Fishing in new waters is always a challenge. There is a lot of trial and error in finding a good fishing spot. And it could be frustrating casting so many times and don’t get even a single bite. If only you could see what’s beneath the water!
Fortunately, with a fish finder, you can do just that! These devices help you to find those elusive banks of fishes while giving you a glimpse of the underwater structure. Plus, it is also helpful to check what triggers those inactive fishes, so you can change your tactics accordingly.
There are a lot of options available, ranging from affordable and portable devices to fish finders with GPS and mapping abilities. Each one with its application, cons, and pros. Here we bring you a comprehensive selection of the best fish finders available in the market.
9 Best Fish Finders Reviews
You can’t go wrong with Gamin’s Striker line. These are some of the best fish finders available in the market. And they have a model for every need, ranging from kayak fishing to ice fishing, Garmin has it all.
Although the Striker Plus 7Cv sits on the expensive side of the spectrum, it is a reliable unit that will worth your while. Let’s start with the screen. The Striker Plus 7Cv packs a 7-inch screen with LED backlighting. It stays visible throughout the entire day. The full-colored palette makes things easier to distinguish between targets.
Like all fish finders, the Striker Plus 7Cv packs an accurate in-built GPS. With it, you can draw maps, store locations, check your current speed, and keep track of your voyages. So, this fish finder is perfect for those who like boat fishing and engage in long fishing trips through the water.
The device is quite intuitive to use. You have all the navigation keys on the right side of the device. By using them, you will get access to all the features such as zoom, split-screen mode, swap between outputs, and much more! Additionally, the Striker Plus 7Cv comes with Quickdraw and ClearVü software. The first will help you to create maps, while the second enhances the detail of the CHIRP sonar reading.
Additionally, you can take advantage of the in-built WiFi system to pair your phone and fish finder. And thanks to the ActiveCaptain app, you can access important data from your home. You can also share and download maps with other Garmin users.
If you like this device, but you don’t have enough money, we invite you to check the Plus 5Cv.
Humminbird is another reputable brand that makes some of the best fish finders available. In this case, we will take some time to talk about the PIRANHA MAX 4.
The unit has a 4.3-inch full-color display. It is not the biggest display. But it gets the job done nonetheless. From it, you will be able to check the approximate depth and size of the fish, as well as the presence of weeds, rocks, and any other underwater structures. You find all the buttons on the lower side of the screen. It is quite easy to use since there are only 4.
The PIRANHA MAX 4 comes with a dual-beam sonar with two frequencies. It is capable of reaching depths up to 600 feet, which is more than enough for the average angler. Apart from being small, the device has IPX7 water protection, making it perfect for kayak or canoe fishing. And, it also happens to come with mount-ready support.
The main drawback is that the PIRANHA MAX 4 doesn’t have a GPS. Thus, you should look elsewhere if this is something that you sorely need.
Time for a budget-friendly fish finder. This Venterior works similarly to the iBobber we reviewed earlier. However, in this case, the receiver is not your phone. So, the unit comes with a little ball, which is the sonar/transducer, and the receiver, which has a 2.6-inch display.
The display is rather small. It has two background colors: Black and white. The latter is better during sunny days, while the former is more suitable for low-visibility environments. You can check the depth, structure, as well as size, and relative position of the fish, and temperature. As you can see, it provides the basic information that any angler might need. Plus, since it is so small and light, it is a perfect choice for those anglers who like to fish from a kayak or canoe.
You can thread the wireless sonar to the line and use it as a bobber. It produces a single bean at a single frequency. Therefore, don’t expect accurate readings. Similarly, the maximum depth is rather low, sitting at 135 feet. Still, you can’t complain at this price range. You get a good gadget for less than 100 bucks.
The JOYLOG portable fish finder is another example of smart devices that makes our lives easier. Its price and functionally are quite like the iBobber. There are some differences between them, though.
First, it has a larger connectivity range of 164 feet. Thus, you can cast your line longer without your phone getting disconnected from the sonar. Additionally, the JOYLOG automatically turns on as soon as it touches the water. And it turns off when you stop using it. Another advantage is the fast connection and data transfer. The JOYLOG portable fish finder is ready to use as soon as you download the app (you have to scan a QR code that comes with the box) and create an account.
