Best Fish Finder for Small Boat Reviewed (2021 Buyer’s Guide)

Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.

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Best Fish Finder For Small Boat

Fish finders make catching fish a lot easier.

You go from fishing blind to seeing exactly where on the water fish are holding, so you can change your tactics to match.

You may think that fish finders are only for large boats like sport fishers but nowadays, you can find them for everything from small boats to kayaks.

The best fish finder for a small boat can give you everything from accurate imaging to GPS and even charts of the water you’re fishing and are well worth owning.

Our Best From The Review

Top Pick

Garmin Striker Plus 7Cv

Has a large screen of 7 inches plus ClearVU sonar so you’re able to see almost picture-like images.

Garmin Striker Plus 7Cv

The all-around best fish finder is the Garmin Striker Plus 7Cv.

It has excellent sonar with both CHIRP and ClearVu plus a large 7-inch screen to view it all on.

It also features GPS for marking spots and knowing where you are and it’ll even draw maps for you.

Editor’s Choice

Humminbird Helix 5 SI

Allows you to scan for fish on either side of your boat so you can see if fish are lurking to your left or right in waters you haven’t disturbed with your boat yet.

Humminbird Helix 5 SI

The best fish finder for a small boat in my eyes is the Humminbird Helix 5 SI.

This unit gives you everything you need from fish finders with a good-sized display, detailed sonar with side and down imaging, plus a GPS/chartplotter.

You’ll never lose your way, always mark and find your spots, and you’ll be able to see any fish that are around your boat.

Best Kayak Fish Finder

Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+

A versatile fish finder that you can cast and also tow behind your boat.

Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+

The best kayak fish finder is the Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+.

This accurate unit uses your phone or tablet as a display and is portable and castable too. The best thing about it is that it takes the headache out of kayak fishing as it requires no mounting, you can drag it behind your boat.

It requires no onboard power source that would weigh your kayak down.

The Best Fish Finders For A Small Boat

Lowrance Elite 5 Ti

A little overkill for a small boat due to its abundance of features and power, but if you want a touch screen display, it’s one of the best around.

Lowrance Elite 5 Ti

The Lowrance Elite 5 Ti might be a little overkill for a small boat due to its abundance of features and power, but if you want a touch screen display, it’s one of the best around.

This fish finder comes with a 5-inch color display screen that gives you crystal clear images and you can see it clearly no matter the weather, even in direct sunlight.

Touchscreen

The touch screen makes it easy to navigate through all the features but you do pay quite a bit extra for it, so you have to really want it and be willing to spend some extra bucks.

This sonar fish finder comes with both CHIRP sonar and down imaging technology that allows you to see accurate pictures of what’s under your small boat using multiple frequencies.

Sonar

It uses both low and high-frequency sonar waves to give you excellent readings in any type of water to a maximum depth of 1000ft. It’s perfect for deep water and shallow water, in both fresh and saltwater environments.

The fish finder also features a broadband sounder that intensifies the readings to give you better target separation so you can quickly tell the difference between fish and debris.

TrackBack

These fish finders also include handy features like TrackBack that allows you to record and then review sonar history, so you can look at your productive fishing spots at the end of the day and try to work out why the fish were there.

This fish finder is also a GPS and chartplotter. It comes preloaded with an Insight USA Worldwide Basemap that makes navigation easy plus you can add your own preferred maps via the SD card port.

Navigation

It’s easy to navigate with and will do everything you’d expect like plan routes, save waypoints tracks, plus let you know your location, speed, and heading.

The only downside to these fish finders for small boats is that some units can turn themselves on and off at will. This is rare and usually comes down to a voltage issue, but it’s worth bearing in mind.

Specs

  • Size Display: 5 inch
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Display: Yes
  • Waterproofing: IPX7
  • Power: 500 W
  • Frequency: 83/200, 455/800kHz
  • Sonar: CHIRP, Down scan
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: SD
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 1000 ft
  • Wi-Fi: No
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Water Temperature: Yes

Pros

  • Review and record any sounder history
  • Comes with Insight USA Worldwide Basemap preloaded
  • Compatible with other maps and they’re easy to add
  • Controls Motorguide Xi5 Trolling Motors and Power-Pole shallow anchors via Bluetooth
  • Includes an easy to use touch screen
  • Accurate sonar with CHIRP and down scan
  • Broadband sounder for excellent target separation
  • Accurate and easy to use GPS

Cons

  • Quite expensive due to the touch screen
  • Turns itself on and off in some cases

Garmin Striker 4 Plus

A portable fish finder that comes with CHIRP and Dual Beam sonar.

