Rick is a former news reporter who decided that the corporate world wasn't for him and took off to travel the world. He's been to every continent (yes, even Antarctica!) and has tried out a multitude of outdoor gear along the way. From tents to hiking boots, he's probably tested it all. Now, he's one of our full-time product testers and experts.
Bryan is one of our leading experts since he's got a vast expertise in practically everything connected to the outdoors. He's been hiking since he was a young boy, was an organizer of kayaking tours which later led to another passion of his - kayak fishing. Now, he's a part-time expert consultant involved in our multiple product tests and topic research.
Last updated: April 30, 2022
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Fishing, though fun and relaxing, can be tricky. It requires a lot of patience while you wait for fish to catch the bait. If patience is not your strong point, then finding the best portable fish finder can help speed things along. Whether you’re looking for a fish finder for your boat, kayak or canoe, by using this device, you’re guaranteed a more fruitful fishing expedition. These will help you get a clear view of where the fish are located, as well as their movements.
To make the selection process easier for you, we’ve rounded up the top seven fish finders on the market. The products that made our list were evaluated in terms of performance, connectivity and durability. We’ve also considered factors such as the screen size, sonar type as well as the dimensions & weight of the device. Based on these factors, the Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer impressed us the most and as such, we’ve voted it as the best portable fish finder on our list.
We spent over 120 hours analyzing different products based on customers’ feedback on the products to give you an unbiased review. We’ve also spoken to experienced fishermen, as well as hobbyists, to get their opinions on the best models. Using this information, we’ve compiled a comparison table and in-depth reviews of each product. At the end of the article you’ll also find a buying guide that’ll help you pick the best product for your needs.
Extra features: IPX7 waterproof rating; high sensitivity GPS
First up on our list is this portable fish finder from Garmin which we’ve voted our editor’s choice. Garmin is known for manufacturing high quality products that are affordable and this model is no exception.
Loved by many users for its very simple and intuitive interface, even the most inexperienced fisher will find it easy to use.
To power this unit, you’ll need to connect it to a 12V power supply.
This fish finder can be used in both deep and shallow waters and will display accurate information in both scenarios.
The detail displayed on the screen is impeccable—whether in color or black and white. This is thanks to the high frequency CHIRP sonar technology that allows the screen to display near graphic images of either fish or any structures around.
It features a GPS, which allows you to mark hotspots and map your way from the shore so that you don’t get lost.
Another impressive feature found on the unit is the waypoint map that allows you to view, mark and navigate locations.
We are however concerned that the screen and keyboard aren’t water-resistant. In the event of rain, you’ll have to make sure you cover it by placing it in a zip-lock bag. In addition, viewing the information displayed is impaired by direct sunlight, so keep that in mind. But generally, it’s a high performance unit worth considering.
Extra features: comes with a battery charger and case; IPX7 waterproof rating; features Fish ID+, fish and depth alarms
Do you own a small boat? Then this compact fish finder is the one to pick. With a diagonal screen size of just over 4”, you can tell that it’s a very small unit.
For such a small device, you’ll be impressed by the seamless performance it offers.
You’ll find this fish finder very easy to use: switching it from sonar with fish alarm to high resolution down imaging will be hassle-free. And you’ll appreciate how super-responsive the unit is. It offers very impressive sonar, especially for the price.
Note that if you’re planning on venturing in deep waters this isn’t the product for you. The transducer is only accurate up to approximately 600 feet in calm water, making it ideal for use in shallow waters.
Though the unit displays clear color graphics, the same image quality can’t be promised under direct sunlight because it’s not glare-resistant.
Installation of this unit is super-fast and easy. Simply make use of the instructions in the manual provided.
Not only is it easy to use, but it’s also highly accurate and reliable.
What you’ll even find more impressive is the battery life. It’s designed to last over six days before it requires another charge.
Extra features: 330ft casting range; Wi-Fi connectivity
Here we have a versatile and wireless fish finder ideally suited for shore fishing. Skilled anglers will find this castable fish finder very easy to use.