The sonar produces a beam in a single frequency. As the beam angle is quite wide, it won’t produce as much detail. But you will get more water coverage. In any case, it gives you the approximate size and depth of the fish, as well as a general layout of what’s beneath the water and temperature. Additionally, it emits a dim green light that allegedly attracts fish.
The sonar is not as small as the iBobber. Still, it is compact enough to fit inside a small backpack.
Smart devices have come to stay. The ease of use is the main advantage of such devices; thereby, simplifying even the hardest of tasks. And the iBobber happens to do that with fishing.
The feature that impressed us the most is its size. It will fit inside most tackle boxes or bags, making it perfect for anglers on the go, kayak or boat fishing, or anglers that like to travel light. Furthermore, the unit is wireless. All that you need to do is turn it on and pair it with your phone or tablet. It is even compatible with some smartwatches. You first need to download the app, though. It is available on both iOS and Android.
The iBobber has a connection range of 100 feet; you can either cast it, like a lure, in your line as a bobber or merely place in the water. Additionally, it comes with LED lights and fish alarms, making it an ideal choice for night fishing. But that is not all. The unit comes with an in-built GPS, allowing you to store points of interest as well as keeping a record of the water temperature, weather, location, and time. You can complete a fishing log by adding the type of lure and fishing you are practicing. You will have access to this information from the app.
The unit produces a single bean through a 42º cone, which is quite wide. Thus, you will be able to scan a 243-foot circular area. Yes, it is very large. However, you don’t get as much detail as other units with narrower cones. Another consequence of a wide cone is the maximum depth the beam will reach. In this case, it is 135 feet. Still, the readings are quite accurate. Plus, you can check the approximate depth of the fish.
Another high point of the iBobber is battery life. You can use the device for 10 hours straight, plenty of time for most fishing trips.
Let’s talk about something different from the rest. The Eyoyo portable fish finder doesn’t use sonar to detect fishes. Instead, it uses a water-proof camera. Thus, you can see, in real-time, what is happening inside the water. Plus, the amazing 7-inch screen is big enough and full of colors to accurately represent the output of the camera.
The Eyoyo fish finder with a camera comes in a handy suitcase. It might be a little bulky for those fishing from a kayak. But you can still use it as long as the kayak isn’t moving. Why? Well, since the Eyoyo doesn’t use a sonar, it is better to use it while you are sitting still above the water. Otherwise, the camera won’t produce clear images.
You can either purchase it with 49, 98, and 164 feet cord. We recommend purchasing the 98 feet version. Longer cables will make the camera difficult to control, and the shorter one won’t give you enough freedom to explore.
Coming next on our list is the Helix 5; a mid-range fish finder from Humminbird. It packs a beautiful 5-inch screen that stays visible regardless of light conditions.
The Helix 5 offers a lot for a device with a price tag below 300 dollars. First, it has CHIRP sonar, meaning that the readings will have more detail than a basic 2D sonar. But you also get two beans instead of one, which allows you to cover more area and with a higher degree of detail. You will be able to see everything ranging from fish to weeds, and even your lure. And if that is not enough for you, you also get a 2.5-inch target separation.
You also get an in-built GPS with your purchase. With it, you can take advantage of Humminbird’s patented features such as autochart and lakemaster software. The latter is especially useful when you are fishing in unknown waters. You can check depth ranges, buildings, and preloaded points of interest. On the other hand, you can create your own maps by using the autochart mode. You can save locations and routes that you can later check on your computer using a micro SD.
The cherry on this cake is the Smartstrike software. You can use it to track a specific fish. You merely need to enter, among other things, the species, time, and weather. Then, the Helix 5 will run a comprehensive set of algorithms to pinpoint where you should cast your rod.
You can also use the keys, which are at the right side of the device, to switch between modes, add or remove the amount of information you see on the screen, and enable the split-screen mode.
Are you tight on budget? If so, this is a fish finder that you must see. You can get it for less than 50 bucks. Of course, you won’t get a device packed with top-notch features. But for the price, you can’t complain.
The LUCKY handheld fish finder is one of the most portable fish finders in this review. The unit features a 2-inch LCD screen. Although it is very small, it is big enough to show the depth of the fish, weeds, rock, and the bottom. You can enable the backlighting mode for you. The sonar is capable of reaching 328 feet, which is impressive for a sonar working with a single frequency and beam. Of course, the reading lacks the detail of higher-end fish finders. But it doesn’t get better than this in this price range.
