Best Fish Finders of 2017: Reviews of the Top Depth Finders For The Money

Blind casting all day without a single bite is one of the most frustrating and exhausting experiences an angler can have. If you want to consistently catch fish, a quality fish finder is an absolute necessity.

The problem is that wading through all the brands, models, confusing specifications, and marketing jargon can be just as frustrating as not catching any fish! To make the task of choosing a fish finder a little easier, we’ve reviewed the top fish finders on the market to help you find the right one to get more fish in the boat.

The fish finders on this list cover a range of prices and functionality but are generally best suited for small- to medium-sized boats. Whether you fish lakes, reservoirs, rivers, bays or inshore saltwater, the following fish finders will help you achieve more fishing success the next time you head out on the water.  If you don’t like a lengthy read, we’ve listed two of our favorites below – otherwise, we’ve covered our 9 favorite in much more detail and we hope you enjoy the read.

Our Top 2 Picks:

  1. For the tech savvy fisherman:  Deeper Smart Portable Fish Finder
  2. A great stand alone unit: Garmin Striker

Table of Contents:

How Fish Finders Work:

A fish finder or depth finder works by using sonar underwater to by detecting pulses of sound energy.  It locates the fish by emitting a sonar wave that will register solid mass and can detect schools of fish or the bottom of a body of water if there are no obstructions.

Fish finders are used today by sport fisherman, commercial fisherman and recreational fisherman alike.  They can be used for pike, bass, black or white crappie or just about any other type of fish.

Fish finders are usually mounted to the boat and are run while the vessel is moving at a slower or stopped speed to properly recognize the area and the depth.  Fish finders can be mounted to just about any boat, including fishing kayaks and larger boats or watercraft.  You can even use fish finders when you are ice fishing, provided the hole you dug with your auger is big enough.

Fish finders can be beneficial for many reasons.  They can be used to locate larger and smaller schools of fish and to assist in finding the appropriate depth that schools typically like to dwell at during the different times of year.

Fish finders are becoming widely used by many fisherman across the industry and they are looked at as a “must have” for recreational fishermen looking for an extra edge when out scouting for their next fishing location.

Many modern fish finders are coming equipped today with a GPS.  This is highly beneficial in case you get lost (don’t laugh, it’s happened) and also to help track your locations of your favorite fishing spots.

The Nine Best Fish Finders for the Money:

We’ve broken our nine favorite fish finders below into more detail.  We’ve taken our favorites and analyzed user feedback to come up with the proper fish finders that will help you on your next outdoor fishing trip.

Keep in mind that some of the models are newer and have more technological features, making them more expensive.  Higher priced or not, they should all make landing your next catch a lot easier.  We will be updating this guide through 2017, making it your most up to date resource and not left behind by 2014 technology.


Deeper Smart Portable Fish Finder for Smartphone or Tablets:

Deeper 3.0 Fish Finder for PhonesType: Portable fish finder for smartphone or tablet
GPS: Uses GPS from smartphone
Imaging: Down view
Sonar coverage: 15° narrow; 55° wide
Sonar frequency:290 kHz narrow; 90 kHz wide
Power output: N/A
Depth capability: 130 feet
Transducer: Portable floating wireless transducer
Display size: Smartphone/tablet display
Color or black and white: N/A
Screen resolution (pixels): N/A
Unit size: Transducer weighs 3.5 oz

Other features: Transducer communicates with smartphone via Bluetooth signal; unit pairs with the free Deeper Fish Finder App on your smartphone or tablet; smartphone app includes depth information, bottom structure imaging, fish imaging, water temperature, weather information, fish activity calendar, diary, maps, and social sharing

Product Summary:

The Deeper Smart Fish Finder is a new breed of a fish finder that’s only been available for the last few years. Unlike traditional depth and fish finders that use a transducer mounted on a boat, Deeper uses a castable, wireless transducer paired with the smartphone or tablet you already have to create a highly portable fish finding system. Before, fish finders could only be used on boats, but now with the Deeper, bank anglers get to enjoy the same benefits that boat anglers have been reaping for years.

Deeper’s transducer is contained within a small, waterproof globe that is cast up to 130 feet with a fishing rod. Using Bluetooth technology, the transducer communicates with your smartphone, and with the free Deeper App installed, displays sonar images on the screen of your smartphone. In the app, you can see detailed information about depth, bottom structure, vegetation, fish location, and water temperature, along with weather conditions, moon cycles, and other helpful fishing data.

