When you are new to the world of angling, finding a fish finder may seem easy, until you go ahead to look for one. The terms are sure to confuse anyone without prior knowledge, and the advancement of technology means more features are being added quickly.
Since being introduced in 1959, they have come a long way, and this guide is here to help if you feel confused about what to get. In addition, we have rated the best ones you can find in the market today.
Best Portable Fish Finders of 2018
Garmin Striker GPS fish finder – Best for the Money
Thanks to the STRIKER 4 fish finder, getting fish is easier than ever. Coming with a range of features, it improves your fishing experience due to its ability to mark and share your hotspots, routes and waypoints through echoMAP and STRIKER combinations.
The equipment comes with 3.5-inch color fish finder that uses GPS of high sensitivity, while the keypad is conveniently placed to allow you adjust your findings at a glance. The graphics are of Smooth Scaling, which gives you constant imagery of high quality, even when you switch between depth ranges.
In case you go out fishing and miss your favorite spots, the sonar history feature enables you to scroll through your movements and see where you may have gone off the mark. In case you need extra help as well in visualizing your favorite fishing grounds and your speeds, the finder comes with a speed data display and a built-in flasher.
Another advantage of having the speed data is the fact that it is a tool you can use to find out if you are moving at the correct speeds for the target fish and the lure, a great tool, especially in wake-control areas.
The best feature of all, however, would be the sonar transducer that is CHIRP enabled (77/200 kHz). This allows it to be of high performance and gives great detail, in addition to easy upgrades using G8 or G15 transducers – though you will need to purchase these separately.
The entire package comes with a portable kit, making the finder very good for various types of fishing – ice, canoe or kayak fishing. The package includes a transducer cable management and storage, a rechargeable battery having a charger, as well as a float and suction cup mount.
HawkEye Fishtrax 1C finder – Good for Ice Fishing
If you are an advanced angler and are looking for a fish finder that offers a high definition fishing experience, the FishTrax 1C is for you.
Among the outstanding features it contains are a high definition VirtuView display, which incorporates three modes – the Ice Mode DigitalFlasher, FishFinder mode, and Data mode. The Ice Mode DigitalFlasher is very good for catching suspended fish while you are ice fishing, thanks to its FishTrax sonar echoes that function like a traditional flasher.
The FishFinder mode is good at sensing the presence of fish, as well as the overall depth of the water – all in HD display. The Data mode, on the other hand, enlarges any temperature, depth and battery voltage statistics for you, so that you can read them even if you are standing several feet away.
In addition, the FishTrax 1c uses FishTrax intelligent sonar technology that has two frequencies – 83 and 200 kHz, which helps in adjustment of the finder to different changes in depth, sensitivity changes for up to 100 levels (240 feet), as well as auto-zooming tracking of the bottom.
The finder comes with integrated alarms for depth and fish tracking, therefore, making your work easier.
The 1c, as well as other models, all have the ability to allow expansion of the finder through adding accessories to any platform. You decide on the platform you want – whether it is ice, boat, canoe, dock, float tube, kayak, bank, and so on, and then get to decide on the accessories that most fit your fishing requirements.
This feature makes it an excellent option for saving weight and space for both float tube and kayak anglers.
Some other features include sensitivity settings, manual and auto depth range, and bottom landscape painting in HD.
Venterior VT-FF001 – Best Portable Fish Finder for Small Boats
The VT-FF001 fish finder is good at detecting and displaying the depth of your fishing spots, as well as any rocks on the sea bed and weeds. The good news is you do not need to constantly update the settings, as it can remember the data you input.
Its versatility also allows you to use it in a range of environments, including sea, lakes, rivers, or other fishing environments.
The depth ranges begin from three feet, and go up to 328 feet. In the case of transducers, the component is round and has a cable measuring up to 25 feet, while the transducer float is detachable. This enables you to use it for ice fishing, fishing off docks, or on boats. However, keep in mind that the performance of the finder is affected by cold weather, muddy water, strong waves, and suspended matter.
The finder comes with five settings for adjusting the features. These are the battery save mode, selectable sensitivity; unit of measure, fish alarm, and backlight mode. The display of the water depth is in terms of meters or feet.
Venterior finder & Wireless Sonar Sensor – Perfect Choice under $100
If you consider fishing as a hobby, this can be the best choice you can make. It is able to detect any fish size and location in both salt and fresh water environments, while its sonar ability allows it to be a depth sounder.
You do not need a long and heavy cable to move around with it, since it uses wireless technology, and this makes it easy to carry. The body and sensor are both rechargeable, so that takes away the worry of purchasing extra batteries.
