Best Fish Finder – Buying Guide & Reviews

Who doesn’t dream of taking their kid or grandson fishing, only to be left holding two rods because fish haven’t bitten and he’s lost interest? Instead of ending up in the desert, soakin’ bait, a fish finder will make sure you never go a day without a bite again, whether you enjoy leisurely fishing trips now and then or are a serious angler always after the next prize catch.

The good news is that technology has come a long way in the last few years, and there is a great choice of fish finders available, to suit every budget and need. But before we get into our top choices, let’s look at what a fish finder is, what it does, and what are the most important things to consider when you’re buying one, or upgrading from your current model.

Our Recommended Fish Finder

Garmin Striker 4 GPS Fish Finder

Fish Finder Reviews

We’ve put together a list of the best fish finders according to our likes and dislikes, but it’s hard to say which the best one for you is. They’re not a one-size-fits-all and what appeals to one fisherman isn’t going to be an important feature for another.

Depending on where you fish and what you fish for will determine what kind of fish finder will work for you. Also, whether you’re in salt or freshwater, fishing from a craft, a small boat, kayak or a bank will also be a deciding factor. And dare we say it, your skill level?

The best fish finder for you will give you all the necessary components you need for a successful day out. Before you commit to a brand or model, select a few possible options, compare the features and unique selling points each might have and see if and how they’ll benefit you. And if itll helo you find fish!

With that in mind, let’s take a look at our top picks for the best fish finders for 2018.

Garmin Striker 4 GPS Fish Finder

The Garmin Striker 4 GPS fish finder is a no-frills no-fuss device that’s rugged enough to handle pretty much anything that comes its way. There are no clever little features or gadgets on this fish finder, for that you’ll have to look at the higher-end products, but it does what it says and it does it well.

The Striker 4 with built-in GPS has an easy-to-use interface, with a CHIRP sonar, a colored 3.5” screen, and a 77/200 kHz transducer. The built-in GPS means you can mark different structures underwater, navigate your route and set waypoints.

It comes with dual-display capabilities and you can set two screens side by side, which lets you view your reader and map on one display, or you can view the 200 and 77 kHz signals at the same time for a more thorough reading under the water.

When you buy a Garmin you know you’re getting a quality product, and the Striker 4 delivers on all counts. It’s available at a very affordable price but has features you would expect to find on more expensive models. This particular fish finder is popular for weekend fisherman as well as seasoned professionals.

What we like:

  • Affordable
  • Suitable for kayak fishing
  • High-resolution screen and display
  • CHIRP sonar technology and built-in GPS
  • Easy to use with a user-friendly interface

What we don’t like:

  • The screen is fairly small when compared to other models
  • The wire clamps that hold the transducer clamps are a little fragile

Garmin Striker 4 with Portable Kit

The Garmin Striker 4 with portable kit covers about a 1-foot area for every 3-feet of depth and has a 3.5” screen. The font is easy to read and the self-adjusts to light during the day as well as at night. It has a simple interface and a high-sensitivity GPS system.

What we especially like about this Garmin fish finder, besides the reasonable price point, is the built-in transducer with CHIRP sonar technology that sends down continuous sweeps of frequencies. The portable fish finder also comes with a built-in flasher that can be used for ice-fishing and vertical jigging. The GPS system allows you mark specific spots where there are lots of fish, so you don’t have to go through the entire process of navigating the area again. You can also create a dotted path or waypoint map that shows boat ramps, docks, and any other landmarks on the water for the next time you’re in the area fishing.

This is undoubtedly one of the best fish finders around in terms of what it offers and what it costs, and the fact that it’s portable means you can use it on boats and kayaks.