Deeper can be used by anyone fishing from banks, shorelines, piers, docks, jetties, and can also be used when fishing from a kayak, canoe, float tube, or pontoon boat. Deeper is highly portable, with the transducer being small enough to fit in most tackle boxes, and even comes with a neoprene belt pouch. Since you do have to use your smartphone or tablet with Deeper, you may find it beneficial to invest in a waterproof case or bag to keep your device safe and dry.


iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder for iOS and Android Devices:

 iBobber Fish Finder for SmartphoneType: Portable fish finder for smartphone or tablet
GPS: Uses GPS from smartphone
Imaging: Down view
Sonar coverage: 42°
Sonar frequency: Not specified by manufacturer
Power output: N/A
Depth capability: 135 feet
Transducer: Portable floating wireless transducer
Display size: Smartphone/tablet display
Color or black and white: N/A
Screen resolution: N/A
Unit size: 3″ x 3″ x 3″; 1.6 oz

Other features: Transducer communicates sonar data to smartphone via Bluetooth and pairs with the free iBobber app for iOS and Android; app displays raw sonar and fish tagging views, bottom structure, water temperatures, and weather conditions; app includes GPS spot tagging with interactive map, trip logging, and social media sharing functions; device is compatible with Google Watch and Apple Watch

Product Summary:

The iBobber is another ingenious wireless portable fish finder that pairs with a smartphone or tablet. Like the Deeper Smart Fish Finder, iBobber uses Bluetooth technology to sync with your smartphone, and the free iBobber App gives all the sonar images you need right in your hand. Tie the iBobber onto your fishing line, cast it out, and get a live view of bottom structure and fish below.

The iBobber and Deeper are very comparable which can make choosing between them a difficult task. The iBobber is a little more than half the price of the Deeper Smart fish finder. As can be expected, the lower priced iBobber does have some drawbacks compared to Deeper such as shorter casting range and only a single sonar frequency with a 42° coverage compared to Deeper’s dual frequencies with 15° and 55° coverage. But, differences aside, the iBobber is a very handy fishing tool for those who fish from banks or piers and want to know what’s going on below the surface. Anglers in kayaks, canoes, and other small watercraft can also make good use of the iBobber, and won’t have to worry about installing a fish finder that will take up valuable space.

The iBobber App gives you sonar imaging of bottom structure and fish directly on the screen of your smartphone as well as additional information about water temperature, weather forecasts, and moon cycles. Using the GPS of your smartphone, you can mark spots on a map within the app, just like you can on a traditional GPS-enabled fish finder. Social media sharing is built into the iBobber app making it easy to share your trip logs and other data with your friends. Unlike the Deeper Smart Fish Finder, the iBobber is compatible with both Apple Watch and Google Watch, making your on-the-water fish finding even more accessible.


Garmin 010-01550 Striker 4 Built-in GPS Fish Finder:

Garmin Striker Fish FinderType: Combination
GPS: Yes, with waypoint map
Imaging: Down imaging
Sonar coverage: Not specified by manufacturer
Sonar frequency: 50/77/200 kHz and CHIRP (mid and high)
Power output: 200 watts RMS
Depth capability: 1,600 ft freshwater; 750 ft saltwater
Transducer: Dual beam transducer
Display size: 3.5″ diagonal
Color or black and white: HVGA Color
Screen resolution: 480 x 320 pixels
Unit size: 3.6″ W x 5.9″ H x 1.6″ D

Other features: Uses CHIRP sonar technology; built-in GPS with waypoint map; displays boat speed on screen; built-in flasher mode shows real-time view of fish passing through transducer beam

Product Summary:

The Striker 4 packs tons of power and functionality into a well-designed, compact unit. With a 3.5-inch full-color display, the Striker 4 is perfect for smaller motor boats and is a popular choice among kayak anglers where space is at a premium. It’s a combination unit featuring both powerful sonar imaging as well as a robust GPS system that includes a waypoint map allowing you to mark your favorite fishing spots for easy navigation in the future.

The defining factor of the Striker 4 is CHIRP sonar technology. While standard fish finders send a single signal at a time, CHIRP sonar sends a continuous string of signals across a broad range of frequencies. Through these CHIRP signals, more sonar information is relayed, resulting in clearer and more detailed images on the screen.


Lowrance 000-11448-001 Elite-3X Fishfinder with 83/200 Transducer:

Lowerance 3x Depth Finder for FishType: Standalone
GPS: No
Imaging: Broadband Sounder
Sonar coverage: 20° (@ 200 kHz), 60° (@ 83 kHz)
Sonar frequency: Dual-frequency operation, 83 kHz or 200 kHz
Power output: 180 RMS
Depth capability: 800 ft
Transducer: Skimmer transducer with water temperature sensor
Display size: 3.5″ diagonal
Color or black and white: Color
Screen resolution: 320 x 240 pixels
Unit size: 3.71″ W x 5.64″ H x 1.85″ D

Other features: Dual frequency operation; fish I.D. feature shows fish icons instead of arches; depth alarm feature

Product Summary:

Another powerful compact unit, the Lowrance Elite-3X gives you dual-frequency sonar readings on a space-efficient 3.5-inch LED-backlit high-resolution color display.