4 AAA batteries power this device. Sadly, it doesn’t take too long before you need to replace them. Bear in mind the LUCKY Handheld fish finder is not waterproof. Thus, make sure to keep it away and protected from splashes.
You can change the between 5 levels of sensitivity by using the setup button. It is the only customizable thing that this device has.
Yes, another Garmin fish finder. However, this is an entirely different device. First, it is way cheaper than the Striker 7 we reviewed before. Sure, it is smaller and with fewer features. Still, this is a bang for the buck.
The Striker 4 features a 3.5-inch colored screen. You can easily read the output of its super dual CHIRP sonar. It gives precise information about what’s below the surface. Plus, the Clear Vu Gamin-patented technology enhances the sonar readings providing you with a picture-like layout.
Take advantage of its in-built GPS to store locations, routes, and check your current position and speed. The best thing is that you can see both the sonar and the maps at the same time, all for less than 150 bucks.
The dual-frequency sonar can scan up to 1600 feet of freshwater or 750 of saltwater. Of course, the deeper it goes, the lower detail the sonar yields. However, it is quite unlike that you’ll be fishing in such depths.
To top it all, the Garmin Striker 4 also comes with IPX7 water protection. Thus, you can confidently use this device for kayak, canoe, pier, or boat fishing. As a fact, you can also use it for ice fishing, since it can work under extreme temperatures and comes with an in-built flasher. One hell of a deal.
Comparison Table of The 9 Best Fish Finders
|Screen Size (Inches)||Frequency (kHz)||GPS?||CHIRP?||Maximum Depth (feet)||Extra features|
|iBobber ReelSonar Wireless||Depends on your smartphone||118||Yes||No||135||Lights Fishing logsFish alarm|
|Gramin Striker Plus 7Cv||7||5077200||Yes||Yes||1600||Mapping softwareIPX7|
|Humminbird PIRANHA MAX 4||4.3||200455||No||No||320||IPX7|
|Venterior Portable||2.6||125||No||No||135||Neck StrapWireless sonar|
|JOYLOG Portable||Depends on your smartphone||125||No||No||135||LightsFish alarm|
|Eyoyo fish finder with camera||7||None||No||No||Up to 164 feet||Waterproof camera|
|Lowrance Hook Reveal 7||7||455800||Yes||Yes||1500||IPX7Micro SD slotMapping software|
|Humminbird Helix 5||5||5083200||Yes||Yes||1500||IPX7Micro SD slotChart and mapping assistant|
|Garmin Striker 4||3.5||5077200||Yes||Yes||1600 feet in freshwater750 feet in saltwater||IPX7Auto Tuning software Flasher|
Our Winner: Garmin Striker 4
Although the market is thriving with options, we think that Garmin Striker 4 has one of the highest value/price ratios. First, it packs a colored display. Although it is smaller than other devices like the Striker Plus 7Cv or Humminbird PIRANHA MAX 4, it is easy to read throughout the entire day. Plus, it clearly displays everything.
The small screen makes the Striker 4 more portable than other devices like Lowrance Hook Reveal 7 or the Humminbird Helix 5. Thus, it is perfect for anglers on the go and those who like to fish from a kayak.
The IPX7 water protection and sturdy design is another huge advantage of the Striker 4. Yes, the PIRANHA MAX 4, Striker plus 7Cv, Lowrance Hook Revel 7, and the Helix 5 come with the same protection. But they all retail at a higher price.
If this is not enough for you, the Garmin Striker 4 comes with an in-built GPS. It doesn’t have preloaded maps, but you can check your position, speed, and store routes and points of interest. All for fewer bucks.
And to top it all, the striker 4 comes with a dual CHIRP sonar which is something that you won’t find in another device in this list.
Therefore, if you are looking to purchase a reliable and user-friendly device, the Striker 4 has no match.
Buyer’s Guide: Features that You Should Look Into
Now that you know the name of some of the best fish finders available, it is time to choose the right one. As expected, this depends on how and where you are fishing. And of course, how much are you willing to put down for your brand new fish finder.
So, let’s cut to the chase and see what features you should look into when browsing you a fish finder.
Let’s start with the heart of the device: The transducer. It is responsible for sending and receiving signals. Needless to say, if the transducer doesn’t work, the device won’t work either.
