Essential Gear for Fishing: The 5 Best Portable Fish Finders for 2021

Best Portable Fish Finders

If you’re a serious angler who prefers to stay on top of the latest technology and trends, we hope you’ll find this article interesting because today we’re talking about fish finders. Portable fish finders, in particular, will go where typical fish finders can’t. If you have a boat, a portable fish finder is ideal for permanently mounting so that you can maximise your chances of hooking the catch of the day even if you venture into fresh and uncharted territory.

They’re a useful and convenient addition to your daily tackle as a simple alternative to take on a fishing trip with you or just to have onboard if you’re casting a line from the shore. We invite you to read through our detailed guide to the Best Portable Fish Finder today in the hopes that it will help you determine which style and model from our range best fit your particular fishing needs. If you choose to fish from a canoekayak, boat, pier, or beach, the ideal portable fish finder is out there waiting for you. Without further ado, let’s dive-in. 


Our Top 3 Picks


9Expert Score
Garmin Striker 4 GPS Fish Finder

Navigate easily with the Waypoint Map function. You can easily check your speed on the screen. Portable and includes a sealed rechargeable battery. Has got built-in transducer cable management with suction cups and transducer mount and float options. Garmin CHIRP deliver high clarity and crisp imagery with target separation.

PROS
  • Dual Frequency
  • 2D Chirp Sonar
  • Advanced features including Fish Symbols, Flasher, Ultrascroll, and A-Scope
  • High-sensitivity GPS
  • Affordable
  • IPX7 Waterproof
CONS
  • No MNEA connectivity
  • No latitude or longitude information available

9Expert Score
ReelSonar iBobber Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder

Fully patented sonar technology with LED beacon. Rechargeable battery and charge status indicator light. Accurate sonar readings to a depth of 135 feet. Has got two swivel connections included. Bluetooth smart sync up to 100 feet.

PROS
  • Versatile and adaptable
  • Affordable
  • Optional social media sharing functions
  • iOS and Android compatible
  • Trip and spot plus weather and fishing logging
CONS
  • Poor signal connection
  • Overly sensitive

8Expert Score
Lowrance Elite Ti2 Fish Finder

Equipped with SolarMax touchscreen display with easy to use menus. Totally wireless networking with active imaging for unobstructed views of fish and vegetation. Has got Built-in, high detail US lake mapping. Features Genesis Live real-time mapping.

PROS
  • CHIRP 2D sonar, DownScan, and SideScan
  • HDI Skimmer included
  • 1000 foot depth capacity
  • Various sonar functions including DownScan Overlay, Fish Reveal, Bottom Lock, and Fish ID
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
CONS
  • Expensive
  • All upgrades need to be purchased

The 5 Best Portable Fish Finders


Garmin Striker 4 GPS Fish Finder

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We’re going to start things off with a very common option that we’ve nominated as our Best Choice. It’s the Garmin Striker 4, and it’s the company’s smallest edition right now. It has a CHIRP sonar and is also fairly priced. What you’re really interested in is its functional capabilities, and while it lacks a Maps feature, there’s a lot to like about this device. It has a tiny 3.5-inch colour screen with a decent 480 x 320-pixel resolution. It has a backlight that offers outstanding readability even in bright and sunny conditions.

It uses the CHIRP dual sonar frequency and can monitor freshwater depths of up to 1660 feet and saltwater depths of up to 750 feet. When detecting fish underwater, it uses high-precision internal GPS, as you’d expect from Garmin, and it can deliver two conical beams to locate a broader surface area. The sonar images are relatively clear and provide excellent target separation, so you can really distinguish smaller targets and clusters of fish using CHIRP technology. There’s also a handy Fish Symbol ID feature that lets you not only evaluate but also assign different fish symbols to commonly seen fish, which the unit can pick up and interpret on-screen alongside its depth. Check out more fish finders from Garmin.

PROS:

  • Dual Frequency
  • 2D Chirp Sonar
  • Advanced features including Fish Symbols, Flasher, Ultrascroll, and A-Scope
  • High-sensitivity GPS
  • Easy to Install
  • Affordable
  • IPX7 Waterproof

CONS:

  • No MNEA connectivity
  • No latitude or longitude information available

Lowrance Hook-3X Sensor Fish Finder

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We’re looking at the Lowrance Hook 3 series sensors for our next best portable fish finder. The Lowrance HOOK -3x DSI is one of their most cost-effective models. It’s small and easy to use, and although it lacks navigation options, it has a lot of great features that you’ll appreciate, particularly if you’re just getting started and don’t want to spend a lot of money just yet. It, like the Garmin Striker 4, has a 3.5-inch diagonal screen with a 320 x 240-pixel image and an LED backlight. However, unlike Garmin, there is no built-in GPS, maps, routes, or waypoints.

