What is a fish finder
If fishing is one of your hobbies, sometime during your journey towards perfecting your craft, you may come across devices such as fish finders. What are these, exactly, and what do they mean for the end-user? While products in this line nowadays include a broad array of technological advancement which can significantly improve a fishing experience, almost all units rely on the same principle. In other words, they are capable of discovering reflected pulses of sound energy, much like a sonar would.
Even though utilizing such a gadget seems like a complicated endeavor in the beginning, many of the models we’ve come across are relatively easy to operate and their interface usually isn’t difficult to learn the works of. Several portable options have been known to integrate features such as GPS, compass, radar, Wi-Fi, as well as social media sharing. The core benefit of using the best fishfinder is that the owner will be able to target his or her catch better, considering that the fish will actually show up on the screen, along with details such as the sediments, the plants, as well as the hard bottom. Even if you choose a cheap fish finder, with a little time and effort, you’ll be able to spot the fish in no time.
How do fish finders work?
In order to work, fish finders use sonar. Sonar was developed back in the course of the Second World War, for espionage purposes. When it is being turned on, a handheld fish finder releases a sound wave that penetrates the water and detects various obstacles, be they rocks, fish, plants, and others. The wave is narrow when it goes into the water but it gradually increases its coverage by creating a beam, also known as a cone. As soon as the wave meets an item in the water, it returns the signal to the fish finder. Then, depending on the amount of time it takes for the fish finder to send out the wave towards the obstacle and the bottom of the water, the product is capable of calculating the distance between the boat and the fish. The range is subsequently displayed on the screen of the fish finder, but this depends on the model you might be the owner of.
There are many models out there that are able to utilize just one sonar beam, which may or may not be an inconvenience. If what you’re interested in is covering a wider area, you may want to choose a unit that comes with multiple beams. Various manufacturers such as Humminbird have gradually taken their products to a whole new level by designing them with two, three, and up to six sonar beams.
Because even the best fish finder is absolutely useless if the user isn’t capable of understanding the displayed data, it might be a good idea to check out some information on the model of your choice before buying it. Fish can be presented in two main ways, depending on the type of unit you may have available. They may show up as arches or as fish IDs. The higher the number of sonar beams, the greater the accuracy of the target’s position as the person using the fish finder will be able to determine whether the fish is located on the right, left, or even below the boat.
The transducer is the most important part of a fish finder as it is responsible for turning the electrical signal from the transmitter into sonar. Also, the transducer captures the echoes and then converts them into an electrical signal which enables the owner of the device to visualize the targets and the other things that may exist in the water at any given time. Typically, transducers have to be mounted using various systems depending on the unit of your choice, but all have to be mounted in the water and as far away as possible from things such as the motor engine of the boat, which can significantly affect the signal.
Portable fish finders – a buying guide
With the vast number of models that are available in today’s marketplace, it’s often times difficult for a prospective buyer to choose the best portable fish finder for the money. Fortunately for you, we’ve decided to take part of the hassle of your buying process by putting together a short guide that can help you understand the most important features of these units and whether or not they can be correlated with your needs and expectations. Since every user’s different from the next, we recommend going through several portable fish finder reviews.
Type of transducer
As previously mentioned in the first part of the article, transducers aren’t created the same. They may use a single beam, two beams, or multiple sonar beams in order to detect what’s going on under the water. The dimensions of the cone are crucial as you will be able to see just the objects that are within its area. Therefore, the wider the beam, the larger the area you’ll be able to cover using your fish finder. It might be worth noting that, with wide-beam alternatives, you won’t be able to target fish that prefers deep water. On this account, the main disadvantage of using a multiple beam option is that it can be utilized mostly by individuals who fish in shallow water. However, we’ve seen that the technological advancements of nowadays may even allow the user to select a single beam or a multiple beam option, should they go on a fishing expedition and use the device in a different water depth than the one they’d normally employ the unit in. All things considered, dual-beam transducers seem to be the right choice for various kinds of fishers, as they combine both of the previously mentioned features.