What we like:

  • Very budget-friendly
  • Excellent value for money
  • The fish symbol allows novices to read the fish finder
  • Adjustable depth line with a good maximum depth
  • Able to upgrade CHIRP sonar technology
  • The fish finder has a split screen

What we don’t like:

  • Instruction manual isn’t great, however, the device is easy to figure out
  • There are a few reports that the cables are on the fragile side
  • The transducer cable is reportedly too short for some users

Garmin STRIKER 4cv with Transducer

Yup, another Garmin! And we wouldn’t really expect anything less. The Garmin STRIKER 4cv is a winner from its price all the way to its performance. It comes with GPS and CHIRP sonar technology that is able to locate your boat and then scans underneath to find any fish-filled spots close by.

The 77/200 kHz transducer sends sweeps of low to high frequencies and interprets them separately to give you detailed images that are then displayed in high definition on the 3.5” screen. A feature we really like is the chart plotter that allows you to mark the exact locations where loads of fish are along with waypoints that ensure you can find the same spot again, and make your way back to where you launched, without getting lost. The Garmin 4cv lets you share routes with other Striker and echoMap users.

You can also use this particular fish finder for ice-fishing and jigging with the built-in flasher.

What we like:

  • The Garmin 4cv has an accurate GPS system with loads of extra features
  • It has easy waypoint and chart plotting navigation
  • It has the CHIRP sonar technology that you would find one more expensive fish finders
  • It has a transducer as well as different mounts
  • Beginners will be able to use the device out the box, while experienced fishermen will appreciate just how easy it is to use

What we don’t like:

  • There aren’t as many features as you would find on the Garmin 5cv (but that is to be expected)

Lucky Portable Fishing Sonar, Wired Fish Finder

The Lucky Portable Fishing Sonar fish finder is a brilliant piece of equipment if your budget is a little tight, but don’t let the low price fool you. The portable fish finder comes in well under $100 and can be used for most types of fishing including ice-fishing, lake, sea, kayak and boat fishing. The transducer has a 25-foot cable and can cover depths from 3 feet to 328 feet.

As far as functions go, there are five sensitivity options, a battery saving mode, a backlight mode and you can read the depth in meters or feet. It even has an alarm to notify you when you hit an area full of fish.

You can use the portable fish finder on your rod, around your neck, attached to your boat or even dragging behind it and it can detect most of what’s going on underneath the water including tall and short seaweed or debris, rocks sand and of course the bottom.

This is a great choice if you’re just starting out, want to buy someone a thoughtful gift, or need a second fish finder for emergencies. It comes with a 12-month warranty too.

What we like:

  • There’s no getting around the affordability
  • Very easy to use
  • Water resistant
  • Has a long range
  • Wireless operation for all sorts of fishing
  • The screen is easy to read
  • There is a battery saving mode and an alarm

What we don’t like:

  • It’s not always 100% accurate
  • The transmitter is waterproof, not the receiver, but it is water resistant
  • Occasionally the transmitter and receiver take a while to “find” each other

Deeper Portable Wireless Wi-Fi Fish Finder

If you have an iPhone then the Deeper Portable Wireless Wi-Fi fish finder has your name written all over it. It’s a castable sonar with a very impressive integrated GPS system. Using the most up-to-date wireless technology, the echo fish finder can transmit temperature, vegetation, and depth. And, of course, the location of fish up to 40 meters.

Setting up the Deeper PRO+ is straightforward using the iPhone app and it comes with a whole lot of features that you’d expect including Offline Maps, Weather Forecast, Camera, Social Media Sharing, Solunar Forecast Calendar, Fishing Notes and a screen that adapts to day and night light. The Wi-Fi connectivity enables the device to send detailed data straight to your tablet or phone, converting it into easy-to-read information that novices will understand.

Unlike a lot of the fish finders on the market, the Deeper PRO+ allows you to choose between a wide beam and a narrow one. The wide beam can be used to do a preliminary search to give you an idea of the area, while the narrow beam gives you the accuracy. Not only does the Deeper PRO+ look impressive, it can proudly take a place on any top 3 list of fish finders.

