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They say that if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for the rest of his life.
But what if you give him a fish finder?
Sure, humans were able to catch fish for thousands of years without so much as a high-tech spinning reel.
We don’t need fish finders in order to be successful.
However, a portable fish finder is not just a fun toy to have, but one that can enhance your time out there on the water and make you infinitely more successful.
There are all kinds of portable fish finders available, but it can be tough to find the right one for your boat, budget, and preferences.
Here’s a guide to the best portable fish finders you can buy – as well as some tips on what to look for.
7 Best Portable Fish Finders For 2023
In a rush? Here are the best portable fish finders on the market today.
Last update on 2023-09-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
How Does a Portable Fish Finder Work?
If you’ve ever used a fish finder before, you are likely already familiar with how portable models work.
However, if you’re new to fish finders in general, it may help you to acquaint yourself with a basic overview of how these devices work.
Portable fish finders release sound waves from a futuristic-looking device known as a transducer.
The waves then travel through water, stopping only when they hit something. They will then bounce back to the receiver, which will send a signal to a tiny computer.
The computer will calculate how far away certain objects are, including things you might not care about – like a fallen log or a channel – as well as those you do – like a monster pike.
You’ll be able to read the information about what’s there and how big it is on the screen of your fishfinder, as it will be displayed with different styles so you can see what’s happening underwater.
Then, you can use this information to make decisions about how you want to go after your fish.
What to Look for in a Good Portable Fish Finder?
Types of Portable Fish Finders
A castable fish finder has a tiny, durable transducer that is then attached to your fishing line. You can cast it wherever you want to get an idea of what to look for.
As a newer type of fish finder, castable units often don’t have the best displays.
Often, the displays are transmitted to your smartphone with an app or Bluetooth, where you can then view what’s going on underwater.
A mountable fish finder is permanent. This type of fish finder is perfect if you are fishing in super deep waters, but it will take some more time to put together and take apart.
A portable fish finder is usually a bit smaller than a castable or mountable fish finder, but not always.
It often has a small transducer that can be placed in the water or even attached to the bottom of a boat.
It also has a tiny display screen.
Also Read: What is The Best Fish Finder For Bank Fishing
Brand isn’t necessarily everything when it comes to buying the best portable fish finder.
However, if you’ve stuck to one brand in the past, it might make sense to do so now, too.
Either way, choose one that offers high-quality products and excellent customer service.
The whole point of purchasing a portable fish finder is that it can be detached with ease without having to make major adjustments to your boat.
After all, if a permanent fish finder is what you’re after, why would you spend the money on a portable one?
Look for one that is easy to assemble and take apart so that you don’t have to spend hours moving it from place to place.
Most fish finders are equipped with one or more types of sonar.
Options like dual-band sonar systems will let you detect both near and far-away objects below the water.
You’ll have a more complete picture that you can use to inform your fishing.
No portable fish finder is complete with a transducer. Make sure you invest in one that’s perfect for your needs.
When it comes to what you need to look at, pay attention to the component that receives and sends out sonar waves.
When the waves are sent out into the water, they will bounce off objects that they come across before being picked up by the transducer.
That information will be sent back to a central unit and then processed and reported back to you visually.
In addition to how the transducer gathers information, you also need to pay attention to how it is mounted.
Generally, most anglers will select a transom mount, which is plastic and can be used on any type of boat.
It’s easy to assemble, in most cases. Some other fish finders come with additional trolling motor transducers or other options, too.
How will your fishfinder be powered? Today, it’s important to look for a fish finder that has a higher wattage.
The higher the better, because that indicates that the sonic waves will be moving more quickly, and you’ll get a better, clearer reading.
Power is especially important when you’re fishing in saltwater.
Screen Resolution and Color
You don’t want to have to spend all your time fishing squinting at a screen, do you?
In the past, all fish finder screens were black and white. Today, however, many manufacturers offer full-color displays for a clearer, more accurate picture.
You should look for a fish finder that is at least 240×160 pixels – that’s at the bare minimum.
