Whatever kind of fishing you enjoy, a fish finder is an invaluable tool. But with so many different models on the market, choosing the right one can be a challenge. That goes double if you’re looking to install it on a smaller vessel.
Fortunately, we’re here to help! We’re going to investigate seven of the best fish finders for small boats. And we’ll take an honest look at their pros and cons.
So if you’re ready to find out more, step this way!
Lowrance are market leaders in fishing accessories, and their Hook Reveal 5 fish finder has lots to recommend it.
It uses Lowrance’s CHIRP sonar together with DownScan imaging to produce a clear picture of exactly where the fish are. And the Splitshot transducer will suit anglers who want to get great images directly below their boat.
The sonar here is autotuning, so you don’t have to fiddle with it. It will automatically adjust to the conditions to give you the best possible images, allowing you to focus on fishing.
Everything is viewed on a crisp 5-inch display that won’t take up loads of room on your boat. It’s just as easy to see in the daytime as at night, even in direct sunlight.
It also makes it easy to find your way to your chosen fishing spot. It comes pre-loaded with C-MAP options showing high-resolution 1-foot contours on almost 9,000 lakes in the US. And there are coastal charts for the US and Canada too.
Note that there’s another version of the XDCR that comes with a GPS plotter only, and no maps. Adding the maps adds about a third to the price. Check the specifications carefully to make sure you know what you’re getting.
We’ve heard of a couple of issues with people not getting a sonar signal. If that happens, check out the menu. There’s a “stop sonar” button, which it’s all too easy to turn on without realizing you’ve done it.
Autotuning for perfect images in all conditions
Splitshot tranducer allows you to see directly beneath the boat
Option of pre-loaded maps of nearly 9,000 US and Canadian lakes, plus coastal charts
It’s easy to turn off the sonar without realizing you’ve done it
Garmin’s Striker 4 fish finder comes with a CHIRP traditional transducer. It provides a continuous sweep of all frequencies to provide lots of information. You’ll get clearer fish arches and excellent target separation.
All the data is shown in the classic “flasher” format, particularly good for vertical jigging and ice fishing. And you can choose from three different display sizes. The 3.5 inch is the smallest – and if your eyes are up to it, it’s a dinky choice for small boats
The keypad is easy to use, with dedicated buttons. It’s all very intuitive. There’s a handy waypoint map function that gives you the ability to mark, view and navigate to your chosen fishing spots.
In freshwater, it will give you the ability to see what’s going on down to a depth of 1,600 feet. In saltwater, the maximum is 750 feet. And if you want higher performance, you can upgrade to a GT8 or GT15 transducer, available to purchase separately.
It’s simple to install, and it’s rated waterproof to IPX7 standards. It comes with a tilt/swivel mount, transom and motor mounts.
Note that it will need to be connected up to a 12-volt power supply. If you’re in a small boat like a kayak, you’ll need to consider where that will go.
In addition, the instructions – bizarrely – don’t include how to connect it to the battery. That’s a minor niggle with what is otherwise an excellent fish finder at a very competitive price.
Clear flasher format display
Useful waypoint mapping function
Easy to use with dedicated buttons on the keypad
Needs to be connected to a 12-volt power supply – make sure you have room for that in your boat
The installation instructions don’t cover connecting it to the battery.
The second Garmin fish finder to make our list, the Striker Plus 4 features a dual-beam transducer. It also uses Garmin’s CHIRP sonar for clear target separation and crisp images.
This one has a 4.3-inch display, It’s easy to see what’s on it, even in bright sunlight and low light. But beware – for some reason, if you’re wearing polarized glasses, the screen will appear black.
There are no pre-loaded maps, but Garmin’s Quickdraw Contours mapping software comes built in. That will allow you to create your own maps using 1-foot contours, and store them on the device. There’s space for up to 2 million acres, so you’re unlikely to run out!
As well as viewing and marking your own waypoints, you can create routes and monitor your speed. And the keypad features the same user-friendly selection of dedicated keys as the Striker 4.
The handy 4.3-inch display is the perfect size for smaller boats
Includes Quickdraw Contours mapping software, allowing you to create your own maps, plan routes and store waypoints
User friendly keypad with dedicated keys
No pre-loaded maps
The screen will appear dark if you view it through polarized lenses.
The LuckyLaker from Lucky is a portable and wireless fish finder designed for use in freshwater environments. The sonar transducer will work wirelessly at a distance of up to 328 feet. And it will allow you to find fish down to a depth of 147 feet.
Charge the battery fully, and it will work continuously for between five and six hours. Put it into battery saver mode, and that extends to around ten hours.
The unit is waterproof and it floats too, so you won’t need to worry if there’s an accident. A small hole in the transducer – the bobbing ball – allows you to tether it using a fishing line.