What we like:

  • Award-winning fish finder
  • The Mapping Calendar tells you when the best time to fish is
  • Option to use a narrow or wide beam for scanning
  • You can adjust the sonar’s sensitivity and there are three color displays to choose from
  • You can choose different fishing modes, from standard, and boat to ice fishing and onshore
  • It’s very easy to use
  • Can fit into your pocket

What we don’t like:

  • Can only be used with iOS phones and tablets
  • It needs to be partly submerged in the water for the Wi-Fi to work properly
  • The fish finder isn’t heavy but you will need a decent size rod to cast it

Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro

This particular fish finder from Raymarine has a standard sonar system with a detailed view, but there isn’t any side imaging. However, with everything else it has to offer, it’s not a deal breaker for us. It’s affordable and the sonar not only has a wide range, it also updates quickly, so you know what’s happening in the water, as it happens.

The LCD technology features sharp contrasts, bright colors, and it works in any type of weather. The images are picture-perfect and you’re able to see up to 600ft. The Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro comes with a high-speed tracking system, a built-in GPS, and built-in Wi-Fi. There is an app that lets you stream information to your tablet and phone, and if you like, you can send the data to friends.

The Dragonfly 7 comes with a manual, however, it’s easy to use and the display settings are clear and straightforward to follow. It takes very little setting up and can be used pretty much out the box.

What we like:

  • The device is very easy to use
  • User-friendly interface
  • The images on the display screen are clear and bright
  • Dual channel CHIRP sonar
  • Attached mount is removable
  • Compatible with a Smartphone

What we don’t like:

  • A little slow to start
  • There is no backlight which makes it difficult to use at night
  • You can’t upgrade the software

Vexilar SP200 T-Box Smartphone Fish Finder

The SP200 from Vexilar combines the best of a portable fish finder with the features of a fixed one and works well on kayaks and smaller boats. The Vexilar T-Box Smartphone fish finder is wireless with a simple transducer that connects to your tablet or smartphone using the app. It has a 200 kHz dual-beam that allows you to see down to 240ft, which will work for most fishermen.

The fish finder’s transducer is incredibly accurate and you’re able to see your lure in the water as well as the fish swimming around it on the screen. What we especially like is that the screen size isn’t limited as it can transmit to any size tablet or phone and the design means you can troll it instead of having to cast every time to get readings.

There is a catch, but it’s a small one, and can be overlooked – the Vexilar SP200 needs a 12-volt power supply to work, so if you’re fishing from a kayak you’ll have fit it in somewhere.

What we like:

  • You can use any device including a tablet or a smartphone with the Vexilar
  • You don’t need to buy a separate controller or display unit
  • The app is available for Android and iOS phones and is free to download
  • You can connect using the Wi-Fi
  • You can change the angle of the sonar by as much as 40 degrees

What we don’t like:

  • If you use the device on an iPad, for example, the display may be too It’s better suited to smartphone screens

Humminbird 409930-1 HELIX 9 DI GPS Fish Finder

The Humminbird Helix 9 DI GPS fish finder that can be mounted easily and the cable system also allows you to quickly connect or disconnect the device with the up-to-date clamp mechanism. The two SD cards records data and you can update software or load more mapping options. The fish finder comes with real-time surveillance via the Humminbird’s AutoChart Live feature and it can record up to eight hours of information. You can view AutoChart Live in the convenient split-screen mode with the Down and DualBeam Plus Imaging functions.

The Helix 9 DI is designed for ease of use, and fishermen are able to operate it using the various button that are on the right side. The fish finder has an X-Press Menu System with a convenient one-touch selection to get to the various setting options. You can zoom in and out, mark GPS settings, change the the view, take screen snapshots and freeze frame, all with one button.

