Portable fish finders – Buying guide, Reviews & Comparison
If you want to find the best fishing gear, but you don’t have time to go through the buying tips and reviews prepared by our research team, this short paragraph should tell you everything you need to know about the best portable fish finders. After analyzing a lot of feedback coming from both amateur and professional fishermen, we have concluded that the Lowrance Elite-3X is the best because it has a full-color LED screen and an interface that is extremely easy to utilize. Besides, this is a dual frequency unit that will help you see fish both in shallow and deep waters. Thanks to its compact design, it can be used for kayak fishing. What’s more, it’s one of the most user-friendly and affordable products we have stumbled upon while prospecting the market. If the Lowrance 000-11448-001 Elite-3X is unavailable, you should consider the Garmin Echo 101 as it is a reliable alternative both in terms of performance and quality.
10 Best Portable Fish Finders (Reviews) in 2020
1. Lowrance 000-11448-001 Elite-3X Fishfinder with 83/200 Transducer
This is the best portable fish finder from Lowrance particularly for people looking for an affordable model. Not only is it the number 1 best seller on Amazon, but it can be purchased for less than $100. This is a rather decent price for a high-quality unit.
The model comes with a 3.5-inch color LCD. If you’re planning on doing some fishing in the middle of the day or the night, you needn’t worry about anything with this model. This is a backlit display that will allow you to see sharp images come rain or come shine.
The transducer is remarkably versatile, since users have the opportunity to choose between the 83 kHz and the 200 kHz frequencies. The first provides a cone angle around 60 degrees, while the second provides a cone angle of 20 degrees.
Customers speak highly of how lightweight the unit is. More than 40 people consider this is a 5-star product.
The backlit display of this fish finder enables fishers to visualize their catches and other details of the underwater environment with as little effort as possible.
The transducer that the unit comes with is a dual-frequency option, which means that you can utilize the device both in shallow and deep waters.
Moreover, the model is equipped with a broadband sounder that’s responsible for identifying fish targets in a swift manner, thus letting you know when you have to jiggle your bait.
Other detail you can see with the help of this product consists of the bottom hardness and contour, as well as thermoclines.
The fish arch type of display boasted by this unit might not be the easiest to use, especially for a beginning angler.
The product is not waterproof, so if you intend to use it for kayak fishing, you definitely need to purchase a cover.Buy from Amazon.com
You might have asked yourself the following question: what is the best portable fish finder from Garmin? We’ll tell you: it’s this one. The price of this model is comparable to the aforementioned Lowrance model, but it comes with a set of functions that are hard to say no to. It might look off-putting for some people, what with its 8-level grayscale screen.
However, the unit does feature a single-beam transducer that works great for fishing in small-sized boats. Customers claim it works wonderfully when used on canoes. Even though the size of the screen is somewhat small, users state it displays clear images that do the trick.
The unit works with batteries. Buyers often prefer to get a 12-volt one, as it costs around 14 dollars and is rechargeable.
With a list price of less than $100 and a transom mount and trolling motor mount transducer, this model’s certainly worth having a look at.
The dual-beam transducer that this device is outfitted with is an advantage in itself as it gives anglers the opportunity to use the fish finder in both deep and shallow waters.
With the eight-level grayscale, you won’t have any trouble telling what you’re looking at on the display of this product.
The package includes the transducer complete with a portable fish finder transducer mount, a quick-release mount, and a power cable, as well as a trolling motor mount.
With this kind of display, you can switch the view from fish arches to regular fish. Therefore, this unit can serve beginning fishermen and women just as well as experienced ones.
Several buyers have expressed concerns regarding the quality of the mount that the product is accompanied by. It seems to be too tight.
Since this unit doesn’t come with a color display, this aspect might bother some anglers who are accustomed to utilizing them.Buy from Amazon.com
This unit comes with a color LCD screen that is backlit. This allows users to see clear images both during the day and during the night.
A neat advantage of choosing this model is that it features a water temperature indicator. Some fishermen are aware of the temperature that their prefered catches have taken a liking to, which is why this is a great plus for some people.
The reading depth of this model ranges from 2 feet to 240 feet. With this one, users can choose between the traditional 83 and 200 kHz frequencies.
