Best Fish Finder for Small Boats: Our Top Picks for 2024 (Plus a Comprehensive Buying Guide!)

Reviewed by Shaun Walker

Updated:

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best fish finder for small boat

This is a review of the best fish finder for small boats in 2024

Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro, a quality fish finder can be a game-changer in your fishing adventures.

But with so many options out there, how do you net the best fish finder for your boat?

Fear not – as a seasoned angler myself, I’ve navigated these waters for you, reeling in the top fish finders perfect for small fishing boats. 

So, buckle up and get ready to discover your ideal fishing companion. Let’s go!

Top Best Fish Finder For Small Boats – At a Glance

  1. Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv (Best overall)
  2. Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS G3 (Best 5″ Entry Point Fish Finder)
  3. Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 (Best Contender)
  4. Garmin Striker Plus 4 (Best Portable Fish Finder)
  5. Deeper Chirp 2 Sonar (Best Cast Line Fish Finder)
  6. Garmin Striker Cast (Best Budget Friendly Cast Line Fish Finder)

Best Fish Finder For Small Boats Reviewed

Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv

Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv

Screen Size: 7” (diagonal)

Imaging: CHIRP/ClearVü

Max Depth: 1,900 ft (traditional) and 750 ft (ClearVü)

Transducer: Included

Frequency: Traditional: 50/77/200 kHz, CHIRP (mid and high), ClearVü 260/455/800 kHz

Mounting Options: Flush, tilt/swivel.

GPS: Yes

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-list fish finder for a small fishing boat and that’s easy to use, provides clear and detailed images, the Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv is a great choice.

Pros

  • The high-contrast color palettes make it easy to distinguish fish and structure, even in bright sunlight.
  • With the built-in CHIRP traditional sonar and CHIRP ClearVü scanning sonar, you’ll be able to see fish and structures in colorful detail.
  • The built-in GPS allows you to mark hot spots, plan routes, and view your boat’s speed.

Cons

  • The device may take up more space than you’d like on a small watercraft.
  • The Quickdraw Contours software can be a bit confusing to use at first.

The Striker Vivid 7cv has been a trusty partner in my angling adventures. The 7″ color display is more than just easy on the eyes, it’s been my window into the water’s hidden world, offering clear and detailed images. I’ve found the high-contrast color palettes invaluable, effortlessly distinguishing fish from structure, even under the glaring midday sun.

With the built-in CHIRP traditional sonar and CHIRP ClearVü scanning sonar, it’s felt like I had underwater x-ray vision, seeing fish and structures in vibrant detail. I’ve come to rely heavily on the GPS. It’s like having a digital fishing journal, allowing me to mark hot spots, chart my routes, and keep tabs on my boat’s speed.

This finder came ready to hit the water with me, sporting a tilt/swivel mount, transom, and trolling motor mounting hardware and cable. Installation was a breeze, making it ready to use almost out of the box.

However, my experience with the this finder hasn’t been without its challenges. The size of the 7″ display, while great for viewing, takes up more console space on my boat than I initially thought.

Also, while the Quickdraw Contours software is a fantastic tool for creating and saving detailed charts with 1′ contours, I had to spend some time learning to navigate its features. Once I got the hang of it, though, it became an indispensable part of my fishing tool kit. Important to note that if you are after side imaging, you will need to check the slightly upgraded model STRIKER Vivid 7sv.

Even with these minor hiccups, the Striker Vivid 7cv has become my go-to fish finder. It’s not only helped me locate more fish but also made navigating my boat a piece of cake. It’s a remarkable device and, in my experience, one of the best the best fish finders of 2024.

Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS G3 Fish Finder

Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS G3 Fish Finder

Screen Size: 5” (diagonal)

Imaging: CHIRP

Max Depth: 1,200 ft

Transducer: Included

Frequency: 50/80/200 kHz

Mounting Options: Gimbal

GPS: Yes

Pros

  • If you’ve been fishing off a small vessel for any length of time, you’ll appreciate how the Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS G3 elevates your angling experience. The 5″ widescreen display provides a crystal-clear underwater view, transforming your perception of your favorite fishing spots.
  • With features like CHIRP Digital Sonar, GPS plotting, AutoChart Live, Humminbird Basemap, DualBeam PLUS, and SwitchFire, this fish finder is more of an underwater guide. It gives you a comprehensive underwater picture, essential for successful fishing adventures.
  • In my time on the water, the SwitchFire Sonar has proven invaluable. It lets you fine-tune your sonar returns, putting control back into your hands. The DualBeam PLUS Sonar is a remarkable addition, combining two beams for a generous coverage area and incredible detail.