Garmin Striker 4 Plus

The Striker 4 Plus is one of the best fish finders for small boats around thanks to it being a portable fish finder.

It comes with a handy suction cup mount of the transducer so you can take it on and off any vessel you please, from a kayak to a small boat, one day to the next.

CHIRP

This portable fish finder uses both CHIRP and dual beam sonar to show you exactly what’s under your boat at any time. CHIRP covers both deep and small water simultaneously to give you a full picture and you can choose to run it with a wide beam for great coverage whilst fishing or a narrow beam when you want to focus more on what’s directly under your boat.

Display

This depth finder then sends all the data to the sunlight-readable color display.

The display is 4.3 inches in size and has a great resolution of 272 X 480 pixels.

You can also split the screen into two to view the GPS and sounder at the same time.

GPS

The GPS is accurate and allows you to mark waypoints, view your speed, heading, location, and tracks. Plus it’ll actively make a sonar map for you of the area you’re covering.

This comes without any maps and you can’t add any either, it’s just a GPS, not a chartplotter.

Specs

  • Display Size: 4.3 inch
  • Display: Color
  • Waterproofing: IPX7
  • Power: 200 W
  • Frequency: 50/77/83/200 kHz
  • Sonar: Dual-beam sonar, CHIRP
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: Internal
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 1600 ft fresh, 750 ft saltwater
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • Wi-Fi: No

Pros

  • Comes with an accurate GPS
  • Has a large maximum depth
  • Gives accurate images with CHIRP sonar technology
  • Crisp and easy to see color display
  • Waterproof and durable built
  • Includes a suction cup transom mount transducer for portability
  • It’ll map the area for you with Garmin quickdraw
  • Good screen resolution with 272 X 480 pixels

Cons

  • The mount for the display is a little flimsy
  • You can not use any maps with the GPS

Best Kayak Fish Finder

Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+

A versatile fish finder that you can cast and also tow behind your boat.

Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+

The Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ is another portable fish finder for small boats.

It’s actually a castable fish finder that you can also tow behind your boat.

This means it’s super versatile and you can use it anywhere from a small boat and ice fishing to fishing from the shore.

Connectivity

This fish finder for a small boat connects to your phone or tablet via its own HotSpot and uses it as the display.

It has a connection range of 330 feet, meaning you can cast it way to the sides to see if there are any good fishing areas you’re missing.

This fish finder uses dual beam sonar to allow you to switch between a narrow or wide beam while you’re fishing.

Range

It displays everything that’s under the water with 0.5-inch target separation so you’ll know what’s a fish and what isn’t.

It has a max depth of 260ft, which is enough for shore fish, shallow lakes, or inshore fishing in the ocean. It’s a bit shallow for use on deep ocean ventures where you’ll want 1000ft at a minimum.

GPS

The fish finder also has an in-built GPS that saves all your data to the app and will make bathymetric maps for you. It’ll also save all the sonar data too so you can review it when you want to.

The power source is an in-built battery that lasts 6 hours on a full charge which is pretty good but a little limiting.

You would have to stop using it and recharge if it runs out which may cut your fishing day a little short.

Casting

The only other thing to be wary of is while the fish finder is compact and portable, it’s also heavy to cast out – You’ll want to use some heavy gear like a 60lb braid to ensure it doesn’t break off.

Specs

  • Display Size: Smartphone
  • Display: Smartphone
  • Waterproofing: Yes
  • Battery: Rechargeable
  • Power: N/A
  • Frequency: 90/290 kHz
  • Sonar: DualBeam
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: Smartphone
  • Depth: 260 ft
  • CHIRP: No
  • Wi-Fi: Yes

Pros

  • Large connection range of 330ft
  • Creates a detailed map for you in the app
  • Great for fishing from the shore with
  • Simple to use, lightweight, and portable
  • Has a good battery life of 6 hours
  • Gives you nice detailed sonar images
  • Doesn’t require an onboard power source

Cons

  • Limited fishing time with only 6hrs of battery
  • Heavy unit to cast
  • Not as good a depth range as others

Humminbird PIRANHAMAX 4

A great fish finder for a small boat or kayak, and it’s ideal for anyone on a budget thanks to its low price.