What we like:

  • The LCD screen shows bright and clear images
  • It is easy to install and operate
  • The large screen allows you to see images clearly in the sun
  • Crystal clear and bright screen resolution
  • The AutoChart Live is a great feature to have
  • Wireless control
  • It is waterproof

What we don’t like:

  • There is no way to change the settings for the preset views
  • There is no CHIRP sonar technology
  • It isn’t a touchscreen
  • We think it’s still a little on the pricey side
  • The down and side imaging can only see depths of 150 feet in freshwater areas

iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder

Never mind the device, we just like saying iBobber. As far as portable fish finders go, the iBobber Wireless Bluetooth fish finder is definitely one of the easiest to use. It uses Bluetooth Smart 4.0 to send data to your smartphone up to 33 meters or 100-feet. You can also use the nifty gadget with your Google and iWatch.

The iBobber lets you map the different structures fish use to hide, like drop-offs, ledges, and holes and it works well in salt water and fresh water; while the alarm that sounds or lights up when any fish are nearby makes it ideal for night or ice fishing. It’s lightweight enough should you want to cast your fish finder and has a range of 100ft.

You can mark interesting places with the GPS, as well as good fishing locations, and it has a setting for fish under 15 inches and for fish that are over. You can use the iBobber by trolling it behind your boat, and the alarm will let you know if there are any fish in the vicinity.

What we like:

  • It is a wireless fish finder that is both compact and portable
  • The free app works with Android and iOS smartphones
  • The app gives you access to some great features
  • The sonar can be used to find fish in saltwater and freshwater
  • It’s perfect for ice fishing and night fishing
  • You can share data on the various social media platforms
  • The battery will last you 10 hours or more

What we don’t like:

  • The app uses up the battery quickly
  • It can, on occasion, misread the depth
  • The customer service could be better

Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 43dv with Transducer

Still fairly new to the market, the Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 43dv with Transducer is already considered to be one of the best fish finders. You can choose between four different sizes, including nine, seven, five and four inches, all with crystal clear images. The CHIRP sonar sweeps between high and low frequencies allowing you to identify different objects and there are maps and charts included with the software.

The echoMAP fish finder gives you as many as five updates in one second and you can use the CHIRP sonar with the  DownVu imaging sonar to get all the necessary views. The device is a convenient and compact size and comes with all the necessary items to get going straight away. There is a data and power cable, a transducer, a quick release mount, a trolling motor mount, all the mounting hardware that’s needed as well as a user manual.

The Garmin echoMAP has adjustable lighting as well as a high-contrast color display, and when used with the swivel mount, you’re able to see the images on the screen regardless of the light conditions around you. The user-friendly device has keypad-style control buttons that are clearly marked with “select”, “home”, “on/off”, back and four-way direction as well as in and out zooming functions.

This is a very well-priced fish finder and if you happen to be upgrading or considering a new one, there really are too many features to mention here. We suggest you try it out for yourself.

What we like:

  • Easy to install and operate
  • Very accurate readings
  • It’s easy to transfer the waypoints and routes

What we don’t like:

  • It can be hard a little tricky trying to work out the map updates
  • Battery operated would have been better
  • It takes some to figure out the settings, but in our opinion, that’s part of the fun

What is a Fish Finder?

A fish finder is exactly that, a device that finds fish underwater. It works with SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) technology by picking up reflected pulses of sound energy. It displays reflected sound or measurements on a monitor which is then used to locate fish. They can also pick up any potential hazards like logs, rocks, and debris and are able to give you a reading of the water levels.

Although fish finders are used primarily by commercial and sports fishermen, casual fishermen are making use of them more nowadays too. They’re also used by skippers to keep an out eye on for any potential hazards. These nifty gadgets can be integrated with GPS navigation systems, compass, and marine radar systems.

How Does a Fish Finder Work?

Fish finders, or sounders, work on sonar technology, which basically produces sound waves in the water. The transducer then sends them down and as they travel deeper, they form a beam or a cone angle. Should the soundwave make contact with an object, it reflects back to the transducer. The fish finder analyzes the data and converts into an image that is displayed on the screen, showing everything below the water surface including weeds and debris, fish, rocks, and water levels.

What are the Advantages of Using a Fish Finder?

