Best Fish Finders [2021 Reviewed]

If there's a universal question that has befuddled fisherman since the dawn of time, it is that critical conundrum: Where are the fish?
To answer that question, fisherman and women now turn to sonar fish finders that send sound waves into the water and measure how long it takes that sound wave to bounce back. Using that measurement, these devices calculate the distance to the object that the sound had bounced from – including plants, rocks, fish, rusting cars and the bottom of the lake itself – and turn that data into images on a screen. Depending on the style of the fish finder you purchase, the images you see will be either color-coded blips on graph-like, topographical backgrounds or it will be small, iconic pictures of fish. You will also see undistinguished images that represent plants or other hard to identify items.

Sonar fish finders certainly improve your odds of catching more fish, but they are not perfect. They have trouble, at times, differentiating between a fish and a plant. Furthermore, some of the images on the fish finder screen can be difficult to interpret. Larger fish on some fish finders are designated by how dark the picture of the fish might be. As such, don't expect to mount a fish finder on your boat in the morning and catch the biggest fish in the lake that afternoon, because it takes practice to learn how to understand what the device is telling you.
Furthermore, the best fish finder out there for someone trolling the lake is different from someone who stands on a dock to fish or someone who drops a worm on hook into the lake and holds relatively still. The technology behind the different devices is slightly different, so you are essentially comparing apples to oranges when looking at them side by side.


Take our word on it, there are a lot of choices out there – making this review a great time saver for you. However, it makes more sense for us to tell you about the best in each category of fish finder than to show you a dozen in each category. Furthermore, we are going to look at the best fish finders for the average recreational fishermen and women – fish finders in the $200 to $300 range. If you spend a lot more than that, you are likely a commercial fisherman or someone with a charter fishing tour business. If that's who you are, you should be delving into more technological discussions than this article is intended to provide.

All of these recommended units are available on Amazon and none of them will break the bank. Our top recommendation costs about $300. Our most affordable recommendation costs $87.57 the last time we looked.
Now let's reveal our five top choices for fish finders. First, we'll just take a glance at each one. Then we'll provide a review that details why we liked them so much.
From priciest to most affordable, here we go: Ready, set, cast!

The Raymarine Dragonfly Pro CHIRP Fish Finder With Built in GPS and WiFi with Navionics+ Charts and Transducer

Current price on Amazon: $379.38 (with free shipping)

This fish finder has all the right bells and whistles,, including WiFi capacity, which adds tremendously to this unit's versatility. It has one of the most sophisticated mapping systems available for recreational fishermen or women and – just as important – it is one of the easiest there is to understand. The map looks like a hand-held marine chart that millions of boaters use every day, so it has a familiar layout.
It is durable and has several mounting options, including a rotating ball mount that allows it to swivel, saving you from having to change positions to read it or see the same screen in direct sunlight one minute and in shade the next, which can be difficult at times.


The Hummingbird 4100210 HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2 Fish Finder

Current price on Amazon: $279.83 (with free shipping)

Hummingbird makes a variety of very sophisticated fish finders and this is our favorite. It features an impressive 5-inch color WVGA screen display that gives you a ton of information at a glance. It also features a built-in GPS system and a micro SD card slot that adds even more fabulous options, not the least of which is the ability to map the body of water you are fishing and to identify and save “hot spots.” That means if you caught your biggest fish of the day or the most in one spot, this fish finder can lead you back to the same spot in your next outing.

Deeper Smart Portable Fish Finder For Smartphone or Tablet

Current price on Amazon: $200


How can you argue with a cast-able sonar device that has a four-star rating with 1,399 reviews listed on Amazon? Yes, the four-star rating could be higher, but that's such an enormous number of reviews that the accuracy is unquestioned. Margin of error after close to 1,400 reviews has got to be pretty small.
Of course, it's popular for several reasons that bear out when you use it. It is highly portable, very distinct and readable on the screen and boasts the ability to find and mark “anything up to 3in bodies in water up to a depth of 130 feet.” Certainly, many weekend warriors are going to find a use for a fish finder that can find a minnow 130 feet below your boat (the length of some 30-story buildings).

