Fish finders are one of the best, if not the best, pieces of technology an angler can utilize. If you have used one, you would know that it is a game-changing device. Instead of blindly waiting on a fish-less spot, they offer a good insight into what’s below the water.
For years, anglers had 2D-sonars which only gave a small amount of bottom coverage. However, with the introduction of side imaging, newer fish finders allow finding fish at a much faster rate. However, these newer fish finders come at a much higher price.
Today’s market has a wide variety of fish finders. They come in a wide price range and offer an equally wide feature range including built-in GPS, lake maps and wifi connectivity to name a few. Therefore, it is hard to find the best fish finder for your needs.
Comparing 10 Best Fish Finders for Small Boat
Fish finders are literally changing by the day. New technology is coming into things every day and it is hard to keep up with the change. Therefore, it becomes doubly challenging to find the best fish finder for you.
However, I would like you to stick to your needs and budget to find the best for you. This is because some of the top-line fish finders are expensive and you would not want to spend thousands on something you do not need.
Below is our list of the 10 best fish finders for small boat and we have tried to cover a wide budget range to cater to a wide range of anglers.
|Unit Name||Weight||Max scan depth||Screen|
|Lowrance Hds 16 Live||16.09 lbs||2000 ft||16 in|
|Deeper Sonar Pro||0.2 lbs||260 ft||Mobile|
|ReelSonar ibobber||0.01 lbs||135 ft||Mobile|
|Lowrance Hook2 9 Tripleshot||5.65 lbs||500 ft||9 in|
|Lowrance Hook2 7 Tripleshot||3 lbs||500 ft||7 in|
|Humminbird HELIX 5||2.5 lbs||1500 ft||5 in|
|Lowrance Hook2 5 Splitshot||3.15 lbs||500 ft||5 in|
|Garmin Echomap Chirp 54cv||1.3 lbs||1800 ft||5 in|
|Garmin Striker 4 With Transducer||0.5 lbs||1600 ft||3.5 in|
|Venterior VT-FF001||1.09 lbs||328 ft||1.5 in|
1. Lowrance HDS-16 Live Fish Finder – Premium Unit with Modern and Advanced Features
Lowrance in HDS has used a superior glass and implemented a SolarMax HD screen. Therefore, it provides a detailed and clear picture even if it is under direct sunlight. It gets even better because no matter which angle you are looking at it from, the display would be readable. Despite so many features, the interface is undemanding and uncomplicated which makes it user-friendly.
I like it for the fact that HDS-16 Live comes with a built-in GPS which is pre-loaded with C Maps of almost 4,000 lakes. It reads the dimensions and speed of your boat and makes the navigation easy by pointing out the best possible route.
In addition, HDS-16 Live features most advanced fishfinder technology which enables you to watch CHIRP Sonar and Scanstructrue HD at the same time. Therefore, it provides the best possible view about what is going on beneath you.
Moreover, you can integrate it with a smartphone and can use almost all the apps in the split-screen mode. These are the features which make this unit premium and justify the price of this unit.
2. Deeper Sonar Pro Fish Finder – Versatile Wireless Device for Both Beginners and Pros
What makes this sonar stand out from the rest of the fish finders is its versatility. You can use this sonar in the areas where other fish finders do not work. You can use it onshore, kayak and even in ice-fishing. It comes with several attachments to ensure convenient installation in Kayaks, boats and fishing rods.
Deeper Smart Sonar reads up to a depth of 260 ft at the temperature ranging from -40F to 1040F. What makes it best for both saltwater and freshwater is the dual-beam sonar. It is capable of throwing signals at both narrow and wide angles that are requirements of fresh and saltwater respectively.
Deeper pro Fishfinder provides detailed information about the contours of the water bodies. In addition, it has an alarm system which rings notification bells whenever it spots the fish. It also features a calendar that tracks your activities and remembers the fish density at any given day or spot.