Humminbird PIRANHAMAX 4

The Humminbird PIRANHAMAX 4 is a great fish finder for a small boat or kayak, and it’s ideal for anyone on a budget thanks to its low price.

This small boat fish finder isn’t packed full of features like some of the others but it’ll give you a detailed picture of what’s under your boat thanks to the accurate sonar.

Features

The sonar fish finder comes with a 4.3-inch sunlight-readable display plus a traducer and a mount for easy installation on your small boat or kayak.

The display is rugged and durable thanks to its waterproof housing, and it’s simple to navigate through the features on it.

Sonar

The sonar uses a dualbeam across two frequencies. A high frequency for shallow water and wide beam to great coverage and a low frequency for focusing in deep water down to 600 feet.

You’re able to see everything with this combination but it’s not quite as good as CHIRP.

Fish ID

These fish finders also feature Fish ID+ to help you see what’s a fish and what’s debris. You can also program alarms for both depth and fish with this smart fish finder so you never miss a trick, or hit water that’s too shallow for your small boat.

Specs

  • Display Size: 4.3 inch
  • Display: Color
  • Waterproofing: IPX7
  • Power: 300 W
  • Frequency: 200/455kHz
  • Sonar: Dualbeam sonar
  • GPS: No
  • GPS Memory: NA
  • Depth: 600 feet in freshwater & saltwater
  • CHIRP: No
  • WiFi: No

Pros

  • Sonar gives details and accurate images
  • Dualbeam allows you to cover a wide area or focus in
  • Crystal clear easy to read 4.3-inch screen
  • Easy to install to the hull or transom
  • Fish ID+, fish alarms, depth alarms, and zoom
  • Waterproof and durable
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • No GPS included
  • Basic sonar

Top Pick

Garmin Striker Plus 7Cv

Has a large screen of 7 inches plus ClearVU sonar so you’re able to see almost picture-like images.

Garmin Striker Plus 7Cv

The Garmin Striker Plus 7Cv is an upgraded version of the Strike 4 we looked at before.

This small boat fish finder comes with a larger screen of 7 inches plus ClearVU sonar so you’re able to see almost picture-like images.

CHIRP

The sonar on this fish finder uses CHIRP to give you excellent full picture images while you’re cruising.

Once you have found something interesting like a depth change or structure, you can turn on ClearVu mode to see exactly what’s down there.

GPS

This fish finder also comes with a GPS for marking waypoints, route planning, seeing your tracks, and knowing your location, speed, and heading. Unfortunately, it’s not a chartplotter so you can’t add maps to it but it will build you a map of your fishing areas with the sonar data.

Display

The larger screen means you can split into 3 views to see CHIRP, GPS, and ClearVu at the same time, all the data you could ever want while fishing.

You can also connect your phone via wifi to get email and text notifications on the display and use the ActiveCaptian app to save and share your data with other Garmin users on the app.

Specs

  • Size Display: 7 inch
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: No
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7
  • Power: 500 W (RMS)
  • Frequency: 50/77/200 kHz, CHIRP (mid and high), ClearVü 260/455/800 kHz
  • Sonar: Chirp, Traditional sonar, ClearVü
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: NA
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 2300 ft fresh, 1100 ft saltwater
  • CHIRP: Yes, and ClearVü
  • Water Temp: Yes
  • Wi-Fi: Yes
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Water temperature: Yes

Pros

  • Comes with a GPS
  • Large easy to read display
  • Excellent sonar technology
  • ClearVu gives super-accurate picture like images
  • Intuitive user interface
  • The screen splits into 3 multiple displays
  • Durable and waterproof build
  • Connects to your smartphone for notifications
  • Includes Garmin Quickdraw Contours Mapping

Cons

  • You can’t download any maps to the GPS

Garmin Striker 4cv

A fish finder best for ice fishing and small boats thanks to its awesome sonar technology and its flasher feature.

Garmin Striker 4cv

The Garmin Striker 4cv is a fish finder best for ice fishing and small boats thanks to its awesome sonar technology and its flasher feature.

If you go ice fishing or love to jig and bottom fish, these fish finders are your best choice as they cover all the angles in one unit.