With dual-frequency functionality, you can switch between 83 kHz sonar which gives a 60° coverage range, and 200 kHz sonar which gives a 20° coverage range, allowing you to adapt to different water depths and conditions for maximum fish-finding potential.

As a standalone unit, the Elite-3X does not have a built-in GPS, making it ideal for anglers that either already have a GPS device or those who just need a simple-yet-powerful fish finder. A compact design makes the Elite-3X ideal for smaller motor boats and an excellent unit for fishing kayaks.


Lowrance 000-11146-001 Elite-5 HDI Combo with Basemap and 50/20-455/800KHz Transducer:

Lowerance Depth FinderType: Combination
GPS: Yes
Imaging: Hybrid dual imaging with DownScan imaging and Broadband Sounder
Sonar coverage: Not specified by manufacturer
Sonar frequency: 50/200/455/800 kHz
Power output: 500 watts RMS; 4000 PTP
Depth capability: 1000 ft @ 83/200 kHz; 2500 ft @ 50/200 kHz
Transducer: Transom mounted Lowrance transducer
Display size: 5″ diagonal
Color or black and white: Color, 256 colors
Screen resolution: 480 x 480 pixels
Unit size: 6.9″ W x 5.4″ H x 2.5″ D

Other features: Built-in GPS with base map, waypoints, and chart plotter, stores 3,000 waypoints, 100 routes with 100 waypoints per route, 100 retraceable plot trails with 10,000 points per trail; waterproof microSD card slot compatible with Navionics Gold chart cards, Fishing Hot Spots, and Lake Master micro SD cards

Product Summary:

Another powerful combination unit, the Lowrance Elite-5 HDI gives anglers a clear view of bottom structure and fish using both DownScan imaging and traditional broadband sounding sonar. The built-in GPS with integrated base map displays your real-time location on the water, and with chart plotting functionality, you can mark productive fish-catching spots and routes for future reference.

The unit has a waterproof SD memory card slot that’s compatible with additional navigation software such as Navionics Gold, Fish Hot Spots, and Lake Master in micro SD card format.

The Elite-5 HDI works well in both fresh and saltwater in depths of up to 1000 feet when using down view imagery, and depths of up to 2500 feet when using the broadband sounder. Unfortunately, the Lowrance Elite-5 HDI is currently discontinued by the manufacturer, though new and used models can be found for sale online.


Humminbird 409640-1 HELIX 5 SI Fish Finder with Side-Imaging and GPS:

Hummingbird Depth Finder for FishType: Combination
GPS: Yes
Imaging: Side imaging, Down Imaging, DualBeam PLUS
Sonar coverage: 20°, 60°, (2) 85° (180° total)
Sonar frequency: 200/83/455 kHz
Power output: 500 watts RMS; 4000 watts PTP
Depth capability: 100 ft SI; 1500 ft 2D
Transducer: Transom, XNT 9 SI 180T
Display size: 5″ diagonal
Color or black and white: Color, 256 colors
Screen resolution: 800 X 480 Pixels
Unit size: W/ gimbal mount – 7.55″ W x 4.64″ H x 3.3 D

Other features: GPS tracking and chart plotting included with 2,500 waypoints, 45 routes, 20,000 points; built-in UniMap cartography; microSD card slot; side imaging sonar gives an 180-degree side view below the boat

Product Summary:

If you’re looking for a fish finder that does it all, the Humminbird Helix 5 SI is for you. It’s a combination unit, meaning it has both sonar imaging (depth and fish finding) as well as integrated GPS. This is by far the most powerful and versatile fish finder on our list, featuring DualBeam Plus sonar as well as down imaging and side imaging sonar.

While many fish finders feature dual imaging and down imaging, it’s the side imaging capabilities of the Helix 5 SI that set this unit apart, giving anglers an 180° side-to-side view of the water below. Side imaging sonar is ideal for lake and inshore saltwater fishing in water depths of 100 feet or less when you want to see a broader swath of water and bottom structure. Down imaging and DualBeam sonar can be used in depths of up to 1500 feet and gives you a narrower scope, displaying what’s directly below the boat.

The integrated GPS of the Helix 5 SI is very powerful and features built-in UniMap cartography with GPS chart plotting, giving you the power to mark 2,500 waypoints, create 45 different routes, and map 50 tracks, each with 20,000 points. It’s safe to say that most anglers won’t use all the mapping and chart plotting points the Helix 5 SI has to offer, but it sure is nice to have the option.

Both the sonar imaging and the GPS chart plotting are shown in vivid color on the 5-inch high-resolution screen. The control buttons are easy to use and you can switch between several different screen views to see exactly what you need to at any given time.


