size||5 Inches|
- We love all its features and its accuracy.
- We found its installation procedure very easy.
- Decent learning curve.
Garmin Striker 4 with Portable Kit
Professional fishing is done with lots of complex equipment, and large boats are often used for transportation. But when the weekend comes, and you want to relax and get away from city life, you know that flexibility and versatility are important.
You can enjoy fishing with the help of the Garmin Striker 4, which also comes with a portable kit. It is currently the best portable fish finder on the market, and it comes with several features included. A built-in flasher will allow you to view and analyze all the data in a classic format.
The waypoint map can change your view and help you navigate to specific locations with a large population of fish. The ergonomic buttons and simple user interface make this device easy to use. You can take it with you to any location. Weighing just 0.5 pounds, you will not have problems carrying heavy weight.
- The portable case is a really nice feature.
- It doesn’t have maps.
LUCKY Water Depth Fish Finders Waterproof, Portable
While many people prefer fishing during the hot summer days, many opportunities can be found during the winter. When the cold months come, you can still enjoy ice fishing while using a performant tool to increase your result.
This waterproof model is ideal for such purposes, where you can clear the snow and put this device on the smooth ice layer. Because it is waterproof, you can place the traditional sonar underwater and get real-time information on its display. The display will not be damaged regardless of how much water exposure it gets.
You can use it both in freshwater and saltwater, as this tool is designed for versatility. Make sure to let it dry in the open air after you take it out of the water. With proper maintenance, this device will last you a long time.
- For the price, it does everything you can expect.
- Its light weight makes it easy to bring where you need it.
- We found this unit detecting fish when there weren’t any.
For small boats
Lowrance Hook Reveal 7-Inch with Transducer
Not everyone goes fishing on a large industrial boat. You do not need to sail the oceans to catch anything; even a kayak will be enough for your transportation needs. If you want to fish on your small boat, consider getting the Lowrance Hook Reveal that easily identifies the fish below your boat.
Because it weighs 4 pounds, it is ideal for small boats as it doesn’t take up a lot of space. The 7-inch display is big enough to see what is going on below the surface. You can make your decisions based on what the sonar is transmitting.
This tool is perfect for people that want to be informed about the potential of their fishing area. Preloaded maps are also included; you can access a large database of 8,900 US lakes. This way, you can spend more time catching fish than finding them.
- The preloaded C-Map US inland maps are great.
- The image quality is absolutely stunning.
- The transducer seems somewhat fragile.
Best fish finder GPS combo
Simrad Cruise 7-7-inch GPS Chartplotter with 83/200 Transducer
It is a great combo to have on your fishing boat. You can use the chart plotter and the sonar. You can always be informed about your physical location on the water and what happens underneath your boat.
This device is preloaded with US coastal maps as well as several lakes. The keypads are easy to use, and you can quickly navigate and change specific options. The large display will show you depth readings, actual position, and battery percentage.
High situational awareness is important when fishing; this tool will manage several tasks for you. The transducer automatically provides depth tracking for you so you can focus more on the activity.
- We love how easy it is to install.
- The accuracy is impressive.
- At the price point, there are other models we’d consider before this one.
Under $200 with side imagining
Humminbird 410190-1 HELIX 5 SONAR G2
If you have less than $200 to spare for such a tool, Humminbird offers the best model for you. This product meets the limits of your budget while also delivering outstanding performance. The widescreen display measures 5 inches, which is more than enough for you to see the displayed information.
This model also features a performant sonar with two beams for great detail and a large coverage area. With this fish finder, you can easily identify them under your boat and side-scan the highly populated areas. You can manually control the coverage area depending on your own needs.
Remember that the coverage area always equals your depth, so you might want to change this setting to your preference. The company offers a 1-year limited warranty. However, you can trust the opinion of more than 400 customers who are highly satisfied with their purchase.
- The price point is very appealing.
- It includes water temperature and is easy to use.
- It lacks features the more expensive units have.
- We had some interesting and unreliable experiences in shallow waters.
Suppose you are just getting started with fishing. In that case, it is recommended to try it out with some base tools before investing in more advanced devices. After you use them for a while, you will be able to determine whether or not you want to continue with this new hobby.
For those looking to spend less, this Lowrance Hook2 fish finder is the cheapest one you can find on the market. It is easy to use as it features sonar auto-tuning, and the menus can be easily navigable by anyone familiar with other gadgets.
Once you bring it on your boat, it is easy to set up as it can be mounted inside the hull or on the motor through a special mount. Weighing just 4,5 pounds, you can also carry this fish finder anywhere you go if you decide to change the region where you are fishing.
- It’ll cover the bases with water depth, temperature, and discovering fish.
- It is somewhat unreliable.
- This is not for you if you want anything more than the most basic option.
Castable for a kayak
LUCKY Kayak Portable Fish Depth Finder Water, Handheld
Regarding high-quality products, Lucky always meets all of our expectations. This time they did it again with the portable fish finder, which is a useful tool when you go out on a fishing adventure. You don’t need to equip yourself with heavy and performant equipment to get the best results.