Typically, most fish finders either have a wired or wireless transducer, which one is the best depends on your needs. For example, wireless fish finders are better for shore, pier, or dock fishing. You can also use it for boat fishing as long as the craft is sitting still in the water. Otherwise, you will lose connection with it.
Similarly, wired transducer transducers are more suitable for kayak or canoe fishing. You can fix the transducer into the hull and keep rowing until you find your fish. But like their wireless counterparts, you can also use them for fishing from a dock or similar.
One thing that you should consider is the overall construction of the transduced. If it is a wire, find something both thick and strong. If it is wireless, search for a sturdy castable device.
How Does a Transducer Work?
Think of the transducer as an interpreter. It receives electrical pulses and transforms them into sound waves. As soon as they hit something, for example, a fish, the sound wave will bounce back to the transducer. It will then transform the sound wave into an electrical pulse for the echosounder to display.
Of course, different objects produce a higher or lower intensity return sound wave. Thus, it will display a unique interpretation for each returning wave.
How Does a Transducer Calculate Depth?
If we remember a little bit about high-school physics, we will be able to understand how a fish finders estimate depth. First, we need to know that sound waves travel through the water at average velocity. Thus, if we consider that this average velocity is constant, we can calculate the distance as the product between time and velocity.
Of course, there is some margin of error here. For instance, water conditions such as temperature and murkiness affect how sound waves travel through the water. But for fishing applications, this margin of error is not a big deal.
Some high-end fish finders calculate a correction factor depending on the water’s conditions to give you more accurate readings.
Now you know that you know what a transducer is and how it works, we should take some time to talk about the sonar frequency. Typically, most fish finders work with low, high, or dual frequencies. Premium models could also work with more than two. But for the average angler, two frequencies are more than enough.
What is Frequency in a Fish Finder?
Frequency, as per physics, is the rate at which something repeats in a fixed window of time. In this case, frequency is the number of sound waves the transducer sends per unit of time.
Most commercial fish finders use frequencies in the range of 50 to 200 kHz. Typically, low frequencies are those between the 50 to 80 kHz range.
Low-frequency waves are inherently bigger than their high-frequency counterparts. Plus, the fish finder produces less of these waves. Thus, they can travel greater distances through the water. As a result, these are ideal frequencies when fishing in deep lakes or oceans.
However, the main downside is the amount of detail. Remember that the sound wave must bounce back to the transducer for it to be able to transform it into an electrical pulse and consequently show it on the screen. As we said before, low-frequency waves are bigger. Thus, they are less likely to bounce back on small objects such as tiny fishes or weeds. Hence, the lack of detail of its output.
All waves with 200 kHz, or more, fall under the high-frequency category. These are shorter waves, like the one produced by a small rock thrown into a pond. The transducer produces many of these waves.
These waves produce more detail since they can bounce back with even the tiniest of targets. However, they won’t travel too far. That is why we recommend using them in shallow waters.
Another thing that could cause a problem is that high-frequency waves typically drain more battery.
Which One Should I Use?
Every tool has its purpose. If you mostly fish on shallow waters, go for a high-frequency fish finder. In contrast, for deep fishing, a low-frequency would be better.
But if the budget allows it, try to purchase one with a dual-frequency sonar. It will give you the best of both worlds, and you will have a single device that does it all.
The cone angle is as important as frequency, as you will see in just a moment.
Also known as the transducer beam angle, it indicates how wide or how narrow the cone of the transducer is. Broad cones allow more water coverage at the expense of less vertical travel. Like low-frequency beams, wide cone angles are better for water coverage and shallow waters.
In contrast, narrow cones minimize horizontal travel; thereby, increasing the distance the sound wave will travel. Thus, this type of beam angle is better for deeper waters.
Typically, most companies make different combinations of cone angles and frequencies to enhance certain features. For example, you can match a high-frequency transducer with a narrow cone angle to increase its effectiveness in deeper waters.
A good display is as important as a decent transducer. You do nothing purchasing a fish finder with an overkill sonar and 2 inches of display. So, a selection of a device with a decent screen is vital.
The first and most obvious thing is the size. We fancy large screens since they can clearly show what’s beneath the water. However, we understand that large devices are not always an option. For instance, they are commonly more expensive and take more space. Thus, if you are fishing inside a kayak, you would like a small device.
Next is the resolution. Always go for a screen with the highest number of pixels possible. These fish finders provide an easy-to-read output, and you can see each target without problems. Obviously, a higher resolution screen also means more money. However, the rule of thumb here is going for the screen with the best resolution within your budget.