Flasher

The flasher allows you to watch your bait, the bottom, and any fish that come near it.

This means you can tailor your bottom fishing or ice fishing tactics to exactly what’s happening underwater.

It also features CHIRP for a detailed picture while you’re cruising and ClearVu that gives you photo-like images of anything you want to focus on.

The fish finder also comes with a GPS so you can mark spots, see your tacks, plan routes, and more.

Garmin Striker 4 Plus

You can’t add any maps though and can only use the very basic base map.

As you may have noticed, these fish finders are very similar to the Garmin Striker 4 Plus except they come with a flasher and ClearV sonar but without a map drawing feature.

Display

The only downside to these fish finders is the small 3.5-inch screen, otherwise, they are accurate, portable, and one of the best fish finders for small boats and ice fishing.

Specs

  • Size Display: 3.5 in.
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: No
  • Waterproofing: IPX7
  • Power: 300 W (RMS)
  • Frequency: Traditional: 50/77/200 kHz, CHIRP (mid and high), ClearVü: 260/455/800 kHz
  • Sonar: Dural, CHIRP, ClearVu
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory:
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 1,750 ft freshwater, 830 ft saltwater
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • Wi-Fi: No
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Water temperature: Yes

Pros

  • Comes with a built-in GPS
  • It’s portable so you can add it to any small boat or kayak
  • Includes a built-in flasher for bottom fishing and ice fishing
  • Simple and easy to use Easy to navigate with and shows speed, heading, and more
  • Great sonar technology including CHIRP and ClearVu
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • The screen size is a little small
  • You can’t add maps GPS
  • No contour mapping software included

Editor’s Choice

Humminbird Helix 5 SI

Alows you to scan for fish on either side of your boat so you can see if fish are lurking to your left or right in waters you haven’t disturbed with your boat yet.

Humminbird Helix 5 SI

The Humminbird Helix 5 SI is a little different from the other fish finders in the review as it comes without CHIRP but with Side Imaging and Down Imaging.

The fish finder allows you to scan for fish on either side of your boat so you can see if fish are lurking to your left or right in waters you haven’t disturbed with your boat yet.

Sonar

The fish finder also comes with down imaging for getting a detailed picture of what’s under your boat, and you can use Dualbeam Plus while you’re cruising.

Dualbeam Plus sends out a wide and narrow sonar beam simultaneously to give you an accurate reading with great coverage to help you find more fish

GPS

The Helix 5 fish finder also comes with a GPS that includes a great base map.

You can also add your preferred maps via the SD card and transfer any old data over to the fish finder too.

The GPS is accurate and lets you do all the things you’d expect like mark waypoints and plan routes.

Specs

  • Size Display: 5-inch screen
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: No
  • Waterproofing: IPX 7
  • Power: 500 W
  • Frequency: 200/83/455 kHz
  • Sonar: Side Imaging/Down Imaging/DualBeam PLUS
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: 1 x SD card slot
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 1500 ft
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • WiFi: No
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Navionics: Yes
  • See the full specs for the Humminbird Helix 5 SI

Pros

  • Easy to use and install
  • High-resolution display of 800 x 480 pixels
  • Includes a GPS with a good basemap
  • Excellent sonar with Side imaging and down imaging
  • Waterproof and durable
  • Super accurate
  • Quality detailed images

Cons

  • No CHIRP imaging

Raymarine Dragonfly 6

Comes with a great sounder, plus a GPS/chartplotter all in one affordable unit.

Raymarine Dragonfly 6

The Raymarine Dragonfly 6 fish finder is another best choice fish finder for any small boat. It comes with a great sounder, plus a GPS/chartplotter all in one affordable unit.

Sonar

The sonar on this fish finder includes both CHIRP and DownVision CHIRP.

This allows you to use standard CHIRP with a large coverage while cruising and then switch to DownVision CHIRP to focus the beam under your boat once you find some fish or structure worth fishing.

Display

The fish finder has great target separation that it displays on the quality, easy to see, 5.7-inch display.

You can easily tell what’s a fish and what’s not and plan your fishing tactics accordingly.

The GPS/chartplotter on this fish finder is excellent and comes preloaded with a good basemap.

SD Card

You can also use the SD card slot to add maps and data you already own.

The GPS does what you’d expect in terms of route planning, waypoint marking, track following, all with pinpoint accuracy.