Also, look for one that is backlit so you don’t have to strain your eyes when it’s super sunny outside.
Fish Finders have a range of frequencies, usually including multiple, dual, and single. These can range from 50 to 200 kHz.
In shallow water, a higher rate is recommended, but in deep water, lower is better.
The higher the frequency, the more information you will get.
No matter what kind of angler you are, you stand to benefit from investing in a portable fish finder.
Headed out on a small kayak or canoe? Bring a portable fish finder. You can quickly attach your device and it won’t take up a ton of room on your tiny boat.
It’s also an ideal option if you are fishing in a boat that is not your own.
While a mounted unit requires some time and investment to get going, a portable fish finder is really a plug-and-play type of device.
You can also use a portable fish finder while ice fishing. When you’re fishing through the ice, it is not time-effective or productive to spend the entire day moving from hole to hole.
Instead, you can use a fish finder to help you see what’s happening beneath the ice.
Portable fish finders are optimal in almost all conditions – with a couple of small exceptions.
If you’re fishing on a very large boat or are a professional angler, you might want to opt for a larger, more expensive permanent unit.
Top 7 Portable Fish Finders
Here are top portable fish finders on the market today
Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer
A fully portable bundle, the Garmin Striker 4 is highly functional and features a visible full-color screen.
Measuring in at three and a half inches, the screen will give you all kinds of information about the bottom structure, fish, and more at up to 1600 feet in freshwater (it also works to 750 feet in salt water).
Garmin is one of the leading manufacturers of GPS technology, and this portable fish finder is no exception. It uses traditional CHIRP sonar, which is why the imaging is so crisp and detailed.
If that’s not enough for you, you can also upgrade to CLEARVU scanning sonar, which will give you even more detail.
The Garmin Striker 4 is ideal fish finder for ice fishing, as it comes with a dedicated flasher circuit. You can jig vertically or fish through any thickness of ice because of this.
However, it’s also effective when you’re fishing off a small boat or even just from a dock.
The machine is equipped with a transducer along with trolling and transom motor mounts.
It also has a tilt swivel mount, giving you all kinds of options in how you choose to assemble your portable fish finder.
- Comes with a padded carrying case
- Lightweight at less than 11 lbs
- Reads to 1600 feet in freshwater
- Does not provide information on longitude or latitude
Lowrance 000-12635-001 Hook-3X Sonar
The Lowrance Hook 3x is another highly portable unit that should be considered by all anglers.
With a ton of features that can help out beginner and expert-level anglers alike, this fish finder has an intuitive, responsive screen with a keypad interface.
There are numerous keys you can use to call up frequently used functions so you don’t have to scroll through the entire menu of options each time.
It is a dual-frequency fish finder that lets you operate at 83 kHz or 200 kHz (depending on how wide your area is and how much detail you want).
With a full-color backlit screen, this fish finder makes it easy to figure out what’s going on below the water.
It can even locate a thermocline! It’s waterproof and easy to both install and to operate.
- Comes with Fish ID icons so you don’t need to do a lot of interpretation
- Has advanced signal processing that automatically adjusts settings for you
- Backlit, full-color screen is easy to see and interpret
- Does not come with routes or maps
A great castable fish finder for you to consider is the FishHunter Pro, also known as the FishHunter Directional 3D Fish Finder.
This unit works with your smartphone, easily displaying high-quality 3D images of the bottom of the water along with any fish that might be down there.
With a WiFi range of 200 feet, this castable fish finder can reach much further than comparable devices.
It can read objects up to 160 feet and has five separate transducers inside the housing for the float.
This is a unique feature that you won’t find in many other portable fish finders. You’ll enjoy a wide range of views and exceptional amounts of detail.
It even has a dedicated flash function and the ability for you to create your own custom maps.
You can save coordinates and maps, too, which will let you return to your favorite honey holes time and time again.