Black and white fish finders get the job done, yes. Yet, sometimes the display could be hard to read. Thus, if possible, try to purchase a finder with a colored screen.
Brightness and Visibility
Do you know what grinds my gear? A display that’s difficult to read during the day, when the sun is high in the sky. If you are like me, then go for a screen with adjustable brightness. This will be helpful during the night as well.
Not all fish finders come with an in-built GPS. But it is a nice feature to have around, especially if you happen to discover a new fishing spot. Fish finders with GPS systems allow you to store locations, routes, and check your current position and speed. All useful features, especially if you are fishing from a boat.
Some high-end models have the necessary tools for you to draw maps and charts, which is extremely useful when fishing in unknown waters. It will give you the possibility of checking all the areas and choose a spot according to the fish you wish to catch.
But GPS is not necessary, particularly if you already have one or if you are fishing from the dock or shore. However, it doesn’t hurt to have one, as long as the budget allows it, of course.
Portable or Fixed
Most fish finders available are either portable or fixed. By portable, we mean something small enough that you can carry it with you wherever you go. These are compact devices that usually are wireless or easy to connect, making them perfect for anglers on the go and kayak or canoe fishing.
On the other hand, fixed fish finders are typically bigger and usually come with rail-ready support for you to fix the device to your boat. You can also use this type of finder in a kayak or canoe. However, you could face some trouble if the fish finder is big or if it needs an external power source. Needless to say, fixed fish finders are a no go if you move a lot or if you switch boats constantly.
There is also a question of price. Portable fish finders are commonly more affordable than fixed devices. The main reason is that they pack fewer features and are somewhat smaller. Thus, if you are tight on budget, you are better off with the first type.
Through the Hull
This is the hardest way to install a transducer. Yet it is the best since it will be in direct contact with the water, and the signal will travel without a problem. Of course, not all boats are compatible with this option. The hull must be thick and strong, so it doesn’t break as you drill it.
Thus, the first thing that you should use is to check whether or not your hull is compatible with this mounting option. If not, don’t worry, you can use the next style.
This is the best option if your hull is not thick enough, or if you don’t feel like piercing the hull. Here, you can glue the transducer to the hull. The sound waves will go through the hull and into the water.
Although it is a quick and safe way to secure it, the transducer won’t work properly. Why? Well, remember that the transducer determines the depth as the product between the wave’s velocity and time. Thus, the hull structure is different from that of the water; the waves will take more time to return. Therefore, the depth readings won’t be as accurate. Similarly, since the sound waves have to go through the hull, they won’t reach certain depths.
As the name suggests, in this style of mounting, the transducer goes in the back of your boat (stern). You simply fix it with a couple of screws, and you are ready to go. But there is a catch. The device will take the full force of the passing water. Thus, the transducer must be tightly fixed, or it will come loose. Similarly, the stern should be strong enough to cope with the drag.
Trolling Engine Mount
Another easy and quick way to fix your transducer. You can either permanently or temporarily stick it to the shaft of the engine. Some engines come with in-built compartments for transducers, making them perfect for this kind of mounting.
The main problem is that the vibration from the engine could temper with the sound waves.
You might think that all fish finders are waterproof. Sadly, this is not the case. Your device will be more than fine with occasional water splashes. However, only a handful of brands offer greater protection. For example, some fish finders come with IPX7, which guarantees that the device can get soaked in water and still function without problems.
We highly recommend going for such a device, especially if you fish from a kayak, where capsizes happen quite often.
Not all fish finders come with CHIRP sonar. But the ones that do typically have better performance than units with conventional sonar systems.
What is CHIRP?
It stands for compressed high-intensity radiated pulse. A fancy name they gave to the multiple waves a CHIRP sonar can send.
How Does CHIRP Sonar work?
CHIRP sonar devices produce a continuous sweep of sound waves with different frequencies. It starts with low-frequency waves for water penetration. Then, the transducer starts increasing the frequency to enhance the detail. All in a single pulse. The result is a greater number of waves traveling through the water, which in turn yields a better output.
In the beginning, it was a military-only technology. Then, it found its way to the civil market, reaching the fish finders niche. Thankfully, the thriving competition forced brands such as Garmin to create affordable CHIRP fish finders. Something that was unthinkable a decade ago.