Cons

  • Despite its impressive feature set, the Helix 5 Chirp GPS G3 isn’t perfect. Some users have reported trouble with the tracking feature which, unfortunately, cannot be permanently disabled. If tracking isn’t your thing, this could be a hiccup.
  • Despite offering impressive sonar imaging, this specific model doesn’t come with down imaging right out of the box. If down imaging or side imaging are high on your priority list, you might want to turn your attention to its sibling model – the Helix 5 Chirp DI GPS G3. Just be prepared, as this feature-packed version might nudge your budget a bit further.

When you’re in the market for a reliable and advanced fish finder for your small watercraft, the Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp GPS G3 Fish Finder should be on your radar. Its advanced sonar features and crystal-clear display promise easy fish identification and contour plotting.

All things considered, this unit offers a great blend of functionality and clarity, helping to make your time on the water more productive and enjoyable.

Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 Fish Finder

Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 Inch Fish Finders with Transducer

Screen Size: 5” (diagonal)

Imaging: CHIRP/DownScan

Max Depth: 152 m+ (500 ft+) DownScan: 91 m (300 ft)

Transducer: Included

Frequency: 83/200 kHz (Med/High CHIRP), 50/200 kHz (Low/High CHIRP), 455/800 kHz DownScan

Mounting Options: Flush, gimbal.

GPS: Yes

Pros

  • When you’re out in a small fishing boat, the last thing you want to do is wrestle with complicated tech. That’s why the Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 Inch Fish Finder is such a standout. As an angler myself, I appreciate the simplicity it brings to the game, making it a top contender for the best fish finder on my list.
  • One of the most attractive features for seasoned and novice anglers alike is the FishReveal. It simplifies fish finding and identification, making your angling trip more rewarding.
  • The GPS Plotter is another star feature that makes navigating to your favorite fishing spots feel like a breeze. It’s a crucial aid, especially when you’re exploring new waters.
  • If excellent underwater views are your thing, the SplitShot transducer won’t disappoint. The detailed images it provides of what’s happening beneath your boat are genuinely impressive.

Cons

  • The Hook Reveal 5 base model does not include mapping. If this is a must-have for you, make sure to select the right product option when ordering.

From my personal fishing escapades in both brilliant sunshine and gloomier overcast conditions, I found the Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 Inch Fish Finder’s display a true workhorse. The 5-inch screen consistently delivered sharp clarity and visibility, becoming my reliable underwater eye.

Having it on board, I was particularly impressed by the autotuning sonar. As I fished and the water conditions shifted, the device adjusted its settings autonomously, freeing up my hands and mind to concentrate on what mattered most – catching more fish.

The SplitShot transducer truly won me over. It seamlessly combines the wide-angle, high CHIRP sonar’s fish-finding prowess with high-resolution DownScan Imaging. Personally, it felt like I was getting a cinematic view of the world below my boat, giving me the upper hand in identifying where the fish were hiding.

To sum up, the Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 Inch Fish Finder combines reliability with an intuitive interface, providing a user experience that, from my first-hand experience, stands out.

Garmin Striker Plus 4 – Best Portable Fish Finder

Garmin Striker Plus 4

Screen Size: 4.3” (diagonal)

Imaging: CHIRP

Max Depth: 1,600 ft

Transducer: Dual-Beam

Frequency: 50/77/83/200 kHz

Mounting Options: Flush mount, Tilt/swivel (mount included).

GPS: Yes (non-mapping)

If you’re looking for a reliable and durable fish finder for a small watercraft or kayak, the Striker Plus 4 is definitely worth considering. With its in-built GPS, Quickdraw Contours plotting software, and CHIRP sonar, you’ll be able to find fish with ease and navigate unfamiliar waters with confidence.

Pros

  • With its in-built GPS, not only can you mark fishing hot spots, but you can also create routes and track your boat’s speed. It’s like having your very own fishing diary and navigator rolled into one!
  • Thanks to the Quickdraw Contours plotting software, you can keep track of your favorite spots, storing charts with 1′ contours for up to 2 million acres. This is like a personalized fishing map, helping you return to the most fruitful fishing areas time and time again.
  • The Striker Plus 4 is built to withstand the challenges of any fishing environment. Its rugged design ensures that you don’t need to handle it with kid gloves, even when things get a bit choppy out there.

