Going on a fishing adventure? This best portable fish finder review will help you trim down your choices, given the fact that the market is awash with compact fish finder units that promise to make your fishing trip worthwhile.
The perfect device will help you make the most out of the limited space you have on your small boat or kayak, at the same time providing a superb array of useful features to get the job done.
We have prepared a brief buying guide and a concise best portable fish finder review, so you will be able to make an informed decision as to which model best suits your fishing needs. Let’s dive right into it.
Dual Frequency CHIRP
Directional 3D’s sonar
Patented sonar fish identifier
Wide Beam, Dual Beam
Dual Beam Sonar, Down Imaging
Before we get to the nitty-gritty of this portable fish finder review, it might prove useful to read through this short guide to see the difference between portable and castable fish finders and the benefits of getting portable fish finder for kayaks and small boats, especially if you’re on the fence about getting one.
Portable vs. Castable Fish Finders: Which should you buy?
The main difference between castable and portable fish finders lies in their size.
- Portable Fish Finders
Portable fish finders usually come with a small transducer that can be placed in the water or attached to the bottom of your watercraft. It features a small display screen that shows the data available.
- INTERESTING: Best Fish Finder For The Money of 2018 (UPDATED)
- Castable Fish Finders
Castable fish finders, on the other hand, feature a tiny, yet rugged transducer that you can tie to the end of your fishing line. This enables you to cast it on to any location you look to get an idea of what is going on beneath the surface.
Take note, however, that castable fish finder units usually lack a dedicated display. They, instead, merely send an image to your mobile device using an app (which is usually free), Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi.
Which should you buy?
Deciding on which you should settle for, whether a castable or portable fish finder, chiefly depends on where you’re going to fish and how serious an angler you are. Castable fish finders are ideal for the occasional fisher who’s into rock, bank, or shore fishing.
As we’ve just mentioned, it utilizes the power that you already got in your pocket—your smartphone. Portable fish finders, contrarily, are perfect for the seasoned angler or anyone who’s into hardcore angling. You can use them for open-water or ice fishing and work best even on limited watercraft space.
Benefits of Portable Fish Finder for Kayaks and Small Boats
Portable fish finders are for anglers who want mobility and options when fishing. You can simply park it in your tackle box or cast it off your kayak, bass boat, any dock, riverbank, or shore, and given the innovations in technology, you never have to sacrifice much functionality and features for portability.
Listed below are more reasons why portable fish finders are useful for kayaks and small boats:
By and large, fixed fish finders usually cost more compared to portable devices.
Ease of Use
Since portable fish finders don’t require permanent installation, you can easily set up the device and use it in minutes.
Flexibility and Adaptability
Portable fish finders can be easily towed, thus can be used wherever you want to fish—from a shore, float tube, kayak, or a small boat.
Portable fish finder transducers can also be used in different situations. You can easily cast them into the water, on a boat, or on the shoreline. You can opt to temporarily mount them onto your canoe, kayak, or any other water vessel.
How many type of Portable Fish Finder:
Below, you’ll find our picks of the best portable fish finders on the market. They are classified into three:
Depending on what you need and where you need it for, be sure to read through so you can find the one that provides the characteristics and features that would best suit your circumstances.
Portable Fish Finders Reviews
While portable fish finders have started to flood the marketplace, only a few are worthy of serious consideration. You can avoid subpar and poorly performing models by using the ones we have listed below as your benchmark.
Of course, this best portable fish finder review won’t be complete without the mentioning Garmin STRIKER 4. However, since we have already featured it in our previous reviews, we won’t be probing into its specifications. We will just give you highlights of its features along with its advantages and drawbacks.
The Garmin STRIKER 4 is designed to capture the fascination of any angler looking for a feature-packed, portable, yet very affordable fish finder. It features a 3.5-inch, full-color screen, a dual-beam CHIRP sonar transducer, and a protective carrying case to keep your device safe while traveling.
The Garmin STRIKER 4 works at depths of up to 1,600 feet in freshwater or 750 feet in saltwater, making it a perfect option, especially for offshore anglers.
