All of a sudden, a famous quote swept across my mind. It goes something like this- “The fishing was good but the catching was bad.” I don’t recall from where I picked it from but sounds like the quote had some years in it.
Yes folks, before the introduction of fish finder back in 1948, people would go fishless after an entire day of fishing. But now, you can detect, mark, determine the fish type and other useful info from a fish finder. Before choosing the best fish finder for the boat, see if it has these following attributes or not?
Best Pick: Best fish finder for boat
We hope our effort is good enough to decide your next or new best fish finder for the boat. The best fish finder under 300 is a decent list for those who are on a budget. And if you want something premium, then check out these best fish finder under 500 bucks.
You’ll also find these accessories very helpful for your fish finder.
1. Deeper Pro and smart Sonar portable Fishfinder with WIFI (Best castable Fish Finder)
Description: Deeper is both castable and portable fish finder. It’s unique in its own class. You can use it with mounted fish finder for extra fishing data. You’ll find it fitting for trolling from a boat or kayak. Its versatility will allow you to cast it from the shore and even do some quality ice fishing in the winter. Is it worth your hard-earned dollars? Let’s find out below.
Build quality: Since you’re gonna be shooting this one, you’d want to make sure that it can handle such impact. The mainframe of the unit is ABS construction. Tougher, resistant to impact and shock. The ABS material also limits its weight within 3.5 ounces. And only at 2.5″ in diameter, you can have the power of a Sonar into a small pouch on the go. Don’t worry, deeper has provided a pouch with the box for your convenience.
Sonar: Now comes the fun part. The deeper pro plus utilizes a highly sophisticated Sonar technology. It has the ability to relay data of any objects within 0.04 ft apart. So you’ll be able to detect even the smallest fish. The data feedback is also simultaneous. So you can cast and score without missing the target.
The Sonar shoots a Dual-beam frequency. You’ll have a detailed look in a 15° narrow cone with 290 kHz and 55° wider cone with 90 kHz. The depth is up to 260 ft. Enough to reach even the deepest water across the US. You can cast it both in fresh and saltwater.
WiFi: The built-in WiFi feature is used to connect with your smart devices. Whether you use IOS or Android, it can be synced easily using the Deeper app. The connection range is up to 330 ft, which can vary on different devices.
The App: Depper has some cool modes on offer in the app. Check them out-
- You got the standard 2D Sonar display
- Ice fishing mode will utilize the split-screen function to add a circular ice fishing flasher with the classic 2D Sonar
- Selecting boat mode will enable the bathymetric mapping by syncing with phone’s GPS for continuous tracking
- Once our select onshore GPS mode, the unit will use its own GPS receiver to generate map view instead of the synced smart devices.
- You can also switch between classic color and night or day background color mode for better visibility
Navigation: Whether you cast it from the boat or the shore, the built-in precision GPS will give practical feedback. So you can cast it far away and reel it back in to create and save interesting spots to cast back later on. The bathymetric maps play a major role in the deeper pro+ fish finder And with the bathymetric management platform from free to access lake book feature, you can save, analyze any map from any device.
Our thoughts: Deeper has changed the portable fish finding game recently. They’ve blessed us with some of the best castable fish finders lately. And with the latest and updated deeper pro plus with smart sonar version, they are bound to dominate in the best portable fish finder category.
2. Lowrance Fish Hunter Pro Portable
Description: Smartphone has taken an entry, possibly in every aspect of our lives. Lowrance Fish Hunter Pro has utilized this platform to enhance fish finding activity to the next level. Using only an app, you can access every possible feature just like a full mounted fish finder. Let’s find out if this portable, well I reckon it falls under the castable section has a selling point or not.
Sonar & Transducer: I really loved the simplified view on my screen from raw sonar data. Here the Lowrance fish hi Ted bro redraw the bottom surface with nice clean water column where you can determine fish from other objects easily.
The five Tri-frequency transducers render any disturbances other than the simplified colored waterbed is more likely to be a fish. These dishes are identified as arches into the water column so you can continue to land fish with ease.
Navigation: I was surprised to see the bathymetric mapping feature on the fish hunter pro. Basically, it makes you an instant map on the go. Whether you troll from a boat or cast and reel in the fish finder at your favorite spot. This feature will show you bottom contour and depth as you fish on.