Cons

  • The display resolution sits at 272 x 480 pixels, which, while serviceable, might not have the same crispness as some of its higher-resolution competitors.
  • The touchscreen control might feel a bit unfamiliar if you’re a traditionalist used to button controls. However, a bit of practice should have you swiping and tapping like a pro.
  • The convenience of Bluetooth comes at the expense of battery life. However, smart usage – turning it off when not needed – can help preserve battery power.

The Striker Plus 4 with Dual-Beam Transducer is the ultimate portable fish finder for any angler with a small vessel. It’s packed with features that help make your fishing trip more productive and less of a guessing game. The CHIRP sonar ensures clear images and precise target separation, giving you an almost unfair advantage over the fish.

The Striker Plus 4 goes beyond just fish finding. It offers you a traditional frequency range of 50/77/83/200 kHz and a decent transmit power of 200 W (RMS). This device can withstand any fishing conditions, whether you’re venturing into freshwater depths of 1,600 ft or exploring saltwater depths of 750 ft.

Overall, if you’re in the market for a reliable, durable, and feature-packed fish finder that won’t take up too much space on your boat, give the Striker Plus 4 from Garmin a serious look. It’s got all the tools you need to make your fishing adventures successful and enjoyable.

Deeper Chirp 2 Sonar – Best Castable Fish Finder

Deeper Chirp 2 Sonar Fish Finder

Screen Size: n/a (Uses your phone screen)

Imaging: Triple-frequency beams

Max Depth: 330 ft

Transducer: Included

Frequency: 100/240/675 kHz

Mounting Options: n/a

Are you hunting for the best fish finder that’s castable yet powerful? Look no further than the Deeper Chirp 2 Sonar Fish Finder. As a seasoned angler, I’ve come to appreciate the sheer versatility this device offers.

Pros

  • It features a formidable castable sonar with triple beam frequencies. High accuracy? Check. Locating target species and predator fish has never been this seamless.
  • Whether you’re kayak fishing or ice fishing, the Deeper Chirp 2 got you covered. It provides reliable connectivity and accurate scanning in waters ranging from 6 inches to 330 feet deep. Now, that’s what I call versatility.
  • A longer-lasting battery is a blessing when you’re out in the water. The fast-charging battery on this model lasts up to 15 hours and reaches full charge in just 2 hours. Trust me, it’s a massive step up from its predecessor, the Deeper Chirp Pro, which only boasted a 6-hour battery life with no fast charge option.
  • Let’s not forget the assurance of a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty. It’s a welcome comfort, knowing you have a long-term safety net for your investment.

Cons

  • Nothing is perfect. The Deeper Chirp 2 comes with a higher price tag. Its powerful features and improvements over previous models (including the Pro) justify the price to an extent. But given that you’ll still need to use your own phone or tablet for display, the cost could be a hurdle for some.

The Deeper Chirp 2 Sonar Fish Finder establishes itself as an excellent choice for those on the hunt for a portable, powerful, and accurate fish finder that’s perfect for small watercrafts. 

The standout sonar capabilities, strong connectivity, and impressive battery life make it an angler’s best friend on the water.

Sure, the price is a bit on the high side, but for the features and convenience you get for such a small unit, it might just be worth splashing out for.

Buy on


Garmin Striker Cast – Castable Sonar with GPS

Garmin Striker Cast, Castable Sonar with GPS

Screen Size: n/a (Uses your phone screen)

Imaging: Traditional dual frequency/beam

Max Depth: 150 ft

Transducer: Included

Frequency: 260/455 kHz

Mounting Options: n/a

If you’re looking for a portable and easy-to-use fish finder, this is a great option. With its wireless streaming and GPS capabilities, you can quickly locate fish and display them on your smartphone or tablet.

Pros

  • As someone who’s spent plenty of time fumbling with complex devices, I can vouch for how easy the Striker Cast is to set up. It’s the perfect “out-of-the-box-and-into-the-water” fish finder for an angler’s boat.
  • This little marvel offers wireless streaming that displays sonar on your mobile device up to 200 feet away. Trust me, nothing beats seeing what’s beneath the waves right from your phone or tablet, especially when you’re in a tight space.
  • The embedded GPS is like a trusty old fishing buddy, guiding you back to your favorite spots. And with Quickdraw Contours software, you can chart out your victories in detail, marking those successful spots for your next boat adventure.

