Undoubtedly, fish finders make you feel like you have the game in your hands. However, while you’ll have the power to uncover the whole underwater world, the idea of a fixed unit won’t suit you if you’re pursuing ice fishing or don’t own a vessel in the first place.
For this reason, portable fish finders were created to be easily attached to small crafts, used from shores, or hop from an ice hole to the other in the hands of an angler without hassle.
Despite their compact designs, portable fish finders are capable of integrating many features that can make your life easier in the water. Hence, shopping around won’t be easy since there are many choices on the table.
For folks who don’t know what exactly they’re looking for, we’ve compiled and reviewed the best portable fish finders available on the market. Continue reading to finally meet your future best buddy on fishing trips.
Best Portable Fish Finders Comparison Table:
|Garmin Striker 4||3.6 x 5.9 x 1.6-in.||8.1 ounces||1600 feet||77-200 kHz|
|Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar||3 x 5.3 x 5.9-in.||3.5 ounces||260 feet||90-290 kHz|
|Venterior VT-FF001||9.6 x 2.2 x 5.9-in.||17.44 ounces||328 feet||200 kHZ|
|Lowrance 000-12635-001 Hook-3X Sonar||3.8 x 1.9 x 6.5-in.||32 ounces||100 feet||83-200 kHz|
|Humminbird 410150-1 PIRANHAMAX 4||3.6 x 3.9 x 6.8-in.||32 ounces||600 feet||200-455 kHz|
|ReelSonar Wireless Bluetooth Smart||2 x 2 x 1-in.||1.7 ounces||135 feet||118kHz|
|LUCKY Portable Fish Finder with Wired Transducer||6.3 x 4.9 x 3.6-in.||20.16 ounces||328 feet||200 kHz|
The 7 Best Portable Fish Finders in 2021
1. Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer – Best Overall
Our nominee for the best portable fish finder is one of Garmin’s bestseller and top-rated units. The fact that it comes with a high sensitivity GPS, a 2D CHIRP sonar and ClearVu renders it more than capable of being your eye above and below the water.
Weighing only 8.1 ounces, it has a compact design that supports a 3.5-inch screen. Although it lacks backlighting, the screen shows detailed graphical information of fish and structures in full color, with a resolution of 480 x 320 pixels. However, some may have difficulty spotting what’s on the screen under the sunlight.
Its CHIRP emits a bunch of frequencies concurrently that range from 77 to 200 kHz. Also, its dual-frequency beam brings back the crispiest returns while being able to penetrate up to 750 feet in salt water and 1,600 feet in freshwater.
Using its GPS, not only will you be able to locate your position or mark your favorite spots, but you can also check your craft’s speed to match it with what your lure and target species demand.
As a bonus, this unit isn’t only limited to boat fishing. It comes with a foam float and an integrated flasher, which makes it a valuable addition for ice fishermen. Moreover, its easy-to-use interface, multiple mounting brackets along with its reasonable price tag make it a good candidate for novice anglers.
If we’d complain about one thing, it’d be that the device requires to be plugged into a 12V battery, which would require your craft to feature a power source of that kind in the first place.
- Compact and lightweight
- Accurate GPS
- Affordable high-end features
- CHIRP dual-beam transducer
- Easy-to-install transducer
- User-friendly interface
- No maps
- No NMEA connectivity
- Unstable pivoting base
- Needs a 12V battery
- No backlight
Garmin Striker 4 is a fishfinder GPS combo with a high-performance CHIRP sonar and easy-to-use interface all in a lightweight and compact body. It’s everything you’d expect from a portable fish finder.
By the way, you can also check out my guide to the best Fish Finder GPS combos here if you want to check out more options, although the Garmin Striker remains the top recommendation.
2. Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar – Best Castable Fish Finder
Deeper has done an excellent job creating a small fish finder that fits in the palm of a hand and boasts a lot of high-end features. Weighing only 3.5 ounces and having the size of a baseball, it proves that good things come in small packages. It can be used in various settings, including shore, boat, and ice fishing.
As a castable fish finder, it doesn’t have a display, so it would require you to connect it to your smartphone. Fortunately, this device connects easily to iOS and Android via WiFi with no need for cellular data charges.
Using your rod, you can cast its floating transducer for more than 300 feet and still get a continuous image update on your phone. It uses a dual-beam that operates on 90 and 290 kHz frequencies. The use of both high and low frequencies makes the device capable of scanning depths that reach 230 feet while maintaining the image quality of floor structures and animal life.
