The Best Portable Fish Finders 2023
Passionate anglers love fishing - anywhere, anytime. We come in all shapes and sizes. We don’t all have big boats. Some of us love kayaking. Some of us love ice fishing. Some of us love casting lines from the shore and sitting in lawn chairs.
You don’t need a transom-mounted transducer and an almost 10-pound fish finder to get a great sonar chart. You can improve your fishing with highly portable fish finders.
That’s why we’ve created a list of our top portable fish finders of 2022 - so you can fish when you want, how you want. Up next, you’ll see the list - after that, we’ve compiled a list of the criteria we used to select our top picks. We’ve also selected some frequently asked questions - and answered them.
Without further ado, here are our top portable fish finders of 2022:
Best Portable Fish Finders
GarminGarmin Striker 4 GPS Fish Finder Review
HumminbirdHELIX 5 Review
|Screen Size: N/A||Screen Size: 3.5||Screen Size: 4.3"||Screen Size: 5 inch||Screen Size: N/A|
|Resolution: N/A||Resolution: 480H x 320V||Resolution: 272 x 480 pixels||Resolution: 800x480||Resolution: N/A|
|Imaging: N/A||Imaging: N/A||Imaging: DualBeam, 28 / 16 degrees||Imaging: 350 ft. Down, 250 ft. Side||Imaging: N/A|
|Max Depth: 150 ft||Max Depth: 750 feet ( 228 m ) in saltwater, 1,600 feet ( 487 m ) in fresh water||Max Depth: 600 ft.||Max Depth: 1500 feet||Max Depth: 330 ft.|
|Transducer: N/A||Transducer: 77/200 kHz CHIRP||Transducer: XNT 9 28 T||Transducer: XNT 9 SI 180 T||Transducer: N/A|
|Transmit Power: N/A||Transmit Power: 200 W (RMS)||Transmit Power: N/A||Transmit Power: N/A||Transmit Power: N/A|
|Frequency: 260/455 kHz||Frequency: 2D Sonar: 200 kHz / 15° and 77 kHz / 45°||Frequency: 200/455 kHz||Frequency: Medium and High CHIRP 75/155 kHz + 130/250 kHz||Frequency: 90 kHz and 290 kHz|
Garmin STRIKER Cast
The STRIKER Cast might be one of the most innovative and affordable fish finders on the market. What separates this piece of tech from the rest is the lack of a display screen. You can connect this unit to your mobile phone and use the screen as your fish finder display. When it comes to networking, you can connect the unit with your Bluetooth and use the app even without an internet connection. The slight drawback here is that your display/networking capabilities will only be as good as your phone, but this compact and impressive little number can do so much more.
The sonar is pretty basic, but the mapping on this unit is better than most expensive fish finders. While you can’t lay routes or tracks, you can use waypoints, and create, download, and share contour maps using Quickdraw. The contour mapping on this model is a beneficial addition for anglers to connect. There’s just so much fun to be had with this piece of tech, and it’s well worth the affordable price point.
Deeper Smart Sonar CHIRP
The Deeper Smart Sonar fish finder may look like a ball, but don’t let its appearance fool you. This unit is packed with many features that separate it from other portable fish finders. Anglers can use their phones for displaying and scanning purposes. The dual-beam sonar capabilities allow you some versatility between narrow and wide beams for different fishing locations. You can get a lot out of its impressive depth range and scan rate while on the water. You can operate the device through the Deeper app, which offers access to mapping features, GPS coordinates, depth readings, and more.
While this fish finder might not be the lightest, it’s small and easy to cast. The material of this unit is durable and can withstand many weather/water conditions. You can get an average battery time of 5.5 hours, and it doesn’t take much juice to operate. If you’re looking for an excellent value on a portable unit, this may be the one for you.
Garmin STRIKER 4 GPS
The Garmin STRIKER 4 is the most affordable and best portable fish finder around. With scanning versatility in salt and freshwater, this unit has a powerful CHIRP sonar that can provide quality images and clear pictures of your targets. This way, you get less clutter on the screen and a better view of the bottom of the lake. The 2D sonar display offers some useful functions, such as Ultrascroll, Flasher, Fish Symbol ID, and more.