Cons

  • While the battery life usually lasts a solid 10+ hours, those marathon fishing trips might stretch it thin. This isn’t typically an issue, but it’s something to be mindful of, especially if you’re planning a full day on the water.
  • The device’s power conservation feature is clever—it’s on when floating and off when out of water. But this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you’re someone who prefers constant monitoring.
  • The Striker Cast has decent water resistance (IPX6 and IPX7 standards), but don’t push your luck by testing these limits. It’s built for possible spray and splash, but a deep dive isn’t on the agenda.

When it comes to a portable and easy-to-use fish finder for your smaller boat or kayak, this Garmin model hits the nail on the head. Its wireless streaming, a crucial fish finder feature, is like having a fish-spying superpower, allowing you to take a peek under the surface right from your handheld device, which is essential when you are going to be fishing in various locations.

This fish finder comes integrated GPS and Quickdraw Contours software, that are two features I wouldn’t go fishing without. They enable you to make your own detailed fishing charts, a significant aspect you want to consider when you use a fish finder, as it can be a godsend when you return to those fish-laden waters.

But as with everything, it’s not perfect. The battery life and water resistance are great for a normal day on the boat, but for those rougher or longer trips, they may fall short. This is an important factor to consider when evaluating fish finder features for your specific needs.

Overall, the Garmin Striker Cast shines as a great fish finder for small fishing boats, delivering user-friendly operation, portability, and impressive functionality. These aspects are crucial to consider when choosing a fish finder, as they can take your fishing experiences to new levels.

What To Look For When Choosing The Best Fish Finder For A Small Boat

Finding a fish finder that is perfect for your boat can seem daunting with so many different models available in the market. To make your decision easier and help you choose the best fish finder, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide that discusses all the key factors you should consider. So, let’s dive in.

Screen/Display

The screen is your window to the underwater world. It’s where you’ll be spending most of your time looking, so it’s crucial to get this right. Consider the screen size and resolution that fits your boat’s size and your budget. Larger screens offer more room to display data and are easier to read, but they also come with a heftier price tag and take up more space. Higher resolution screens provide clearer images of fish and finer details.

Size & Portability

The size and portability of your fish finder are significant considerations, especially for compact watercraft with limited space. Compact, portable fish finders can offer excellent performance without taking up too much room. However, remember that smaller units might mean compromising on screen size and some features.

Mounting

When considering the fish finder that fits your needs, mounting options for securing it onto your boat will depend on your boat’s configuration and personal preferences. Some common mounting options include transom mount (easy to install, works well for small vessels), trolling motor mount (best for avoiding surface clutter), thru-hull mount (most reliable but requires drilling), and portable kits (best for rented boats).

Water Resistance and Durability

Since fish finders are often exposed to harsh marine environments, it’s vital they’re water-resistant and durable. Look for units with high IPX ratings (measure of water resistance), robust construction, and high-quality materials to ensure longevity.

Transducer/Sonar

The transducer is the “eyes” of your fish finder, sending and receiving sonar signals. Some offer single frequency, while others have dual or multiple frequencies for more detailed information. A dual-frequency transducer can be beneficial for deep-water fishing, giving detailed data on a wide area. Consider the type of fishing you’ll do when selecting a transducer.

Frequency

Frequency correlates with how well the fish finder detects fish and other underwater objects. Higher frequencies (e.g., 200 kHz) provide better detail and resolution in shallow water. In contrast, lower frequencies (e.g., 50 kHz) penetrate deeper waters but with less detail. Your choice should reflect the water bodies you usually fish in.

Scanning Depth

Some fish finders are better suited for shallow waters, where schools of fish often gather, while others can scan deeper underwater, which is crucial when you’re fishing in varied terrains.

Assess your regular fishing environment, whether it’s freshwater lakes, rivers, or deep-sea fishing, to guide your choice of the right fish finder based on its maximum scanning depth of water. If you mainly fish in shallow waters and your primary concern is knowing depth to steer clear of hazards, then a basic fish finder could be a sensible choice

Imaging

Imaging refers to the style of display. Down imaging gives you a detailed view of what’s beneath the boat, while side scan or side imaging provides a broad view of the area around. High-end models often offer both. Your choice will depend on the kind of fishing you do and the water bodies you frequent.