With this unit you can locate fish and hot spots fast. It allows you a detailed display of the fish including their size and suspended depth.
Not only can you view fish with this unit, but you can also see other objects as well as vegetation under water.
This fish finder will provide you with information regarding both the water depth and temperature.
Mapping your location is made easier thanks to the GPS functionality on the unit. It also gives you access to a platform that you can use to save your maps so you can view them at a later date.
With a castability of over 300ft and maximum scanning depth of over 200ft, this is the fish finder to pick if you want to venture into deep waters.
You may be disappointed with the battery operating life. Some users have found that it lasts a year before it needs replacement. But you can always get a replacement from the seller if it’s still within the warranty period.
Extra features: Advanced Signal Processing (ASP) automatically adjusts settings for a clearer image; fish ID
What impressed us with this device is the high 320 x 240 resolution that guarantees a detailed display—even under direct sunlight. Thanks to the high resolution you can also view images clearly from wide angles.
This fish finder is ideally suited for use in fresh waters as long as they’re not too deep. So, if you’re planning on fishing from a small water craft such as a boat or kayak, then you’re in luck with this unit.
Thanks to the broadband sound detail you can identify fish locations including any structures present underwater.
Use of the unit is fast, simple, and intuitive. This is thanks to the advanced signal processing the product offers which eliminates the need for manual adjustment of settings. And you’ll appreciate how simple and quick it is to install.
The dual frequency operation helps you get an even better view of what’s happening under your boat.
The 83Hz sonar technology makes the product ideal for scanning large areas.
Unfortunately, the device may lose signal at high speeds so be sure to monitor your speed level.
Extra features: castable unit; 10+ hours continuous use per charge
This is the product to pick if you’re looking for a castable, multi-purpose fish finder that allows you to not only find fish: with this Lucky fish finder, you can check the water depth and temperature. You can also view the bottom contour of your boat during your fishing expedition.
This unit has a high maximum scanning depth of over 300ft. As a result, this is the product to pick if you want to venture into deep waters.
The device features a 2.8” LCD screen which displays images in a three-color tone: blue, red and gray.
You’ll appreciate how the manufacturer included a USB cable with the purchase. This allows you to charge the unit via your computer or another electrical device.
The manufacturer also included a screen protector to safeguard the unit from damage. But you’ll need to keep an eye on the antenna because it’s not as sturdy as some others.
Also, you’ll need to figure out how the software works because it’s not very intuitive. The manufacturers simply need to make a few tweaks to their instruction manual. But the program will function as expected.
Fishing enthusiasts who are looking for a fish finder but are working on a budget will appreciate this model.
This is the cheapest model on our list but still offers some features similar to those present on the higher priced brands.
Firstly, this device is also designed to detect fish, water depth and scan other objects around your boat.
What’s even better is that the display has a backlight. This makes the device ideal to use at night: images will still be viewed clearly.
You can use this fish finder either in the lake, sea or river, making it a versatile unit. To add to its versatility, you can use it for offshore and ice fishing to mention a few types it’s designed for.
It can detect objects within a range of between 3ft to 328ft. And water depth is measured in feet or meters.
You’ll appreciate how the product comes with settings to control the backlight mode, ‘Battery Save’ mode and fish alarm.
Though it comes with a long cord, some users feel it’s too long and interferes with steadying the unit.
It’s one of the few fish finders on our list that’s covered by a two-year warranty.
We’re only concerned with the durability of the product as some users noted that it stopped working after a few months. But overall, nothing beats the price of this very affordable model.
Extra features: castable or can be pulled behind boat; impact-resistant chassis; compatible with iOS and Android; 1-year warranty
To round up our list we have this lightweight fish finder that features a transducer pod. Weighing only 0.2lb, you can tell that it’s an ultra-portable unit: you can literally fit it into your pocket.
You can either pull it behind your boat or cast it out from shore depending on your preference.
