While it’s true that fishing can be done with nothing more than a hook and a line, a lot of the fun of fishing involves testing your skills and finding new ways to succeed. You can do more, see more, and catch more when you have the right skills and tools ready to go!
One tool that can help you learn different techniques, styles, and locations to fish in is a fish finder. The best fish finders help you to map out the world under the water while you are fishing so that you can get a better look at what you’re dealing with.
Whether you’re new to fish finders or somewhat experienced, it’s not easy to choose the right one. To help you out, we’ve tried and tested five models to see which is the best.
Best Fish Finder Reviews
1. Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer
The Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer is our first option today. Garmin is one of the most well-known brands when it comes to fish finders, and the Striker 4, in particular, has been very popular. Let’s see what it can do for you!
This variation of the Striker has some very useful features. The 3.5-inch colored screen is very clear to see in different lighting. The equipped frequency is a dual 77/200kHz transducer, and the device has a transmit power of 200W.
The reading depth of this fish finder is accurate up to a tenth of a foot. What’s more, the device has a keypad and built-in GPS as well.
One of the best parts of this finder is the built-in GPS. This functionality allows you to mark spots, wreckage, logs, and more so that you can easily avoid them or return to the same location time and time again. When you’re trying to get to know an area, this feature is invaluable.
As it has GPS, this unit can also estimate your speed and estimated time to a previously marked waypoint. While not essential for every angler, this can be handy when heading out to a favorite spot.
The biggest issue with this unit is going to be long-term durability. While it will stand up to some rough usage, the connectors that hold the unit together are simple and liable to break down over time. While this isn’t a deal-breaker, it is worth mentioning if you hope to buy a unit that will last for many years.
- The screen is bright enough to easily see
- Clear graphics
- Accurate depth finder
- Easy to remove from the boat for storage
- Simple interface
- Easy to operate
- Needs to be attached to a power source
- Durability issues
- Bubbles greatly affect the data
2. LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder
Next up is the LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder, which is a more affordable model that is great for anglers who don’t have any previous experience with a fish finder. Is it enough to get by on?
The LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder is a much more scaled-back fish finder when compared to the previously reviewed Garmin Striker 4. This device has a two-inch LCD backlit screen with limited colors.
This device can detect fish and structures in the range of three to 300-feet when in use, and the frequency runs at 200kHz, so it is a great choice for shallow waters rather than deep ones.
This fish finder requires batteries that are not included in the purchase, but these can be easily bought from any store as the device uses regular AAA batteries.
Considering the incredible price point of this fish finder, it’s great at identifying structures in the water. If you’re often fishing shallow water that is full of downed trees and other disturbances, using this device will help you to avoid major entanglements while keeping your line busy all day long.
While this fish finder isn’t bad at finding structures, it isn’t super accurate when it comes to accurately identifying and finding fish! It might seem weird that we are still suggesting it as a good option, but most anglers know that finding fish is often about finding the right habitat.
Despite not having great accuracy with the fish readings, this unit can help you find the right areas to fish around based on the structures that it identifies.
- Good depth and structure identification
- Great size for kayaks and small boats
- Depths can be measured in meters or feet
- Convenient and portable
- Hit or miss fish detection
- Not waterproof
- Short battery life
3. Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder
The Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder is another option that you might want to consider adding to your list of contenders, especially if you’re new to fish finding!
Like the previous fish finder, this is an affordable option that does the basics so well, you can get more out of every minute spent on the water!
This unit has an LCD display with LED backlighting, but it does not show anything in color. Instead, it has a set display that lights up in specific ways when things are detected.
The depth range is from three to 300 feet, and the transducer is waterproof. The screen, however, is not waterproof. The device is powered by four AAA batteries.
The round transducer is equipped with a 25-foot cable, and it also comes with a removable float, which we will talk about below!
One really cool thing about this fish finder is that it is made with the shore angler in mind. If you like to fish from the shore or from bridges sometimes, you can toss the transducer out into the water and get readings before you cast your line.
While many fish finders technically allow this, it’s rare to find a unit like this one from Venterior that actually promotes and encourages this type of usage. Their device is made to work in this situation, and that’s very unique. Plus, it has five different sensitivity modes, which is unheard of at this price point!
The biggest issue with this device is durability. It’s not an expensive fish finder, and it isn’t going to stand up to normal usage like one, either. For many avid anglers, this might even be a one-season purchase that needs to be replaced very quickly. Nevertheless, it’s a great learning tool so that you can get an idea for what more you might like from a fish finder.