GPS

A fish finder with GPS can significantly enhance your fishing experience. It can help you plan the best navigation path, mark productive spots, track routes, and even create your own maps. It’s an essential feature for serious anglers and those who love to fish in large and unfamiliar bodies of water.

Maps and Chartplotter

Built-in maps and chart plotting are valuable for marking successful fishing spots and navigation. Some models offer detailed cartography, others allow you to draw your own maps, and many have both. Choose a model that caters to your navigation needs.

User Interface and Controls

The user interface and control system should be intuitive and easy to navigate, even in rough waters or at high speed. Look for a fish finder with clearly labeled, easy-to-press buttons, and a simple, clean interface.

Battery Life

For portable fish finders, a long battery life is essential. You need a fish finder that won’t run out of power in the middle of your fishing trip. Look for devices with reliable, long-lasting batteries, and always consider carrying a backup power source.

Price and Value for Money

Price is always a deciding factor, but don’t let it be the only one. Before purchasing a fish finder, consider the features and benefits that come with the device. A cheaper or more affordable fish finder may save you money upfront but could lack crucial features or fail when durability is tested. Investing in a high-quality fish finder could enhance your fishing experience and provide the best value in the long run.

Remember, selecting the right fish finder for you will ultimately depend on your personal needs, fishing style, and budget. With this guide, you should be well-equipped to make an informed choice. Happy fishing!

Our Verdict – The Best Fish Finder For Your Boat

So, there you have it! After reeling in all the facts, it’s clear the Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv emerges as the big catch in the pond of best fish finders for small boats. It’s a top of the line fish finder that has all the bells and whistles an angler could want – user-friendly interface, stunning clarity, and detail that are simply off the hook. 

Happy fishing, and may your lines always be tight!

Check out our other guides to ensure that you’re ready to make this upcoming boating season your best one yet!

FAQ

What is the easiest fish finder to use?

The Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv is often touted as one of the easiest fish finders to use, thanks to its intuitive interface and clear, vivid display.

What is the best budget fish finder?

The Garmin Striker Plus 4  is an excellent budget-friendly fish finder. Despite its lower price tag, it doesn’t skimp on essential features like CHIRP sonar and GPS.

Is a depth finder the same as a fish finder?

Not exactly. While both devices use sonar, a depth finder only provides information about water depth. A fish finder, on the other hand, offers much more detailed information, including fish location, underwater structures, and bottom contour.

What is the difference between a fish finder and sonar?

Sonar is the technology that fish finders use to detect and plot underwater structures, including fish. So, a fish finder is a device that uses sonar technology, but not all sonar devices are fish finders.

Is chirp better than sonar?

CHIRP (Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse) is a type of sonar that sends out a continuous sweep of frequencies, providing more detailed and accurate data than traditional sonar.

Is high or low CHIRP better for shallow water?

High CHIRP is generally better when fishing in shallow water as it provides more detailed images. Low CHIRP, however, is better for deep water fishing as it penetrates further.

What does CHIRP stand for on a fish finder?

CHIRP stands for Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse. It’s a type of sonar technology that provides more precise and detailed information than traditional sonar.

Does it matter which way your transducer faces?

Yes, for optimal performance, the transducer should be mounted parallel to the ground and facing directly down.

What should I look for in a fish finder?

Key features to consider when choosing the right fish finder include screen size and resolution, sonar type (traditional, CHIRP, side-imaging, etc.), GPS functionality, and ease of use.

Are expensive fish finders worth it?

The value of a high-priced fish finder depends on your fishing needs and style. More expensive units typically offer more advanced features such as high-resolution touch screens, CHIRP sonar, side-imaging, and WiFi connectivity. If these features will significantly enhance your fishing experience, it may be worth the investment.

Do I need maps on my fish finder?

Having maps on your fish finder isn’t necessary, but it can significantly enhance your fishing experience. They can help you navigate unfamiliar waters, mark productive fishing spots, and track your route.

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AUTHOR

Hi, I'm John! Tech whisperer, a music junkie, and a self-proclaimed boat captain whenever the sun's out. Juggling between tech and nature, this is my world!