You can achieve them and have fun at the same time by using this fish finder, which you can carry with you even in a kayak. This handheld tool will display the fish lurking underneath your boat while identifying stones, rocks, and sand at the bottom.
Several custom alarms can be created to alert you when schools of fish are passing by. Therefore, you don’t have to use this tool to track aquatic activity manually. You can use it in an automated mode, and the alarm will alert you once it is triggered. This castable fish finder works great in shallow water.
- The price is its most attractive feature.
- It’s more of a depth finder than a fish finder.
- It seems like water would be able to get in and ruin it.
Best shore fish finders for bank fishing
Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar Castable and Portable WiFi
Suppose you are looking for a more advanced tool with several technological features. In that case, this is the best product for you. This smart sonar can be cast out up to 330 feet and scan up to 260 feet under the water.
Because it is a smart device, it is compatible with both Android and iOS devices. It means you will not need any external displays or complex menus to operate this sonar. An application with a user-friendly interface installed on your phone will be enough to operate this device.
It also has a rechargeable battery; you will charge it using the USB type B cable included in the box. It is a great addition for those that want to travel lightweight and enjoy a stress-free fishing session.
- We love the ability to display complexity.
- Adjusting sensitivity gave us really good results.
- We used it for roughly 4 hours and it still had 50% battery, which we thought was impressive.
- It seems a bit fragile.
Furuno FCV588 Color LCD, 600/1000W, 50/200 kHz Operating Frequency without Transducer
This product was released in 2016 and has been doing wonders for those who purchased it to enhance their fishing experience. It features a large LCD display that shows you real-time information about underwater activity and helps you make better decisions.
The transducer is sold separately, so keep this in mind when you place the order. The screen size is bigger than other models. 8 inches will be more than enough for you to see and be updated about what happens under your boat.
Many customers are satisfied with their purchase, and ease of use is important. You don’t have to be an expert to use this product, which also provides instructions so you can understand it better.
- We love the ability to mark fish at depth.
- It is a premium product.
- We wish it was cheaper.
How do I choose a fish finder?
Before making a decision, it is important to do enough research and gather as much information as possible. Once you know exactly what you need, comparing the products you are considering purchasing becomes easier. When you choose a fishfinder, you should look for several aspects, such as:
- resolution of the display
- size of the display
- the transmitting power
- the size of the fish finder’s footprint
- GPS features
Once you know what you need, making a decision is easier. Depending on your budget, you will also find a cheap fish finder to be different than an expensive one. The low-budget option does the job well and will get you the ideal result. Still, more expensive models come with extra features that prove helpful in some situations.
The best finder depends on your needs.
How to read a fish finder
Reading a fish finder is not difficult, but you need to be familiar with the icons and the readings displayed on the screen. The information is not quite straightforward, and you will need to use your imagination if you want to get a better picture.
The fish icon displayed on the screen helps you identify the fish swimming under your boat. Some models will convert the detected object by the sonar into animated images of fish so that you can identify them better. The models that offer a highly-accurate reading will also be able to determine the exact size of a fish.
Other devices will show you an arc, displaying the fish as arches in the water. When the arch is large, you should also expect the fish to be increased in size. However, these tools cannot differentiate between fish and rocks or grass. You will need some time to get used to it, but you can make the difference quite easily after a while.
Some advanced and more expensive models will display the detected fish as models depicting them. However, sometimes you will find them in the form of an arch where the middle of the fish is pointing upwards on the screen. It happens because the fish are always moving, and the sonar detects them in motion.
Fish finders can work on any boat. The lightweight ones are also designed to work on kayaks since they are highly portable, and you can carry them anywhere you go. If you want to fish with a minimal setup, you won’t have to worry about a fish finder taking up too much space.
The Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse is often called a “chirp” in the fishing community. It is a way in which an advanced fish finder can show the activity better than 2D sonars can. This technology is constantly evolving, and there are always new upgrades to these systems.
To purchase a Deeper fish finder, you should expect to pay around $359 for such a product. The value it offers is higher than its price tag, and most customers are satisfied with their investment.
Special technologies are implemented in a fish finder to identify the activity under the water. Ultrasonic waves are broadcasted underneath your boat, and they will come back to the source once they hit a solid object. These reflections are then converted into digital images, and you can identify the exact position of the fish you are trying to catch.
The ability to provide realistic, high-quality images of the underwater environment is called down imaging. Specific software can turn the sonar signal into images that will allow you to have clear visibility even if the water is dirty.
Who makes the best fish finders?
There are several manufacturers that produce and sell fish finders, but some of the best are:
- Garmin, like the Garmin Echomap
Do your research about each brand and choose the best product for you after comparing them. They differ in features offered, so you will also find their uniqueness interesting. While some offer touchscreen capability, others focus on maximizing efficiency rather than comfort.