Designed for use on small watercraft, the Gamin Striker 4 Portable Bundle comes with a high-powered transducer along with transom and trolling motor mounts, a tilt-swivel mount, a power cord, and a padded carrying case.
GARMIN STRIKER 4
HUMMINBIRD PiranhaMAX 4.3 PT
3.5″ diagonal, 480H x 320V pixel resolution, HVGA color, backlit
4.3″ diagonal, color TFT with a 256 color range, 480V x 272H pixel resolution, with LED backlight
Dual Frequency CHIRP
+ Freshwater: 1,600 ft (487 m)
+ Salwater: 750 ft (228 m)
600 feet (183 m)
+ 2D Sonar: 200 kHz / 15° and 77 kHz / 45°
200 kHz / 28° and 455 kHz / 16°
CHIRP 77/200 kHz
XPT 9 28 T (with suction cup)
200 W (RMS)
300 Watts (RMS)
12v DC (10-17v DC min-max)
12v DC (10.8-20 VDC min-max)
Routes, Waypoints, Tracks
First, to introduce fish finders, Humminbird never ceases to live up to its tagline: “Angling is in our blood.” The PiranhaMAX 4 promises to provide you with a clear view of what’s happening beneath your vessel. It comes with a redesigned, now easier-to-use interface as well as an even simpler set of fish and depth alarms.
Feature for feature, it is equipped with technological chomp that many fishfinders in its class can’t hold a candle to. This Humminbird portable fish finder device comes with a soft-sided carrying case, a 7Ah battery and charger, and a suction cup.
DualBeam PLUS and Down Imaging
DualBeam PLUS and Down Imaging sonar are two crucial features Humminbird intentionally combined to provide impressive technology in this small device. The PiranhaMAX 4 takes advantage of these two advances to provide precise data about what’s going on underwater.
Fish ID+, Fish Alarm and Depth Alarm
You tend to do a lot of things simultaneously when you’re out on the water. With that in mind, Humminbird equipped this device with fish and depth alarms to ensure you’re always on track.
The fish alarm switches off when you get to an area where the fish are, while the depth alarm prompts you when you are heading to a shallow area where your vessel could potentially run aground.
Thus, this device could also work as a depth finder.
Zoom into Specific Spots
While this device is equipped with many innovative features, it remains easy to use, flaunting an intuitive interface and an easy-to-read screen. You even have the option to zoom into specific spots to find out more about your targets.
Sonar and Transducer
For DualBeam, with the supplied transducer, the system can apparently utilize two conical beams, with a coverage of 16° for 455 kHz and 28° for 200 kHz respectively. This unit does not have CHIRP technology; therefore, the sonar pulse uses only one frequency.
Also, do take note that the 2D sonar is only DualBeam, not DualBeam Plus; therefore, the unit can only use one frequency at once. It cannot use both 2D beams simultaneously.
For Down Imaging
For Down Imaging, with the included transducer, the unit can work on the single frequency, 455 kHz, and one razor-thin beam. This beam, however, offers a broader coverage, given its angle of 75°.
Depth capability of 600 feet for 2D and 320 feet for Down Imaging
The PiranhaMAX 4 PT system offers a depth capability of 600 feet for 2D and 320 feet for Down Imaging. It can maintain a bottom reading at a boat speed up to 20-30 mph, but the recommended speed for clear images and fish targets is up to 6 mph.
Castable Fish Finders Reviews
To help you save time in searching for the best castable fish finder, we have prepared a roundup of some of the most popular products on the market. The fish finder devices listed below have earned high customer satisfaction ratings.
Deeper Pro+ vs FishHunter 3D vs iBobber and SonarPhone
Deeper has taken the fish finder realm by storm with its line of unprecedented castable fish finders. The Deeper PRO+ is the latest castable fish finder succeeding, reflecting the company’s bold attempt to surpass its very own, already-popular Deeper Smart Fishfinder 3.0 and Smart Sonar PRO.
Both the Sonar Pro+ and its predecessor, the popular Sonar Pro, feature a few but significant upgrades from the 3.0 model. These include the addition of a Wi-Fi connection to smartphones and other mobile devices, in place of Bluetooth connectivity.