The bathymetric maps rock these nifty features-
- Boat location
- Continuous current map
- Area explored
- Water temperature & depth
- Depth range
- Bottom contour
- Color scale
Ice fishing: In comparison with the deeper pro+, Lowrance fish hunter Pro can float in the water of an ice hole. It can operate at a temperature of -22F°. Which is better than the deeper pro+. The Transducer operates at a high frequency of 475kHz/675kHz. You can see both flasher/raw data in split-screen. But the full screen allows you to obtain the bottom depth, temperature and bottom depth on the smartphone screen.
App & WiFi: The fish hunter Pro uses Bluetooth or wifi to connect with your smartphone. So you won’t need any network reception nor internet connection. The WiFi is 4 times faster than the Bluetooth connectivity. You can use the full potential of the fish finder using the Lowrance fish hunter pro app available on IOS and Android.
Our thoughts: Feature-wise, Lowrance fish hunter Pro is worth your hard-earned dollar. This is the only castable or portable however you wanna put it, is capable of using these different frequencies. And with a raw fish view and fish attraction feature, you’re bound to fill up your fish-holding aerator in no time.
3. Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual-beam Transducer
Description: The Striker series for Garmin always offer features for a reasonable price. And the Garmin Striker 4 plus does just that. You can put this one in the most affordable fish finder category. Garmin unveiled the Garmin Striker Plus 4 last year. And still, it’s dominating the budget market. And why not, who could even imagine having a less than 150$ fish finder feature the Clearvü function!
Sonar & Transducer: Although it’s a basic fish finder from Garmin, still offers a handy Dual-beam Transducer. The frequency is 77/200kHz. But, the unit itself can modulate four types of frequencies. They are- 50/77/83/200 kHz. You just have to use a different type of transducer to get the 50 and 83 kHz frequency access.
The unit uses a non-specified CHIRP pulse Sonar tech. It uses a conical beam of 45° at 77kHz and 15° at 200kHz. Obviously, you’ll have more accurate, clutter less detailed feedback from the CHIRP enabled pulses. The Transducer also has a depth capability of 1,900ft (579m).
You’ll also find some extra features like-
- Fish symbol
- Depth alarm
- Fish alarm
- Bottom Lock
- Auto Gain
- Flasher mode (ice fishing)
Navigation: The navigational features are simple. With a standard internal GPS plotter, you can see your current coordinates or the coordination of a waypoint that you already marked on a blank spot. But you won’t be able to upgrade to any conventional charts. The GPS can’t utilize any charting system. You can still calculate the boat speed though.
You probably know by now that the Garmin Striker Plus 4 can mark up to 5k waypoints in its memory. And you can also use several icons to specify each marked spot for more distinct characteristics.
You’ll also use-
- Track recording
- Route creation function
- Quickdraw contours
- Capable of up to 2 million acres record
The unit: The display is decent. A 4’3″ diagonal size is God enough to read info from. The resolution is 480H×272V, sharp enough to determine fish from other objects. The led backlit integration will allow you to see data from a decent viewing angle. And also clear enough under the sunlight.
You’ll also have IPx7 waterproof certificate with this Garmin plus 4. Means the unit can take a splash of water and survive.
Mount & connectivity: The Transducer has a transom mount. But with a little improvisation, you can use it in the ice.
It has a 4-pin connector and the power cable is 30ft long. Also, the transducer is temperature capable. This is an excellent fish finder for ice fishing. To my utter surprise, I’ve seen the unit detects the bottom contours and tracked down fish through several inches of ice.
By the way, you can’t use MicroSD, NMEA, and Ethernet with this fish finder.
Our thoughts: The Garmin Striker Plus 4 is an excellent fish finder for small boats and ice fishing. And with the presence of CHIRP tech with a tight price tag, I doubt that anyone can resist buying this one.
4. Lowrance Hook2-5 with SplitShot
Description: The redesigned version of the hook-5, the Hook2 -5 SplitShot transducers entered the market last year. This Lowrance focuses on some of the important features. Like powerful 2D Sonar, decent DownScan, precision navigation, and depth capability. The unit offers a SplitShot transducer and built-in US inland lakes.
Sonar & Transducer: Apart from wide-angle chirp and DownScan ability, the unit also has a temperature sensor. The 2D operating frequency is 200kHz at 40° and DownScan frequency rating is 455/800 kHz with non-specified angle. Another nifty ability to combine both the sonar feedback together is called the DownScan overlay.