Moreover, it comes with a built-in GPS which creates bathymetric maps from the shore. It additionally syncs the data to the mobile app and stores it. Therefore, if you are planning to revisit some water body you won’t require it as the information is already stored in the application.
The sonar generates its own Wi-Fi signals which connect it with the smart device. The drawback of the Wi-Fi connection is it drains too much energy compared to the Bluetooth connections. Moreover, it also stops access to the internet which would be an issue for some people.
3. ReelSonar ibobber – Affordable Unit with All Basic Features
It features a patented sonar fish finder technology which is capable to read the water up to a depth of 135 ft. The sonar provides you with the contour map of the water bodies, depth of water and the location of fish. In addition, it features an alarm to notify whenever it spots the fish or strike with something.
A sonar is considered portable only if it has the ability to serve under a variety of circumstances. Reelsonar ticks all the boxes when it comes to portability and versatility. You can take it on streams, lakes and even on ice. In addition, it has a night feature which makes you able to use it during the night camping beside the lakes.
The best thing about his sonar is its battery life which lasts longer than some of the high-end devices. This is because unlike high-end devices it uses Bluetooth to connect with your smartphone. The Bluetooth consumes a lot less power than a Wi-Fi connection which is why it has extended battery life.
In addition, the Bluetooth connection also enables you to use the internet which is not possible with the Wi-Fi connection. It also features a share button which can be used to share the pictures on your social media account.
However, the problem with the Bluetooth connection is it does not work from a long distance. The company claims it is capable to connect even from a distance of 100 ft which is a false claim. In reality, you would have to keep it closer to the smartphone to get the actual readings.
However, this is something you can work around if it comes at such an affordable price.
4. Lowrance Hook2 9 Tripleshot – Forget About the Settings with Auto-Tuning
As the name suggests, it features a transducer which has three different scanners including Side-Scan, Down-Scan, and CHIRP sonars. The combination of these three sonars provides a wider and more detailed view of the water. It not only scans the bottom but also the sides of the water to provide a better insight into the water.
The CHIRP sonar is able to scan down till the depth of 500 ft while the Side-Scan and Down-Scan work effectively till 300ft. The chances of missing the fish are highly unlikely with that sort of coverage.
In addition, it reads the contours of water bodies and tells the depth of water. This features provides a better view of the waterbody so could make sure if it is the right spot for fishing. What else adds to its convenience is its auto-tuning option which automatically sets the setting of sonar, so you can enjoy your fishing expedition.
It additionally comes with High-Intensity internal GPS which is preloaded with 1-foot contours of 3000 lakes in the US. The operating frequency of the GPS is not specified, but it is somewhere around 5 Hz. However, it fixes five times per second and you can use it for position enhancement. On the other hand, the unit does not have a touch screen and it is not HD either, which is a disappointment.
5. Lowrance Hook2 7 Tripleshot – Get a Wider, Clearer and Precise Information with This One
Next on our list for best fish finders for a small boat is Lowrance Hook2 7 Tripleshot. The transducer featured in this device is the same as Hook2 9 which has three different sonars. The CHIRP sonar is capable to scan down till 500 ft while the Side-Scan and Down-Scan can scan up to 300ft. The combination of these three sonar provides a detailed and clearer insight into the water.
This unit is good at reading the contours of the waterbody. Moreover, it not only reads the structure but also provides information about the nature of that structure. It reads the depth of the water and also tells if the bottom is rocky or sandy. This is what makes it best assistance at your fishing expedition.
Lowrance Hook2 comes with built-in GPS which is preloaded with maps of 4000 lakes. You can fish like a pro even on new spots with this feature. The unit has a memory to store up to 3000 waypoints and 100 routes. The recording of the waypoints and routes make the navigation easier if you revisit any spot.
The fish ID is also available in Lowrance triple shot which replaces the fish arches with a fish icon for easy identification. In addition, it also features a fish alarm that notifies you if a fish comes in the radar of transducer.