The Deeper PRO+ is a fantastic choice for the serious bank angler, with its 330-feet Wi-Fi range and relatively lighter casting weight.
At only 2.5 inches in diameter, and 3.5 ounces in weight, the PRO+ is truly mobile, giving you sonar fish finder power you can take with you anywhere. Its ABS construction gives your unit tough, impact resistant performance.
Ice fishing flasher, split-screen mode, zoom features
The device also works as an ice fishing flasher, allowing you to explore the water column beneath the hole. You can use split-screen mode to view normal sonar feedback at the same time, so you can get a dead-on view of your approaching target. Its zoom feature makes everything easier.
Wireless range of 330 feet
PRO+ provides you with wireless access so that you can cast the device out and get a reading regardless of your location. You don’t have to be tied to your watercraft, nor worry about a power cord connecting to your monitor.
The PRO+ gives you a wireless range of 330 feet, which is better than most other units.
Highly sophisticated sonar technology, fish targets, fish size
The PRO+ utilizes highly sophisticated sonar technology that displays objects within 0.04 feet apart, meaning that regardless of how small the fish are, you can see them very clearly.
This also means that you don’t have to try to hardly make out what you’re seeing, as the readout will mark the fish targets for you and tell you their size if they’re worth casting your line for.
Dual-beam sonar frequencies
The device functions on dual-beam 290 kHz (150) / 90 kHz (550) sonar frequencies, giving you a greatly detailed look in a 15° cone. Such also lets you view the big picture larger cone as well. The unit has a maximum depth range of 260 feet in freshwater.
The PRO+ provides highly precise readings from both the shore and a boat. What this means is that you can cast it out on your line and lug it back, and still get the same, exact reading as you would if you were in a boat.
It also shows your location on GPS, allowing you to create and store up maps of your favorite fishing spots.
FishHunter has always been at the forefront when it comes to manufacturing superb-quality, highly innovative castable fish finders.
Their latest product, the FishHunter Directional 3D, is a powerful device that provides an impressive range of useful sonar view modes. It is engineered with five highly reliable transducers that yield highly detailed images and allow for a wider coverage, further enhancing its ability to scan fishing areas.
While there are a still few fish finder options on the market that still go down the black and white route, this device is known to take advantage of colored solutions to ensure its users that everything lives up to the highest industry standards.
The device provides clear, well-defined images on the screen of your smartphone, helping you effectively determine where to cast in order to reel in the most or the biggest fish. This is definitely something that you want to take into account.
Sonar and Transducer
While sonar view is considered a common feature among fish finder devices, finding the perfect one is rather rare.
That is one problem that the Directional 3D solves, offering five different, functional sonar view modes and operating seamlessly to give the user a fair amount of information.
Directional 3D’s sonar view modes are as follows:
- 3D structure mapping
- 3D fishing
- Bathymetric mapping
- Directional casting
- Ice fishing flasher from your smartphone.
Needless to say, the first thing that you would want to look into when it comes to getting a reliable fish finder is the frequency at which it operates.
Fortunately, as we’ve already stated, the FishHunter Directional 3D comes with five highly efficient tri-frequency transducers.
Ranging from 381 kHz to 675 kHz, the device yields remarkable resolution and details of your fish targets. These transducers deliver very detailed images of the readings, giving you clearer information and, consequently, maki17ng catching fish significantly easier.
The FishHunter app allows you to create custom lake maps; however, you have to be on your vessel, as it needs you to have your smartphone within your reach to be able to use its GPS.
One of the drawbacks is the shape of the pod bottom, which makes it difficult for you to tow it quickly without getting it swamped by water. You will lose Wi-Fi signal when water goes over the top.
The ReelSonar iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder is another remarkable piece of technology in this best portable fish finder review.
It’s much similar to the Deeper Pro+ apart from the fact that it utilizes Bluetooth as its connection protocol. Its Bluetooth feature consumes relatively less power and allows the battery to last around 10 hours of in-water use.