The display options are in multiple modes, which are Water Line, Water depth, temperatures, depth ranges, simulator mode, power indicator, fish icon (this comes in different sizes), bottom contours, and depth scale.
The good news is that you no longer need to drill holes into the hull of your boat or kayak to install the sensor – in fact, the sensor has two small holes that enable for tethering, and also casting the fishing line as far as you want in the water. The sensor covers up to 90 degrees in beam angle, and has a depth range of two to 120 feet (0.6 to 36 meters).
The unit can also remember the previous settings that you input, even when you turn it off. Temperature and depth units, therefore, need frequent updates, depending on your requirements.
Lucky fish finder (portable) with LCD display – Best for In-depth Finding
This fish finder is well adapted for various fishing environments. For instance, you can utilize it for off-shore fishing, lake fishing, ice fishing, sea fishing, and others.
Thanks to its bottom and fish contour readouts, it is able to detect and interpret differences in water depth, sand and rocks on the water body bed, short and taller weeds, as well as estimating the location of your target fish.
You can use the finder effectively even on moving kayaks, as long as they move at speeds of 5mph or less. The transducer range can read up to 45 degrees cone underwater, while the depth ranges from three to 328 feet (1 to 100 meters) below the sonar sensor (200 kHz).
You can adjust the readings in either meters or feet, which is another advantage. In addition, the transducer comes with a cable that measures up to 25 meters, while the transducer float is detachable.
Lucky FFW-718 finder – Best for Beginners
Regardless of whether you are an amateur or a professional angler, the Lucky FFW-718 is a good choice. Since it is wireless, you no longer face the problem of carrying tangled wires everywhere, and this makes the finder extremely portable.
It is also versatile enough to be useful in different conditions such as ponds, oceans, lakes, rivers, reservoirs or calm conditions.
It is good for both fresh and salt water, as well as ice fishing and turbid water, and can be used to detect schools of fish. The detailed LCD screen and its backlight allow for use even at night, and this is enhanced by the display of both water temperature and depth.
The depth ranges extend up to 135 feet (45 meters), while the sonar frequencies are up to 125 kHz.
The finder comes with a wireless cover with a beam angle of 90 degrees, and has a live-update display of the bottom surface of the water. You can even zoom in at specific depths as you wish. Together with the roach ole or rod and line that accompanies it, it can be a useful tool for everyone.
FDL portable fish finder – Cheap Product Under $50
Similar to the line of FDL fish finders, this is able to detect rocks, weeds (both short and tall), water depth, and sand on the seabed.
You do not need to reset it every time you use it, as it is set to remember the details of your last sailings.
The finder can be used in various environments, including lakes, sea, ponds and rivers. The depth readings range from three feet to 328 feet as well, although the readings tend to be more accurate in clear or open water.
The transducer runs for about 25 meters, while the transducer float is detachable. This allows you to use it for ice as well as dock fishing.
The device comes with a two-year warranty, so any costs you are afraid of can be covered by the purchase. Other features include fish alarm, selectable sensitivity (that you can adjust easily), battery save mode, unit of measurement, and backlight mode.
The depth of the water can be altered from feet to meters and vice versa.
Best Portable Fish Finders in 2018 – Buyer’s Guide
What do you look for when searching for a fish finder?
If you are searching for your first fish finder, it can get very confusing because of all the technical details you need to check out. For first-time buyers, knowing all this information is a daunting process – such as knowing sonars, transducers, echoes, flashers, as well as other features.
That is exactly the reason you require a guide to help you out. If no one around you is knowledgeable enough in the area, this guide will probably help you know what to look for.
- The type
In a fish finder, these are essential parts, since their job is to emit and receive sonar waves. The waves work like an echo system – once the transducer sends them out, they will bounce off of various objects such as rocks and fish, and they go back to the transducer. When this data gets back, it goes to the central unit, and this is the location of changing the signals into visual data that you can understand when displayed on the screen.
There are various mounts that will come with the transducer. The easiest of these is the transom mount, which is good for smaller boats. However, if you have a larger boat, then it may be a better option to choose another type, such as thru-hull mounts.
- Constituent material
The choice you make in this case will depend on the kind of boat you regularly use, as not all transducers are made from the same material. In the case of those that pursue it as a hobby, a plastic transom mount is okay for you. This is due to their adaptability to various kinds of boats.
If you are going for a transducer that has an in-hull or thru-hull mount, a metal or fiberglass hull, then you require plastic housing. On the other hand, a steel or aluminum hull needs a stainless steel housing, and wood fiberglass hulls need bronze housings.
