I’ve been fishing with fish finders since I was a little boy trolling my spinning rod with my old man in South Virginia. While I definitely don’t use them as much fly fishing, I do have one on my kayak and on my small boat, so I still find myself using them quite often as they help me locate structure and places where fish may hold.
This might not be too big of a deal when you’re floating clear rivers that are shallow, but on bigger bodies of water, a fish finder is a necessary tool if you want to consistently catch fish.
Quick Answer: Best Fish Finders
- Best Overall: Humminbird Helix 7
- Best Portable: Humminbird Piranha 4
- Best Castable: Deeper Start SMART
- Best For Small Boats: Humminbird Helix 5 Series
- Best GPS Combo: Humminbird Helix 12
- Best Under $500: Lowrance Hook 2
- Best Under $200: Garmin Striker 4
Over the years I’ve owned more than half a dozen different fish finders, and I have tested more when renting boats or when visiting my local fishing shop. It’s this experience, plus many hours of research, that have given me the confidence to write this list of the best fish finders in 2023.
So, if that sounds good, then check out the information below. I’ll cover several different fish finders that will help you become a more successful angler.
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What Is a Fish Finder?
A fish finder is a device used by anglers to locate either baitfish, sport fish, or structure in the water. This helps them increase their chances of landing a fish.
Fishfinders work by using SONAR. This relays a picture back up to a screen on the boat that the angler can use to determine if there are any fish or structure in the area that might attract fish.
10 Best Fish Finders
Below, I’ll go over five different fish finders. All of them will help you catch fish, but each has its own list of pros and cons that meet different angling needs.
So, take a close look at the list below and then think about what you need for your own fishing trip. Chances are the fish finder you need is on the list below. Check it out and see!
1. Humminbird Helix 7 (Best Overall)
- Pros: Great down imaging
- Cons: Transducer can’t be used on a trolling motor
- Reviews: 4.6 out of 5 stars (24 ratings)
For the price, this might be one of the best products on the list, making it great for someone who is looking to get a solid fishfinder without spending too much money.
The accurate down imaging is phenomenal, allowing you to locate exactly where you want to fish every single time. It will make you a more efficient angler.
The Humminbird Helix 7 shows depth, water temperature, speed, coordinates, and time. It can also allow you to save fishing spots. So, if you find a good brush pile but no fish are on it, you can save it for later.
Update 2023: I’m well aware that Humminbird now has newer versions of this fish finder all the way up to the Helix 12 (listed below), but because of the value of the Helix 7 and the ease of use, I still kept it at the top of my list overall.
- 7-inch screen
- 800H X 480V resolution and display
- Mega down imaging down to 125 feet
- Includes transducer, mounting hardware, power cable and mounting bracket
- Dual spectrum chirp
Why We Chose It
The Humminbird Helix 7 tops our list for the best fish finder in 2023 because it’s the perfect balance of price, quality, and functionality. It’s not Humminbird’s newest model, which means it comes at a significant discount, but it has the features we love like depth memory, water temp, speed, saved coordinates, and accurate down imaging scans.
2. Humminbird Piranha 4 (Best Portable)
- Pros: Comes with carrying case, sees at 328-foot depth
- Cons: Great at seeing the bottom and structure
- Reviews: 4.6 out of 5 stars (1,236 ratings)
Humminbird has long been my favorite brand for fish finders and they’re well-known in the business. This isn’t the first Humminbird I’ve owned and I’ve owned the Pihrana 3 and Piranha 4.
These are great, portable fish finders. They may not be as accurate at representing fish as a more expensive mounted or fixed finder, but they work perfectly in my kayak and on my small 25-hp boat.
The Pirahna 4 comes with a handy carrying case and has a 328-foot depth which is plenty for most recreational anglers
This Humminbird Piranha made our list as the best portable fish finder.
- 4-inch display
- Dual-beam sonar
- 2400 watts
- 300 watt RMS
- 320-foot depth sonar
- Sonar coverage is 28 degrees
- Tilt and swivel mount
- Carrying case
Why We Chose It
The Humminbird Piranha 4 made this list because it’s a great option for a super portable fish finder that you can take anywhere. I’ve used it on small boats and kayaks and I find it’s the one I end up taking with me when I head out on a quick last-minute fishing trip.
3. Deeper Start SMART (Best Castable)
- Pros: Easily hooks up to a smartphone, easy to cast, floats well, highly visible
- Cons: Relatively short connection range. Battery could last longer.
- Reviews: 4.2 out of 5 stars (2,128 ratings)
The Deeper Start SMART is the best castable fish finder out there in my opinion. It has an easy-to-use app, the setup is easy and it can see 165 feet down with a 40° cone.