Also with regards to the transducers, you’ll have to consider whether you want to mount it to the transom of your boat or use a through-the-hull type of mounting. When deciding on one unit or the next, you should pay extreme attention to the mount because, unless you’re the owner of a fiberglass hulled boat, you won’t be able to use the through-the-hull alternatives.
When it comes to the screen of these devices, the matter’s quite simple: the bigger, the better. For instance, if you take the time to analyze some of the top rated fish finders, you’ll come to the conclusion that a big part of the decision of many buyers was the size of the display and whether or not it was any good at making it easy for the user to visualize the catch. Many of the older models come with grayscale displays of which the size might not exactly be user-friendly. If the product you’re eyeing features downscan/down imaging, it’s safe to say that you’ll have as little trouble as possible when it comes to understanding the data displayed. The resolution is another factor that should play a major role in your research, but we can’t give you straightforward advice on these terms as every user’s different. Even so, the higher the resolution and thus, the higher the number of pixels on a screen, the more detail you’ll be able to look at.
Frequency and power
The higher the wattage in the best portable fish finder of 2018, the better. This is the golden rule for choosing the suitable alternative because nothing beats more power when you most need it. However, the power should always be associated with the frequency you might be using at a given time because you’ll need a different one for shallow waters and a separate one for deep waters. A high frequency is, after all, synonymous with more detail displayed on the screen. 50 kHz transducers are good options for people who are interested in doing their fishing in deep water, even if the image might be a little fuzzy. For example, a 100W model used at a frequency of 50 kHz can provide readings up to four hundred feet in depth, whereas the same unit used at a frequency of 200 kHz can strictly display info up to one hundred feet in depth.
Portability, convenience, and ease of use
Just like we’ve mentioned earlier on, dual-beam transducers are by far the most convenient options out there, considering that they can be utilized both in shallow and in deep waters, so that they best accommodate the requirements of the user. Portability is also a detail to consider, particularly if you don’t use your personal boat all of the time. Some models come with transducers that can be attached to the transom using a suction cup and most of these will be battery operated fish finders. This way, you can unmount the transducer as easily as possible and use it with a different boat the next time.
As for ease of use, there’s a limited number of units that make it hard for the user to understand how to operate them. In fact, several models we’ve stumbled upon during our research are so convenient and usable that they come with just the transducer which can be used via a mobile app. A wireless fish finder might be something to consider if you want to use the display on your smartphone instead of the one in a typical device and that adds to something since the resolution of many mobile phones nowadays is becoming higher and higher.
Most models can be used right out of the box as it’s a high chance they will come with the mounting hardware, the transducer, as well as the cables. Brands that are less reputable may, on occasion, omit to provide the mounting hardware, so be sure to check the product description to see if it’s included in the package. Also, you may need to look at a transducer replacement just to be on the safe side and avoid having to cut your fishing expedition short.
Some of the best portable fish finders are showcased below. We’ve based the selection on the appreciation these models have gathered from American users. Several options are quite affordable and won’t have you breaking the bank, whereas others are more expensive but have a suite of features that are very hard to say no to. It’s up to you to choose the right one.
Who makes the best fish finders?
We put a lot of time and effort into research regarding the best fish finders, depending on each category of fishing they have been designed for. We’ve looked at the user feedback, several professional reviews, as well as the sales figures and even the social media activity gathered around these units. Following this research, we’re confident enough to recommend the most efficient models, many of which offer the best value for the price. Some are traditional, others are for kayak, some come with GPS and others have been specially designed for ice fishing.
Garmin portable fish finders
Garmin has been on the market for a quite a long time now, during which the company has gradually grown by focusing on core values such as superior quality and compelling design. Nowadays, Garmin products can be categorized depending on their purpose and many of them are being used successfully in areas such as automotive, aviation, outdoor, sports and recreation, health and wellness, as well as marine.
Just in the marine area, Garmin manufactures units destined for coastal fishing, inland fishing, cruising and sailing, thus addressing an impressive number of customers all over the world. Some of the most esteemed products we’ve found in this category include chartplotter and sonar combos, autopilots, sonar modules, forward transducers, typical fish finders, as well as a plethora of accessories and extras. What’s more, the brand makes a big deal out of offering software updates to its users so that they are never left behind when it comes to the performance of their devices. Since this company is world-known for the customer service it offers to its clients, buying a Garmin GPS fishfinder combo nowadays looks like a safe bet. In addition, all of the units produced by the brand are backed by variable warranties which make it possible for a prospective buyer to enjoy the convenience of refunds, returns, and ultimately get the right product for his or her needs.