The 2.4-inch backlit display boasted by the Signstek model is one of the main features that should appeal to you as you’ll be able to visualize your potential catches conveniently and efficiently.
The sound waves utilized by this unit make it possible for you to understand where the bottom contours begin and where they end.
Another detail provided by the interface of the device is the water temperature, which can be an important factor in your fishing success.
The FF-003 is one of the easiest to use fish finders in this line given that all one needs to do is turn on the main unit and then cast out the sonar sensor.
If you break the transducer cable, you’re in for a nasty surprise as getting components for this model is virtually impossible.
While it does offer great results for applications like ice fishing, it might perform poorly when used in shallow waters.Buy from Amazon.com
The NorCross is a great pick for individuals who plan on fishing in shallow waters. It comes with a super-wide sonar beam angle, measuring 25 degrees. This cone angle is what makes it so good at getting readings from 1.5 feet to 99.9 feet.
Yet another advantage of buying this particular model is that it’s weather resistant. It can survive temperatures of up to 0 Fahrenheit degrees. The transducer it comes with is trollable and mountable and features its own 35-ft long cable.
The unit has a simple interface which allows users to choose between the 4 sensitivity settings.
The small-sized screen is backlit and glare-free.
What about the price? The NorCross is clearly the best fish finder for the money, as it costs even less than $90. Furthermore, the manufacturers are offering a 2-year warranty on this item.
If you’re not in the habit of fishing in particularly deep waters, the NorCross HawkEye might make a good choice for you as it can provide readings from 1.5 to 99.9 of feet.
The ultra-wide 25-degree sonar beam angler can tell you where your potential catches are located so that you have the means to attract them as best as possible.
It’s a rather compact and portable fish finder as it fits in any user’s hand.
Much like the Signstek model we’ve also showcased in this selection, all you have to do to get this device up and running is turn it on and toss the sensor into the water.
This device is mostly intended for people who are either on a budget or who generally have low expectations when it comes to the display of their fish finder.
As is the case with other products out there, this one is not waterproof.Buy from Amazon.com
5. Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ – GPS Portable Wireless
It’s no wonder that the Deeper fish finder is by far one of the most user-friendly and popular models in this line, and that’s because it’s convenient and does exactly what it has been designed to do. Besides, with this portable depth fish finder, you can use virtually any other device you might have at hand.
Since the unit relies on wireless technology to connect to your tablet or smartphone, you can take advantage of the display of these gadgets. One of the neatest things about this choice is that it is accompanied by a complimentary mobile app, with the help of which you can find out every information you might need.
The mobile app is easy to use and versatile and can tell you what the water temperature is, where your potential catches are located, as well as what depth they can be found in. You also get the data regarding vegetation and the bottom, provided that the depth isn’t more than 330 ft.
Many of the reviews garnered by this option praise the portable fish finder battery runtime as it is able to last for a whole fishing day.
If you’re in the market for a fish finder that’s easy to use, versatile, and above all, convenient and comfortable, the Deeper Portable might be right up your alley.
It comes with a complimentary mobile app that you can use to check on the fish location, depth, vegetation, and the water temperature.
Since it relies on Wi-Fi to do its job, you will be able to use any display of any device you might own already. As such, you can utilize your smartphone or tablet as per your preferences.
The Deeper can be employed for activities ranging from kayak to boat fishing, as well as shore fishing, but the neatest thing about this device is that it boasts an ice fishing mode that acts like a cable-free ice flasher.
Some owners say that they would have liked the instructions to be a tad more informative than what they are.Click to see the price on Amazon!
6. Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4
As one of the most affordable units in the series released by the brand back in 2016, the Striker 4 appeals to beginning and well-seasoned anglers alike. It’s effective and convenient and comes with plenty of user-friendly features. The neat thing about it is that it’s also waterproof, which means that it speaks to the needs of kayak fishers, too.
Another aspect you might be interested in if you’re having second thoughts about getting the Garmin Striker 4 portable fishfinder is that it even boasts GPS capabilities. What this means is that it can enable you to mark your favorite spots, which can range from rock piles to weed beds.
You can practically signal any fish bank whenever you find it so that you can get back to it later on. As for the battery that the product comes equipped with, it seems to have a rather decent runtime, at least judging by what some of the owners have had to say about it.