This portable unit comes with a precise internal GPS. You will get impressive and accurate coordinates that allow you to mark waypoints to keep track of your favorite fishing spots. This bad boy allows you to store up to five thousand waypoints and use different icons when marking. The STRIKER 4 is waterproof, which means that submersion in water and rainy weather won’t damage it. This unit is great for its price and is conveniently compact for easy transportation and use.
Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS
The Humminbird HELIX 5 provides CHIRP sonar capabilities that allow you to scan the depths of the water with multiple frequencies. The advanced sonar means better target separation, reduced image noise, and better resolution that reaches depths of 1000 feet or more. This small unit is easy to transport. There are also portable carrying cases available that come equipped with a gimbal mount, battery, wall charger, and more.
The storage space on this model can prove challenging when downloading too many maps, but it comes with the LakeMaster GPS that provides efficient satellite imaging of specific fishing locations. If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, you can’t go wrong with this impressive fish finder unit.
Humminbird PiranhaMAX 4
The Humminbird PiranhaMAX 4 is a solid entry-level fish finder for your fishing endeavors. It doesn’t come with GPS, live mapping, or contour drawing, but the Dual Beam sonar capabilities are out of this world. You can get images of depths up to 600 feet, and with the modest display/resolution, you’ll be able to spot more fish. This unit’s Fish ID+ feature is a helpful tool when out on the water and displays nearby fish with icons you can differentiate.
This fish finder comes with a useful alarm feature that will alert you when the transducer detects a passing fish. You get the option of setting a size requirement for the alarm to ring when spotting small, medium, or large fish. This feature is used best for anglers looking to catch trophy-sized fish. The unit also comes with a depth alarm, which alerts you when the PiranhaMAX reaches a specific depth, and a battery alarm to tell you when you’re running low on power. With its affordable price and spectacular features, we can’t imagine why this wouldn’t make a great portable fish finder.
Things To Consider Before Buying a Portable Fish Finder
We know you’re probably chomping at the bit to get a portable transducer - and the ones in our top picks are all excellent choices. To help you make your decision, we thought it would be a good idea to give you a peek behind the curtain and a little bit of insight as to the qualities we look for in a great portable fish finder.
Take a look at our criteria below, then consider your own personal fishing style and preferences. Armed with that information, you’ll be able to make the best decision for your needs. Let’s dive into the details:
Transducer and sonar
Portability almost necessarily means a level of sacrifice when it comes to your transducer. Transducers, after all, usually need to be mounted - that means if you’re looking for a transducer that offers an extremely wide range of frequencies and cone angles, you might not find it in a portable unit.
Transducer technology has come a long way, though, and you can find portable transducers capable of high-quality imaging. They might not be the best transducers on the market, but their portability makes them an excellent choice for small boats and shore fishing.
We value a good transducer highly - we love imaging - so we gave extra points to units with great transducers. Available frequencies, cone angles, range, and depth also played important factors in our scores.
Portability also necessarily means a smaller display - unless you think a 5-pound fish finder with a 15-inch display counts as portable (we wouldn’t want to lug one around for an on-shore fishing trip).
That means the display on these units is smaller by necessity - though we did include some slightly larger screens on units we still considered portable. Here’s another point to consider: Your castable fish finder’s display is as good as your phone’s.
Many of the portable fish finders we’ve included in our top picks have HD displays. We give a lot of points to high-quality displays - the better your display is, the easier it is to distinguish between targets, read information, and catch fish.
Of course, we also wanted ultra-portable and lower-budget options on our list, so some of these units don’t have the most dazzling displays. Rest assured, though - they’re all easy to read, and they’ll all help you catch more fish.
This is a pretty all-encompassing category - but we needed a catch-all for the wide variety of different functions you’ll find on our top portable fish finders. The more features the fish finders have, the more points we give them. Features include imaging, mapping, data transfer, interference rejection, connectivity, color palettes, and more.