The Garmin Echo 151 is by far the best product from the brand considering that it is one of the most affordable yet fully functional models in the line. While it might look like a rather basic alternative, the fact of the matter is that the Garmin Echo 151 is capable of doing the same things as high-end, significantly more expensive options. The model has a dual-beam transducer of which the frequency is either 77 kHz or 200 kHz, depending on the water one is fishing in. The transducer comes with a suction cup for mounting. The display unit is compatible with a dedicated Garmin 50/200 kHz transducer which can be purchased separately. Even though the 256 by 160 grayscale display doesn’t look very impressive, it actually does what it’s supposed to do and does it well.
Lowrance portable fish finder
Another well-known brand you might have already come across is Lowrance. This company has been on the market ever since the middle of the 20th century. After having developed its first recreational sonar in 1957, the manufacturer has gradually worked its way towards performance, with improvements such as DownScan Imaging and Broadband Sounder technology, some of which it has even gathered awards for.
Aside from Lowrance fish finders, the brand also manufactures products such as gauges, mobile applications, chartplotters, sonar modules, as well as devices destined for predicting the weather and entertaining their users. As is the case with Garmin, showcased earlier on, Lowrance respects its customers by offering excellent customer support and advantageous warranties. One of the main reasons someone would feel tempted to choose a unit created by this company is the fact that Lowrance offers free software updates that make usage even more meaningful and efficient. Depending on the purchased product, buyers can take advantage of the refund and return policies offered by this manufacturer, in that the standard warranties usually last for a year or two. Since it’s been in the industry for more than fifty years now, it’s safe to say that buying a Lowrance model is as safe as houses.
The Elite-3X has the reputation of being one of the most cost-efficient models out there, considering that the vast majority of online retailers usually sell it for less than one hundred dollars. But the price isn’t all that important considering the number of specs and useful features packed in this unit. For one, the model features a 3.5-inch LCD display that can make discovering your catch as easy as pie. Second, the transducer provided in the pack is dual-beam, which means that owners can benefit from utilizing either 83 kHz or 200 kHz, depending on the waters they fish in. Besides, the mounting system is provided in the package, which is reassuring to know for people looking for an effortless installation. Having gathered over one hundred positive Amazon reviews, it’s safe to say that this model is worth taking into account.
Portable fish finder from Humminbird
Compared to Lowrance, Humminbird is a fairly new manufacturer of fish finders. However, thanks to its experience of over 40 years in the field, this brand has acquired an immense degree of appreciation thanks to the high quality of the products it launches. Humminbird fishfinder reviews recommend the company both for the smart technology and cutting-edge advancements in the industry and for its commitment to the customers. What’s more, this is an authentic American company of which the headquarters are based in Alabama, where engineers and designers are constantly working towards improving the usability, interface, and capabilities of sonars and electronics products.
The neat thing about Humminbird is that it manufactures both recreational and professional units, which means that buyers can choose any of the many fish finders to their heart’s content and in complete accordance with their preferences. The latest technological innovations from Humminbird include the Autochart live and Smartstrike, both utilized in cartography and the branded Cross Touch Technology, which was uniquely designed to answer to the needs of users who may benefit from multi-gesture control. Plus, the quality of most of the displays of Humminbird GPS fishfinders as well as the Humminbird side imaging make all of these products well worth every penny.
The 409720-1 is probably the best Humminbird portable fish finder for the money, as it meets and even exceeds the requirements of users all over the world. The model offers the convenience and performance of a dual beam Plus Sonar as well as GPS chartplotting. In fact, this product comes with its own GPS receiver that can give a helping hand to any fisher who might be struggling with finding his way back home. Over 2,500 waypoints, 50 tracks, as well as 45 routes come preloaded in this product. As for the frequency of the transducer, you’re likely to run into no problems with this one, as the 83 kHz can be used in deep waters whereas the 200 kHz offers the best results when employed in shallow water.