Also, the backlit display is a cool addition, as is the fact that it can be read with ease. One of the inconveniences of selecting this product is, however, the fact that it doesn’t come with a microSD card reader.
This digital portable fish finder comes with virtually any feature you might need from a budget-friendly alternative. It has a high-frequency sonar and is capable of delivering high-quality pictures of the underwater environment.
The dual-frequency CHIRP transducer enables you to fish shallow and deep waters alike.
Because the interface also features an individual flasher system, this device can be utilized for ice fishing with just as good results.
It’s also worth noting that this product will enable you to mark your favorite fishing locations so that you can get right back to them the next time you go fishing on the same lake.
One of the drawbacks of using this product is that it does not come with a microSD reader. However, sharing waypoints is possible.
The transducer lead isn’t particularly long, so steer clear of this model if you own an 18-ft boat, for example. If you have a 14-ft boat, though, it might do the trick for you.Buy from Amazon.com for ($109.12)
7. Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder Handheld
Many Venterior Portable fish finder reviews recommend this product because it’s easy to install and utilize. As you might tell from its display, it doesn’t show fish as arches. Instead, it actually displays them as fish. What this means is that it’ll take you less time to learn how to operate this particular fish finder than if you were to use a traditional one.
Because the product is outfitted with a 25-ft cable, you can use it with various boats. One of the drawbacks of many such devices is that their transducer lead is too short to allow anglers who use long boats to utilize them conveniently. That won’t happen when you’re using the Venterior model.
From what we’ve gathered by checking out several consumer reports, it appears that most of the information provided by the unit is accurate. While it won’t tell you whether your potential catch might be smaller or bigger, it will point out its location as correctly as possible.
In addition to all of this, you will be able to utilize this fish finder for nighttime fishing, if that’s what you are into. The display is backlit and does its job both when the sun is shining brightly in the sky and when the moon is up.
Since it is one of the least expensive choices in this line, this unit definitely speaks to the needs of fishing rookies, whose budgets might not be as expansive as those of well-seasoned anglers.
The model is easy to use, versatile, and convenient and it even displays fish as fish instead of arches.
The 25-ft cable that the transducer is outfitted with will enable owners to use it with virtually any kind of boat.
There are several modes that can be used with this device, including a battery save one that enables you to extend the runtime so that you can employ the product for an entire fishing day.
While the transmitter is waterproof, the receiver is not. You may have to get a portable fish finder case to avoid any splashes to affect the functionality of the display.
While some praise the cord length, other anglers find that it is just too long.Buy from Amazon.com for ($39.99)
8. Lowrance 000-12635-001 Hook-3X Sonar
While it might not be the most popular fish finder ever to have seen the light of day, this Lowrance model remains one of the consumers’ favorite, and that’s because it’s easy to use and comes with a dual-frequency transducer.
Besides, the unit has been outfitted with an advanced signal processor that makes it possible for owners to minimize the manual settings they have to ensure. By just pressing the menu button, one can visualize data ranging from the fish ID to the frequencies, range, and sensitivity, as well as noise reduction.
Another neat thing about this option is that it doesn’t just come with the display device and the transducer. It’s also accompanied by the power cord, a suction cup mount, a twelve-volt battery, as well as a charger and utility boxes. Therefore, you get everything you might require in a single box.
This portable fish finder sonar depth sounder with alarm is reasonably-priced and compact enough to be used for kayak angling, too. Making the difference between the actual fish and the debris is rather simple, at least based on the feedback that we have analyzed in this sense. The travel-friendly design boasted by this model is one of the favorite things of fishers out there.
The bright and clear display of the Lowrance model is one of its greatest selling points, as it enables fishers to distinguish what’s happening underwater.
The dual-frequency transducer that accompanies the display unit makes it possible for anglers to fish both shallow and deep waters.
Because this product isn’t equipped with a touchscreen, it has a lower chance of getting ruined over time. Just use the buttons if you’d like to choose different settings.
The Broadband Sounder made available by the interface enables owners to visualize data regarding the bottom solidity, the fish arches, and various other structural details.
Some anglers have reported that the depth tracking functions of this device can be interrupted by the alarm. Plus, the latter can be bothersome when one is angling in shallow waters.