The display shows cartoon fish in small, medium and large sizes, together with their depth and location. It also shows the contour of the bottom of the body of water and the water temperature.
You can zoom in on the display to show more detailed information on a particular area. And you can switch the units between feet and meters, Fahrenheit and Celsius.
The sonar ball glows in the dark, so you can keep an eye on it if you’re night fishing. An alarm will go off when fish or shallow water is detected.
One thing to be aware of is that the sonar works with a 90-degree beam angle. That means that if you’re ice fishing, any ice directly above it will interfere with the accuracy.
Note too that you’ll need to buy the mount for the fish finder and transducer separately.
Very easy to use
It’s waterproof and floats – so no need to worry if it falls overboard
Wireless and rechargeable
Anything that gets in the way of the 90-degree sonar beam – like an ice layer – will interfere with the accuracy of the reading
The HJY1108-CT from Lucky is the cheapest fish finder on our list. So what do you get for your money?
Well, it’s a dinky little unit with a 2.9-inch display that will fit on the smallest of boats. It has a simulation mode to allow you to try out all the functions. When you’re ready to go fishing, switch it into transducer mode.
It offers a wired operating distance of 26 feet, and can detect fish down to a depth of 328 feet. It’s fully portable – it’s small enough to be held in your hand – and comes with a USB cable for charging. When fully charged it will give you around 5 hours of continuous use.
It comes with a bracket to allow you to attach the transducer to your boat. The sonar beam has a 45-degree angle and works on a frequency of 200 Khz.
You can switch the display between feet and meters, Fahrenheit or Celsius. And you can adjust the sensitivity, screen brightness and depth range. A zoom function lets you see any part of the display in more detail. And there’s an alarm to alert you when fish or shallow water are detected.
If you’re ice fishing, note that you’ll need to clean away any snow from the surface of the ice. And there should be no air between the ice and the transducer, nor between the ice and the water beneath. If any air is present, it will interfere with the reading.
Compact design suitable for the smallest of boats
Clear, bright screen with zoom function
Alarm to alert you to fish and shallow water
Operates on a single frequency
Any air between ice and either water or transducer will affect the accuracy of the reading.
The iBobber Pulse from ReelSonar is designed to turn your smartphone into a fish finder. It will work with Apple iPhones 10.00 and later, and with Android 4.3 and later that use Bluetooth 4.0. The iBobber app is free to install and use on both operating systems.
It has a rechargeable battery and a status light to tell you how much charge is left. When fully charged, it will give you around ten hours of continuous use.
Two snap swivel connections allow you to use it as either a remote fish finder or a bobber. It will give you accurate sonar readings down to a depth of 135 feet. The sonar beam is 90 degrees.
The bobber also doubles as a fish attractor. Functions allow you to mark and identify fish, map depth contours, tag catch locations and check the water temperature. You can even save photos and hotspots in a log of your trip.
One thing to note is that you’ll need to resync the iBobber after every use. That’s because the bobbers switch off when they’re not in use or recharging.
And this fish finder does rely on you taking your smartphone onto the water. If you’d rather keep it safe on shore, this won’t be the right option for you.
Wide range of functions, including the ability to identify fish, map depth contours and tag catch locations
Trip logs allow you to store photos and hotspots from each trip
Doubles as a fish attractor
Needs to be resynced after every use
You’ll need to take your smartphone on the water to use it.
Humminbird make four variations on their PiranhaMAX 4. We’re focusing here on the DI.
This comes with a dual-beam XNT 9 DI T transducer. That gives you the option of selecting a wide beam for maximum coverage, or a narrower beam for more detail.
DownImaging gives you a clear view of what’s happening directly below your boat. And there’s a user-friendly interface with dedicated buttons to make it easy to scroll through and select from menus.
The 4.3-inch color LCD screen is crisp and bright. There’s a zoom function, fish alarms and depth alarms so you’re always aware of what’s around you. And the Fish ID+ function helps you identify what species are in the vicinity.
One thing it doesn’t have, though, is GPS plotting. If that’s important to you, this won’t be the right choice.
It comes with a tilt and swivel mount, so you can change your viewing angle with ease. There’s also a gimbal mounting bracket, 6 feet of power cord and mounting hardware.
You can connect it up to your boat’s electrical system, or to a 12-volt battery. Note, though, that you’ll need to buy the latter separately.
The dual-beam transducer offers the choice of maximizing coverage or detail
Zoom and Fish ID+ functions, plus fish and depth alarms
Comes with mounts and hardware, plus 6 feet of power cord
No GPS plotting function
Unless you want to connect it to your boat’s power system, you’ll need to buy a 12-volt battery separately.