Lowrance Hook2 7x Tripleshot Vs Splitshot
Most of the features of these two units are same, however, the difference is when it comes to sonar. The triple shot, as its name suggests, features three sonars including Down-Scan, Side-Scan, and CHIRP Sonar.
6. Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS 2 – A Budget-Friendly Device with CHIRP Sonar
HELIX 5 CHIRP is capable of 50/83/200 kHz, but it comes with an XNT 9 20 transducer which supports only 83/200 kHz frequencies. Therefore, to get 50 kHz you will require a 50/200 kHz transducer. The unit uses conical beams with 20 degrees and 60 degrees and is useful in both salt and freshwaters. Moreover, the transducer has the capability to scan up to a depth of 1500 ft.
HELIX 5 lacks Down Imaging and Side Imaging and uses only traditional 2D sonar. However, the sonar is DualBeam Plus which scans the water under the boat with both sonars simultaneously.
This unit features CHIRP sonar which provides superior target separation by modulating the pulse over different frequencies. It thus provides a better look of the depth with a near-photographic view and less clutter. The fish arch and the structure hit by sonar will appear in a different color depending on the beam that hit them.
Moreover, the unit has some fascinating features including Selective Fish ID+ which replaces the fish arches with symbols. The depth of each fish will appear on the screen. Fish Alarm is also available which can be regulated depending on the size of fish it catches.
It gets even better with the sonar recording that allows you to rewind the sonar feed. You can look at a specific spot without rescanning that area. However, this feature requires a MicroSD card to store the feed.
Basically, it is a less expensive unit from the HELIX series. It features only basic charts pack for reference of its GPS. The UniMap charts cover only contiguous coastlines of US and some of the inland rivers and lakes at 30m/pixel.
It works exactly like typical GPS and shows the river, streams, and lakes with accurately marked boundaries. The GPS does not offer a superior detail but if you do not require an advanced navigation system it will work just fine.
7. Lowrance Hook2 5 Splitshot – Fish Like Pros Even at a New Spot with This One
The transducer of this device features two sonars including CHIRP and Down-Scan. The CHIRP sonar provides wide-angle which is why it is suitable for both salt and freshwater. You can benefit from this transducer even if you are ice-fishing. The versatility of this unit is the very reason it has made to this list.
Moreover, the combination of CHIRP and Down-Scan provide a detailed view of the water. It gets even better because in addition to reading the contours it also provides information regarding the nature of different structures. This enables you to understand the position of fish in relation to the vegetation and other bottom structures. Therefore, the chances of catching the fish get higher.
Moving on, Splitshot features a standard GPS system and includes one contours maps of 3000 US inland lakes. Moreover, it also provides standard coverage to of additional 9000 lakes. These maps do not offer high detail but boundaries between water and land have been marked accurately.
Although the display of the device is not HD, it is easily readable. The SolarMax display enables you to view this unit clearly from several different angles. Moreover, the device is waterproof which means it can withstand accidental exposure to water.
8. Garmin Echomap Chirp 54cv – Get a Photographic View of the Water With This One
The transducer featured in this unit is the best you would find in this price range. Broadband CHIRP sonar, Dual Frequency HD-ID, and the CHIRP DownVu provide detailed information about the water. The 2D sonar is capable to scan till the depth of 180 0ft while the DownVu scans up to 1,000 ft.
These sonars provide a near-photographic representation of the objects, structure and the contours of the water body. In addition, it creates crisper fish arches with better target separation which allows you to cast the line precisely.
The capability of this unit to see deeper into the water is what makes it stand out. Basically, the sonar emits waves at several different angles including both narrower and wider. The narrower angles are good when you are fishing in a river or lake while the wider angles are useful in the ocean. The capability of this unit to emit both angles makes it versatile and you can use it in both fresh and saltwater.
5 Hz internal GPS module is featured in this unit which delivers positioning and heading updates five times in a second. The unit uses this GPS system to indicate the approximate speed of your boat and kayak.