- Can be used in flasher mode for ice fishing
- Offers 3D imaging up to 200 feet away
- Lets you create and save maps for future use
- Some customers report difficulty keeping a connection with prolonged use
Humminbird 410160-1 PIRANHAMAX 4 DI (Down Imaging)
The Humminbird PiranhaMax 4 DI is one of the best portable fish finders if you want an extensive range.
It has 2D and down imaging sonar to 600 feet and 320 feet, respectively. It also has a water temperature sensor and the ability to be transom-mounted.
It uses conical sonar beams to scan for fish and offers users a gorgeous display of more than four inches diagonally.
Its backlight is bright, and its imaging is second to none.
- Supports both Dual-beam and Down Imaging Sonar
- Has a color display that’s easy to read and install
- Can only use one sonar frequency at once
Lowrance Elite-9 Ti 2-9-inch Fish Finder
The Lawrence Elite-9 is, as you might expect by the name alone, perfect for elite anglers. It’s a new model that’s jam-packed with features.
It has a large seven-inch diagonal screen (one of the largest you will find, in fact) with an awesome 800×480 pixel resolution.
It has an adjustable LED backlight and superior sonar functionality.
With 3-in-1 active imaging options, this portable fish finder has DownScan, 2D Chirp, and SideScan functions. It also has an HDI skimmer that can reach depths of up to 1000 meters.
You can save maps with the built-in GPS, and you can also keep track of waypoints, tracks, and routes. It comes with a transom mount, a trolling mount monitor, and a plastic transducer.
- Offers active imaging for gorgeous views of vegetation and fish
- Scans at a depth of 1000 feet
- Has multiple sonar functions including Fish Reveal, Fish ID, DownScan Overlay, and more
- Upgrades must be purchased separately and are costly
iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder
I included this portable fish finder on my list because it’s not only lightweight and highly effective, but it’s also super fun!
If you’re the type of angler that likes to have a good laugh while you’re out there on the water, then this is the best portable fish finder for you.
It’s a castable unit that includes a battery, a transducer, and a separate display. It is self-contained and is only about the size of a fishing float.
You can charge up the internal battery quickly before you leave the house for the day – it comes with a USB charger.
Although the iBobber does not have a display screen, it will broadcast the information directly to your smartphone.
All you will need to do is download an app, and you’ll enjoy crystal-clear imaging at all times right in your own hands.
At less than two ounces, this portable fish finder is perhaps the most portable, since it’s so lightweight.
You can cast it out with a heavier rig if you’re casting with lightweight gear, but just be sure to keep it within 100 feet of your smartphone.
- Imaging in up to 135 feet of water
- Measures water temperature along with depth and other features
- Lightweight and easy to carry with you
- The learning curve in figuring out how to cast this fish finder
HawkEye Fishtrax Fish Finder
The HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder is both accessible and affordable, perfect for any angler.
With a user-friendly design, it comes with a handheld portable reader that provides shockingly accurate results.
It locates fish immediately – you don’t have to spend hours waiting for them to come to you instead. Although the display is small, measuring in at just three inches, it’s easy to read.
It has a backlight that allows you to comprehend results easily, even when it’s super sunny during the middle of the afternoon.
It has a variety of modes, including seasonal adaptability so it can change its own settings at different points throughout the year. It’s great for ice fishing, too.
With an auto-zoom bottom tracking function, it will be easy for you to keep an eye on a group of fish.
It reads to 240 feet and is equipped with a depth alarm along with more than 100 different sensitivity levels.
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- Has dual-frequency sonar settings
- Can be used ice fishing, when mounted, or in portable mode
- Can be loud when you’re using it
Should I Invest in a Portable Fish Finder?
Still on the fence about whether a portable fish finder is right for you?
Don’t be. These devices are perfect for just about anybody.
Whether you’re new to fishing or you’ve been doing it all your life, a portable fish finder is a perfect alternative to a mountable unit.
Not only will you have the flexibility and adaptability to fish anywhere you could imagine, but you’ll be able to take your fishing to the next level with unreal insights into what’s going on beneath the surface of the water.
Upgrade to one of these best portable fish finders today – you won’t regret it.
Best Fishfinder For Shallow Water