Hawkeye portable fish finders
Compared to the companies we’ve showcased above, Hawkeye is a relatively new brand. What’s more, the company hasn’t been on the market for such a long time as Lowrance or Garmin. However, this does not mean that its products are any less good. In fact, a Hawkeye fish finder might surprise you when it comes to performance and convenience. For example, some of its most esteemed units include handheld depth finders as well as portable fishfinders that offer accurate readings without sacrificing anything in terms of clarity.
The LCD display of most Hawkeye products makes it easy for a fisherman to understand the depth readout, the sensitivity settings, the fish depth indicators as well as the bottom contour. In other words, such a model is definitely worth the money as it even offers customization features that some other high-end alternatives don’t have. For example, the sensitivity of a Hawkeye fish finder can be adjusted depending on the depth of the water or its clarity; thus, users have the freedom to pick any of the four settings provided by the interface. If you’d like to investigate the quality of the units built by Hawkeye even further, you may benefit from testing products such as the brand’s infrared marine thermometers or electronic fish scales.
Hawkeye FT1PXC (B016O5IDBW)
If you’ve been tossing and turning about which model to pick from the myriad that is available on the market today, perhaps you’d like to give a chance to the best Hawkeye fish finder. The FT1PXC is, after all, one of the most critically acclaimed units considering that it has almost all the characteristics one might ever want from such a device. For one, the model has a 100-level sensitivity adjustment, which goes to show just how customizable it is. As is the case with other units we’ve seen, this one has dual frequency in that owners can choose either between 83 kHz or 200 kHz. The main difference between the Hawkeye FT1PXC and other similar products is that it has audible depth and fish alarms that can notify the owner when a potential catch has been discovered by the beam.
Which fish finder is right for me?
Fish finders differ greatly from one model to the next, mainly because the purpose of one user can’t be compared to the ones of another one. Some are anglers, whereas others may be interested in kayak fishing. Perhaps there are individuals who prefer ice fishing and need the specific characteristics of a unit built for this task exactly. We’ve gone through a lot of information on the various types of fishing that are now preferred by people in the United States and Canada. Our research could not have been complete if we hadn’t looked at what actual buyers had to say about the thousands of units we’ve considered, as well as how several expert review sites rated them. Both the features and the benefits of kayak, ice fishing, GPS, and portable alternatives were carefully analyzed and compiled into the following paragraphs.
The best portable fish finder for kayak fishing
People who do their fishing in small boats and kayaks don’t require a 10-inch fish finder. Not only would such a model look downright strange but it would also make operation tedious because the user would constantly have the tendency to protect the unit instead of tending to his or her hobby.
Screens of 4 inches or even less are by far the right alternative when you’re fishing in a kayak. If the model you’ve chosen has a display that exceeds 5 inches, it can end up being counterproductive. In this case, you should consider the fact that, the larger a unit, the heavier it’s likely to be. Therefore, there’s a high chance you increase the weight of your kayak overall if you decide to purchase a model of which the screen is larger than 6 inches. Don’t worry, finding a portable fish finder for kayak isn’t all that complicated. All things considered, fish finders for kayaks usually feature transducers that can be either mounted through the scupper hole or inside the hull. Since most small boats are made of plastic, the transducer will encounter no difficulties when getting the readings. Plus, many manufacturers nowadays offer suction cup mounts that make it possible for a kayak fish finder to become even more efficient. Even though we might have mentioned this before, it goes without saying that choosing the proper model for your needs should occur after going through several fish finders for kayaks reviews.
The FF-003 is by far the best kayak fish finder for the money, as it is both compact and lightweight and knows how to do its job properly. What’s more, it’s generally considered to be one of the most affordable options out there. The neat thing about this unit is that it’s precise and easy to read. What’s more, it comes with a 240 by 160 pixel LCD display that’s easy to read both in direct sunlight or at dusk. Judging by the kayak fish finder reviews we’ve come across, this model seems to be the best fishfinder for kayak fishing as it is easy to use, small enough to avoid interfering with any of your movements, and powered by just four standard AAA batteries.