The battery lasts 2.5 hours, which isn’t bad. Although I wish mine lasted a little longer. Even so, for under $100 you could buy two of these for less than most other fish finders on this list.
I have to say, don’t expect a phone app castable fish finder to have the same features or accuracy as a $2000 fixed Humminbird setup. But it does the trick for most anglers fishing from banks.
Also, please note that castable fish finders will not work on a fly rod for obvious reasons. This is strictly for spin fishermen, unless you’re fly fishing and you also have a spin rod that you cast out first to find fish, and then you cast your fly in the same direction.
- Smartphone App With Easy Interface
- Visible Fish Icons
- Detailed Bottom Info
- Basic & Raw Display Modes
- Log Your Catches
- 165 Foot Connection Range
- 2.5-Hour Battery Life
Why We Chose It
We included The Deeper Smart in our list of the top fish finders because it’s the best value castable fish finder on the market in 2023. The app is super easy to use, it’s surprisingly detailed for a castable fish finder and it has a great range.
4. Humminbird Helix 5 Series (Best For Small Boats)
- Pros: Includes sonar and a transducer
- Cons: Barebones unit
- Reviews: 4.8 out of 5 stars (45 ratings)
There are new versions of the Humminbird Helix 5 Series (it goes up to the Helix 12 now), but those newer units are more than 4 times the price which puts them out of my price range for use in my small boat and kayak.
Instead, I chose the Helix 5 as the best fish finder for small boats because it’s more compact, more affordable and in my opinion, it still gets the job done.
I have the Helix 5 in and I use it in both my kayak and my small boat. It has down imaging, side imaging, speed and GPS like some of the newer models, but with a more compact design and a smaller price tag.
It comes in at a solid price point, so a beginner angler can purchase this and learn how to use a fish finder properly without having to spend too much on a unit.
- 5-Inch Display
- DualBeam PLUS Sonar
- SwitchFire Sonar
- 1-Year Warranty
- Display Resolution: 800×480px
Why We Chose It
The Helix 5 Series is my favorite fish finder for small boats because it’s not too expensive and can be tossed around. If find that my fish finders get the hardest beating when I’m in my kayak or little aluminum boat. They get tossed around more, knocked over, etc. This thing is durable and doesn’t cost a small fortune.
5. Humminbird Helix 12 (Best GPS Combo)
- Pros: Huge display, great interface, Bluetooth, additional maps available
- Cons: High price tag (very high)
- Reviews: 5.0 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)
Can you tell that I love Humminbird Fish Finders? Like I said, this is one of the fish finders on this list that is out of my price range, but I’ve played around with them in-store and researched them extensively, including the Helix 12. My goal is to one day get a bigger boat and get this bad boy mounted in it.
This is the granddaddy of Humminbird fish finders. It’s been on the market since 2018 but it’s still the best top-end fish finder GPS combo on the market in 2023 in my opinion.
It has all the features you could ever ask for in a fish finder and it has a super crisp and massive 12.1-inch display. This thing is bright. I saw it in store, but you could tell even in that artificially-lit environment that it would be super bright even in direct sunlight.
If you have the money to spend on a top-end fish finder GPS combo, then this is the one you’ll want to go with.
- 12.1-inch touchscreen
- Body: 14.86 x 8.83 x 4.25 inches
- Dual spectrum CHIRP sonar
- Best SONAR technology available
- Ethernet networking & i-pilot link compatible
- LakeMaster & Navionics charts compatible
Why We Chose It
The Humminbird Helix 12 enters this list as the best GPS combo fish finder because it uses top-of-the-line GPS hardware and is an excellent 12.1-inch touch screen option with a better screen and interface than just about any other fish finder on the market.
6. Lowrance Hook 2 (Best Under $500)
- Pros: Easy to use with wide coverage
- Cons: Maps load very slowly
- Reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars (2,576 ratings)
The Lowrance Hook 2 fish finder is very easy to use. It has an auto-tuning sonar and a phone-like menu, so you can easily navigate through the product and locate whatever it is that you need.
The wide-angle sonar gives you double the range of traditional sonar, allowing you to see more of the bottom of the body of water you’re fishing. This gives you an edge over most.
It’s also very easy to set up. You can put it on the transom, trolling motor, or the hull. The easy mounting makes it ideal for putting it on either a canoe or a kayak.
The Lowrance Hook 2 7X tops our list as the best fish finder under $500 because it comes in at just over $300 and has everything you’d need.