Humminbird 409600-1 HELIX DI Fish Finder with Down Imaging:

Hummingbird Depth Finder 5 DIType: Standalone
GPS: No
Imaging: Down Imaging, DualBeam PLUS
Sonar coverage: 16°, 28°, 45°, 75°
Sonar frequency: 455/800/200/455 kHz
Power output: 500 watts RMS; 4000 watts PTP
Depth capability: 350 ft DI; 600 ft 2D
Transducer: Transom, XNT 9 DI T
Display size: 5″ diagonal
Color or black and white: Color, 256 colors
Screen resolution: 800H X 480V
Unit size: W/ gimbal mount – 7.55″ W x 4.64″ H x 3.3 D

Other features: Includes transducer with transom mount; water temperature sensor built into transducer

Product Summary:

The Humminbird Helix DI is like a stripped-down version of the Helix 5 SI, but still powerful in its own right. Compared to the Helix 5 SI, it’s about $150 less, it doesn’t have GPS, and it lacks side imaging. With those differences in mind, the Helix DI is a great option for anglers that simply want a solid and reliable fish finder without all the bells and whistles, or for those who already own a standalone GPS device.

With the Helix DI, you get a high-resolution full color 5-inch display and easy-to-use control buttons. Down imaging can be used in depths of up to 350 feet, and DualBeam sonar can be used in depths of 600 feet. The unit is easy to install with the included gimbal mount or directly into the dash of your boat.


Signstek FF-003 Portable Fish Finder:

Signstek Depth FinderType: Portable, standalone fish finder
GPS: No
Imaging: Down imaging
Sonar coverage: Not specified by manufacturer
Sonar frequency: 83/200 kHz
Power output: Not specified by manufacturer
Depth capability: 240 ft
Transducer: Portable with a float and 20-foot cable
Display size: 2.8″ diagonal
Color or black and white: Color, 512 colors
Screen resolution: 240 x 160 pixels
Unit size: 4.7″ x 3.2″ x 1.2″

Other features: Bottom contour and water temperature indicator; multi levels depth range; ideal for kayaks, canoes, and other small watercraft; no mounting options, comes with a neck strap

Product Summary:

One of the best entry-level fish finders on the market is the Signstek FF-003 Portable Fish Finder. The display unit is lightweight and compact and comes with a detachable neck strap to keep the fish finder close by all times. The transducer is designed to be portable, giving anglers the option to either mount the transducer on a boat or kayak, to drift it alongside using the built-in float, or to cast it out up to 20 feet when fishing from shore.

The 2.8 inch, 512 color screen shows bottom features and fish images in great detail, along with water temperature readings. The FF-003 also has a fish identification feature that distinguishes between small and large fish as well as a fish depth indicator so you know how far down to get your lure or bait.

The Signstek FF-003 may not be powerful enough for anglers that need to cover a lot of water, or fish depths greater than 240 feet, but for those who fish small lakes and rivers, it’s a great entry-level fish finder that will no doubt help you catch more fish.


Garmin Echo 551dv Worldwide with Transducer

Garmin EchoType: Standalone
GPS: No
Imaging: Down view
Sonar coverage: Not specified by manufacturer
Sonar frequency: 77/200 kHz
Power output: 500 watts RMS; 4,000 watts PTP
Depth capability: 2,300 feet
Transducer: DownVu 4-pin all-in-one transducer
Display size: 5″ diagonal
Color or black and white: Color
Screen resolution: 480 x 640 pixels
Unit size: 6″ x 5.9″ x 1.8″

Other features: Smooth Scaling feature creates smooth transitions across depth changes; Fish I.D. feature helps identify fish targets; water temperature sensor included; water speed sensor included

Product Summary:

The Garmin Echo 551dv is a standalone fish finder in the same class as the Humminbird HELIX DI and the Lowrance Elite-5 HDI. Featuring DownVu sonar scanning — Garmin’s version of down view imaging — along with HD-ID 77/200 kHz scanning, the Echo 551dv delivers crisp, clear sonar images of bottom structure in depths of up to 2,300 feet on a vivid high-resolution 5-inch color display.

The Echo 551dv features “smooth scaling” which creates smooth transitions between different depths and bottom structure giving you a screen view that’s easier to follow and read. Fish I.D. functionality displays fish as fish icons instead of standard arches to help you identify fish more easily and with more certainty.

Included with the unit is the standard transom mount as well as a trolling motor mount, giving you options for mounting depending on your specific boat setup.


 

Wrapping Up:

A fish finder might seem like just another expense on top of everything else you need on the water, but when it comes to actually catching fish, nothing on your boat or in your tackle box will be as beneficial as a quality fish finder.

Whether you’re a new boat owner or a fish finder veteran looking to upgrade, we hope our review of the top fish finders on the market helped you find the one that’s right for you.

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