It uses DownScan radar to operate and has a depth range of up to 300 feet with a 455/800 kHz operating frequency. It’s worth noting that it’s not dual-frequency, so you won’t be able to check on both frequencies at the same time. It uses side-to-side scanning and fan beaming rather than conical beaming. The 455 kHz frequency is best for deeper water, while the 800 kHz frequency is better for shallower water. It’s not suitable for deep waters in general because it’s just a DownScan sonar, and it’s more of a freshwater unit than a saltwater unit. It does have a temperature sensor built-in, so you can check the temperature of the water on top of it. Although it lacks CHIRP sonar technology, it still creates a clear image of fish portrayed as bright dots. Looking for more fish finders from LowranceCheck them out!

PROS:

  • Affordable
  • Crystal clear view
  • Two frequency options
  • DSI skimmer transducer included
  • Indicated top water temperature
  • Easy to install and operate
  • Color display
  • IPX7 Waterproof

CONS:

  • Lacks 2D sonar
  • No maps, routes or built-in GPS

Hawkeye Fishtrax 1X Fish Finder

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Our next fish finder is a Hawkeye product that is both available and affordable. It’s the FT1PXC Fishtrax Fish Finder, which has a high-resolution colour Virtuview display screen. It’s a great little tool for any angling enthusiasts out there who want to jump right into the action and catch those fish. It’s super simple to use and very friendly and practical, and it gives surprisingly quick and reliable results for such a small handheld portable device. 

This system mainly locates fish underwater quickly so you don’t have to wait for them to come to you. It has a tiny display (only 3”), but it does have a backlight, and the screen is nice and clear, so you can precisely track the details being shown even if you’re fishing in the bright midday sun.

Season modes are also available on this Fishtrax, and it can be used on any body of water, even ice. The controls are easy and intuitive to use, with an auto-zoom bottom tracking feature to help you locate the fish you’re after.

The total maximum depth is 240 feet, and a depth alarm is included. The screen size can be modified to over 100 different levels of sensitivity and operates on two different frequencies. Use the dual-mode to display the bottom structure in greater detail. It’s a nice little cost-effective fish finder that’s lightweight, compact, and super easy to attach and hold.

PROS:

  • Can be used on ice
  • Gives accurate and instant results
  • Audible alarm feature
  • Bright and clear screen
  • Wide underwater view
  • Cost-effective

CONS:

  • Little bit on the loud side

ReelSonar iBobber Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder

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We’re wrapping up our look at the best portable fish finders with a look at what could be the smallest castable portable wireless fish finder on the market right now. The helpful iBobber comes with its own USB charger as well as a carrying pouch and is compatible with iOS and Android devices. The iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder has a lot of features that we can’t possibly mention here, but it’s a neat little gadget that offers the best value for money.

It’s a combination of a handheld fish finder and a robust app that’s been built with portability and versatility in mind so that anglers of all levels and experience will benefit from its features. You can track and monitor all sorts of stats using an iPhone or Android mobile device, including depth contours, underwater structure, make fish, save water temperature, weather, location, hot spots, and much more. It’s perfect for fishing from the shore, a dock, a kayak, or a boat, and it’ll operate in both saltwater and freshwater, as well as on ice. There doesn’t seem to be anything this little iBobber can’t do! Check out a few more fish finders and gear from ReelSonar. 

PROS:

  • Versatile and adaptable
  • Affordable
  • Accurate
  • Optional social media sharing functions
  • iOS and Android compatible
  • Trip and spot plus weather and fishing logging
  • Compatible with Google watch and iWatch
  • GPS spot tagging

CONS:

  • Poor signal connection
  • Overly sensitive

Lowrance Elite Ti2 Fish Finder

Buy now

We’ve switched to Lowrance for our final product recommendation in the best portable fish finder category, and we’re looking at their brand new Elite Ti2, which is brand new to the market. It has a wide 7-inch diagonal screen with a superior 800 x 480-pixel resolution display and customizable LED backlight, among other features. There are 3-in-1 active imaging options with 2D CHIRP, DownScan, and SideScan available when it comes to Sonar features.

The device also includes an HDI Skimmer that can achieve a maximum depth of 1000 metres. There’s a GPS, as well as US Inland charts, Routes, Waypoints, and Tracks. There are plenty of options with the HDI Skimmer, which includes a plastic transducer, a transom mount, and a trolling mount display. There’s still a temperature sensor built-in.

A series of sonar features are included, including a new feature called Fish Reveal, which helps you to distinguish between fish in relation to vegetation or the bottom. There’s also an Overlay DownScan mode, as well as A-Scope, Fish ID, Circular Fisher for ice fishing, Bottom Lock, and a Depth Alarm, among other features. Check out more gear from Lowrance.