You can find fish! Do we need to say more? Finding fish easily is the biggest advantage to using a fish finder, however, if you need a few more reasons, they include:

  • Locate bait – if you can’t find bait, a fish finder can help you find any that might be in a water column
  • Locating specific fish – your fish finder will help you find bass in any structures under water and halibut in flat areas.
  • Working out the depth – if you’re fishing in a new area a fish finder will let you know just how deep or shallow the water is.
  • Locating an area – if you unexpectedly come across an area that’s swimming with fish, you can put in the location and come back at a later stage.
  • Chart a course – you can get fish finders that have GPS systems with pre-loaded information about coastal areas, lakes, and
  • Check the water temperature – some fish finders come with “thermoclines” that tell you where warm and cold water meets and indicates where deeper waters are. Some fish species are more comfortable in these little pockets.
  • Avoid underwater hazards – a fish finder will help you locate fish, but it will also help you stay clear of barriers, reefs, rocks and shallower water.

How to Choose the Best Fish Finder: A Comprehensive Fish Finder Buyer’s Guide

Here’s a public service reminder that’s going to serve you well whether you’re buying a fish finder or any other kind of product; the best one isn’t necessarily going to be the one that costs the most amount of money. Instead, consider its features, its durability and whether it’s going to serve your purposes.

Sometimes it’s easy to get pulled in hook, line, and sinker when choosing a fish finder. A salesperson will try and lure you in with words like “transom mounts”, “transducers”, “flashers”, and “echoes”, which is great if you’re filming an episode of TechTalk for your YouTube channel, but when you’re out on the water, all you really want to know is will it help me catch the mother of all fish?

So, which features make for a good fish finder? For ease of reference, let’s take a look at them alphabetically.

Cone Angle
When we refer to the cone angle, we mean how wide the “net” is that the signal casts when it’s in the water, from the bottom of your boat. It’s important to remember the cone will get wider as the water gets deeper, but its sensitivity will decrease. A cone angle can range anywhere between 15 and 20 degrees, although there are some that are as narrow as nine degrees and others that can reach widths of 60 degrees.

Commercial and competitive fishermen will often use a number of cones to cover as much area as possible.

Design & Durability
While the design of a fish finder but not be on your list of important features, it is worth considering as this will affect the placement of the buttons and how well it fits on your boat. Durability is a no-brainer; you want something that’s weather-resistant and waterproof, and if you spend a fair bit of time fishing in salt water you then want a piece of equipment that is corrosion resistant.

Different Types of Fish Finders
There are different types of fish finders available on the market, and these include portable models as well as fixed ones. Which one you prefer is completely up to you. Also, you get Bluetooth fish finders that work well with your smartphone or tablet, wireless ones that work using their own equipment and also fish finder and chart plotter combinations.

Frequencies
Not to get too technical, but when you’re looking to buy a fish finder you want to understand the different frequencies. There are three types, namely: single, dual and multiple, and they come in 200, 192, 83 or 50 kHz. High frequencies, such as 200 and 192 are better suited for shallow water. Frequencies that are low, like 83 and 50 work well in deep water. Knowing where you’ll be using the fish finder will help you decide which frequency will be the best one for you.

GPS Capabilities
Nowadays most fish finders come with GPS capabilities, which makes a lot of sense. These allow you to log areas or specific locations where you had a good day catching fish, or where you didn’t. And you can save the coordinates of places of interest as well as any areas where there were a lot of underwater obstacles. A lot of the more up-to-date devices will also map out routes to and from popular spots and some have chart plotting capabilities.

Manufacturer
Like the price, the maker of the fish finder isn’t the most important thing to consider, but it can tell you a fair bit about the product. For example, has the manufacturer been around for a while? Do you see a lot of other fishermen using a particular brand? Does the fish finder you’re looking at get positive reviews on websites and forums, and by word of mouth? Is there a warranty? What is the after-sales service like? Also, well-known, established brands will often have a range of products available, from an entry-level device, all the way through to a high-end one.

