Best Fish Finder For Small Boats: Reviews and Buying Guide for 2020

Since the 20th century, fishermen from across the world have been taking advantage of fish finding technology. These nifty little devices can give you the edge that you need in the water and save you valuable time.

Unfortunately, fish finders can vary widely in size, type, and special features. There’s more than enough to choose from, but we’ve tried to make the buying process a little easier by reviewing the top choices. If you’re trying to catch the best fish finder for small boat, try taking a look at our recommendations below:

What to Look For in a Good Fish Finder

Choosing the right fish finder is already difficult with numerous options, but if you don’t even know what to look for, it can feel impossible. Most of the time, you’ll find that the best fish finders excel in three main components.

Size

If you’ve ever worked with a fish finder before, you might already know that the smaller it is, the better. Some larger vessels might require a bigger device, but if you’re on a small boat, anything larger than six inches might get in the way. This is especially true for rowboats or even kayaks.

Large fish finders can also be more difficult to mount as well as up to ten pounds heavier. It might not affect how well it works, but a fish finder that’s the right size can save you a lot of trouble.

Power Source

Every fish finder needs a power source. Smaller fish finders typically use portable waterproof batteries, but other models might use standard marine batteries as well. Standard marine batteries do require a bit more wiring and set-up, so if you’re looking to save a little time, a model that comes with a portable battery might be the better choice.

Not to mention, since you don’t have to wire your portable fish finder to the boat, you can take it with you on other vessels. Fishermen that travel or go on fishing trips with friends typically shop for portable fish finders rather than permanent fixtures.

Transducer

Many people consider the transducer to be the “heart” of the fish finder, and for a good reason. One of the most crucial steps to making sure your fish finder works as it should is installing the transducer. If you don’t install it correctly, it might not emit sound waves or pick up signals as it should.

Different transducers come with different mounts for installing. For smaller boats, usually the most convenient mount is the transom mount that you can put in the hull. Unless you plan to use the fish finder on a larger boat as well, there’s typically no reason to worry about a more serious or in-depth installation for your transducer.

Color vs. Black and White Displays

There’s a little bit of controversy surrounding the better type of display on fish finders. While a lot of standard models come with color screens, it’s not uncommon to encounter black and white displays too—especially on smaller models fit for kayaks and rowboats. 

Some fishermen might argue that color screens provide a clearer image or better quality, but there shouldn’t be a difference in function. Your fish finder should work just as well in black and white as it does in color.

The Best Fish Finders Under $200

When it comes to permanent or portable fish finders, these high-quality options are under $200:

Garmin Striker 4 GPS Fish Finder

With high-frequency sonar, the Garmin Striker 4 GPS Fish Finder does more than tell you that you’re in fishy waters. The sonar provides almost photographic images of the different objects around you so you’ll have a better idea of what type of fish you’re near (or if it’s even a fish at all).

The screen has a user-friendly interface so that beginners don’t need to worry about navigating a myriad of different buttons. While you can purchase this fish finder in different sizes, the 3.5 and 5-inch options might work best for small boats or even kayaks.

Pros:

  • Easy-to-use
  • Provides clear images of what’s around you
  • Has a maximum depth of 1,600 ft in freshwater and 750 in saltwater
  • Uses a color display
  • Allows you to check your boat’s speed

Cons:

  • Wire clamps for holding the transducer might be fragile
  • You will need to purchase 12-volt batteries separately
  • The screen might not be as water-resistant as some options

Humminbird PIRANHAMAX 4 Fish Finder

With a display screen that’s barely over four inches, the Humminbird PIRANHAMAX 4 Fish Finder might be a great portable option for smaller boats and vessels. The display screen uses color to provide a crisper image, and there are only a few buttons on the front of the screen that you have to worry about navigating.

Depending on where you’re fishing, fishermen can use the dual-beam sonar to pick between a narrow or wide beam. If you want to mount this on your boat, the tilt and swivel mount allows you to easily adjust the angle of your beam.

Pros:

  • Comes with a color screen
  • Lightweight at only two pounds
  • Allows you to adjust your viewing area angle
  • Uses dual beam sonar
  • User-friendly interface

Cons:

  • Doesn’t offer as much depth as some choices
  • Doesn’t include GPS
  • Color line might be difficult to adjust

The Best Fish Finders Under $100

If you’re on a budget, these great picks cost less than a $100:

RICANK Portable Fish Finder

Some fish finders come with cutting-edge technology, but depending on the type of fishing you do or how often you head out on the water, you might be looking for something a lot simpler. If that’s the case, the RICANK Portable Fish Finder might be perfect.

This portable fish finder easily fits in your hand, and the black and white display is a lot easier to use than some other picks. The sonar can reach depths of over 300 feet, but still pick up action in waters that are as shallow as one or two feet.

Pros:

  • Comes with five different sensitivity modes
  • Easy to use
  • A good option for beginners
  • Includes a battery-saving mode
  • Distinguishes between fish sizes

Cons:

  • Only lasts around five hours with a full charge
  • Might not work as well on boats moving at faster speeds
  • Doesn’t include Bluetooth or WiFi features

ReelSonar CGG Wireless Bluetooth Fish Finder

If you’re on the hunt for something a little more sophisticated, the ReelSonar CGG Wireless Bluetooth Fish Finder, this unique device relies on your smartphone to identify what’s in the water around you. Even if it doesn’t look like much, the iBobber can provide contour mapping, fish identification, and a lot of the other features you’d expect from more sophisticated devices.

Since it has over ten hours of battery life and a rechargeable battery, you shouldn’t have to worry about the iBobber dying on those long fishing trips. You should be able to use this device all day without the battery completely depleting.

Pros:

  • Comes with Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities
  • Has a long battery life and easy to recharge
  • Uses an interactive map and GPS spot tagging
  • You can log the time, temperature, and other details of your fishing trip
  • Includes options for sharing your results on social media

Cons:

  • Relies on the use of a Smartphone 
  • Might not be the best option for deep saltwater fishing
  • Connection might get iffy in choppy waters

The Best Fish Finder in Class

It’s difficult to narrow down which fish finder is the best in class, but we’ve managed to do it: 

Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS Fish Finder

Features like GPS spotting or contour mapping might be important to some fishermen, and if that’s the case for you, you might want to consider looking into the Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS Fish Finder. With an impressive color display screen, this device can provide a clearer image. 

If you want to save specific maps or waypoints, there is a slot for you to insert a micro SD card. Since it uses 2D sonar with high-frequently pulses, this fish finder might be able to provide a more detailed image and description that other top choices cannot.

Pros:

  • Color display screen
  • Uses CHIRP sonar
  • Includes slot for micro SD card
  • Has GPS features
  • You can adjust the amount of detail you see on the screen

Cons:

  • Not as easy-to-use
  • Might be too bulky for some smaller boats
  • Not as lightweight

Conclusion

There are plenty of great options within this round-up, but the best fish finder for small a boat has to be the Garmin Striker 4. With enough cutting-edge technology to satisfy most fishermen, this device is still also easy-to-use and even easier to tug around with you.

Even if that doesn’t seem like the right choice for you, we’ve still got four other recommendations that might suit your needs better.