The best portable fish finder with GPS
While prospecting the market, you may come across several cheap fish finders with GPS. Are they any good or shouldn’t you waste time thinking about buying them? Regardless of whether you end up choosing a Garmin GPS fishfinder, a Lowrance fishfinder GPS combo, or a Humminbird GPS fishfinder, the bottom line is that the navigational advantage simply can’t be denied. There are four main benefits why you should take these options into account. For one, such a model can allow you to save locations.
This includes waypoints and hotspots that you might utilize in the future. Second, nothing beats GPS when it comes to getting home safely. Sure, some fishers may not even think about going fishing at sea when the water’s high and there’s a high chance of a storm coming up. But some individuals are just more adventurous than that, which is why it’s reassuring to know they’ll be coming back home in one piece, all thanks to the GPS feature in fish finders. Course charting is an additional benefit as it makes it very easy for the user to figure out his or her location and determine the course he or she has to take in order to reach the perfect spot. Furthermore, we’ve seen that there’s a myriad of products in the line that come with preloaded charts of anything from rivers to coastal areas in the United States. Some examples consist of the BlueChart g2 Vision developed by Garmin, the Lowrance Lake Insight, as well as the ContourXD package created by Humminbird.
The Raymarine Dragonfly-4 is probably the best fishfinder GPS combo on the market today. If you’re wondering why that is, we’ll tell you. First, the model features a 4.3-inch high-definition LED display that’s backlit and thus allows you to do your fishing both when the sky is up in the sky and in the middle of the night. Second, the interface includes a variety of US rivers, lakes, as well as coastal maps. Additionally, the manufacturers have added a Wi-Fi capability in this fish finder so that users enjoy the convenience of visualizing the data displayed on any mobile device, via the Raymarine dedicated mobile app.
The best portable fish finder for ice fishing
Ice fish finders are different from other models destined for regular boats or kayaks. Most of the models we’ve come across can be split up into two categories. Regrettably, there doesn’t seem to be a unit that combines both capabilities, as one has the freedom to choose between a flasher unit or a 2D sonar. Flashers are somewhat older compared to their 2D sonar counterparts but they provide accurate readings when it comes to the bottom and everything that’s standing between it and the surface of the ice.
Although reading the data displayed might take some time getting used to, this seems to be the best choice for ice fishing. While many 2D sonars can’t be considered the best ice fishing sonar for the money strictly because they don’t include the benefits of a flasher, some of them actually do. So, whether you want to look at a graph or switch to the flasher mode, a 2D unit is probably the best fish finder for ice fishing you may need to prospect. Regardless of the type you will end up choosing, one of the most important features to look at is the sonar angle, also known as cone size. The wider the cone, the higher the amount of detail you’ll be able to see. An additional characteristic you have to differentiate between the many ice fishing electronics available on the current market is the portability. In actuality, there are very many ice fishing depth finders that are extremely heavy, so portability seems to be key to getting the right unit. Plus, the larger the battery, the longer its life.
The ICE-35 is one of the best fish locators for ice fishing, particularly if what you’re looking for is a three color flasher. Such a product is relatively easy to utilize, as the 3-color fiber optic display makes it a breeze for users to determine the approximate position of the fish they’re trying to catch. The 200-ft depth capability as well as the fact that this is a selectable dual frequency sonar make the ICE-35 a noteworthy alternative. In addition, the flasher scale is set automatically by this product which makes operation hassle-free. The ICE-35 includes the transducer and comes with its own battery.
The best portable fish finder
Portability significantly impacts the entire user experience. Not all fishers are created the same, just like not all fish finders have the same capabilities. If you’re having trouble deciding whether or not you require a large screen that can unfortunately increase the core weight of the product, we recommend going to a store and testing some models out. You don’t have to purchase them right away because it’s only after you’ve made up your mind about your needs and preferences that you can make a good call. Have a talk with a consultant and hold some units in your hand to see if they fit your expectations.