You’ll have a clearer view of the fish arches, underwater structures, and vegetations. Unfortunately, the Lowrance Hook2-5 doesn’t have SideScan like the triple-shot.
Other noteworthy features are-
- Fish ID
- Circular Flasher
- Several alarms
- Sonar recordings
- Temperature graph
- Bottom Lock
- Ice fishing mode
The recommended boat speed for crisp and clutter-less data feedback is 10 MPH. But it can still manage to extract usable data at 25-30 MPH.
Navigation: Although the unit has a basic internal GPS, but it offers US inland charts. You’ll get access over 3000 lakes with map stats and 1-foot contour based on C-Map service. The details are not so specified but still good enough to identify the boundaries between land and lakes.
But the good news is, you can update the unit with premium charts. Such as Navionics, C-Map, C-Map genesis The hook2-5 SplitShot has a sensitive internal GPS. And it can get better if you have WAAS, MSAS and EGNOS satellites available in your area. It can also measure the speed of your boat.
Other noteworthy features-
- Save upto 3,000 waypoints
- Create & customize upto 100 routes
- Can record upto 100 tracks & 10,000 plots/track
The unit: Things would’ve been a lot smoother if the unit had a touchscreen. Instead, it has a keypad operation. But the display is superb nonetheless. The integration of led backlit allows for excellent visibility even under direct sunlight. Also, the image quality is crisp and sharp. You can easily differentiate fish arches from bottom contours, brush pile sand other underwater structures.
To protect your hard-earned investment even further, Lowrance equipped the hook2-5 with IPx7 waterproofing. Not only it shields the unit from rain, but also splashes of water. Just keep away from saltwater.
Mount & connectivity: You’ll have a cool and thought metallic mount right out of the box. The power cord is also long enough, 20 ft (6m) with an 8-pin connector. See those two cutout spots right above the Transducer? So you can mount a trolling motor using two metallic collars.
Even though it doesn’t have any NMEA connectivity, you can use the MicroSD card reader slot to update the software, transfer data, and chart databases.
Our thoughts: If SideScan is also your preference, then you should opt for the triple-shot version. If not then the Lowrance Hook2-5 fish finder offers enough features and Sonar capability to make a place in your fishing gear list.
5. Humminbird Helix 5 SI Fish Finder
Description: The Helix 5 SI model is one of the first from the Helix series. Even though this fish finder is several years older, but it still serves the purpose of an angler across the country. The unit variant lacks CHIRP technology yet makes up for the price tag. But despite that lackings, you’ll find there different transducers- Dual-beam, Down Imaging, and side imaging. The GPS also features unimap based charts for your convenience.
Sonar & Transducer: You already know by now that the Helix 5 SI lacks CHIRP. But makes up with its Sonar frequencies and coverage with simultaneous beam relay. The dual plus beam works at the conical angle of 20° at 200 kHz and 60° at 83 kHz. Since both beam can be used simultaneously thanks to the Dual-beam plus technology, you can also view the feedback data at split-screen.
You can use the side imaging to your advantage. It produces 455 kHz of frequencies while the transducer delivers two 86° fan-like beams which covers almost 240 ft of the area at both sides of the boat. So oh can locate fish on a larger scale. And the feedback is clutter less and crisp.
Other key features are-
- Selective Fish ID
- Fish alarm
- Circular Flasher (ice fishing)
- Bottom lock
- Real-time Sonar
Navigation: The navigational feature is not obsolete in any way. You’ll get a 5hz internal GPS module capable to update your current location up to 5 times per second. If you have WAAS, EGNOS or MSAS satellite in your area, then the GPS can work more efficiently.
It can also show your current coordination and your preferred spots and waypoints. The unit comes out with basic unimap charts out of the box. But thanks to the recent updating from Humminbird, you can now have the latest base maps. Also, the unit is compatible with Navionics, Hotmaps and Lakemaster charts.
Other noteworthy features-
- Boat speed calculability
- 2,500 waypoints
- 45 routes
- 50 trails ( 20k tracks/trail)
The unit: The size of the display is decent, 5″ diagonal. The resolution is also sharp at 800×480. Not only you’ll have a clearer view and decent separation from fish arches to obstacles and vegetations. The display offers good viewing angle. The backlit integration helps you see under direct sunlight.
As always it features an IPx7 waterproofing capability like other decent fish finders. That means you’ll have a good chance of staying protected against splashes and rains. Stay away from saltwater though. Even if you do get exposed, please wipe it dry as fast as possible.