The unit will run for over four hours on a single charge which is rather short, in our opinion. But if it does run out of battery, recharging is pretty easy. Simply make use of the USB cable provided. Alternatively, you can charge it using your computer’s USB port.
For such a compact unit, it’s considered one of the most powerful fish finders on the market. It uses patented Wi-Fi technology to provide images in full color. In some cases you may need a prompt to pick up the Wi-Fi connection but that’s a minor problem.
The unit is designed to transmit a high quality signal to your phone; you can still use the device even without cell phone coverage.
But make sure you download the free software app to your device because you can’t use the device before doing so.
What makes it special?
Easy to recharge
Full color images
What cons did we find?
Short battery life
Wi-Fi needs prompting
Things to Consider
A casual search on the internet will reveal many fish finders from different brands. If it’s your first purchase of such a device, then knowing which one to pick can be pretty confusing. That’s why we’ve taken the liberty to outline what exactly you must look for from each product to pick the right one for you.
When is it better to go for a portable fish finder?
A portable fish finder is the ideal pick because it features a dedicated display which doesn’t appear on other finders. In addition, we appreciate portable fish finders for their versatility: you can either use them in open water or for ice-fishing.
If you have limited space in your boat, then a portable fish finder is the perfect pick.
Features to consider when choosing a portable fish finder
These portable fish finders may appear almost identical in what they have to offer, but they function differently depending on their specs and features. Consider the following features before making your final purchase as they affect performance and where you can use the device. Certain features are likely to be more important to you than others.
Maximum scanning depth
Just how deep can the finder scan fish and objects under water? The maximum scanning depth of the fish finder you pick is crucial because it determines where you’ll use the unit. Do you want to use the device in shallow or deep waters? If you’re planning on fishing in the deep or bigger lakes, then you need a finder that has a high maximum depth. And the opposite is true as well; fishing in shallow waters will only require a fish finder with a low depth.
The maximum depth on each device varies from one unit to the next—from 500ft to 5000ft. With a portable fish finder, be prepared to sacrifice some depth, as these units are often more limited than their larger, more powerful counterparts.
Type of sonar
The type of sonar technology used by the fish finder is very important. Most products on our list use the Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse (CHIRP) sonar because it’s the most commonly used in fish finders.
The reason for its popularity is that it provides a more effective sonar signal which is crucial for detailed mapping. This generally allows the unit to scan further distances without compromising the detail displayed on the screen.
GPS functionality is more or less a standard feature in most fish finders as you may have noticed from our recommended products. This functionality is what allows you to detect the location of fish in the water as well as how far you are from shore. But what differs is the reliability—and quality— of the GPS. And needless to say, not all GPS signals function accurately.
Each brand uses a specific GPS network which in turn determines the quality of the connection. Brands such as Garmin are known to use excellent GPS networks and as a result, their fish finders are the most reliable with regards to GPS location. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about all the brands, so pick wisely.
Display and screen size
The display and screen size is probably one of the most important features on any portable fish finder as it shows you the information that the fish finder gives you. You want a display that shows images or numbers clearly. Failure to do so renders the device useless.
The screen sizes vary and the size you pick will depend on a number of factors including:
The size of your boat or kayak. Some screens are as small as 3” and this size is ideal to fit into small spaces. If viewing items from such a small screen is difficult for you, then you have to opt for something slightly bigger.
Will you be holding the finder or installing it? If you’re holding it close-by, then a small screen will suffice.
If you’ll be installing it, it’s likely to be further away from you, and you’ll need a bigger screen to view the information on it clearly.
Screen resolution will also determine clarity of images displayed on the screen. A screen with a poor resolution will leave you guessing the information being displayed which you won’t find useful. We suggest a screen resolution of 320 x 240 if you want an accurate display of information.
Other factors that affect clarity of information displayed that you must take into consideration include whether the screen has a backlight. You’ll find this feature useful if you plan on night-fishing. The back-lit screen will show information clearly in low-light situations.