If you aren’t a well-seasoned angler or one who has used this type of fish finder display before, you might find it hard to get your catches conveniently and easily.Buy from Amazon.com for ($269.99)
9. HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder with HD Color
These days, some fish finding devices can take usability to a whole new level, and that’s just the case of this HawkEye model. It’s easy to utilize and convenient, but the best thing about it is that it won’t have you breaking the bank. It’s available in three types of displays, so if you have nothing against using a grayscale one, be sure to check it out as well as it is more affordable compared to the color one.
The interface of the product enables fishers to select between three modes. The first is designed to act as a fish finder; the second will present data regarding the depth, water temperature, as well as the battery wattage, and the third can be used as a digital flasher for ice fishing.
What this means for you is that you will be able to make the most of the device if you like both warm weather fishing and ice fishing, too. You won’t have to purchase a separate flasher, although we do note that some models can be capable of more performance than this one.
Nevertheless, the HawkEye Fishtrax 1C does display pretty much all of the info you need for a successful fishing trip. It’s durable, and with just four AAA batteries, it can serve you for as long as five hours.
The fact that this device works with AAA batteries is an advantage, as you will simply have to replace them once you notice that the runtime is approaching its end.
The interface makes three modes available. One of them can be used for actual fish finding, another is made for checking on data like the water temperature, and the last can be utilized as an ice flasher.
While the unit itself is not waterproof, it is highly recommended for kayak fishing, provided that you get the right accessories for it so that you render it water-resilient.
The dual-frequency transducer enables you to fish deep and shallow waters alike.
This particular unit cannot provide readings past 120 feet.
There have been complaints from fishers according to whom the battery life could have been better. However, even these folks note that the disposable battery advantage cannot be denied.Buy from Amazon.com for ($236.53)
10. iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder
Much like the Deeper unit we have also mentioned in our selection, this one speaks to the needs of fishers who want to take advantage of their mobile devices and can’t be bothered with using an antiquated fish finder.
This particular bundle comes with a fish hook scale and a smart fish finding device that’s compatible with both iOS and Android devices. What this means is that, should you own an iPhone and an Android tablet, you can use the product with both, as long as you’ve taken the time to install the app compatible with the unit.
The rechargeable battery that the model has been outfitted with is probably the most important advantage offered by this alternative. It can run for as long as ten hours straight, thus enabling fishers to utilize the device for a whole day spent on their boats, on the shore, or wherever their angling adventures might take them.
The device does have its limitations, though, and one of them consists of the fact that it cannot provide readings on depths over 135 feet.
Other things you can do with the help of the iBobber range from mapping the depth contours and seeing the water structure to saving the water temperature, location, and species you’ve caught so that you can return to the best spot.
One of the main pros of choosing this device is that it is compatible with both Android and iOS devices, thus ensuring that the anglers can utilize it with any smartphone or tablet they might own.
The product offers a user-friendly interface that displays info regarding the potential catches available in the water, but also data in relation to the water temperature, the weather, and a variety of other details.
The unit comes with a rechargeable battery whose runtime is approximately ten hours; therefore, you can use the iBobber for a whole day of angling.
Compared to other bundles, this one is reasonably priced.
If the water depth is more than 135 feet, you won’t be able to use this device as it cannot offer readings beyond this mark.
Compared to other smart fish finders like the Deeper model we’ve described earlier on, this one isn’t as advanced.Buy from Amazon.com for ($99.95)
If you want to get yourself the best fish finder out there, you need to pay attention to a set of very important details. Our advice to you is to read as many portable fish finder reviews as possible, as other customers’ opinions can help you make up your mind about what you need in a particular model and understand how reliable some units actually are. Start investing some time in your research and you won’t be sorry for your purchase.
Fish finders come in various shapes and sizes and it might look like it’s difficult to pick the right one. To make the right call, check out the following tips.
Cone angle and beam
One of the first things to consider is whether you’ll be fishing in shallow or in deep waters. The wider the cone angle of your fish finder, the less likely it is able to detect deeper signals. Transducer cones come with variable ranges, anything from 9 to 60 degrees. However, the cone angle of most available models stand somewhere between 16 and 20 degrees.
The beam is also crucial if you’re looking for a good transducer. The majority of older, less advanced models come with a single beam, while modern units have dual and even triple beam technologies.