Moreover, it is preloaded with BlueChart g2 HD maps that cover US coastal parts including both West Coast and East Coast. HD Maps deliver a smooth transition between different zoom levels and excellent continuity across boundaries.
It gets even better with the Auto-Guidance features that search through the existent map and creates a virtual safe pathway. Therefore, it allows you to commute while avoiding obstruction and obstacles like low bridges and shallow water on the route. The unit has a memory to store up to 5000 waypoints and 100 routes and also features a trail recording function.
9. Garmin Striker 4 Fishfinder – A Versatile, Portable and Durable Unit
The transducer of the striker 4 is capable to deliver the frequency of 77-200 kHz. It uses two different conical beams, 150 for 200 kHz which makes it efficient in the saltwater. The second beam is at 450 for 77 kHz for freshwater. The capability to deliver both beams makes it efficient in rivers, lakes, and even oceans.
One downside of this transducer is its capability of only mid and high CHIRP. You would not be able to use LOW CHIRP with this device.
The maximum depth you can scan with this unit is 750ft in saltwater and 1600ft in freshwater. CHIRP sonar injects the power and brings clarity in the images provided by this unit. It provides a better look of the bottom with a defined target and less clutter.
Moreover, it enhances the target separation which identifies individual fish rather than a group. The conventional fishfinders display a group of fish as a single icon which can be misleading and inaccurate.
The GPS-system in this unit is basic and does not feature chart-plotter. It uses only a blank sheet for support. However, the precision provided by the GPS is mind-blowing. The internal GPS module enables you to mark the waypoints for safe return. Moreover, it has the capacity to store up to 5000 waypoints and also offers suggestive icons for further assistance.
Garmin Striker 4 Vs 4cv
The striker 4 is the most basic model with a simple GPS system while the 4cv features a high-efficiency GPS system. Moreover, the latest model has the capability to scan deeper than the striker 4.
10. Venterior VT-FF001 – A Portable Fish Finder with Simple Interface
Last but least on our list for best fish finders for small boats is Venterior VT-FF001. Venterior portable fish finder is capable to work at depths ranging from 3ft to 330ft without any sort of difficulty. The best part is you can extend this capability by connecting a larger sonar cable. However, the cable that comes with it is not long enough so you would definitely have to purchase a new one. These cables are inexpensive and immediately extend the capabilities of your fishfinder.
This unit has a rugged construction which is why it can withstand extreme temperatures. It enables you to use this device even for ice-fishing. The wire and sonar system has the ability to withstand the temperature above 00F which is why ice-fishing would not be an issue.
This device comes with five different sensitivity settings that allow you to set it according to your needs. Higher settings drain a lot of battery while the lower setting cuts down the accuracy and sensitivity. It depends on the type of expedition you are on. You would be better off with low settings on a long trip and vice versa.
The interface as described earlier is the simplest of all and provides the information immediately. The information includes the size of the structure sonar hits, its depth in water and a lot of other details. This information provides better insight and understanding of what is going on under the water.
What to look for in Best Fish Finder for Jon Boat - A Comprehensive Buyer's Guide
Fish finders are complicated devices and the decision to purchase the right unit is a very tricky one. If you go the market you would find a huge variety of these devices and it is only natural to get confused. However, to help you with the decision we have compiled a list of features that you should look for before making the purchase.
Type of unit
There are several different types of fish finders. Some of these units are bulky and require a professional to install them in the boat. Once these units are installed, they cannot be removed.
However, the evolution in the technology has reduced the sizes of these units greatly. Nowadays, you will see extremely portable units that can even be installed with the fishing rod.
These portable units are further classified on the basis of the features they offer. The choice of the unit will largely depend on the purpose you are purchasing it for. For example, if you are looking for a finder to assist you with fishing in a small lake or pond.