On the other hand, if you’re planning on fishing on a hot summer day, you need to consider the blinding effect of the sun’s direct rays on your screen. Viewing the device under such conditions can prove to be impossible. In this case, make sure you opt for a fish finder that features a glare-resistant screen for comfortable viewing.
Dimensions and weight
As mentioned earlier, you need to consider the size of your boat before making your purchase. You want to pick a fish finder that’ll fit perfectly onto your kayak or canoe. A small boat will require a compact fish finder. But regardless of the size you pick, make sure that it’s big enough to view the information displayed on the screen, or it defeats the whole purpose.
Also note that the weight of the fish finder will directly impact portability. If you’re going to be carrying the unit for hours, you don’t want a heavy unit. Opt for a lightweight unit that allows for hassle-free carrying.
How long do you plan on fishing? The battery life of the unit will determine if it will last as long as you want it to. To avoid cutting your trip short, opt for a unit that gives you a long period of feedback before it needs the next charge.
Aside from duration of the battery life you need to consider the battery required by the unit. You can either opt for one that has to be wired onto the boat’s electrical system or a rechargeable battery.
Fish finders that require a 12V battery can be powered by a portable battery box, so don’t let that stop you from getting a unit with a non-rechargeable battery.
Given the wet nature of the environment you’ll be using the device in, checking the waterproof rating on the finder is important. You want a device that can withstand a few splashes of water. In worst case scenarios, the finder may even drop into the water. For this reason we strongly recommend that you pick a unit with the highest water rating in terms of being both waterproof and water resistant.
Before buying a fish finder you need to consider where exactly you’ll be fishing. Will it be in the US or abroad? Not all fish finders have the GPS coverage or data to function outside the borders. If you’re planning on fishing across the border opt for a device that can support you worldwide.
For such a delicate device—or any electronic device for that matter— it’s important to consider the warranty that comes with the unit. We’ll quickly point out that the warranty period of these devices isn’t always the most generous. It’s not surprising given the tough conditions you use the unit in.
But if you can find on that comes with a one-year warranty, that’s more than adequate. It’ll definitely give you some degree of coverage in case something happens to your device.
Some manufacturers go as far as including extra features on the unit to make your fishing experience even more pleasurable. Of importance to note is whether the device has integrated Wi-Fi or if the unit has the ability to connect to your mobile phone. Other features worth considering include if the unit has maps included so you can easily chart out your route.
Note that in most cases, the more extra features the unit has, the higher the price of the device is likely to be.
Portable fish finders can either be placed in the water or attached to the bottom of your boat. On the other hand, castable finders can be tied on to the end of your fishing line and you can cast it into the water. The one you buy will depend on where you’re planning on fishing as well as your angling skills. If you’re a seasoned angler, a portable finder is ideal.
Generally, it’s advisable to mount your fish finder on the side of your watercraft—particularly the right-hand lower section. This section is known to have less turbulence and is more efficient in delivering exceptional performance of your device.
In most cases the answer is ‘yes’. But whether you must opt for a fish finder with GPS will depend on the size of your boat as well as how serious you take your fishing. If you’re going to concentrate on bank-fishing a GPS isn’t mandatory. But it can still help with your mapping.
If you’re fishing from a small watercraft, a GPS will allow you to easily mark hot spots so you can return to them on your next fishing expedition.
Are you ready for our top three picks? In our opinion, the Garmin Striker 4 model tops our list because of its exceptional imagery and easy-to-use interface. And it’s one of the few units on our list that can be used in both deep and shallow waters.
In second place is the Humminbird 410170-1PIRANHAMAX 4.3 DI which we’ve awarded a 9.7 rating. This unit offers clear graphics and it’s highly responsive thanks to the fast processing speeds. The six-day battery life is the icing on the cake.
Last but not least, we’ve picked the Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar which offers you the convenience of using your phone or tablet instead of a separate bulky device. The impressive 330ft casting range is another reason why it’s part of our top three. Plus, it’s also very easy to use.
From our recommendations, which one is the best portable fish finder in your opinion? Make sure to pack one so you can have a catch worthy of bragging about.