- Auto tuning sonar
- Down imaging up to 300 feet
- 4000 preloaded lake maps
- Comes with transducer
- Micro SD slot
Why We Chose It
I included the Lawrence Hook 2 because it’s a great value little fish finder under $500. No it doesn’t have the features or the sexy touch screen like the Helix 12, but this thing does the trick and does a fantastic job on the water.
7. Garmin Striker 4 (Best Under $200)
- Pros: Very clear and a strong CHIRP sonar
- Cons: Needs a 12V battery in order to be portable
Garmin is my second favorite brand of fish finder, but when it comes to having solid GPS maps for a decent price, they’re also up there.
The Garmin Striker 4 is compact, super clear to read, easy to use and has everything an angler would need. The best part is that this thing amazingly comes in at under $200 and tops our list as the Best Fish Finder Under $200.
While it is compact, it does require a 12V battery to run, which makes it’s overall powered weight and size not that portable. This adds another piece of gear you’ll need to bring on your boat.
Other than that, the Garmin Striker 4 is a solid piece of equipment. If you’re looking for one that is a little bit more pricey, but still a great Garmin kit, the Garmin Striker 5CV is the best value fish finder out there and it’s still under $400.
It also comes with a waypoint map, which helps you to easily mark great spots where fish hold or new brush piles that you find while moving around the lake. Also, it is one of the best fish finder-GPS combos.
- Comes with GPS
- Easy to use
- CHIRP sonar
- 3.5 inch color screen
- Dual-frequency available, either 50hz or 200hz
Why We Chose It
The Garmin Striker 4 tops our list as the best fish finder under $200 because it’s made by Garmin, a trusted and loved brand in the GPS and fish finder space, and actually has a really nice screen for the price.
8. Lowrance Hook 5
- Pros: Fish are very clear and easy to see, high end maps
- Cons: Can take some time to learn all of the features
The Lowrance Hook 5 is the nicer version of the Hook 2, which I mentioned above. It’s incredibly clear, making it very easy to see fish, vegetation, and the bottom of the lake that you’re fishing.
Similar to the Hook 2, there over 4000 pre-loaded maps on this unit, making it great for taking to just about any major body of water in the US.
The 5 inch display wont blow you away with its size, but it’s big enough to let you spot fish with ease and read maps so you know where you’re going and where you’ve been.
- FishReveal makes for easy viewing
- CHIRP sonar
- High resolution
- Down scan
- Splitshot transducer
- Auto tuning sonar
Why We Chose It
The Lowrance Hook 5 had to make this list. It’s one of Lowrance’s best value fish finders in their line-up and while it’s not as cheap as the Hook 2, it has a nicer screen, better sonar, and a few added features that anglers will love.
9. Simrad Go 7
- Pros: Smart reveal technology makes it easy to see
- Cons: The unit can sometimes freeze up
Simrad isn’t one of the best-known names, but they still make a great product. The Simrad Go 7 has an easy-to-use multi-touch interface, allowing you to figure out exactly what you want to see on the screen, and where.
This unit has CHIRP sonar and side and down imaging, giving you the opportunity to see everything you want either beneath or on the side of your boat. This is a very versatile unit.
It has both a flush and bracket mount display, meaning you can put this almost anywhere on the boat or vessel of your choosing. It’s also easy to install.
- Easy touch multi-use interface
- Fully featured chart plotter
- Flush or bracket mount display
- Widescreen with bright LED light
- 10 HZ GPS receiver
- Wireless connectivity
- Dual micro SD slots
Why We Chose It
We chose the Simrad Go 7 as one of the best fish finders because Simrad is one of the leading brands in the space and this thing just looks and feels sleek in hand. The screen is excellent, it has great GPS and an easy-to-use interface.
10. Raymarine Axion 7
- Pros: Extremely fast, built-in WiFi
- Cons: Price
The multi-touch interface system makes this a very easy product to use. No longer do you have to spend half your day out fishing messing with your electronics trying to figure out how to get to your favorite spot.
The Raymarine Axion 7 unit also features maps of over 20,000 lakes, rivers, and ponds, making this great for the North American angler who wants to travel the continent to find the best fishing possible.
The built in WiFi even lets you control the unit from your phone. You could be sitting in the backseat and pull up a map for the driver who’s sitting in front. It’s easy to use and efficient.
- CHIRP sonar
- CHIRP down vision
- Built in WiFi
- Quad core processor makes for fast performance
- 20,000 lakes and rivers from North America mapped out
- Surface mounting kit
- Mounting hardware
Why We Chose It
We chose the Raymarine Axion 7 because it’s easily one of the best fish finders on the market. If it wasn’t so damn expensive, we’d probably have one in stock right now. I love the beautiful screen on this (probably the best screen of any on this list bar maybe the Helix 12), and the easy operating system.