If you think the company stopped at this level, you’re mistaken. The device features a built-in GPS that creates bathymetric maps, which is quite uncommon for a castable fish finder. Also, it comes with a non-chargeable battery that lasts for eight hours. With its easy-to-follow instructions, the device is a gem for entry-level anglers.
Although it has a fish alarm that alerts you about any possible hits, some users aren’t satisfied with its sensitivity. But you should be okay if you’re keeping an eye on the screen.
- The best for shore and ice fishing
- Integrated GPS
- High accuracy
- Has a USB charger
- Non-rechargeable battery
- Needs a heavy-action rod
- Short battery life
- Disrupted signals under bridges
For anglers who’d like to have a shot with a fish finder while fishing from the shore, Deeper Pro+ is an ideal pick. It’s versatile, easy-to-use, and loaded with high-class features.
3. Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder – Budget Choice
If your pockets aren’t stuffed with cash and you’re looking for a simple yet functional portable fish finder, Venterior VT-FF001 has got your back. With less than 50 bucks, you can get a device that’s suitable for boat, kayak, and ice fishing.
This compact unit uses a 45-degree sonar beam that works at a 200-kHz frequency. Although it works better as a depth reader, its beam can bounce off fish, rocks, plants, and waterbed structures from a 328-foot depth.
It may only be a small, 17.4-ounce fish finder, yet its five sensitivity modes provide excellent control over the device. The finder runs on a disposable 4AAA battery that lasts for only 4-5 hours. However, its battery saving mode does a good job extending the battery’s life.
Another interesting mode is its fish alarm. Unlike Pro+’s alarm, this one has excellent and adjustable sensitivity. When the sensitivity is turned high, the device can distinguish between small and big fish. On the contrary, the low-sensitivity setting only shows schools of small fish.
The device is equipped with a primary greyscale anti-UV LCD display. The lack of colors isn’t a point in its favor, yet its backlit mode is worthy of praise for night fishing. Moreover, the device doesn’t seem to work well under harsh conditions like strong waves and wind.
- Pocket-friendly price
- Fish alarm
- Built-in GPS
- 4AAA battery
- Great customer service
- Accurate depth finder
- Complaints about cable tangles
- Fish detection accuracy isn’t the best
- Screen isn’t waterproof
- Grayscale display
- Only one frequency setting
We recommend this device for anglers who are on a tight budget and want no more than a simple and effective tool. If the fact that it lacks a full-color screen doesn’t bother you, then you can go for this choice.
4. Lowrance 000-12635-001 Hook-3X Sonar – Best Bang for the Buck
Following in the footsteps of other portable fish finders, Lowrance has released their own versions of the device with the Hook-3X being the most affordable and feature-loaded one.
The unit has an amazing full-color 3-inch screen and intuitive interface with dedicated keys that allow you to call up frequently used functions. Also, the LED-backlit display with its 320 x 240-pixel resolution has a crystal-clear view in bright light and at night. It displays fish in icon form so you won’t need to interpret fish arches.
Although it does not operate on CHIRP technology, its dual-frequency beam that provides up to 60-degree conical coverage helps you highlight contours, structures, and fish. The 83 and 200 kHz frequencies provide broad coverage and accurate detection of whatever is happening 100 feet below your craft.
Apart from the excellent sonar, you also get a built-in temperature probe. It allows you to monitor the thermocline depth, which in turn, gives you an idea about the type of species hovering at a certain level.
On top of that, it features an advanced signal processing system that reduces the need to manually adjust the unit and expand your underwater horizon with crystal-clear imagery.
- Dual-frequency sonar
- Crystal clear view
- Affordable for a Lowrance
- Easy to mount
- No built-in GPS
- No CHIRP
- Disrupted signals at high speed
- Doesn’t work well in choppy water
The only downside we can find in this unit is the absence of a built-in GPS. Nonetheless, in terms of portability and performance, this unit is second-to-none. If you’d like to obtain a name as Lowrance without splashing a load of money, Hook-3X is the best portable fish finder for you.
5. Humminbird 410150-1 PIRANHAMAX 4 Fish Finder – Best Display
With decades of experience under their belt, Humminbird knows how to create a game-changing portable unit without an issue.
It stands out in having the biggest display compared to all the members on our list. Its 4.3-inch screen makes it easier to see and distinguish fish and objects with a 480 x 272-pixel resolution. Being multi-color and backlit is a plus.
Equipped with a 28-degree dual-beam transducer, it provides sonar frequencies ranging between 200 and 455 kHz. Also, its down imaging takes the guesswork out of the game with a maximum scanning depth of 600 feet.