PROS:

  • CHIRP 2D sonar, DownScan, and SideScan
  • HDI Skimmer included
  • 1000 foot depth capacity
  • Various sonar functions including DownScan Overlay, Fish Reveal, Bottom Lock, and Fish ID
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
  • Waypoints, routes and track plotting functions
  • Super-bright display with a split-screen and 4-panel viewing

CONS:

  • Expensive
  • All upgrades need to be purchased

Best Portable Fish Finders – Buying Guide & FAQs

How to Choose the Best Portable Fish Finder?

When compiling our comprehensive product reviews, three main criteria are included in our section process:

1. Brand – We feel that it’s important to have a representative cross-section of brands for you to choose from, some of the most popular names within the industry perhaps alongside some breath through brands who are just getting established but really coming up with the goods and deserving of a shout out.

2. Reviews – We spend hours reviewing consumer feedback to get a fully rounded perspective of what you can expect the actual of experience of using the end product to be like for you. There’s nothing more revealing than the honest appraisal of fellow shoppers!

3. Price – Finally, we aim to compile a section of products that have a range of price products from entry level to the bells and whistles top end of the market. Above all else though, price tag aside, our recommendations in any category must always offer value for money and represent exceptional quality.

Have queries regarding How to Choose Boat Propellers? Check out our guide on Boat Propellers to know more about how to choose the right boat propeller with all the necessary info.


8 Key Features to Look for in Portable Fish Finders

If you are new to the topic and not even sure what features you should be looking for, then we’re going to recommend below a couple of critical elements that it pays to be aware of before you go ahead and invest in that new piece of fishing kit. There are quite a lot of things to think about, but some are more important than others.

1. Detachable – It’s pretty essential for ease of use and efficiency that you have the fish finder that is flexible and can quickly be detached from one position to another without having to make any significant changes to your boat. Unless you intend to have it as a permanent fixture, your best bet is to purchase something that has a quick-release option, that way you can focus on the job at hand, locating and catching those fish, rather than having to spend unnecessary time getting yourself set up in the first place.

2. Sonar – The kind of sonar power that you have will determine how readily you can detect those fish in the water. If you go for a dual-band sonar system, you will effectively be able to pick up both near and far his at different surface levels which will give you the best overall assessment of what exactly is going on under the surface of the water where you are positioned.

3. Transducer – The transducer is an essential element to any fish finder, so it’s worth spending some time making sure that you choose one that is right for you. This is the critical part that sends out and receives the sonar wave messaging, and once the waves are emitted into the water, the principle is that they bounce off any objects that they come across. Those objects are then picked up by the transducer, and that data usually goes into a central unit where it can be processed and turned into a visual analysis of what’s going on underneath the water.

The transducer’s come with different kinds of mounts with the easiest one to install being the transom mount. These are typically made from plastic and are easy to assemble and dismount and compatible with pretty much all boat types. If however, you are using a transducer with a thru-thru-hullo an in-hull mount your best bet is to go with a plastic housing if you have a fiberglass or metal hull and a stainless steel housing if you have an aluminum or steel hull. You can also get bronze housings which are best suited for boats with wooden hulls.

In the vast majority of cases, and especially for most recreational purposes, fish finders come with either trolling motor transducers or transducers with transom mounts.

4. Cone angle – As well as the type of sonar that your fish finder has, the cone angle is also critical. As with a camera lens, the wider the angle, the larger surface area you can view. Most transducers come with a range from 9 to 60 degrees, but typically most will fall somewhere within a range from 16 to 20 degrees. Depending upon where you choose to do your fishing and the depths you head out to, it may be beneficial to go for a cone-angle of about 20-degrees. The cone angle will determine the width of the beam that you can expect in the water. As the beam goes down, the cone angle expands. If you opt for a more advanced model of the fishfinder, it may also be possible to emit two or more different cone angles to cover off a large expanse of water. If you are fishing on a lake, for example, a dual or even triple beam might be something worth considering.

5. Power – Another important feature to consider before you go ahead and splash that cash is the power wattage of your device. The lower the wattage, the slower the performance but if you only ever intend fishing in shallow water, this won’t be an issue. The higher the wattage, the faster those sonic waves are and the more accurate a reading you will receive. If you are regularly going to be fishing either in open saltwater or out of a broad and vast expanse of water such as a great lake, then the more power, the better.

6. Screen Resolution & Colour Options – As with most screen display driven technology, there has been a move away from black and white towards full-color which can offer up a clearer and visible picture. The more colors and the brighter and higher the resolution, the easier it is to read the information. If a color screen is currently out of your budget, then don’t worry, black and white will still do the job although it will be much harder to read in both overly sunny as well as dark and cloudy weather conditions.