More than that, technical specifications aside, this fish finder's transducer feeds the data to your smart phone, which means many fisherman have already purchased the bulk of the hardware needed for the Deeper Smart Portable Fish Finder and if you don't have a smart phone, the purchase of a $100 tablet will allow you to use it. This means the company is saving you money by dovetailing with a device you already own. You get a lot of bang for your buck that way.

Garmin Striker 4 Built-in Fish Finder

Current price on Amazon: $107.99

This four and a half star fish finder comes from the company that produces extremely popular and affordable golf course mapping devices that tell golfers in tens of thousands of locations how far they are from the green. Garmin, in effect, knows what they are doing and prices their units from very affordable to pricey.

For the money, this an incredible unit that uses a split screen to show you the cone-shape focus of the sonar's transducer (the component that sends and receives signals) in the top half and images of fish with a watery, blue background in the bottom half. It will take an outing or two to get used to the screen, but the device is still very simple to use. The company calls this “the power of simple.” for them, simple is money in the bank. It also allows them to sell variations that include small, medium and larger devices, ranging from 3.5-inch to seven-inch screens. (Like a television screen, fish finder screens are listed by measuring the screen on a diagonal axis.)
Garmin's fish finder also uses the latest CHIRP Sonar, which means you enjoy a continuously sweeping system that allows for sharper images. This fish finder is also one of the more versatile on the market, especially for the price, as it is useful for stationary fishing (like ice fishing or dock fishing) and for fishing from a boat.

HawkEye Fish Trax 1X Portable Dot Matrix Fish Finder

Current price on Amazon: $77.57

For a hand-held fish finder, the HawkEye Fish Trax 1X Portable is a terrific bargain. It is all the more versatile because it is so small and lightweight it will fit in the average tackle box, meaning you don't have to always take your boat with you when you go fishing. (Although it has a mounting system if you do want to attach it to your boat.)
This unit is very simple to use and gives you the basics including the depth of the fish and the depth of the water. It uses a “VirtueView” Dot Matrix Display, which is rudimentary by some standards, but that just means you have less bells and whistles to wade through in order to interpret what you are looking at.


The Basics

OK, now let's explain the basics to how sonar devices work, so you can make an independent judgment on what to buy when you purchase a fish finder.Similar to when you buy a computer, the first thing a salesman should ask when you show up to buy a fish finder is what do you plan to use it for. Sure, you could shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars to buy something that commercial fishermen would use and you would be the envy of your fishing buddies. But they would privately be whispering that you could have spent a lot less and still gotten all that you need.

The Ideal Fish Finder


Let's start by trying to define the ideal fish finder. Then we'll break that down into the kinds of technology that are available, so you know what to ask for when you get to the store.
The ideal fish finder is one that fits in with the rest of your fishing style. If you have a boat with internal wiring, you can find a fish finder that is wired to the boat's electric system. That allows you to avoid buying batteries, but means your fish finder is nailed to your boat. Along this line of reasoning, if you have a small boat with a motor, but no fancy wiring, you can find a fish finders powered by temporary wires held in place with alligator clips. You take these fish finders home with you at the end of the day, as they mount onto boats with suction cups or clamps, the former of which is less reliable than the later.


A technician would say you are not buying a fish finder, you are buying a transducer, which, when pointed at the water can be used to locate fish.
There are technical differences, which we will explain next, but there are three basic types. The more pricey transducers work straight through the hull of your boat (as if it weren't there). The next basic type is mounted to the side of your boat, while the third type is placed in the water. The second and third type are generally more portable or even hand-held and some are equipped with floatation, so your investment doesn't sink to the bottom of the lake.
The third type also includes transducers that attach to your fishing line, just as you might attach a bobber to it. Some, in fact, do double duty as bobbers. Needless to say, this style is portable, lightweight and best used when fishing from a dock, ice fishing or jigging from a boat. They are less useful for trolling or functioning in rough water.


It us useful to know there are three types of sonar. The first type is called “Downscan.” Just as it sounds, it operates by sending signals straight down and back, which, makes it more useful when used in deep water – a lake as opposed to a river, for example.
“Downscan” units, however, are more limited than the “Broadband” scanners, which sends out an signal at an angle – in front, back or to the side of the unit's location. This means the images coming back are less distinct than “Downscan” systems, although they allow you to scan a wider target area, including the still water ahead of the boat.
“Combination” sonar systems operate with either systems, either merging the two or allowing for two separate images, depending on the software.