Moreover, Humminbird surprises us with the Fish ID+™ technology integrated into this unit. It takes the sonar signals and translates them into not only the location but also the relative size of the fish. This functionality along with the built-in water temperature sensor makes the unit a good fit for novices and pros as well.
We love that it comes with a portable carrying case to protect the device from water splashes and wind. The 2-pound device with its rechargeable batteries is perfect for taking on trips where big boats aren’t possible, or where it’s easier to carry your fish finder with you.
- Fish ID+ and audible alarm
- Reads water temperature
- Deep-water penetration
- Dual-beam sonar
- No GPS
- Quality control issues
- Few upgrades
- Not entirely waterproof
- No NMEA ports or ethernet
Anglers who prefer a comfortable screen over anything and have good taste in technology will love this unit. It’d be your best portable fish finder whether you have a kayak, a canoe, or even a rowboat.
6. ReelSonar Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder – Longest Battery Life
Launched by iBobber, ReelSonar is another castable option that’s quite efficient. The unit’s free app syncs to your smartphone via Bluetooth and allows you to identify waterbed structures and fish icons, which are color-coded by size.
The trump card of this device is its rechargeable battery that runs for more than ten hours. You won’t have to worry about the battery running out on you in the middle of your trip. We also like its indicator light that warns you about the low battery. It features GPS that can mark spots as well as record the water temperature and depth, then project all the information to your phone screen.
With a built-in LED beacon and strike alarm, you can use it as an easy-to-spot bobber or a visible fish finder for ice fishing and night fishing. ReelSonar detects fish and structures from up to 135 feet below the surface and has a casting range of 100 feet. The frequency used is 118 kHz, which is quite sufficient to deliver high-accuracy shots of what’s lurking below.
Although it’s more pocket-friendly than Deeper Pro+, we regret to say that its Bluetooth connectivity doesn’t work well over 50 feet.
- Versatile settings
- Built-in GPS
- LED beam
- Long battery life
- Robust and easy-to-use app
- Reasonable price
- Bad Bluetooth connection from over 50 feet
- Water splashes cause signal disruption
ReelSonar is indeed an ideal portable and castable fish finder for shore and docks fishing. It can be used to reach places that a boat can’t access easily. However, consider its connection issues if you’re looking for a device that works well from a distance over 50 feet.
If you are looking specifically for Fish Finders to use for Ice Fishing, you should definitely check out my guide to Ice Fishing Fish Finders here. I have tested dozens of Fishfinders over the years specifically for Ice fishing, but the ones in this guide just blow the competition out of the water (or Ice, in this case).
7. LUCKY Portable Fish Finder – Simplest Portable Unit
The LUCKY Portable Fish Finder is a truly unique product that boasts all the essential features of a simple yet powerful fishfinder. Similar to Venterior VT-FF001, it comes with five versatile assistant settings, which are the adjustable sensitivity mode, battery saving mode, fish alarm mode, battery indicator mode, and backlight mode.
It works with a wired transducer that sends waves to 328 feet at a frequency of 200 kHz. This renders the unit suitable for many fishing environments, including kayak, onshore, and ice fishing. Also, it’s well praised by ice anglers for its smart and accurate performance under extremely low temperature, reaching -16 degrees.
What’s more, it comes with a full-color LCD display with backlighting. Its 2-inch size complements the whole portable package along with its disposable 4AAA batteries.
As for the drawbacks, we think this fish finder would have been better if their batteries last more than four hours to endure a long-range fishing trip. Moreover, being liable to damage by water splashes is a weak point.
- Colored and backlit screen
- Easy to set-up and use
- Accurate depth
- WiFi connection
- No GPS
- Not waterproof
- Short battery life
All we can say is that this unit may not boast the highest technology, yet it’s still a reasonable choice for beginners who are looking for a low-priced unit with top-notch sensitivity and fits well in the hands.
Things to Look for When Choosing a Portable Fish Finder
If you’re a newbie to the world of fish finders, you may get easily lost in all the technical talk. To save you the trouble of looking up the important features, here’s a comprehensive guide of what to look for in a portable fish finder.
1. Portable vs. Castable
Whether the unit is portable or castable, it belongs to the same category of compact fish finders.
However, there are a few differences you should note to decide which one fits you better.
Portable fish finders are small units that come with a portable transducer and a mounting base. These transducers can be either put in the water or attached to the bottom of the boat. Therefore, they can be used in fishing from banks or in open waters.
