In this guide we’ll look at the best fish finders on the market.
We’ve compared technology, screen quality, built-in maps and cost
to give you our top recommendations.
What Is The Best Fish Finder?
More Detailed Fish Finders Reviews
Lowrance 16” Fish Finder Review
The first thing you’ll notice about the Lowrance? Its huge 16” screen that displays stunningly clear, detailed images that almost look like photographs. It’s a touchscreen with user-friendly and intuitive operation.
This model’s advanced technology yields detailed views of fish and structures (the physical features present at the bottom of a lake, river, or other body of water) all around and under your boat. CHIRP sonar and Active Imaging 3D give you an incredible level of precision, making the Lowrance the best side imaging fish finder on this list (and quite possibly the best fish finder on the market).
Dynamic color range and high-contrast views make the fish extra visible. In addition, this model’s dual-core processor is lightning quick.
The internal GPS antenna and automatic route planning makes navigation a breeze; you can input your boat’s dimensions and let the Lowrance take care of the rest, charting you a safe course around hazards and obstacles. You’ll also benefit from the pre-loaded charts of 4000+ lakes.
The Lowrance can be integrated with your smartphone, allowing you to receive text and other notifications right on your fish finder. It also offers wireless and Bluetooth connectivity.
Bottom line: The Lowrance 16” Fish Finder is a top-of-the-line option for the serious angler. It provides just about any information you could possibly need. It boasts superb performance and function plus handy extra features (like smartphone integration) for convenience and ease of use. It’s one of the best rated fish finders for a reason.
Humminbird HELIX 5 Fish Finder Review
The Humminbird HELIX 5 is a smaller option that provides great performance in a more affordable package. Its 5” screen displays detailed color images and shows you essential info like depth, temperature, and speed.
CHIRP Side Imaging and Down Imaging produce clear images below and beside your boat. You’ll gain a better understanding of your surroundings at a glance, including details like buoys, marinas, and hazards.
This model also gives you a good amount of control and flexibility, allowing you to choose how much detail you want to see.
The Humminbird comes with a built-in base map produced with data from LakeMaster and NOAA. Its AutoChart Live function allows you to make real-time maps as you fish. And there’s GPS functionality so you’ll always know exactly where you are. The micro SD card slot is another handy feature.
Priced competitively, the Humminbird HELIX 5 strikes the right balance between performance and value.
Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 54cv with Transducer Review
Another fish finder with a 5” display screen, the Garmin echoMap fish finder is readable even in direct sunlight. It boasts CHIRP sonar and ClearVü scanning sonar which yield incredibly detailed images. This model is overall highly sensitive and accurate.
It comes with some built-in maps and charts (additional maps available separately). The QuickDraw Contours software lets you create your own maps of your personal fishing spots. This unit also has internal GPS capability.
The Garmin has keypad control. In my experience, navigating the user interface takes a little practice—it’s not as intuitive to operate as the Lowrance’s touchscreen, for example. That aside, this is a great device that performs well at a reasonable price.
Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5” GPS Fish Finder Review
If you’re looking for a compact model, the Garmin Striker 4 with its 3.5” display screen may be right for you! Despite its small size, its ClearVü scanning sonar and CHIRP sonar technology mean that this unit performs very well, producing high-quality images of fish, structures, and bottom detail.
You can also keep track of depth, speed, temperature, time and more in one convenient device with a keyed interface that is relatively straightforward to use.
The waypoint map lets you see and navigate various obstacles such as docks and branches. Its maximum depth capability is 1600 feet in freshwater and 750 feet in saltwater.
The Garmin’s small, portable size mean that you can travel with it easily. It’s great for kayak, canoe, or ice fishing, but be careful to keep it dry—even just a Ziplock bag will do.
Overall, this device is simple, straightforward, accurate, and budget-friendly. It may not have a huge screen or fancy extra features, but it gives you the fundamental information you need without breaking the bank. These qualities make it a top contender for the best fish finder for a small boat or for anyone who’s an avid traveler.
Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar Portable Wireless Fish Finder Review
What sets the Deeper PRO+ fish finder apart from others on this list? For one thing, it’s a castable fish finder—meaning you cast it out into the water instead of attaching it to your boat. This unit is well-suited for shore fishing, and you can also cast it from a kayak, canoe, or boat, or use it for ice fishing.
The Deeper PRO+ works in either saltwater or freshwater. Designed to be used in conjunction with the Deeper app, it helps you find fish and hotspots quickly and easily and connects to your smartphone to use its GPS to track your location.