The only downside to this fish finder is that it stops working when you’re not moving on the water and won’t be the best for anyone who likes to fish on anchor.

Specs

  • Size Display: 5.7 in.
  • Display: Color
  • Touch Screen: No
  • Waterproofing: IPX6/7
  • Power: 500 W
  • Frequency: 320-380 kHz / 170-230 kHz
  • Sonar: Standard CHIRP, DownVision CHIRP
  • GPS: Yes
  • GPS Memory: SD Card
  • Transducer: Included
  • Depth: 600 ft
  • CHIRP: Yes
  • WiFi: No
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Navionics: Yes

Pros

  • Gives great detail of what’s under the boat
  • Crystal clear waterproof display
  • Great sonar technology with CHIRP and DownVision
  • Includes a GPS with a good basemap
  • Add other maps with ease
  • Simple to use interface

Cons

  • Only works when you’re moving

What Is A Fish Finder For A Small Boat?

Fishfinders on Display Table
Fishfinders on Display Table

Fish finders for small boats are your regular fish finders but are a little more portable and smaller than larger fish finders that would be used on large boats like sport fishers.

They come with a display and a transducer that can easily be attached to the transom or hull and require minimal power to run without a need for an intricate onboard power system.

Why Use a Fish Finder?

When fishing on large water like Okeechobee, or in the sea, it’s impossible to see depth changes or a structure where fishes like to hang out without a fish finder.

Finding and fishing large water areas like this with a fish finder increases your success rate no end.

Efficiency

Instead of trying to cover large areas of water not knowing where the fishes are, you’re spending all your time angling in spots where you know there are fish.

NOTE

Some fish finders even come with maps and GPS, letting you mark great fishing spots so you can come straight back to them the next time you’re in the water, wasting zero time looking and more time catching.

How Do Fish Finders Work?

A fish finder works by sending out sound waves from the transducer into the water.

These sound waves are then reflected by the bottom, fish, or debris, back to the transducer.

Once the transducer receives the sound waves back, it sends them to the display where some calculations are done regarding time, speed, and distance (plus a lot more physics) to create the image of what’s under the water on the display.

Sonar Basics: How To Find Fish

Frequencies

Not all sound waves are the same though as they are sent out at different frequencies. The higher the frequency the less distance a wave can travel through the water but the more detail you will see.

The best fish finders send out waves at low and high frequencies to penetrate deep into the water with low-frequency waves and give you a lot of detail using high-frequency waves.

Things To Consider When Buying A Fish Finder

Small Boat Navigating Through a Marsh
Small Boat Navigating Through a Marsh

Display

The display is important as it’s where you’ll read all the information about what’s under the water.

The larger the display and the clearer the screen, the easier it’s going to be to see.

Every fish finder in the review has a color screen with a good resolution, all you have to do is make sure you pick a display size that suits you.

The sizes range from 3.5 to 7 inches but the larger the screen the more expensive the unit.

Summing Up

Thanks for reading and I hope we have helped you find the right sounder for your small vessel whether it’s a boat or a kayak.

There is a lot to choose from and picking the right one comes down to what power you have on your boat if any and how much you want the unit to do.

If you’re still wondering which one to go for, here’s some more advice.

Top Pick

The Striker 7 CV is affordable, has a GPS, and gives you detailed images while curing and when you want to focus on the bottom.

It’s a great all-around unit that is portable.

Editor’s Choice

A step up in price and features is the Helix 5 SI. It is an awesome sounder, GPS, and chartplotter but it does require onboard power for it to work and is not portable.

Best Kayak Fish Finder

The Deeper Pro+ is about as portable as they come and requires no power source.

You can use it anywhere, just charge up the battery and link it to your phone or tablet to see everything beneath the surface.

There is no installation hassle or requiring an onboard battery, making it ideal for kayak fishing and small boats.

Happy Fishing!

Fish finders truly make a big difference to your fishing success as you can target areas that you know have fish in them rather than fishing blind.

I hope you enjoyed the article and found it useful.

Please share it around with your friends and take a look at some of our other articles.

We cover anything you need for fishing from sounders to sunglasses, you find all the info you need right here.

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Lance Wilkins
Lance Wilkins
Editor @ CallOutdoors. Outdoor gear-head and adventure addict. I fish, camp and enjoy to writing about my adventures.
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