You should go with a standalone fishfinder. It will not have any fancy features but it will let you know about the location and number of fish. If you are just getting started these units would be best for you.
Decide Your Usage
The choice of fish finder should be based on your usage. You should know the type of water you want to use that unit. The water of the ocean is much deeper and fishing there requires a wide beam of waves.
On the other hand, the rivers and lakes are relatively shallow. Therefore, they require a relatively narrower beam of the wave.
Some of the units offer wider angles while the other offers a narrow-angle. This choice is important because the narrower beam would not work well in lakes and vice versa. You should put a lot of thought into this before making the purchase.
If you switch between ocean and lakes for fishing there are some available units that are capable of delivering both angles. However, a unit like this would come at a relatively higher price.
Frequency of the Transducer
Frequency of any unit is one of the fundamental features which allows the unit to see underwater. The fish finder that have high frequencies are able to provide you with much detailed view. On the other hand, the lower frequency provides a less detailed but more precise view.
If you are fishing on a lake or river you are going to need a unit with optimum frequency. The units that have 200 kHz frequency will serve you best. It will show the accurate size, shape and the depth of water at which fish is present.
Fishfinder comes with several types of GPS systems. Some of them are just basic while the others are feature-rich and advance. The choice regarding GPS should be made according to expedition you want to take it with.
For example, if you are fishing in a pond that is near to your house you would not need the GPS at all. On the other hand, if you are fishing far away in the ocean, GPS is a necessity as you will require it for navigation.
Some of the GPS systems are preloaded with maps of lakes and rivers of the US. These are helpful if you are going to any spot for the first time. However, with features like these, the price of the unit also increases.
Bottom line is the choice purely depends on the type of water you want to use it in.
Display and Screen Resolution
Display of the unit is often overlooked and is considered as a non-important feature. However, it is not the case and it is every bit as important as GPS, transducers and other features. The readings, fish arch, and GPS are ultimately displayed on the screen. If the screen is not readable it renders the unit useless.
When you are fishing in the river under the sunlight, the readability of the screen reduces. However, modern technologies have solved this issue by inventing SolarMax technology. This technology enables you to see the unit from different angles even if it is under direct sunlight.
Moreover, there are some units that come with additional anti-UV protection. These layers enhance the durability of the unit to a great extent. However, these types of units come at a relatively higher price.
It is the most important part of any fish finder that is actually able to find the fish. It is the component of the unit that sends the signal underwater and receives them back. The transducer is part of every fish finder whether it is portable or a traditional style unit.
There are several different types of transducers.
Some of them are capable of high frequencies while others deliver low frequencies. The case is exactly the same when it comes to angles of the beam. Some are capable of delivering wide angles while the others deliver a narrower beam.
Some transducers use CHIRP sonar while some do not; Side-Scan and Down-Scan are featured in some but not all transducer. The transducer that features CHIRP sonar is considered as superior because of the detail and clarity they provide. Features like Side-Scan and Down-Scan greatly enhance the detail and precision that is provided by the fish finder.
How to read sonar fishfinder?
Fishfinder is a complicated device and it is not easy to use. Beginners often find it difficult to read. Here are a few simple steps which will make it easier for you
1- Make sure you know the angles at which the unit is emitting the waves
2- If the screen is scrolling constantly it means sonar is not moving
3- Read the length from the scale that is displayed on the left or right corner of the screen
4- Now look for fish icon and estimate its length with respect to the scale.
5- If the unit does not feature fish icons look for the fish arches and repeat the same step to assess the depth of the fish
FAQs about Best Fishfinder for Small Boat
Fish finders are a bliss if you are an angler. However, to find the best one for your needs and budget is a daunting task. We hope the above list helps you find the best for your requirements.
Our best pick is Lowrance Hds 16 Live which is a top-notch device, gives near-photographic display and has an efficient quad-core processor. It also has built-in GPS and gives you the ability to connect to other smart devices. However, do not forget to go through the rest of the list to find the best one for you.