- Convenient and portable
- Easy to power
- 25-foot transducer cable
- Good for shore fishing
- Accurate shallow depth readings
- Durability issues
- Floating transducer moves quickly
- Limited data availability
4. Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar
The next option that we are going to introduce for your consideration is the Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar. This mid-range device sits at a higher price point than our other options, but it offers a lot for that cost.
The Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar from Deeper is one of the company’s most advanced models, and it has many features to boast. Ideal for shore fishers and boat and kayak anglers, this device can scan depths up to 260 feet. The unit is lighter than a chocolate bar and is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.
The display mode can be changed between basic and detailed, and there are also three different color palettes that you can use. The screen shows bottom hardness, vegetation, top water temperatures, depth alerts, and more.
The device has adjustable sensitivity as well. It can be used at either 90kHz or 220kHz.
This device is very easy to use, and it’s even kind of fun! You can cast out the sonar device and reel it in slowly to get an understanding of what the water is like underneath the surface. You can cast out up to 330 feet, and the device can read down to 260 feet.
One of the coolest things about this DEEPER Pro+ Scanner is that it can be operated at dual frequencies, and the frequencies have different cone shapes to match their uses. The wide beam of 90 kHz is great for broad, shallow coverage, while the 290kHz narrow beam is perfect for bringing out the details you desire.
The biggest issue with this unique sonar tool is that it can be easily broken if you aren’t mindful of where you cast. Some anglers may accidentally cast it directly onto a submerged rock, and this device isn’t made to withstand that type of beating. Still, this isn’t such a big drawback that it would prevent us from trying it again!
- Can record and create maps from the data
- Connects easily to phone for recording
- High-quality readings
- A small, lightweight device
- Great casting and depth reading distances
- Need to be careful when casting
- Difficult to set up to track while you are moving
- Battery replacement can be difficult
5. Humminbird HELIX 5 Fish Finder
Finally, let’s talk about the Humminbird HELIX 5 Fish Finder. Humminbird is another one of the best brands that make fishing devices, but does the HELIX 5 stand up to the other fish finders we have reviewed?
This is a high-end fish finder that boasts color readings, a five-inch display, CHIRP technology, 500W of power, and so much more. The display is big, colorful, and easy to see in all lighting.
The device also has internal GPS plotting for marking waypoints and rediscovering them. In addition, you can also use a microSD card for recording your data, if desired.
The best part about this fish finder is just how easy it makes fishing and finding the fish. In fact, using the fish finder is easy because of the reflexive and intuitive screen design! It is easy to learn how to use this accurate device, and that makes your fishing more rewarding.
Even though GPS technology is a nice inclusion on this device, it is a bit of a lackluster feature for the price point. The GPS doesn’t do anything but plot selected points, but this same type of feature can be found in a cheaper fish finder. Still, it’s useful as a built-in GPS.
- Includes CHIRP technology
- Easy to use
- Good long-term durability
- Full-color display
- Option SD card slot
- Lackluster GPS system
- Limited memory unless SD card is added
When you’re looking for a great fish finder, you’re going to feel the need to catch up on a lot of technical info to figure out just what you’re looking at. We know that this can be overwhelming, even for those who have used fish finders before, but it’s twice as hard for those who have never used one!
We’ve rounded up five different features that you should pay the closest attention to when you are choosing your fish finder. By focusing on these items, you’ll have a better chance of finding a fish finder that suits your fishing style and needs. Let’s get started!
One of the major factors that you’ll want to look at is the frequency range. All locators are going to have different ranges, and the specific frequency range will have a huge effect on what kind of results you get from your device. They help you set to different depths, and higher frequencies also give you more clarity.
There are three main types of frequencies:
- Dual (two different frequency options)
- Single (one singular frequency option)
- Multiple (a range of frequency options)
The frequencies used on the devices are:
- 50 kHz
- 83 kHz
- 192 kHz
- 200 kHz
If you’re going to be fishing in shallow water, using devices with high frequences is best. Deepwater fishing is better aided by devices that function best at low frequencies. If you know which types of terrain you typically fish in, you’ll have a better idea of which frequencies you will need to have in any fish finder you purchase.
Another important thing to look at in a fish finder is the type of transducer it has. A transducer is what converts the data from frequency form and shows you what is going on below the surface. The transducer both emits and receives the sonar waves, and that is how it finds what is beneath the water.
