The Best Fish Finder For Small Boats

By Josh Hassell / April 30, 2019

Are you trying to improve your fishing? If you feel like you need a little boost with fishing, you should consider getting a fish finder. It’s a device that helps you locate fish in the water while also providing a few other beneficial specs.

You can find a fish finder for you even if your boat is somewhat small since these devices now come in several sizes. They differ in size, specifications, features and other critical stuff that makes them suitable for the job.

Stick around to find out about the best fish finders for small boats. Below, you’ll also find our buyer’s guide to help you find the product for your needs.


Our Top 7 Best Fish Finder For Small Boats

Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer

If you’re interested in knowing what’s under and around your boat, you should check out this fish finder. It has high-frequency sonar for near-photographic and detailed images for fish, structure, and objects.

The dedicated buttons and simple keyed interface allow simplicity and make this device suitable for beginners as well. It’s equally as simple to use as it is to install. On top of that, it’s available in 3.5-, 5- and 7-inch display sizes.

Its maximum depth is up to 1,600 feet in fresh water and 750 feet in saltwater. Also, the current draw is at 12V:0.23A. This one also has an IPX7 water rating.

The chirp sonar sends a continuous sweep of frequencies for a wide range of information and target separation. It also has a built-in flasher allowing ice fishing and vertical jigging.

Pros:

  • Easy to install
  • Comes in several sizes
  • Color display

Cons:

  • GPS is a bit tricky to figure out


LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder

This portable fish finder detects and shows water depth, approximate fish location, tall and short weeds, rocks, sand and other stuff on the bottom of the water. Since it’s portable, you can also hang it around your neck to carry it around with you.

It’s suitable for different fishing environments like off-shore, ice, kayak, lake, and sea fishing. It’s relatively small, so you can use it even in the smallest boats. It comes with five sensitivity options and about 4 to 5 hours of battery life.

It has a detector range in a 45°cone underwater. Its depth range is from 3ft to 328ft below fishing sonar transducer. You can choose whether you want that info shown in feet or meters depending on your preferences. It also comes with 25ft of cable and removable transducer float.

Pros:

  • Battery save mode
  • Portable
  • For smallest boats

Cons:

  • Handheld isn’t waterproof


Humminbird PIRANHAMAX 4.3 DI

If you’re looking for sharp image and ease of use, this Humminbird might be the best choice for you. It has a larger 4.3’’ color LCD for clear images and representations of what’s below.

It’s redesigned and now comes with a more straightforward interface. It’s easier to use and provides Down Imaging, Fish ID+, fish alarms, zoom, and depth alarms as well. It’s well-packed with several other features that could help you when in the water.

The Dual Bean sonar allows you to choose between a wide and narrow beam for large and detailed coverage area.

Down Imaging allows a clear view of what’s under your boat. It’s an excellent feature for patrolling the water as it will show you rocks, brush, bridge pilings, timber, and other structure.

Pros:

  • Swivel and tilt mount
  • Color LCD
  • Depth capability of -320’ DI and 600’

Cons:

  • Hard to read in the sun

 


OUTLIFE Fish Finder

This is among the best fish finders for small boats for several reasons. First of all, it’s easier to install than most other devices on the market.

Its wireless sensor turns on automatically once the switch terminals touch the water. The device then sends information back to the monitor making it suitable for both professionals and amateurs.

Temperature, water depth, fish size and location, bottom contour, battery life, and other information will be displayed on the handheld monitor. Also, depth and temperature can be shown in both English and metric units.

Sonar detection depth goes up to 147ft while wireless connection ranges up to 328ft. The unit also features a fish alarm and is suitable for small boats, river, sea, ice, bank and ocean fishing.

Pros:

  • LED backlight
  • Waterproof sensor
  • High accuracy

Cons:

  • Hard to read in direct sunlight

 


Phiradar Color 3.5″ LCD Boat Fish Finder

This one is specially designed for professional and amateur fishing. It helps fishers find depth and bottom contour of water and fish location in the river, sea, lake and other waters.

It has a 3.5’’ 18bit display that’s easily readable in direct sunlight. The depth reading ranges from 1.8 to 984ft in 1/10th precision. Another thing worth mentioning is the water temperature and bottom contour indicator.
The unit has 100 levels of sensitivity setting and multi-level depth range. You can choose between feet and meter reading as well as several languages.

Its 200KHz/83KHz dual beam sonar frequency makes it suitable for different waters. On top of that, it features a maximum output power of 800 watts and a battery life indicator.

Pros:

  • Audible alarm
  • Multi-language
  • LED lighting

Cons:

  • Not waterproof

 


Lowrance HDS-7 Carbon

This easy-to-use unit is among the most popular choices for beginners and amateurs. It features auto-tuning sonar and user-friendly menus for easier installation and use.

It offers a wide-angle sonar cone for double the coverage of what you’d get with most other units. This one is ideal for small boats thanks to its dimensions as well as overall simplicity. It allows you to focus more on the water instead of settings.

It can be mounted on the transom, on the trolling motor, inside the hull, or through a scupper hole. This kind of versatility makes it ideal for kayaks and other smaller boats with limited space.

Also, it comes with a Bullet Skimmer transducer for traditional 2-D sonar views. The one-touch access to all the essential features allows quick and efficient use regardless of the water you’re in.

Pros:

  • Versatile mounting options
  • Automated sonar settings
  • Built-in mapping

Cons:

  • No cover included

 


Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp

Humminbird is one of the leading companies in the industry. Its Helix 5 Chirp fish finder is among the best-selling units by the brand. It has a 5-inch color WVGA display and a target separation of 2.5 inches.