While the iBobber lacks some of the more interesting features that its closest rival has, its conservative price point is enough to capture the fascination of casual anglers. Safe to say, it is one of the best portable fish finders for the money.
At only 2.3 inches in diameter and 1.7 ounces, the iBobber is arguably the smallest castable fish finder you can possibly find.
Unlike the typical portable fish finder that includes a battery, separate display, and transducer, the iBobber is a self-contained device that is more or less the size of a traditional fishing float. The iBobber’s internal battery can be charged using an already-included USB charger.
Connects to your phone via Bluetooth
Via Bluetooth, the iBobber connects to your phone to show the obtained information. While this may sound high tech, it may also come as one of the device’s major drawbacks. Thus, using it on your kayak or small boat may be a frustrating experience.
Its price gives it a significant advantage over its closest rivals, the Deeper Pro+ and the FishHunter Directional 3D, making it ideal for those who are looking for a device that doesn’t cost a lot, yet still address the most basic bank fishing conditions.
Given the size of the device itself, the iBobber’s transducer is light and compact enough to be castable with standard fishing line and has a range of up to one hundred.
GPS and Navigation
The iBobber GPS feature allows you to mark ideal fishing spots, so you can get back to them at another time. It provides two fish settings: one for those over fifteen inches and one for those under fifteen inches.
Like other fish finders, the iBobber is capable of telling you not only where the fish are, but also where the fish are not.
Vexilar’s T-POD SP100 is a battery-charged, highly portable Wi-Fi-enabled castable fish finder. The company purposely incorporated all the different aspects that anglers consider when searching for a highly reliable device.
The sheer versatility of this device enables you to pull it behind your watercraft or simply throw it out from the shore. Its exceptional design allows it to traverse a straight path while on the water, even at speeds of five miles an hour.
The T-POD SP100 shows all the details on your phone. It also offers the options between a colored and a black and white display type. But we do know that most anglers would prefer colored screens, as they project clearer, sharper images.
The T-POD SP100 has screen controls as well as LCD screen protector that not only prevents eye strain but also keeps fog from forming on your screen.
Once you cast the device into the water, it switches on and connects with your phone within just a few minutes. You can connect the transducer to the wireless T-box, where both of them will be powered by a 12v USB connection.
Since the device is equipped with underwater cameras, it is able to capture everything it sees underwater. Its wireless T-box works by tracking the data to your phone, letting you start charting or mapping the transducer’s findings. The data consequently shows up on the display of your smartphone.
Sonar and Transducer
The Vexilar SonarPhone’s transducer, like any other, works to project the images from the water underneath your vessel to your phone screen through a sonar beam.
The data from your device is then transmitted wirelessly usually through the T-Pod. It also works through single beam using a 30°-wide angle signaling beam.
As we’ve mentioned, the unit’s transducer is water- activated and works on a 125-kHz transmit frequency.
The Vexilar SonarPhone’s Navionics feature is an additional app and can be purchased separately to turn your mobile gadget into a GPS system. It will come in handy for other purposes as well. The app has earned dozens of positive reviews from users for its functionality and practicality, allowing you to follow the map and navigate seamlessly.
Mountable Fish Finder
Since there are anglers who want to mount their fish finders on their kayak every time they go fishing and pack them when they’re done for the day, it is important to get one that is easy to install.
This product we have included below comes with a tilt-and-swivel mount. Its design allows you to attach it to 24-inch fixed pole that’s already included in the package.
Humminbird is a brand renowned for producing fish finders that are packed with amazing functionalities and features. However, when its Buddy Max model came out, many anglers got disappointed about how it lacked the Down Imaging feature.
The company then decided to come up with another model that’s equipped with such feature—the Fishin’ Buddy Max DI. Apart from the obvious Down Imaging feature, this Humminbird portable fish finder is equipped with useful sonar functions, such as the Selective Fish ID, Structure ID, and three types of alarms.
The device comes with a 256-color-range, 3.5-inch, 240H x 320V-pixel diagonal display. While its size, 3.5 inches, is rather small and can be annoying at times, the unit boasts great graphics that can display data perfectly.