Mount & connectivity: It comes with an included Transom mount option. And the cable is long enough, about 20 ft.
You’ll be able to use a NMEA 0183 for sharing information. Also, the micro SD card slot will come pretty handy in terms of updating software, sonar recording, and data transfer purpose.
Our thoughts: If CHIRP is your main priority, then you shouldn’t opt for this one. If not then the Helix 5 SI covers all the basic options for a proper fish finder.
How to find the best fish finder?
You’ll find so many different types of fish finder in the market. To keep things simple, let us organize all the types in three categories.
- Fixed/ Mounted: These kinds are typically found on vessels like fishing boat or kayaks. You can also use them in pontoons and large fishing float tubes. For those who rent out their boats, or catch fish more frequently, a mounted fish finder set up is the right option.
- Handheld/ Portable: These types of fish finder is suitable for small boats, kayaks, and fishing float tubes. You’ll get portable kits, carry case, portable transducer, mounts and a rechargeable 12v battery in a package deal. (May vary with different models)
- Castable/ Smart wireless: I strongly believe the future belongs with this one. Not only you’re getting nearly the same services of a full mounted fish finder, but also the convenience of portability. And the fun part is, these castable fish finders are applicable in all kinds of situations. Let your smartphone be the fish finder display unit.
Now, let’s find out how you can choose the best fish finder for boat in case you haven’t found our list interesting enough.
1. Type of Transducer: Again, this also depends on your preference. You’ll see a lot of units comes with a Transducer in the box. But the unit itself can be integrated with more powerful Transducer than the given one. Some manufacturers provide extra adapter and converter so you can use any recommend transducer which is compatible with the device.
Most transducer offers a transom mount. But you can mount them on trolling motors as well with proper kits of course. The upgraded models are mountable in the hull of your boat or kayak. Whereas others require no mounting at all, only casting.
2. Transducer signal type: If you don’t know how the transducer sends a signal below the water, then imagine there’s a triangle into the water. The base is positioned towards the bottom and the tip is right at the water surface. Your boat sits right on the tip of the triangle. Get it?
The signal is a cone type and it sends stiffer and wider pulses or beams however you wanna call it. The standard angle is within 15-20° range but, some transducer may shoot a beam from 9-60° conic angle.
A wide beam may cover more space but compromises on data quality feeding your fish finder display. But with those stiffer pulses, you can not only go deeper but also see each target with less clutter and great separation.
Notice that, some higher prices fish finder shoots several cone angles for deeper and wider data extraction.
3. Wattage: In every fish finder feature section you’ll see a wattage rating. This indicates how strong the device can scan. More wattage means your fed data will look crisp and clutter-less on the display. You’ll be able to determine between fish and brush piles. And also identifying structures will be more precise.
If you only plant to roam in the shallows, then 200 watts is your sweet spot. But I’d say stick with 500 wattages. It’ll serve your purpose both on fresh and saltwater. But if you wanna go bigger, then 1,000 watt is your bread and butter.
4. Navigation: Another important feature of a fish finder. Look for a precision GPS/GLONASS receiver module that refreshes your position up to 5 times per second. Also, it’s important that you choose a unit with Chartplotter maps and also can access Lakemaster or Navionics features for versatile map access within the US borders and beyond.
5. Downvü & Sidevü: First of all, whether you’re a new fish finder user or a regular one, don’t ever compromise on either of these features. Downvü offers amazing water floor imaging whereas sidevü covers a larger area and let you mark waypoints depending on your interests.
Remember, even if you’re on a tight budget, opt for a fish finder which offers either of these Sidevü or downvü with CHIRP integration.
6. Types of frequency: It again depends on the type of fish finder. The standard 2D Sonar shoots beams at 50/77/200 kHz frequency. With the presence of CHIRP, the frequency modulation may vary
7. Screen: Another important aspect of a fish finder unit. Because whatever the sonar picks up, will be displayed on the screen. That’s why it’s important to pick up a backlit screen. And don’t compromise on size either. Because size does matter.
If it fits your budget then go for a 5-inch screen with a higher resolution pixel matrix. And of course, the viewing angle is also crucial. A sharper display is the key to the right interpretation of your target. Make sure the display is also visible under direct sunlight.
8. Storage & connection: Does our selected fish finder offer any sort of map storing or transfer option? If not then you’ll feel like stranded on a deserted island. Make sure the unit rocks a MicroSD card reader slot.