Unlike portable fish finders, castable units don’t have a display, and their transducers are meant to be attached to your fishing line and casted as far as you want. These units are perfect for anglers who prefer fishing from shores or river banks rather than from a vessel. Since they don’t have a screen, they can be paired with your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth or WiFi.
Since we’re talking about portable gadgets here, their weight matters. Anglers with big crafts shouldn’t be concerned about the weight. Nonetheless, kayaks, small boats, or canoes would require units that weigh only one pound or less.
The average portable fish finder weighs around 17 ounces, yet some can go as far as 30 ounces if they integrate a lot of sensors to enable them to penetrate through more depth levels or produce dual beams.
A beam radiating from a transducer has a specific cone angle and frequency. The cone angle is the width of the emitted beam, and it can be anything from 9 to 60 degrees. Higher degrees mean more area covered but at the expense of sensitivity.
Like the cone angle, the frequency affects the distance covered by the beam. While lower frequencies, like 50 and 75 kHz, have better penetration to the bottom, frequencies of 192 and 200 kHz provide you with crispier returns.
Hence, the best you can aim for is a dual-beam transducer with 20 and 60-degree cone angles. This way, you’ll gain the advantage of exposing more area under the water using a low-frequency beam while still having highly detailed images with incredible structure separation using the higher one.
The power, also referred to as “the peak to peak,” is the amount of wattage your device needs for ultimate efficiency. The power ranges from 100 to 2000 watts, and it relates directly to the speed and penetration capabilities of the beam. That means that the more wattage, the faster your device will portray information from greater depths.
That means if you like fishing deep lakes or saltwater, you’ll need a power of around 600-1,000 watts to be able to reach depths up to 2,500 feet. On the other hand, fishing in shallower water won’t require more than 100 watts of power.
To leave your options open, a peak to peak of 500 watts should be sufficient for both styles of fishing.
4. Screen Size
The unit’s screen is your gateway to see what’s actually going on under the water. Thus, you don’t want to have a cheap screen with a crappy resolution to give you a foggy image of your returns.
Portable fish finders tend to have smaller screens than the standard units to reduce the whole device’s size. The ranges start from 2 inches and up to 7 inches. While the bigger ones are pricier, they’re preferred for better data display and more convenience for one’s eyes.
5. Screen Resolution
Regarding the resolution, it’s indicated by how many pixels in each dimension of the display. The more the pixels, the more details you’ll be able to see. That’s why the bare minimum you should opt for is 240 x 160 pixels. Anything lower than that would mean that you’ll be seeing blurry images of what you should see in a clear view.
Finally, and above all, look for colored displays with backlighting as they should give you a better view under the harshest sunlight as well as in the darkest nights.
Portable fish finders can take their power from one of three options. The first would be disposable batteries, which are preferred as they work well in the long term. If you decide to go with rechargeable batteries, make sure that they have long lives that would be enough for your trip’s duration.
The last option would be to plug your device to a 12-volt power source, which is quite limiting because not all crafts have this functionality. Yet, this choice is the cheapest one.
7. GPS and Chartplotter
A built-in GPS would allow you to do a bunch of cool things. First, you’ll be able to pinpoint your exact location, mark your fruitful fishing spots, and find your way back in case of an emergency.
Also, having Chartplotter is a plus. It enhances the GPS feature by adding defined maps to the unit, which allows you to navigate through the water smoothly, besides entering as many waypoints as you desire.
Not only that, but it also enables you to draw your own maps of uncharted bodies of water and save you the money of buying new map packages since you can chart them yourself.
8. Waterproof IP Rating
Although the major function of fish finders is to help you in the water, water is still their biggest enemy. The IP rating indicates how much the unit is sealed and protected against water jets, splashes, and even full immersion.
Check the IP rating. If your eyes fall on numbers like 7 or 8, then you’ve found the best protection you can get. Nevertheless, ratings of IPX5 or IPX6 should be enough if you’re sure your device won’t be exposed to more than a few minutes of water swashes at worst.
Now that we’ve reached the end, we hope that our guide has helped you reach a decision. However, if you’re still contemplating your choices, here are our quick suggestions.
For the title of the best portable fish finder, we assign Garmin Striker 4 as it’s packed with several mind-blowing features like integrated GPS and wide-range CHIRP sonar.
Deeper Smart Pro+ is our practical recommendation for shore anglers, thanks to its fairly large casting range and seamless connectivity. Nevertheless, if you’re willing to sacrifice this connectivity for a much lower price tag, go for ReelSonar as it’s the closest unit to Smart Pro+.
Finally, if a pocket-friendly budget is your top priority, Venterior Ft-FF001 is the best portable fish finder for you.
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