Crucial information such as fish size and location, underwater vegetation, water temperature and depth, and bottom details will appear on your smartphone display screen. This model also generates a WiFi signal.
You can cast it up to a distance of 330 feet, and it is able to scan down 260 feet—this isn’t a huge amount, so it’s not ideal for deeper water fishing. The battery lasts for around 5 hours of continuous use, which should have you covered for an afternoon of fishing. Recharge by plugging it into a USB port.
Another great feature: The Deeper PRO+ has a specifically designed Ice Fishing mode with a flasher display and 2D vertical zoom.
All in all, this convenient, portable, and relatively budget-friendly model can suit a variety of needs.
Fish Finder Buying Guide
There are countless factors to keep in mind when you’re choosing the right fish finder for your specific needs, goals, and priorities. This guide will help you make an informed decision.
First, I’ll show you what to look for when it comes to technology, GPS, screen size, and other functions and features. Then, I’ll address which kind of fish finder works best for specific situations, such as ice fishing or kayak fishing.
Technology and Sonar
Without a doubt, fish finders are pretty cool pieces of technology. They basically work as sonar devices, emitting high-frequency sound waves that travel through water and bounce off of solid objects like fish, rocks, branches, or the lake bottom.
Your fish finder unit will measure things like how long it takes the various sound waves to bounce back to the transducer and how strong the signal is. The information collected from these sound waves is then rendered into an image of what’s going on underwater.
For an illustrated explanation of how your fish finder works, check out the video here! To see a fish finder in action and get a better sense of what this piece of tech can tell you, watch this video.
Different fish finder models have some variation in how they complete this process; they might send out signals of different frequencies or with faster (or slower) timing in between signals.
Also bear in mind that there are two basic kinds of sonar: downscan and sidescan. These function more or less as the names imply:
- Downscan: Scans downward toward the bottom of the lake or body of water. Best for deeper water fishing (40-50 feet depth or more)
- Sidescan: Scans at an angle to detect the fish surrounding your boat. Best for shallower water fishing.
Many devices combine these capabilities and are able to do both downscan and sidescan. Combination fish finders give you more flexibility, and I’m a big fan of them.
In terms of overall technology, the Lowrance model featured here tops the list.
All five of these fish finders, however, are pretty technologically impressive. The tech has improved rapidly in recent years, and even mid-range and entry-level models are now capable of a remarkable range of functions.
Many fish finders incorporate GPS data so that you can track your precise location on the water in addition to seeing what’s happening beneath it.
Why is this desirable? For one thing, it lets you mark down particularly fruitful fishing spots so you can come back later! Plus, GPS makes navigation much easier.
It’s difficult nowadays to determine which model is the best GPS fish finder available on the market since so many up-to-date models incorporate GPS.
The Lowrance has an internal GPS antenna that does a great job, while models like the Deeper PRO+ use the GPS capabilities on your smartphone, which is also quite effective.
In my opinion, the Lowrance is the best fish finder GPS combo, though you’ll also find GPS capabilities on the more mid-range and budget-minded options such as the Humminbird and both of the Garmin models.
Screen Size and View
The screens on this list range in size from 3.5” to a generous 16”. Larger screens are of course able to show images with an almost photographic level of detail, so the 16” Lowrance takes the top spot in this category. Plus, its screen images remain readable even in sunlight or when you’re wearing sunglasses.
Smaller display screens naturally have a cruder level of image detail—but for countless anglers, a 3.5” screen like the one on the Garmin Strike 4 is sufficient. Even these smaller units display the crucial information and are large enough to be readable.
Measuring 5” (diagonally), the Humminbird HELIX 5 and Garmin echoMAP models are a bit larger and will take you up to that next level of detail and clarity without sacrificing too much portability.
Some people need to be able to see every tiny thing and detect structure in minute detail, but others are happy with just the major features: submerged tree stumps, significant vegetation, and of course, fish.
Your needs will depend in large part on where you fish and what species you’re hoping to catch.
In addition to screen size, overall quality is an important factor. Look for screens that have high resolution and color images. Ideally, you should be able to read the screen even in bright sunlight while wearing polarized sunglasses.
As I’ve noted in the reviews up above, many fish finders come equipped with built-in maps and charts, which is a valuable addition. Otherwise, you’ll likely need to purchase relevant map packages to use alongside your device.
I really appreciate preloaded features and maps since it means the device is ready to go as soon as I’ve unboxed it.
Many of the larger and better-known lakes are already well-documented, but what if you’re out fishing on smaller ponds or streams? That’s when custom map-making ability really comes in handy.
Models such as the Lowrance, Humminbird, and Garmin echoMAP offer customized map creation that you can do in real time as you fish.