Best Fish Finders Video
Types of Fish Finders
There are several different types of fish finders. Many people have a preference for what they use in the boat. However, each has its own list of pros and cons.
Below, I’ll go over the different types of fish finders. Look over the descriptions below and see which one will be the best for you and your fishing style.
These are great if you want to put a fish finder on a boat. This could a drift boat, bass boat, pontoon, or even a kayak. They come with brackets that you can use to attach it anywhere you wish.
These are great because they offer a secure way to keep the fish finder in place. So, if you wind up hitting any chop or any bumps in the water, you know that your fishfinder won’t go flying off the side of the boat.
This is similar to mountable. Or, it could even be the exact same thing. Often times mountable fish finders are considered fixed since they can;t be moved once you’ve installed them.
Again, these are great for when you want to have a spot on your boat that always has a fish finder on it, allowing you to easily glance over and see what may be beneath you.
A portable fish finder is ideal for someone who doesn’t have a large boat, but has a small boat, kayak, or canoe instead. You can easily grab it and go.
Portable fish finders often have temporary brackets on them. This way you can mount them on your boat and then you can easily remove them when you’re done for the day.
These are typically used for ice fishing. Or, it can be used when you’re on an inflatable raft or float tube, something that doesn’t have an area where you can mount a fish finder.
These are usually cheaper, but they can be a great asset for anglers who don’t have a boat with a mount but still want to be able to utilize a fish finder for their time out on the water.
These are relatively new in the fishing world. You can cast them out with a fly rod and reel, and they work like a fish finder would on a boat. The difference is you can pick exactly where you want to look.
These are great for shore anglers who want to know how deep an area is in front of them. Or, for anglers who have kayaks and canoes and are floating a river. This allows them to see what’s ahead of them before passing over it.
When to Use a Fish Finder
You can use a fish finder in just about any scenario you can think of. If fishing from the shore in a small bass pond, then you can use a castable fish finder. It can only benefit you.
Ideally, the best time to use one is when you’re fishing in deeper water where you can’t see the bottom. This helps you find fish as well as structure. So, deeper rivers, lakes, and salt water are ideal for using a fish finder.
Do You Really Need a Fish Finder?
The short answer is no. You don’t need a fish finder. That being said, it’ll only help you. There’s a whole world beneath your boat, and a fish finder will help you see it.
Whether it’s baitfish, beds, structure, drop-offs, or a weed line, a fish finder will help you see all of these spots, which the naked eye could miss but the fish are drawn to.
Features of the Best Fish Finders
Below, I’ll cover some of the best features of each fish finder. Take a look and see which features will work best for you and how you prefer to fish.
This is great if you plan on fishing in a very large body of water. Whether it’s a lake or the ocean, GPS integration will allow you to find spots that hold fish over and over again.
Also, the GPS will help when you’re headed home too. This is ideal when you’re fishing in a new body of water. There’s nothing worse than being tired at the end of the day and getting lost out on the water.
Side Scan vs Down Scan
Down scan allows you to see what’s directly beneath the boat. This is ideal when you’re fishing deep water, so you can drop a lure off the side of the boat or figure out what the depth of the water is in front of you.
Side scan allows you to see an area that’s off to the side of the boat. How far away it goes depends on the maker of the fishfinder. Having both side and down scan is ideal.
There are a couple of different mount types for fish finders. There can be bracket mounts that screw into the boat or onto a platform that holds it in place, making it a fixed mount.
Or, there are types where a mount is screwed or drilled into the boat, and then the fish finder is clicked into place. This is great for someone who wants to remove their finder when they leave the boat.
Most people don’t know what a cone angle is on a fish finder. This is the area that the fish finder covers on the bottom of the body of water. Usually, it’s measured by degrees, although most people just refer to their cone angle as good, efficient, or effective.
It looks like an upside-down ice cream cone of sound that gets shot out from the fish finder to the bottom of the water. Most are usually around 10 to 20 degrees.
Vessel Specific Fish Finders
Removable fish finders are best used for drift boats, canoes, or kayaks. That way you can easily switch them out between different vessels and can take them out for safekeeping.
Fixed and mounted fish finders are best used on larger boats, such as bass boats, pontoons, or any other type of boat that you plan on taking out on larger bodies of water.
A transducer sends and receives signals for the fish finder. It’s the heart of the echo sounder system. Without it, the fish finder wouldn’t work, and you’d be stuck with a blank screen.
Displays vary based on the size of the fish finder and the quality with which it’s made. A well-made fish finder will have a much clearer display, making it easier to see and read in low light or high light conditions.