The good news for any recreational angler is that many fish finders usually come with a trolling motor transducer, or a transducer that has a transom mount. You can use them in almost any kind of boat, but you need to ensure that you follow the guidelines of installation. If you are more receptive to the idea of using a thru-hull transducer, then go for the bronze or plastic housing.
- Cone angles and beams
This is an important aspect to consider when you are deciding on a transducer. This means that the cone angle it gas will inform you the width of the beam that it emits into the water from the boat.
The larger the angle, the more area the beam covers. Keep in mind that this will also affect the sensitivity of the beam, depending on the depth in question. As the beam travels downwards to the floor, the angle of the cone expands, but if the water is deep, this will be at the expense of sensitivity.
Many transducers have cones ranging from slightly less than 10 degrees up to 90 degrees, with most of them having ranges of between 16 to 20 degrees. In case you are starting out in the world of fishing, you can go for a 20 degree cone, which will sort you out on most requirements.
An interesting thing to note is the ability of transducers to release more than one beam cone from one point. of course, there are those conventional transducers that release one beam, but technology advances have led to the development of transducers that can release multiple beams – some dual, some triple, some side beams, others multiple. Every new beam is the chance to cover larger areas, so if you are fishing in a major water body like a lake, it is best to go for these advanced transducers.
In addition, the price will partly be determined by the number of beams it emits. The best options, whether both in deep or shallow water, is dual beams because they cover more of your fishing area.
- Do you want a color screen or black and white screen?
The current standard of electronics today is the color screen, and it is not just in fish finders. In fact, the finders of today can offer very many details and colors, while a black and white screen will only give you 256 shades of gray.
Another advantage the color screen transducers give you is that the various color output makes them easier to understand and read information. Black and white screens present a problem when you try to read them in direct sunlight, and also in dark or cloudy weather – all due to limited readability.
This does not invalidate black and white screens though since various models are still in production. If you cannot afford a color screen because of your budgetary constraints, then a black and white screen is the better option. Once you have an idea of how the simpler model operates, you can upgrade later on.
- Screen resolutions
One of the most important questions to answer is the number of pixels you want the screen to have. Pixels are small dots on your screen. The general rule is the more pixels are there, the more details you can see on the display. For instance, a 480 x 320 means there are 480 dots across, and 320 dots vertically.
The minimum resolution to aim for should be 240 x 160 pixels. However, keep in mind this will make your screen look as if you are playing an old video game like Tetris. It is best to go for higher screen resolutions, as this will provide you with better details and sharper images.
- How many frequencies?
Many transducers that utilize dual frequencies tend to have both 20 and 60 degree cone beams. In fact, frequencies are among the most important factors for transducers and their effectiveness.
You will usually get transducers using frequencies of 50, 83, 192, or 200 kHz, and this will also influence the cone angles they have.
Shallow water tends to work best with higher frequencies such as 200 kHz, while deeper waters work better with lower frequencies like 50 kHz. Note that the higher the frequency you use, the more detail there will be on your display, since the transducer will be sending out more sonar waves as well as receiving them. In fact, certain finders can have frequencies as high as 400 kHz while they use different frequencies. This will result in an image that has exceptional details, and also enables you to switch from narrow views to wider ones.
This will determine the extent of the readings it can take. For instance, if you want deeper and faster readings, it is best to go for a high wattage unit, such as in commercial fishing. For shallow water, transducers with lower wattage are better, though they will be slower.
The power affects the speed, since the fish finder will change sonar waves into display data from the transducer. When the wattage is lower, the conversion is slower, so the readings will not always be reliable. The higher units can convert waves at faster rates and the readings are more accurate as a result.
Just as a general rule:
- When you are using 100 watts of power at frequencies of 50 kHz, the depth readings will reach a maximum of 400 feet.
- If using 100 watts of power with frequencies of 200 kHz, the maximum depth is 100 feet.
Many finders will operate in the middle range, in conjunction with dual frequencies. This will allow you to view each frequency data using a split screen mode.
- Resistance to water
Note here that not all transducers are water-resistant. If you are considering mounting your unit on a water vessel, especially if it is smaller and open, you need to consider whether it can stay functional in those conditions.
The key to checking this is through the IPX or JIS ratings. If the rating is a four, the device will not do well on a kayak, for instance. Ratings of six or five means it can withstand some high pressure, seven means you can submerge it for up to ten minutes, and eight means you can submerge it for up to 30 minutes.
For our pick, the Garmin STRIKER 4 GPS finder is the best bet. Since it comes with GPS-enabled activity, it is easy to keep track of your location. This is further aided by the CHIRP-enabled sonar that keeps track of your fishing grounds and all the data that comes with them to assist your catches.
With these features and more, it is sure to be a perfect bet for both beginners and advanced anglers.