If you're the type of angler who enjoys being out on the water at every chance, then you probably know the value of having a good quality fish finder. Regardless of the model, you'll want a finder that's going to help you reach your ultimate goal, which is, of course, to find and catch fish.
But in today's busy world, we’re more mobile than ever before, which makes it hard to find that perfect spot while you’re on the go.
But why should your mobility affect your love for fishing?
Enter the portable fish finder - an instrument utilized to spot fish underwater by detecting reflected pulses of sound vitality.
From tracking and saving waypoints for future reference, to giving you detailed information on water conditions at the bottom of the lake and showing you the type of fish available around you, there's no end to the benefits that a good portable fish finder can get you.
And with different manufacturers competing to be the best, it's only fitting that you'd want to shop around a bit before making your purchase to ensure that you get a unit that offers great features and good value for money too.
That's why we've made a roundup of some of the top fish finders on the market. Let's see how they stack up.
Our Recommended Handheld Portable Fish Finders
The Garmin STRIKER 4 is a portable fishfinder that's built to make your fishing trips more convenient and you, a smarter angler. It also comes with a watertight battery and it can run continuously for up to 2 full days of consistent fishing.
It's GPS enabled and comes with a Waypoint map that you can use to mark your favourite hotspots, making it easy to return to them the next day.
It also comes with a watertight battery and it can run continuously for up to 2 full days of consistent fishing.
The keyed interface comes with easy to use buttons, and you can choose either the 3.5, 5 or 7-inch display depending on your preference, but either one is amazing at reading depth. And the screen makes it easy to track your boat's speed, especially in making sure that your lure remains effective in marking your specific target.
With added Chirp Sonar and ClearVu technology, you've got a game changing device on your hands. It's ideal for kayaking, ice fishing, canoeing and more.
What I like
- Right off the bat, the Chirp Sonar technology keeps you on top of things by generating to-the-moment data that helps isolate your targets by creating distinct fish arches. It does this by constantly sweeping the area with high and low-range frequencies, and then isolating the data, making it simpler for you to understand and use to your advantage.
- You'll save plenty of time with the Waypoint map, which you can use to mark specific waypoints such as docks, brush piles and ramps. Once marked, the map will guide you straight to these locations, saving you loads of time and money that would've been spent trying to find these spots all over again.
- What if you've missed marking a few waypoints along the way? Not to worry, the Garmin Striker 4 also features a Sonar history rewind that you can use to review sonar images taken throughout the day so that you can mark those waypoints you've missed for future reference. And viewing sonar data using the built-in flasher format is a great feature if you're going to be doing some vertical jigging or ice fishing.
- The device comes with a portable carrying case that makes it convenient to bring with you on a canoe, kayak or ice fishing adventure.
- Value for money. This device comes at a really great price, considering all the built-in features it comes with.
- Easy to setup and use.
What I Don't like
- Unfortunately, this doesn’t come with a chip reader, which is gong to be a real bummer for those who prefer to link their finder with their lake master chip.
- It can be a struggle to keep the transducer in a horizontal shape when you're out on the lake, and it can be quite difficult to get the suction cup mount to stick to anything.
This portable Venterior fishfinder is an LCD unit that gives you detailed and visible data on water depth and water conditions on the day, such as sand, weed and rock circumstances.
The round shaped Transducer comes with a 25ft cable as well as a removable transducer float. Just remember to maintain a slow moving speed if you're using this while on a moving boat.
With a depth range that goes from 1 to 100m, you can easily apply this to any fishing environment, and it'll give you accurate data with water depth that's shown in meters/feet. It also tells you where the fish are located, and it uses 4-AAA batteries for power which are not included.
Other items included in the package are a neck strap to help you wear the fish finder around your neck, which:
- (a) helps to avoid getting it wet and
- (b) ensures that you won't lose it. There's also a stainless bolt and wing nut, and a convenient operating manual.
What I like
- You won't have to guess where the fish are with this convenient handheld fish finder; it works well when it comes to finding fish and giving you accurate data on their location and size. Although you won't be able to see exactly what kind of species the fish are, it's still an excellent feature.
- It's a versatile tool that can be used either for boat fishing, off-the-dock fishing as well as ice fishing. It quickly adapts to different conditions and can be used for ice fishing in weather conditions as low as -20.
- It comes with various settings for different conditions including the Battery Save mode, Fish Alarm mode, Backlight, etc.
- Setup, on this thing, is a breeze. The operating manual comes with all the info you'll need to understand and manage settings like the optimizing condition modes, sensitivity adjustment and modifying the readings from meters to feet, etc.
- Great deal. This device comes at a really attractive price point for anyone looking for a simple device that does all the basic tasks just right.
What I Don't like
- Although the transmitter itself is waterproof, the screen isn't, and it's advised to keep it out of the water and to avoid even spraying it with water because it's highly sensitive.
- It's unable to detect fish that are smaller than 10cm and is equally useless when it comes to motionless targets. However, you can adjust it to high sensitivity to see both big and small fish, whereas when on a low sensitivity setting, it'll only be able to show you big fish.
- Ice fishing aficionados beware: one cannot operate this unit in below 0 conditions as it simply doesn't work in such weather conditions.
- Most reviewers found that the long length of the transducer cable makes it a mission to use this unit when kayaking, so there's room for technical improvement there.