We go into greater detail about all of the features and functions of our top portable fish finders in our in-depth reviews. The features we value most highly are functional - aesthetics are personal, after all.
We all knew portability was going to be on this list. It was the number one factor for our top picks. We included a variety of different sizes, but they’re all relatively small and easy to move around. They also often have carrying cases, castable transducers, and other functions that increase their portability.
Portable doesn’t always mean small, but it often does, and that’s why you see a number of small fish finders on our list. You might think bigger fish finders still qualify as portable - to each their own!
When you’re shopping for a fish finder, price is going to be one of the most critical factors. We can’t know what your budget is, so in our list of top portable fish finders, we’ve included units at a wide variety of different price points. They’re all high quality, and you’ll get great value for your money no matter which unit you pick. There are premium and budget portable fish finders - but portable doesn’t have to mean cheap, and they’ll all help you catch more fish.
How much do portable fish finders cost?
The price of a portable fish finder ranges from around $100 to a little over $1000 - most units above that price range are too big to be considered portable.
These costs are spread over the control unit (featuring the screen and controls) and the transducer. Anglers who already have a high-quality portable transducer may be able to save some money by simply purchasing the control unit.
Some portable fish finders don’t have a control unit at all - they’re castable transducers that feature Bluetooth connectivity. There’s a lot of savings here, so the transducer tends to be quite powerful. While you won’t get imaging on these units, you can get incredibly powerful CHIRP sonar. Many castable models even come with a built-in GPS, so you can draw your own maps and view them on your phone.
This all to say, a little bit of money can go a long way in the world of portable fish finders. You can find high-quality models for well under $1000. If you’re looking for a portable finder with a little more oomph and you’re willing to pay extra for imaging, our list of the top portable fish finders has you covered for that, too.
Where can you use portable fish finders?
One of the main advantages of portable fish finders is that you can use them virtually anywhere - provided you have a few things.
All of the top portable fish finders on our list can be used from a boat. More importantly, they can be used in boats of almost any size - we’ve got fish finders that can be used in kayaks. Have you found yourself floating down a river on a log? One of the smaller units we recommend will do the trick (note: We don’t actually recommend fishing from a log on a river).
Many of our top picks can also be used for ice fishing - though you may need to make a few changes. You’ll want a warm carrying case for the control unit to avoid loss of functionality or damage. You’ll also want an ice-ducer - these transducers are designed to withstand the cold, and they float.
Looking to do some fishing from the shore? Go with one of our castable picks. They’re the most portable models - they can be used on the water or on land. They offer great 2D sonar, and some are even equipped with CHIRP sonar, giving you excellent depth penetration, target separation, and range.
Portable fish finders are perfect for anglers who find themselves wanting to fish anywhere, anytime.
Is GPS important on portable fish finders?
How important GPS is depends on a lot of factors, from how you like to fish to what you already have available.
We like GPS on almost all our fish finders because it allows us to set waypoints. That can be particularly useful on portable units - you might see a great spot and realize you want to come back to it with a bigger boat. You might even find a great spot on the shore and want to find your way back later! With GPS, you’ll never lose your favorite fishing spots.
The folks who use portable fish finders tend to be explorers out in places that are hard to reach with larger vessels. The ability to make your own maps using GPS in conjunction with your transducer allows you to literally chart uncharted territory - that’s useful for the next time you hit the lake and to be honest, we think it’s a really cool feeling.
Of course, you might just want a simple, affordable fish finder you can carry with you anywhere without even worrying about maps or waypoints. We’ve got models in our top picks that are perfect for you. There are great portable fish finders with and without GPS.
The Bottom Line
There are fantastic portable fish finders on the market, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Our top picks have something for everyone: Castable fish finders, fish finders with GPS, fish finders that are great for ice fishing, and budget units. They’re all portable, and they’re all high quality.
Happy adventuring, and happy fishing!