The Chirp Dual Beam Plus Sonar features power output RMS of 500 watts. Its power draw is 615 mA. The unit also has a precision internal GPS Chart plotting along with Anima cartography.

Side imaging offers side-to-side perspective on the area below the surface. Its ultra-thin bean scans the area to return the image and build an incredible view of the bottom of the water. Down Imaging shows the area below your boat so that you can see all the brush, timber, rocks, and other structure.

Pros:

  • Built-in basemap
  • Internal GPS receiver
  • Micro SD card slot

Cons:

  • No screen covers


Things To Consider When Buying

Frequencies

You may have noticed that some fish finders come with single, dual, or multiple frequency transducers. This is something you should think about carefully because frequencies are among the most significant factors.

The higher the frequency, the more detailed image you’ll get. It’s because this type of unit sends more sonar waves and receives a more accurate image.

High frequencies are the best choice if you’re fishing in shallow water. On the other hand, if you’re fishing in different types of water, you might want to consider a finder with multiple frequencies. It’s up to you to decide since even a single frequency is fine if you fish in only one type of water.

Power

Power is another vital thing to think about depending on where you fish and how you plan to use the finder. Luckily, the market is packed with different units that range in features and specifications, power being one of them.

The higher the wattage, the quicker you’re going to see the information readings. Plus, this also affects its depth, so the greater wattage allows the unit to go deeper in the water.

Less wattage means a slower unit which is better for shallow water. So, think about if you’ll be in shallow or deep water. Deeper the water, more power you’ll need.

Resolution

Screen resolution may not seem like the most critical factor to consider. However, it’s quite important since more pixels allow a more precise image that’s easier to read. If you want a sharp image and clear results, you should look for more pixels.

A general rule is to go for at least 240×160 which is considered a minimum. This is far from enough for a sharp image, but it’s the least you should think about.

If you’re a bit more serious about the image quality, you should consider a bigger screen and more resolution. These units usually cost a bit more money but deliver quality and sharp images that are easy to read.

Color

Color is a relatively new addition to these units that used to be basic black and white a while ago. With color, you get better detailing and an image that’s easier to read. Different information is shown in a different color which is far better than what you’d get with a b&w screen.

Color on a fish finder allows you to see all the information with more detail. This helps to see and understand what’s happening in the water and it’s much easier to read in direct sunlight.

Transducer

Transducers are among the most important things to look for when buying a fish finder. It’s the part of the unit that emits and receives the sonar waves.

A transducer sends the signals to the water and then picks them up once they bounce off of the underwater objects. The information is then sent to the main unit that converts it into a picture. As a result, you get an idea of what’s happening under and around your boat with different accuracy.

Most units come with transom mount transducers that are easy to mount, install and use.


How Does a Fish Finder Work

You should first know that there are three different types of imaging that range in purpose and accuracy. They work with sonar systems and create an image depending on the particular sonar. Because there are pros and cons to each of them, you should carefully consider all three of them.

Standard

These fish finders are simple and have a cone of sonar beamed down into the water. They deliver a rough image of what’s below and show fish as arcs.

Standard sonar type was first used in fish finders and as such isn’t the most accurate. Over time, they did become more sophisticated but are still the roughest of the three types. These don’t always show the most precise information about fish, depth, temperature and other stuff.

Still, they work reasonably well once you figure out how to read them. There’s a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find the unit quite useful.

Side Imaging

Side Imaging is different than the other two. It focuses on sending beams to the side of your boat which means you’ll see less of what’s below.

It’s quite useful for finding structures around your boat. Instead of just seeing below the boat, you can now see around for more information and easier fishing.

The great thing is that you can find the technology built in along with the other two types. If not, you can also purchase a separate unit with side imaging. In most cases, side imaging works the best when it’s combined with the other two technologies.

Down Imaging

Down Imaging is much like the standard sonar but a more sophisticated version. The difference is in the fact that this one shows a more accurate image of what’s below your boat.

For this reason, it’s a bit more expensive, but it’s also more accurate and easier to read. You’ll be able to see fish, weeds, rock and whatever other structure below the surface of the water.

Since it’s as accurate, it’s a great option for beginners and professionals. However, it takes a while to learn how it works and how to read the information it shows.


Benefits of Using a Portable Fish Finder

There are several benefits of using a portable fish locating device. If you compare them with fixed finders, you’ll find that the portable ones carry a few extra pros.

Convenience – portable units are easy to transport, and you can use them in different locations. It’s a perfect choice for you if you’re fishing from land, a kayak or a rented boat.

Ease of use – it’s relatively simpler than a fixed finder since there’s no installation required. You just set it up before use which takes a few seconds.

Affordability – they usually don’t cost as much as fixed fish locating devices.

Transducer flexibility – you can mount the transducer on a kayak or a boat. Also, you can throw it into the water from the boat, shoreline or the dock.


Final Thoughts

When you’re shopping for a fish locating device for a small boat, there are a few things you should consider. Size is only one of the few important factors that determine whether the unit will work for you or not.
Still, as you can see from our list, these units are quite versatile. They come in different sizes and have several various features to choose from depending on your needs and preferences.

If you’re unsure which to pick, we suggest you take a second look at the Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer. It’s easy to use and has a color display. Also, you won’t struggle with reading the information in broad daylight which is often an issue for other fish finders.

Still, the choice is up to you, so think about your needs and preferences before opting for one of the devices above.

 

 

About the author

    Josh Hassell

    There's nothing better than going out to the lake early in the morning, and catching some fish! Like many other anglers, I find fishing to be very therapeutic. I've been fishing since I was about 10 years old, and fell in love ever since. I hope to share my expertise and knowledge with the community, and help everyone become better anglers.

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