This ultra high-tech fishfinder from Humminbird comes with an impressive 5-inch HD color display LCD screen with backlight that allows you to view data without worrying about the glare from the sun.
This unit can work in literally any condition and will report its findings from the lake bottom to you in an instant.
The built-in GPS comes with Unimap cartography to access optional maps, and a microSD slot to help you save specific waypoints that you can then easily return to for more productive fishing.
Each unit comes with a 12-volt battery that will provide you with ongoing power for a full day of fishing, no problem, as well as an ice transducer. I mean, what else could you ask for?
What I like
- It's important here to commend Humminbird for their excellent customer service. They're always available to answer queries or replace broken parts, and their service is always quick and convenient.
- This unit is easy to setup and use.
- What a lot of reviewers found awesome is the fact that you can link this unit with the lake master chip. What this combination allows you to do is determine your location relative to where you want to go, get a super clear view of what's under the boat and all around you inside the water, basically performing tasks that would usually require multiple units.
- The HD Color screen is UV resistant, which means no more having to deal with sun glare while reading your data.
What I Don't like
- here are some kinks with the battery charger that some reviewers reported on. Otherwise, the battery itself works just fine.
- The price is a bit steep, but totally worth it considering the features that this baby comes with.
The iBobber is a Bluetooth enabled, wireless fishfinder, which has been uniquely optimized for compatibility with iOS and Android smart devices. It has an app that you can download to your smartphone for free, which you can then sync to your device to source valuable data on your fishing location, mark hotspots, save water temperature and even share your fishing adventures on social media, in real time! It's also compatible with Google watch and iWatch and features an interactive GPS map for spot labeling.
This super lightweight and portable fish finder is ideal to use when shore fishing. You can easily cast this to get a better vantage point of underwater conditions to help you find the fish you’re looking for better and faster. Other features include a cool lunar calendar and weather prediction program that'll give you reliable data on temperature, rain probability, and wind strength; and of course, sonar and fish tagging capability.
Basically, it performs all the important basics such as fish marking, reading temperature and water depth with exceptional accuracy, on top of all the bells and whistles - A top class wireless fish finder for techie anglers. The pack also comes with a USB charger and carrying pouch.
What I like
- The iBobber is versatile and can be used for a variety of scenarios, whether you're in fresh water or the ocean. All you have to do is cast it out, and it'll return with accurate data on what types of fish there are, the water conditions, the crevices, and holes where the big fish lurk, laydowns and weed beds.
- Another awesome feature is the Trip Log, which you can use to save the number and species of fish you've caught, the location of your favorite spots for future reference, and keep the exact date and time on which all the action happens.
- The LED beacon, fish and strike alarms are ideal for nighttime and ice water fishing, as they'll alert you when fish are around and immediately after you've caught one.
- With this device, you get accurate information not just on the size, but the type of species the fish is, which is great when you're fishing for edible fish.
- It can go for a depth of up to 135'!
- Using Bluetooth technology, you can easily sync this to your smartphone and/or tablet to get accurate, in-the-moment data on your fishing trip, and you can still use your phone for other tasks while still connected to the iBobber.
- Great price and value for money and is easy to setup, read and operate.
What I Don't like
- With 10 hours of battery life, this device will die on you often and requires more frequent recharging than other devices.
- It's not the best for trolling, and has difficulty staying connected.
The Lowrance Elite 3X color fishfinder is a lightweight device that comes with advanced Broadband Sounder to give you vivid details on your targets, thermodines and to make out fish arches.
It gives you an even clearer and optimized view of all the action going on beneath your boat using Dual-frequency H3, which is perfect for freshwater and shallow salt water conditions by the way.
Then there's the fish I.D. option which allows you to identify the fish you're targeting using creative icons.
The unit itself is moisture-proof and water resistant, but you'll have to buy a separate watertight container to protect your battery specifically. It also comes with a transducer that doubles as a power cable, as well as a handy mounting bracket.
Sure, this portable depth finder doesn’t have all the cool extras that some of the more expensive units do, but it gets the job done swimmingly, and comes at an affordable price that you just can't beat. I'd recommend it for newbie anglers, and it works ideal for small boats, kayaks, float tubes and SUP.
What I like
- It's a versatile unit that can work in pretty much any type of condition, even in muddy water.
- It's super easy to install and use and is a great entry level buy for someone who's just taken up fishing as a new hobby.
- Value for money. This device comes at a really sweet price.
- The LED screen with backlight is water resistant, and allows you to easily view details despite glare from the sun.
- With this, you can easily spot fish, structure detail and do all the basics without a hitch. It works smoothly and has great reviews among small boat anglers specifically.
What I Don't like
- Although fantastic for small boats, this unit simply doesn't work on bigger boats. For example, the depth metering can be a problem, even in shallow water. Now imagine using it in a bigger boat on a larger body of water. Complete fail.
When it comes to angling, there’s no one size fits all solution to fish finding, but having the right device for your conditions could make all the difference between success and failure.
A good device can become a valuable companion that keeps you sane while you track fish, avoiding unproductive areas and maximizing the time you spend on the docks (or on the water).
If you're new to this sport, do yourself a favor and get a simple entry level one until you get the hang of the basics. And for the old hands, there's plenty of advanced options to give you that added edge.
So whether you're fishing for sport or to experience the serene feel that overcomes so many anglers when they're on the water, have fun and remember the words of Zane Grey:
“If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.”