Also, see if your unit offers any NVME adapter so you can transfer data with other fish finder units efficiently.
9. Price: Price is an important selling point for any product. And when it comes to a fish finder, you’ll see a lot of fluctuations in pricing. So which one should you go for? It depends on how much data you want to receive from your fish finder efficiently. We showed some amazing products with a price tag between 200-300$ above. If one of these fish finders covers your preference, then you shouldn’t go for expensive models.
Remember, we are here to identify and make a listing of products with good value for money. If you are a veteran angler then this listings may not be for you. After all, I doubt that any pro angler will even acknowledge anything from the best fish finder under 300 bucks. But for those who are on a tight budget, look around. I guarantee that you’ll find something worth your while.
10. Notification: when you get an email or something else, your phone notifies. Just like that, some models offer fish alarm on detection. This is very handy for recreational anglers. But for serious ones, keep the alarm off. If you don’t then the false alarm will irritate you. Besides, I personally try to stay as ambiguous as possible during the hunt.
11. Portable or fixed? The traditionally mounted fish finder may still have some higher grounds against the portable units. But soon enough, the scenario will change. A portable fish finder or castable fish finder, however you wanna put it, it requires fewer formalities and power to operate.
You can find some portable units in the market which can stay active for an entire day with one single charge. Whereas you gotta invest in a battery and other cables to power your mounted fish finder.
But remember that mounted fish finder tends to be more accurate than the portable one. Whereas portable fish finder can be applied and carried in any situation. You can even join forces with your mounted fish finder as well.
In terms of flexibility and lower cost, I believe that portable fish finder has a brighter future. Then again, the mounted unit offers less Hassle and tuning as well as longevity.
12. Popular brands: There are a lot of brands to choose from in the market today. But sadly, not all of them value your hard-earned dollar. Only a handful of these brands are reliable. Whether you choose a thousand dollar fish finder or a few hundred, these reputed manufacturer guarantees a reliable fish finder operation. And for any sort of hardware or software issues, they have an outstanding customer support team ready to help. These brands are-
- Humminbird fish finders
- Garmin fish finders
- Lowrance fish finders
- Raymarine fish finders
- Simrad fish finders
- Furuno fishfinders
A. Since you’re gonna use it from a boat. It’s a must to know the types of mount available in the market today.
Transducer mount & Binnacle mount: Let’s talk about Binnacle mount first. This is called the display unit mount. You’ll find this mount included with most of the fish finder unit’s packaging.
And transducer features transom mount. Although the quality of this mount is kind of an issue, it’s the versatility that attracts people to use this mount. You can also use a through-hull transducer and an in-hull transducer.
A. It’s basically a Sonar tech to detect underwater structures, the layout of the underwater surface and the exact depth right under the transducer. You’ll see two different bodies of the instrument. One is the control head and the other is the actual transducer which can be suspended into the water or through any ice hole. The kind of signal it receives then gets altered and shows up on the Fisher dial display to determine the fish location.
A. The general character of a sonar device is to send pulses of the sound beam towards the underwater surface. During the journey of these pulses, they are more likely to hit fish, wreckages and obstacles, waterbed brush piles and many other objects.
Now when the sound pulses return, these detections are sent from the transducer to your display unit. The main unit then shows up all the possible outcomes including fish. It can also calculate the speed of your boat and other useful equations.
A. You can install a fish finder in many ways. The most common way though is the transom mount. Your unit is most likely to come up with one. This mount lacks in quality but rocks in versatility.
Place the transducer at the rear of the boat. Keep it just submerged in the water. Then connect the power cable through the hull or from the side of the boat with the head unit. You can go for thru-hull technique but this may result in hurting the boat’s hull. Some boats come with this option for your convenience.
A. First of all, you better test just below the thermocline to avert decreasing sensitivity.
- You’ll find it much easier to detect fish from a stationary position rather than staying mobile.
- Good target separation
- Reasonable spotting power with a broader range
The water column below the thermocline is crisp even with 3X Zoom.
Finally, fish finders are a necessary help to detect fish and save you effort and time. You’ll find them extremely reliable in the water with low visibility. And since you’re gonna hunt from a boat, you’ll more likely to encounter murky water.
That’s why we tried to suggest you the best fish finder for boat. Hope our effort helped your curiosity. Now let’s row down the horizon, and wish you land the next trophy salmon. Happy hunting.