Frequency and power
The rule’s pretty simple when it comes to frequency. The higher it is, the more detail you’ll be able to see on the screen. Nevertheless, it is important for users to understand that a higher frequency will not help them visualize targets in deep waters. Frequencies can be anything from 50 kHz to 200 kHz, and it is the second that work best for shallow-water fishing.
As for power, the higher it is, the better. With more watts, you’ll be getting a clearer picture and a faster reading of the area you’re trying to scan. Fewer watts will create a fuzzy image which will take more time to load.
In this case, size matters quite a lot. In this sense, older models are cheaper just because they come with grayscale technology and with screen sizes that resemble the ones of a retro cellphone. This brings up the following dilemma: maybe the transducer is doing its job properly but you’re not being able to see the image as well as you might need to.
Subsequently, we recommend you get a reasonable high-res color screen. The higher the resolution, the more detail you’ll see displayed. After all, who doesn’t want a crystal clear picture of their catch?
Situations where using a fish finder comes in handy
Regardless their shapes and sizes or the power or frequency of the transducers, these devices can make the difference when it comes to your fishing success depending on your habits and endeavors. Whenever you use a small boat or a kayak, you do not have the freedom of utilizing big devices.
In fact, there’s a shortage of space that you must manage as best as possible so as to ensure that you remain safe all throughout the fishing activity and that the rest of your angling companions are as comfortable as ever.
Portable fish finders, compared to their larger counterparts, are compact, lightweight, and easy to utilize. Despite the fact that most of the models that we have stumbled upon do not boast a waterproof design, you can use things like waterproof cases or covers, which you usually have to purchase separately.
Just keep in mind that the case or cover you will choose needs to be matched to the device you own. Therefore, if you have a unit that’s outfitted with a touchscreen display, it’s safe to say that you need a rather thin cover that’s able to protect the device from the occasional splash yet allows you to use the touchscreen functionality.
Type of data provided by the model
When it comes to fish finders, it goes without saying that no unit is made the same as the next. What this means is that, while some can provide you information regarding the depth, the bottom structure, as well as the weather and water temperature, others are virtually incapable of doing the same.
Versatility is another factor you ought to take into account whenever you’re in the market for such a product. While with some, you have the opportunity to utilize them as regular fish finders and as ice flashers, too, with others you can solely rely on the first type of functionality.
Batteries and runtime
Another aspect that needs to be borne in mind is how you are going to supply the power to your fish finder. In case you didn’t know, there are options that work with disposable batteries, be they AA or AAA. The fact of the matter is that these alternatives are often more user-friendly compared to those equipped with rechargeable batteries, and here’s why.
With devices that rely on disposable batteries or rechargeable battery packs, you always have the freedom to carry a set with you to ensure that your fish finder is ready to go whenever you need it the most.
On the other hand, if you do decide to go with a product whose internal battery needs to be recharged, we at least suggest getting an extra battery pack or a model that can be powered via a micro USB port. This particular feature will enable you to utilize all sorts of power banks that you might carry with you to supply power to your smartphone, for instance.
Frequently Asked Questions about portable fish finders
Q: How do portable fish finders work?
Depending on the model you might come across, portable fish finders can work either as typical models or can utilize Bluetooth to connect to your mobile devices. In a nutshell, you will require a base unit, which is usually equipped with a display, and a transducer, of which the frequency can vary from one product to the next.
Dual or multi-frequency transducers are to be preferred as they will enable you to fish both deep and shallow water.
Q: How to use a portable fish finder?
It’s not easy giving a straight answer to this question, and that’s because of the multitude of choices available out there. With some, you can rely on your smartphone or tablet, while with others, you need to get acquainted with the interface of the device.
In most cases, though, the manufacturing brand will include a set of instructions in the box to ensure that you are able to make the most of the unit interface. With models that lack a touchscreen function, you’ll have to press the menu buttons to visualize specific data or to select specific settings.
Q: Is such a device any good?
In spite of what many old-fashioned fishers might think, using a fish finder can, in fact, make a big difference when it comes to one’s fishing success. Depending on the performance and capabilities of the model you will get your hands on, you can get as many as ten catches or more in a day, all thanks to this device.
Of course, since not all such units are created equal, we suggest picking one depending on your fishing expertise and however you prefer visualizing your potential catches — as arches or as actual fish.