A smaller screen or a cheaper fish finder won’t be as clear, leading to potential confusion or mistakes when you’re reading the fish finder.
The frequency on fish finders usually ranges from 15 kHz to 200 kHz. However, you’ll find that the majority of the fish finders out there use 50 kHz to 200 kHz.
There are some that even use 400 KHZ. However, that’s very rare. 15 kHz is best used to help locate large schools of fish or baitfish. 200 kHz is used to find the exact location of the fish.
Who Makes the Best Fish Finders?
Below, I’ll go over four different brands of fish finder that I deem to be some of the best out there. Each company makes a great product, so make sure to check them out and see which one you like best.
Before you go too deep, though, you should think about what you need in a fish finder and then apply that to the list. This will help you determine which one will suit your fishing needs.
For more good fish finder brands, check out the diagram above which includes the brands and their logos.
Humminbird is one of the best-known names in the world of fishing. They make great products, and their fish finders certainly reflect that. They also make a wide range of fish finders that meet every need.
They have some of the best sonar out there that gives you some of the clearest imaging. Most of their products also come with very accurate lake maps and charts, so you can always know where you’re fishing.
Similar to Humminbird, Garmin also makes great electronics used for fishing. Their fish finders are top notch, and any angler would be happy to have one strapped to the bow of their boat.
They’re a relatively new company to the fish finder world, starting in 1989. Don’t let that deter you, though. They have drive and passion for creating great electronics.
This is the oldest company on this list. Starting in 1957, Lowrance has been leading the way in fishing electronics. They may have started over sixty years ago, but they have kept up with the times, and the technology they use shows.
They were even the first company to create the HD multi-function screen. They’re always seeking to find the latest and greatest forms of tech that they can apply to their very own products.
It doesn’t matter if you want down vision, side vision, real vision 3D, or chirp sonar. Raymarine has a product for you that will meet just about every need you could think of.
They make sonar for both fresh and salt water. So, you can have a completely versatile fishing experience, allowing you to spend more time catching fish and less time reading electronics.
FAQs About Fish Finders
A fish finder is a small device that can be mounted, attached to your line, or handheld that uses Sonar & GPS to locate fish and structure underwater.
The Humminbird Helix 7, Humminbird Helix 12, Simrad Go 7, and Raymarine Axion 7 are some of the best fish finders on the market today.
In order to choose the best fish finder for your needs, you should consider mainly your budget and the type of fishing you do. If your budget is $500, then look for some cheaper fish finders under $500 like the Lowrance Hook 2 and Garmin Striker 4. When considering your fishing style, it’s mainly about what vessel you fish from. If you’re fishing from a large boat, then some of the larger screen fish finders will be fine. If you’re fishing from a kayak or small boat, look for fish finders built specifically for kayaks and small boats so they will be easier to mount and operate.
Some key features to look for in a fish finder include GPS integration for waypoint saving, side-scan vs down-scan, mounting type, cone angle, transducer, display quality, and overall frequency.
Yes, you can use fish finders for ice fishing and kayak fishing. There are specific fish finders made for these purposes. Look for smaller mounts for kayaks and low-temperature capabilities for ice fishing.
To install and set up your fish finder you will generally have to look at the owner’s manual. There are detailed descriptions on how to set up and install each different fish finder. Normally you will have to mount the fish finder using 4-6 screws, but some fish finders are handheld which will require no mount.
Interpreting the information on the fish finder display is pretty straight forward. You’ll see depth, underwater structure and bottom formation, and of course fish. Each fish finder is different, but usually they will display the depth of the water and at what depth the fish are holding.
In order to maintain your fish finder and keep it working for many fishing seasons, make sure you rinse or wipe it off, particularly after using it in saltwater. At the very least, you should wipe the screen off periodically and keep the fish finder clear of debris.
There are lots of accessories you might consider purchasing for your fish finder like screen wipes, sun shields, screen protectors, swivel mounts and cord extensions.
When using a fish finder, one of the main safety concerns is trusting the depth of the water you’re driving your boat through. You should still keep an eye on the water and the formation of any nearby coastline to ensure that you’re not going to strike the bottom with your boat. While fish finders generally have accurate depth readings, it’s always wise to use your best judgment when operating any water vessel.
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Fish finders can be an incredibly helpful tool when you’re out on the water. They won’t only help you locate baitfish or the target species, but will also help you locate brush piles or drop-offs that you can attack later.
There can be a little bit of a learning curve with them. However, once you’ve figured out how to work these devices, you’ll be spending a lot more time catching fish and less time boating around looking for them.
Now, if the information above sounds pretty good, then check out some of the products I listed on Amazon. They’ll only benefit your fishing experience!