The screen resolution is also something that you might want to consider, and that is described in pixels when it comes to fish finder screens. So one pixel is a single dot on the screen which means the more pixels, the more precise the image. You should ideally aim for 240 x 160 pixels, but even that might look and feel a little primitive given how used we all are to operating smartphones and tablets that have such fabulous crisp and clear screens. The higher the display, the better the clarity and detail you will be able to view and of course, the more you will need to stretch that budget! So decide how important that element is to you before making your final decision otherwise you might go for an upgrade quicker than you’d planned.

7. Connection – GPS is commonly used in conjunction with the most popular fish finders as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Depending upon how far you can stretch the budget, it really does pay to go for a GPA model if you can afford to invest in one.

8. Frequencies – Fishfinders come with a range of frequencies including Single, Dual and Multiple. Typically transducers will be either 200, 192, 83 or 50 kHz. For shallow water, then a higher rate like 20 or 192 kHz, ie recommended whereas, for professional and also commercial-style conditions, a 50 kHz transducer is the norm. The higher the frequency, the more information will be displayed on your screen so if you are a novice, then the higher, the better to ensure that you can fully interpret the fishing conditions. Simply put, the higher the frequency, the more sonar waves are emitted.

Looking for the Boat Fenders? Check out our Buyer’s Guide on Best Boat Fenders to know more.


Types Of Portable Fish Finders:

If you are looking to invest in a portable fish finder, you basically have three main choices:

  • Portable – The most traditional style of fish finder is a portable unit which typically consists of a nylon case that conveniently holds all of the component parts of the portable kit. The key component parts included will be a small fish finder unit typically with a 3 to 7-inch screen, a mounting base, a portable transducer along with a rechargeable battery. This type of portable fish finder is suitable for open water as well as ice fishing and is excellent when used with a small boat.
  • Castable – We step it up a gear with this next generation of portable fish finder, the castable variety. The unitize the power that you already have in your pocket; i.e., a smartphone. Rather than being presented in a self-contained unit, the castable style of fish cider consists of a small floating transducer which resides in the water and communicates back to your chosen smartphone device via a downloadable app. This is best unitized when you are fishing come to the shore or along river banks, but it is possible to adapt for boat use however remember that you do require a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection to operate.
  • Mountable – If you regularly go out fishing on a boat and want to have a permanent fixture, then a mountable fish finder could save you time and energy. It’s a great option if you are fishing in deeper depths that can only be accessed via a boat, canoe, kayak and can even work with a float tube too as long as you have the appropriate accessory to fix.

Final thoughts:

Portable fish finders are an essential and convenient addition to your daily tackle as a simple alternative to take on a fishing trip. Our guide to the Best Portable Fish Finders will help you determine which style and model from our range best fit your particular fishing needs. Our top pick is the Garmin Striker 4 and the ReelSonar iBobber is the runner up. We hope this article was helpful to pick the right one that best suits your needs. 


Portable Fish Finders – FAQs

Q: Are Portable Fish Finders Waterproof?

A: Unfortunately, it’s not a given that all fish finders are waterproof, but in the majority of instances, they just should be. It totally depends on the make and model, so it’s best to read the manufacturers specifications thoroughly. Some may be able to survive splashes but not submersion adequately, so we do recommend that you ideally look for a fish finder that has some rated level of waterproofness. Accidents do happen, especially when you are around water and a fish finder is not exactly an inexpensive purchase. Taking precautions course will help but perhaps do yourself a favor and avoid the headache of finding out to your detriment and cost that your portable fish finder isn’t waterproof after all by checking the specs first!

Q: How Do I Mount A Portable Fish Finder?

A: The answer to how you mount a portable fish finder is of course utterly dependent upon the model and make that you have purchased and what fixings it comes with. One of the most common methods however of mounting a traditional style portable fish finder is via suction cups which are attached to the transducer. You can easily adjust the angle of the suction cups to position your fish finder before you lock it in place. If you have a castable variety, then this will ordinarily need to be tied to your boat or canoe for example with something like a length of rope or perhaps a heavy braided fishing line.

Q: Can Portable Fish Finders Be Use For Ice Fishing?

A: In short, yes, it’s entirely possible to use a portable fish finder for ice fishing, but to be truly successful, it is recommended that you first drill a hole into the section of the ice where you intend fishing and dip your finder directly into the water. That’s not strictly necessary, but it does make the process easier and less time-consuming. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of drilling a hole in the ice, at the very least, we recommend that you first clear away as much surface snow as possible and find a nice flat surface on which to place your fish finder. Before you lay it onto the ice surface, pour some water on the ice first which will help you to get a more accurate reading of the area around you.


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