Most fish finders will have some type of transducers, but not all of them are created equally! Many anglers end up buying a secondary transducer to improve the quality of their data, but you don’t want to count on having to do this.
Many fish finders will come with what is known as a transom mount transducer. These are quite small, and thus they don’t work well for large boats. If you have a bigger boat, you may need to invest in a bigger transducer as well.
Transducers also have different mount types, and you will want to be sure that you get one with a mount that makes sense for your boat:
The screen is very important for your fish finder. This is how you view the world under the water, and you want to be sure that you get the information that you care most about from the device. You will want to be sure you get the appropriate screen size, color, and resolution for your needs.
While a black-and-white screen was once the standard in fish finders, it isn’t a requirement any longer. Now, you can find a number of fish finders that have colored screens, which are easier to read in all types of light. There are also lights that glow, making it very easy to view. Black and white are still very effective, and they are more affordable, too.
The clearer that you want your picture to be, the higher you need the resolution. Having a fish finder with a minimum of a 240 x 160-pixel screen is ideal to ensure that you can understand what it is showing. Higher resolutions will make decoding the data even easier.
To make a high resolution worth it, you will need to increase the size of the screen as well. Choosing a large screen size and resolution is one of the most important things, so this feature should be a high priority.
The next feature that you should pay attention to is power. Fish finders are powered based on the wattage that it can create. The higher the wattage, the faster the fish finder will work and the deeper you can see into the water.
If you will be fishing in shallow water, a high wattage isn’t as essential as it is for those who will be doing deep fishing.
Wattage should never be considered alone. Thinking about wattage in conjunction with frequency is the best way to get a good underwater picture.
Here’s one good way to remember how much wattage you need:
- 100 watts at 50kHz gives you readings of up to 400 feet
- 100 watts at 240kHz gives you readings of up to 100 feet
5. Other Factors
Finally, think about some other factors that you find important:
- Convenience of setup
- Transducer material
Fish Finder FAQs
1. How does a fish finder work?
Fish finders work using two main parts: the transducer and the screen. With these two objects, the fish finder can locate fish and show you how deep the water is, enhancing your fishing experience.
Here’s what happens. The fish finder’s transducer sends out sonar waves, which then bounce off of fish, corals, rocks, and everything else that’s under the water. These waves bounce back to the transducer, which records and transcribes that information.
The information is then turned into displayed data. The computer inside of the device shows a simple interpretation of what is under the water and where it is located. Fish finders are an ideal way to get an idea of the lay of the land beneath the surface level!
2. Why does the frequency of a fish finder matter?
The frequency affects the depths that can be seen with a fish finder as well as the clarity. Not all frequencies will work in all water depths, so you want to choose this carefully. Low frequencies are better for deep water, while high frequencies are good in shallow water.
3. What is the difference between a narrow and wide cone?
The cone angle on a fish finder refers to the area that a transducer sends out sonar and gathers sonar from. Wide-angle cones gather more information at a broader scale, while narrow cones show more detail at greater depths in a small area.
4. What type of transducer material should I get?
Transducers are made with different types of housing. The housing will matter when your transducer needs to be mounted in-hull or thru-hull to be effective, so you will want to make sure you choose one with housing that makes sense for your boat.
Choosing a bronze housing for wood boats, stainless steel for steel or aluminum, and plastic for metal or fiberglass is the safest way to ensure that your transducer is not damaged via normal boat usage.
5. What’s a good price for a fish finder?
There isn’t a single “good price” for a fish finder. These devices are made at all sorts of price points with a lot of different features, so your budget can be set at any point. The key is to find the best option within your budget, and focusing on the factors we outlined above will help you do just that.
Still, we know that some people like a hard number! You can easily find fish finders for under $200 that do great work. If you’re looking to splurge, finders in the $300 to $500 range will be more than sufficient.
There you have it! Five of the best fish finder options and a guide to help you choose which one is going to be the right option for your current needs. Did you find that any one of these options that stood out the most to you?
In our opinion, the Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar is the best choice for those who love the idea of using a device to help them understand their fishing grounds as a type of learning experience. While it will show you fish, the Smart Sonar is also a great tool for becoming a more knowledgable and skillful angler. What more could you ask for?
If you want something on the lower end of the price scale, we’ve found that the LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder can’t be outdone at its low-end price.