If you have a CHIRP system, you have a the latest broadband system on the market, a system that trickled down from military use to recreational use in about 2009. CHIRP stands for Compressed High Intensity Radiated Pulse. It is frequently called a “game-changer” among options for finding fish.
The basic science here is that transducers send a high-energy pulse into the water – a signal that bounces back. A low frequency pulse, say 50 kHz, like a low gear on a car, penetrates deeper, but returns with a less distinct (more out of focus) image. A higher frequency requires more power (wattage), but comes back with a sharper image, although it is best used in shallower water. Consider, for example, a camera that is more in focus at short distances. At long distance, the image may be in focus, but it is so small that when you increase its size, the pixels start spreading apart and the image loses its sharpness.
The CHIRP system compresses the signal, so that with low wattage it can send out a pulse that has a variety of frequencies – high and low – in the same pulse. This is precisely why weather stations all now boast that their systems register the “Doppler effect,” which allows a compressed signal to scan a variety of frequencies at the same time. The energy pulse is also of a much longer duration … and the longer signal returns with that much more data than a shorter signal. So, you get more information, compressed, which means your software can give you much greater accuracy.

Power and Frequency


Now we can understand where power and frequency interact. The more power, the stronger the signal sent, giving you cleaner images in deep water. The higher the frequency – 250 kHz compared to 50 kHz – means a sharper image, but it also reduces the depth that your scanner can focus on. Cut the frequency in half, you roughly double the depth your scanner will read. But increasing the power can make up the difference.
How does this apply to you? Well, hand held devices are run from batteries, which limits the power of the energy pulse.

The Rest of the Package

The rest of the package is hardware and software. Certainly, every company has its boasting points. Your concerns should be ease of use, bells and whistles, size and resolution of the screen, durability, flexibility, water proof and floating capabilities and price

* SPECS / Pros and Cons / And A Few More Recommendations

After listing our favorites from least to most expensive, let's look at the specifications in reverse order, from least expensive to most.

1.HawkEye Fish Trax 1X Portable Dot Matrix Fish Finder

Current price on Amazon: $77.57

SPECS And Features

This unit is small, very basic, portable and ideal for thrifty or beginning fishermen and women. It includes:

  • VirtuView Dot Matrix Black And White Display
  • Water Depth Detection
  • Fish Depth Identification
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    Can be hand held or mounted on a boat
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    Operates on two frequencies – 83 kHz, very useful for deep water and 200 kHz, more useful in shallow water.
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    Range: 1.5 feet to 240 feet deep.


  • The price is hard to beat …
  • It's durable, made with a rugged rubberized plastic shell
  • Small and portable (6 in. X 3 in. X 2 in.)
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    Versatile, with a range that will suit most fishing


  • Not so great in salt water
  • Screen is very small, so the images are often cluttered together
  • Battery powered (although 4 AAA batteries last 30 hours)
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    While sensitivity levels give you range, you have to adjust them frequently if the depth of the water changes.

2.Garmin Striker 4 Built-in Fish Finder

Current price on Amazon: $107.99

SPECS And Features:

  • Hand held with small, 3.5 in. screen, 480 horizontal X 320 vertical resolution
  • HVGA color screen, that is back lit
  • Dual Frequency CHIRP sonar
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    Coverage: 200 kHz at 15 degrees and 77 kHz at 45 degrees
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    Range: Freshwater depth 1,600 feet / saltwater depth 750 feet
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    Power: 200 W
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    Includes GPS system


  • Accurate, easy to installation
  • Color-screen unit, which makes it very readable for the money
  • Includes GPS
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    Accurate in deep and shallow water
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    Extremely well priced


  • Cables are fragile
  • Difficult to mount in some situations
  • GPS does not include maps
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    Instructions are unclear

3.Deeper Smart Portable Fish Finder For Smartphone or Tablet

Current price on Amazon: $200

SPECS And Features:

  • Bluetooth connected, wireless, cast-able, portable
  • Compatible with iOS and Android tablets or smart phones
  • Due to above: Can be deployed with large, high-resolution, color screens
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    Spontaneous sonar readings that register bottom contour and fish
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    Also monitors water temperature


  • Includes bluetooth connections (wireless)
  • Works off of Smartphone or Tablet, which means you've already paid for the monitor
  • Compatible with Android and iOS systems
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    Rugged: Works under very low and high temperature conditions, salt and fresh water
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    Very detailed software renderings
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    Works with rechargeable batteries


  • Bluetooth connection can be unreliable and lacks a reset button when you lose connection
  • Water penetration problems
  • Too heavy for some casting conditions
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    Instructions are unclear

4.The Hummingbird 4100210 HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2 Fish Finder

Current price on Amazon: $279.83 (with free shipping)

SPECS And Features:

  • 5-inch color WVGA display
  • GPS system with charts and built-in Anima cartography
  • CHIRP Dual-Beam Plus Sonar System
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    Micro- SD card slot that increases functions, adding maps
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    Able to record and save fishing hot spots


  • Big, bright, clear, color display
  • Easy to install
  • Loaded with features (temperature reading, boat speed, depth indicators)


  • Some find the unit tricky to learn how to use
  • Cable connections break too easily
  • GPS system judged too vague, difficult to use at night

5.The Raymarine Dragonfly Pro CHIRP Fish Finder With Built in GPS and WiFi with Navionics+ Charts and Transducer

Current price on Amazon: $379.38 (with free shipping)

SPECS And Features:

  • 5-inch “all-weather” high-definitions LED backlit display
  • Optically bonded display for sharper colors, sharper images
  • Streams data to smart phone with Raymarine's Wi-Fish mobile appearance
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    Versatile mounting system
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    Stores up to 3,000 way points and 15 tracks
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    Uses optional MicroSD memory card for expanded storage


  • Very high customer review ratings (4.5 stars on Amazon) – one of the best for a fish finder
  • Considered very easy to use
  • Excellent GPS system
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    Holds image remarkably well in a moving boat
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    Data-rich displays


  • Truthfully, negative reviews are hard to find
  • Understanding fish indicators difficult for some
  • Requires 5 amp inline fuse that is not included
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    Owner's manual is not great
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    Somewhat large and bulky compared to others

The Back Up Plan

Five fish finders isn't a lot of choices, so it's time to throw in a backup plan for those who find fault with the recommendations or find the local fishing outlet doesn't carry those products. (Although Amazon does.)
Here, then, just in summary form, are some alternative at various price ranges. These are units that test well and are recommended by many, even if they did not make it to our top five list.


1.Lowrance GEN3 Insight Fish finder/Chart plotter

Currently not available on Amazon

Although currently not listed on Amazon, this fish finder includes CHIRP technology, which is the game-changing sonar system that was, until 10 years ago, exclusive to the military. This is considered a long-term investment, not a gift to somebody who isn't dedicated to fishing.
The CHIRP system gives the software ten times (or more) data than a standard sonar pulse would do, so it returns that much more information. This allows for sharper, more exacting images and allows for more discerning screen displays that present the size of the fish and allows for greater accuracy in general.
On the downside, it's a little bit pricey.

2.iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder

Currently price on Amazon: $89.95

This bluetooth oriented bopper is affordable and uses graphically appealing software that is displayed on either your iOS or Android device. It is not as “professional” as some outfits, but provides accurate readings of up to 135 feet, which a commercial fisherman would find too lightweight, but is apt to fit the needs of many recreational fishermen without any problem.
On the plus side, the iBobber is very affordable. It hooks to your fishing line, so it is telling you exactly what's happening where your bait is sitting. In this way, it's limited, but at least it's focused on the right spot.

3.Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder with Wired Sonar Sensor

Current price on Amazon: $39.99

This is a lightweight, simple, hand-held fish finder that is simple to use and read and gets very high ratings from customer reviews despite its extremely low price. It's hard to argue with that.
This is also not designed for commercial fishermen or charter boats, but is terrifically suited to beginning fishermen or women and works well in lakes, rivers and salt water. It can be used fishing off a dock, ice fishing or from a boat. It can also remember previous settings, so you don't to reconfigure the device as you move around familiar territory.

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