If you have no time or availability to drive to a shop and speak to a seller, you don’t need to worry about anything. The internet’s overflowing with customer reviews, and while the actual dimensions of the unit you intend to buy might not tell you to much in terms of portability, other buyers can. If you’re not feeling pressured into making up your mind too quickly, go through as many ratings as possible because they can let you know what to expect on many levels. Some of the reviewers write detailed posts where they go into detail about the problems they’ve come across when operating the device. Others, on the other hand, explain why they think the model they own is the best possible one they’ve purchased. If you’re no fan of using a somewhat conventional unit, it might be a good idea to look for one that can let you use the display of your smartphone or tablet.
It comes as no surprise that some say that the Deeper DP0H10S10-P is the best portable fish finder in the world. The neat thing about this model is that it comes just with a dual-beam transducer that relies on Bluetooth to offer readings via iOS and Android mobile devices. Therefore, if you feel like using a 10 or 12-inch tablet to see what’s going on under your boat, you’re free to do so. Buyers can choose between the 90 kHz and 290 kHz frequencies to make sure they get all the data they need when fishing in shallow and deep water. The free app comes with this device and features a variety of functions such as weather, diary, maps, and activity calendar. When it’s for sale, this is the best fish finder under 200 as it takes the cake when it comes to convenience, usability, and versatility.
What to avoid when buying a new portable fish finder
Not all units in the line are worthy of a prospective buyer’s attention. Some of them might be too expensive whereas a fish finder for sale may not satisfy some of the most ardent needs of fishermen. The first question you should ask yourself is how often you intend to utilize the device. Are you an occasional fisherman or an avid one? Do you plan to organize fishing trips and expeditions along with your friends several times a month or have these experiences not even occurred to you by now? An extra factor to ponder is the area you’ll do your fishing in. Are there any lakes or rivers in the proximity of your home? How deep or shallow is the water? This can help you figure out if you absolutely need the convenience of a dual-beam transducer or not. For example, if you know you’ll be fishing in the same river for the rest of your days, perhaps you don’t require a dual-beam model at all and therefore, you’re better off with a more cost-effective option.
Ease of use and controls are two other things you have to analyze before settling for a model instead of another one. Since it’s hard to tell if the product poses no technical difficulties to any type of user, regardless of his or her technical abilities, you should refer to several customer reviews. Even though it’s very tempting, try to avoid choosing a unit by a relatively unknown brand, of which the fish finders haven’t even gathered reviews at all. With trusted manufacturers such as Garmin, Humminbird, or Lowrance, you’re likely to run into no problem when it comes to the validity of your warranty. A final piece of advice is to at least purchase the fish finder from a reputable online retailer such as Amazon because the marketplace would be responsible for returns and refunds if you fail to contact the manufacturer’s customer support.
Fish finder common terms and how to correctly read the information on the screen
To a certain extent, the terminology employed with most fish finders can be baffling, particularly for first-time buyers or users. Even if we’ve already discussed some of the most common terms you might encounter while doing your research we’ve decided to go through them one more time. Words like cone angles, fish targets, water clarity, thermoclines, transducer, frequency, mount, and LCD display should be no strangers to you.
Getting something out of the readings provided by the unit may look like a complicated thing. On the one hand, you won’t be looking at the actual image of the fish schools, plankton, and bottom of the water. What you’ll be seeing are the echoes of the seabed and fish encountered by the signal. On the other hand, the owner needs to be aware of the fact that the data displayed isn’t static and thus will change quite often. After all, fish don’t swim in the same place all day long, which is part of the reason fishing is so exciting. The scrolling speed of some models can be adjusted in accordance with the requirements of the user. That’s why looking at a small fish school when the scrolling speed is high can produce a large echo on the display of the device. If you want to keep track of what’s actually happening in the water, you need to look in the right part of the screen because that’s where the new signals will be shown.
Moreover, not all fish finder screens are the same. The models that use traditional transducers usually show the water temperature and the depth of the current reading. Fish are displayed like arches in this case. Down/Side Imaging fish finders offer accurate readings and the data is a lot clearer compared to the one provided by entry-level models. In this case, fish are small dots instead of arches. Fishfinder/chartplotter combos are the most advanced alternatives nowadays, as they combine the best of two worlds. Users can even split the screen in two and compare the two views, just to get the most of utilizing the device.