Other Equipment
Usually, the more high-end devices will come with all the gadgets and gizmos but it’s worth looking into some extra bits of equipment to enhance the efficiency of a fish finder. You can, for example, get waterproof batteries and a fish finder camera will give a more realistic view of what’s going on under the water. Other accessories include waterproof battery bags, additional mounts, arm mounts, and protective covers.

Portable
Over the last few years, portable fish finders have grown in popularity, especially for people fishing from smaller boats and kayaks. With a portable product, you simply drop the transducer into the water and see the images on your tablet, phone or a portable LCD screen. These are ideal if you’re fishing in lakes, ponds, dams and small, calm waters. Of course, if you’re hitting the wide open seas a traditional fish finder that can be attached to your boat is a much better idea.

Power
The power of a fish finder is an important component to consider. A fish finder’s power is measured in watts or wattage (W) and the faster it is, the deeper the readings will be and the faster your device will be able to display them.

Because your fish finder works by translating the sonar waves it receives from the transducer, the lower the wattage the slower your device will be, and it will work best in shallow bodies of water. Less power will also affect the reading.

If you have a more powerful device, the waves will travel much faster and your readings will be a lot clearer. And the deeper you’ll be able to go. So, if you’re fishing in shallow water you won’t need a fish finder with too much power, but if you spend a lot of time deep water fishing, you want the most powerful gadget your budget will allow.

Price
We’ve already mentioned that price alone isn’t a determining factor when buying a fish finder, but you can’t ignore the cost completely. If, for example, a fish finder claims to have all the bells and whistles and it costs the same as an entry-level model, there’s something fishy going on. The price should be relative to its features. The old adage applies: if it seems to be good to be true, it probably is.

Scanning
Fish Finders work in two ways, they scan downwards and they scan sidewards. Those that scan down into the water are focused and powerful, but you’re missing anything that isn’t swimming directly under your boat.

Side scanning fish finders let you scan both sides covering a fairly large area but they’re not very effective in deeper water. Knowing where you’re going to be using your fish finder will help you choose which will be more useful. Sports and commercial fishermen often use two or more fish finders to cover all areas.

Screen Color
Colored screens are pretty much standard nowadays and work better than their black and white predecessors. It’s easier to read the screen in the sun and decipher what’s going on around you. There are still some black and white screens available, but they don’t work as well and will probably be phased out eventually.

Having said that it’s what your budget allows. If you currently have a black and white screen, there’s no need to rush out and by a state-of-the-art color screen. But when you’re ready to buy a new one, then maybe consider one of the models with a colored screen.

Screen Resolution
The same way you want a high-resolution TV and computer screen, you also want a high res screen on your fish finder. Ideally, you want at least 240 by 160 pixels, or higher, especially if you’re getting an image that’s too “blocky”.

For a good quality image, it’s best to buy a fish finder with a decent size screen and good resolution.

Transducers
The transducer, while it sounds very fancy, is simply the part that sends and receives sonar signals when the fish finder is under water. If you’re fishing in the sea, you’ll need a transducer that can send the signals deep down into the water. If you’re on a lake or pond, then you want one that sends out sonar signals with a much wider cone angle.

You also want to look at the transducer’s frequency – this will determine at which level you are able to get images of fish. A good fish finder (depending on your needs) will have a transducer that is able to work on a number of frequencies or you can do what a lot of fishermen do, and use two or more fish finders to increase the area you’re able to cover and the depth.

Conclusion

A fish finder isn’t all it’s cracked up to be… it’s more! And we guarantee that if you fish with it once, you’ll never do without it again. There are entry-level models if you need some convincing, however, if you’re already one of the converted we’ve hopefully introduced you to a few you might not have known about before.

If you returning home empty-handed after every fishing trip has your spouse wondering what you’re actually doing or if you’re tired of showing your friends the size of the fish that got away, do yourself a favor and buy a fish finder. There is a wide variety to choose from, wherever you fish and whatever you fish from, and there’s one to suit every budget, with decent devices starting under $100. Have you used a fish finder? Which one, and has it helped?

Categories Fishing