It is also equipped with backlight technology to ensure better readability even during cloudy conditions.
Clamp directly to the side of your boat
The Fishing Buddy Max DI is an all-in-one unit that you can clamp directly to the side of your boat, kayak, or even float tube.
You’ll have no wires to contend with, as its power comes from eight AA batteries. This can be rather convenient, as it allows you to just change out the batteries, instead of needing a recharge. However, using rechargeable batteries is also possible with this device.
This Humminbird portable fish finder unit has two sonar features: DI for Down Imaging and 2D for DualBeam. For its Down Imaging, it’s operates on a single frequency, which is at 455 kHz.
Its DualBeam sonar runs at a dual frequency: one is 200 kHz and the other is 455 kHz. You will also find the transducer basic that comes with the unit.
As the sonar is only DualBeam, it is able to use only one frequency at a time. It also doesn’t have CHIRP technology, but it manages to deliver an exceptional target separation, which helps in keeping track of the bottom and identify the fish targets.
Selective Fish ID, Structure ID, and three types of alarms
The unit isn’t equipped with a DualBeam Plus sonar, so it doesn’t come with the SwitchFire function and a record sonar. Nonetheless, the device has other useful sonar functions, such as the Selective Fish ID, Structure ID, and three types of alarms.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the best portable fish finder for kayak fishing?
The best portable fish finder is one equipped with GPS and a great sonar, and fishing from a kayak without these features will only turn out futile. That leaves us with the Garmin Striker 4 with portable kit as our ideal option.
While it is a very basic unit, it is equipped with a GPS plotter along with a highly functional CHIRP sonar. It can be set up in the base of your kayak with its suction cup transducer mounted to the hull.
2. What is the best portable fish finder for shore fishing?
For shore fishing, using a castable fish finder is your best bet, and the Deeper Pro+ is hailed as one of the best castable fish finders in 2018. As described above, it is compact, has exceptional range, and allows you to create bottom maps of your favorite spots.
You can simply connect it to your Android or iOS gadget, and you’re set for your fishing expedition.
3. What is the best fish finder for a float tube?
Our top pick for float tube fishing is the Humminbird Fishin’ Buddy MAX with the float BFT2 tube kit. Simply secure the fish finder holder to the float tube, then cast in the the device.
4. What is the best portable fish finder for ice fishing?
There are a number of products on this list that you can use for ice fishing. However, we believe the Garmin STRIKER 4 Portable is the best portable fish finder for ice fishing. Given its wee size, it can provide you with a fish finder and a flasher at the same time.
When you are ice fishing, its built-in flasher will give you a good view of the water underneath your boat. It will show you your bait or jig, the depth of fish as they swim toward the sonar beam, and whether the water you are on is muddy or solid.
You are even able to see whether the fish are moving toward or away from your jig, as well as how high it is being lifted and dropped.
5. Do I need GPS on a portable fish finder?
Your need for a best portable fish finder GPS combo considerably depends on how passionate you are about angling. You definitely won’t benefit from GPS if you go bank fishing as much as you do on a boat, but it does come in handy when making custom lake maps.
Not only does it let you mark hotspots; it enables you to return to them at a later time as well.
Albeit all the entrants we have in their respective categories are excellent choices for anglers looking to get some flexibility and great value, the Garmin STRIKER 4 is our winner in this best portable fish finder review.
The company has a proven track record in manufacturing high-quality fish finder gadgets that can give anglers the important functionalities they need, and this device is one of its foremost examples. The Garmin STRIKER 4 Portable’s modest price point gives you the sheer confidence that what you’ve got is the best portable fish finder for the money. Its specs, which are in a class of their own, are a proof that size doesn’t always matter.
My name is Alex D. Allen, and I’m a professional fishfinder researcher and fishing enthusiast. You’re probably on my website in search of a fishing device that can help make your experience a lot easier and more productive; or perhaps, just trying to glean information to get a wider understanding of what fish finders are and how they can benefit you. Whatever your purpose may be, you’ve come to the right place.