The Garmin Striker 4 stands out as the best budget fish finder on this list. It offers the basic functionality you need at an extremely reasonable price. If budget is your primary concern, then take a close look at the Garmin.
What if you’re more focused on value? You’re not ready to invest in a super high-end fish finder, but you can afford to upgrade from entry-level?
In this case, I highly recommend the Humminbird. It’s a great device that performs extremely well, is user-friendly, and has a slightly larger 5” screen that takes you to a better level of detail. In terms of value for money, the Humminbird is a strong contender.
For ice fishing, you’ll definitely want a fish finder with a flasher function. What does this mean?
Essentially, it strips away unnecessary distractions. You’ve got a spot and drilled your holes through the ice; you’re not moving around in a boat, so you don’t need to know about the submerged branches all the way over there and so on.
The flasher function focuses in on what an ice angler needs to know: Are there fish around my fishing spot? How many? How big? Where are they located relative to me? Is a fish approaching my lure?
A good fish finder makes ice fishing even more exciting and enjoyable. Without one, you may end up sitting on the ice for hours wondering where all the fish have gone. So what is the best fish finder for ice fishing?
I’ve had good experiences with the Deeper PRO+ which comes equipped with a specific Ice Fishing mode and flasher function. In addition, this model can handle temperatures down to -4oF, an important consideration when out in the cold.
The battery on the Deeper PRO+ also holds up pretty well—5+ hours of continuous usage. The device automatically turns off when removed from the water, so you won’t accidentally drain your battery away.
Finally, I highly recommend choosing a portable fish finder for ice fishing. You’ll be transporting it with all your other equipment out onto the ice and then moving it from hole to hole. A compact device is simply easier to move.
What’s the best fish finder for bass fishing? As with other types of fishing, you’ll get the best results from a powerful fish finder with a high-quality display screen.
Fishing for bass successfully often involves an understanding of structure, the physical elements of the lake bottom. For example, holes and pockets, humps, or ledges—basically the underwater equivalents to hills, cliffs, gorges, and craters.
Certain fish species tend to hang out in particular types of structure, and bass are no exception. Bass tend to like humps, for instance.
So to catch bass as successfully as possible, you ideally need two things:
- An understanding of how bass relate to structure.
- A fish finder that clearly delineates structure.
The Lowrance is my pick here since it’s the most powerful fish finder on this list and has the largest, highest-quality display screen.
Fishing from a Kayak, Canoe, or Jon Boat
What qualities make the best fish finder for kayak fishing? Or for fishing from a similarly small craft like a canoe or a jon boat? You’ll ideally want something compact, portable, and water-resistant.
I enjoy using castable fish finders when I’m out in a smaller boat. The Deeper PRO+ fish finder is one excellent example.
It’s a small transducer that is designed to be cast out into the water on a fishing line. From the water, it send out sonar signals, and you’ll view the results on your smartphone.
Kayak and canoe anglers can also use more conventional fish finders, and the Garmin Striker 4 performs especially well here. Its 3.5” diagonal screen size is very portable, and its impressive CHIRP sonar capabilities give you all the essential information you need.
In addition, this unit is great for anglers who are heading out into deep water, since it can produce images at a depth of up to 1600 feet in freshwater and 750 feet in saltwater.
The compactness and portability of the Deeper PRO+ and Garmin Striker 4 models make them the best fish finders for a jon boat, kayak, or canoe.
If you haven’t already, consider getting a trolling motor for your kayak or canoe. These motors are often battery-powered and, once installed, they allow you to move through the water without manually paddling.
This has two main advantages: One, you glide stealthily through the water without scaring fish off with your paddles. Two, your hands are free to handle your fishing rod, fish finder, and other gear.
The best fish finder for a trolling motor on a small craft will once again be something portable and compact, ideally water-resistant, and suitable for your specific fishing conditions (water depth, freshwater vs. saltwater, etc.).
What is the best fish finder for the money? That’s an impossible question since it entirely depends on your personal needs. Different fish finders are suited to different purposes: You’ll prioritize entirely different qualities when you’re ice fishing vs. kayak fishing vs. angling from a large fishing boat.
Additionally, you have to weight the benefit of more advanced tech and a higher-quality display screen against the benefit of affordability and portability. Larger, more powerful fish finders tend to be best for larger boats (I have not tried taking my 16” Lowrance out on a kayak), and they come with higher prices.
So keep in mind what you actually want to accomplish. Where and how will you be fishing? Answering this question will help you decide which features and functions are must-haves, which are nice perks, and which are unimportant.