Having a hard time trying to figure out the spot with high fish availability? Returning home with nothing after hours of waiting? Well, you have nothing to worry as technology is about to make your fishing days glorious – whether you’re an experienced or a beginner angler.
Fish finders. Yes, you got that right. A device that actually helps you to locate your fishes. These device mainly functions by transmitting waves underwater, that when it actually hits a moving object, it reflects back the sound waves to the source.
Upon receiving the reflected sound waves, the depth to the object is calculated using the time difference between the transmission of a sound wave and the acquiring of the reflected sound. Nowadays, the go-to type will be the small, best portable fish finders which is convenient and not like a burden of additional prop just to carry along. We have another review about the best fish finders for you as well.
Factors Determining Selection of Fish Finder
There are many fish finders in the marketplace in many shapes, sizes and prices. But to determine which is the best small portable one, you have to look at a few factors and we’ve got it covered here for you.
Fish finder has its own variety as well, because sometimes anglers already have a GPS, so they want one without that feature to lower the cost. At times, you want the ability to save the spot you found that has the most fishes. So let’s walk through the types available.
Standalone fish finder, just as its name implies, its function is just to detect the spot with higher fish presence, without a GPS function. This type normally have big screen and also just shows what’s below water. Normally, this types are cheaper and preferably used in smaller water bodies.
GPS fish finder, same as the standalone but with the additional GPS capability, making it suitable for slightly larger water bodies, and you will have the benefit to chart the not chartered water areas and save location for future.
Third type will be the networked system fish finder. This one comes in a full package, with GPS charts, radar, radio even. It’s also fancier with attributes like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. You can use this type in medium or larger boats, with multiple display screens. These ones are normally considered as higher end products, more expensive.
The transducers are the main element of a fish finder, the object that actually transmits and receives the sonar waves when in water. When it hits an object or bottom surface of the water area, the waves transmits back to the device and it appears on the screen where we can view and interpret.
Three aspects are important in a transducer that you must understand. Firstly, you want a transducer that covers a wide area and at the same time sensitive enough to pick up the details. So, look for the cone angle, the wider the degree of the cone, the larger the area covered.
The cone angle can go above 60 degrees at times, but wider area also means less sensitivity to the surrounding. Most manufacturer has chosen the transducers to be around 15 to 20 degrees, because it at least covers to a certain depth and gives rather accurate readings.
Frequency is one of the main factors of a transducer performance. Its logic that higher frequency, a more detailed reading will be produced because the many sonar waves are continuously being sent and received by the transducer.
Higher frequencies has the ability to function better in shallow waters, while fishermen and deep-sea trawlers usually prefer to use low-frequency transducers. Remember also that power correlates with frequency, where low frequency with high power gives a deeper coverage.
Most commonly found fish finders have frequency ranging between 50 – 200 kHz, and nowadays they also manufacture ones with multiple frequencies which is easier if you’re fishing in both deep and shallow waters.
Most important part of the fish finder, the display screen because this is what determines what’s beneath you in the waters. Display involves colors and pixels, like how camera imaging works.
We have either black and white, or colored display screen. This is more to preference of individuals, but I would suggest to go for the colored screen. Although it may be pricier than the B&W, it actually is more convenient to read and understand the charts.
The display screen also comes in different sizes, but to let you know, larger is better in this case, because it provides you with a clear image and know where the fishes are.
Pixels are important and based on most users, 240 x 160 resolution is the lowest you can go, because you wouldn’t want to see a blurry image after spending your dollars on it. You want a sharp, precise image that gives accurate reading, so make sure look for this feature in your purchase.
Not all fish finders are hand-held. There are types which are mounted on your boat, somewhere you can connect to your rod (Looking for the best spinning rods?) as well. It comes down to your convenience and is it suited with your fishing condition, meaning whether you’re on a boat and even kayak or on land.
When it comes to fish finder, you can go for the mounted type when you’re on a boat because you’re settled in a consistent, precise location and not moving. A good example will be when you’re in ocean, meaning a wider area but a constant spot.
A hand-held or the kind that attaches to your rod, it is more suited for outdoor activities, like casual fishing and hiking, where you are on the move and need the added feature of GPS as well.
A good example for a portable fish finder will be when you’re in a lake or a pond, small still bodies of water. Ice fishing or fly fishing are examples which can make use of the portable type of fish finder rather than the mounted.
Being small and easily brought along is the essential need because you have so many other tools to bring along when fishing, and you wouldn’t want this extra device to add bulk to your luggage.
The transducer releases beams or rays into the water to obtain the readings, and the more beams means more water coverage. There are dual, triple, side, down and many other types of beams made to fit each angler’s needs – also known as scanning.
Imagine in a deep water, having just one beam is not enough, you need at least a dual or triple beam to cover the larger area. Same implies towards shallow waters, single beam may be enough, but with more beams you get more precise result.
For a down scan, using it in shallow waters are not much of a use because you might just get a reflected image. Its better suited for turbulent water, where it scans from beneath your boat at least within range of 30-40 ft.
Still water you can look for the one with a side scan, it reads better and covers larger water area. You do not need to move as it reads in a radius of at least 100-150 ft, so if it detects a spot with large fish population, you can just swim, I mean row your boat there.
With a combination of both side and downwards scan, you can cover both shallow and deep water terrains. The combo of both function gives you the best result and also save your cost as you get 2-in-1 feature.
Global Positioning System, also known as GPS, is the added feature most anglers would want it to be in their fish finder. GPS, just like how it normally works for us when finding a location on land and we can save it – it works exactly the same on a fish finder.
GPS firstly will help you towards the area which has high percentage of fishes, and you can actually mark that spot so that you can return to the same place in future – it is known as waypoints. This way you will never return home empty handed.
It is better if your GPS has the feature of maps and charts as well, because it comes in handy when you get lost. What I meant by this is that river and sea are never too small, you can lose sight of land or even not sure where you began from, so this added capability can point you home, return back safe and sound.
With the addition of the feature in the fish finder, you do not need to get an added device just for the purpose of a GPS function. This means you actually save much more money in the process.
How to know if your fish finder is durable? First, think of where is your fishing spot going to be – saltwater? Freshwater? River or the ocean? Is it going to be consistently engaged in water? So, you need to look for specifications such as anti-corrosion when you’re going to use in saltwater – because the last thing you want is your device peeling away over time.
Second, water-resistance, because if it’s going to be in contact with water, over time it is going to affect its performance. Also, weather resistance is important, because exposure to very cold or very hot climate can eventually spoil your fish finder.
Power in this case is important because it determines the effectiveness of your fish finder. It is measured in Watts, where higher Watts means faster reading and more depth covered, vice versa.
You need a powerful unit when you’re going to cover large water bodies, I would recommend a fish finder with Wattage above 800 for excellent performance. Higher frequency with lower power actually gives reading which covers lower depth, so best would be an average of both, for example 1000W with 200 kHz covers about 1000 ft.
Top 5 Rated Small, Portable Fish Finders 2017
|Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+||2.55 x 2.55 x 2.55||High||Y||Color||High||Dual||$$$|
|Deeper Smart Sonar 3.0||2.55 x 2.55 x 2.55||High||N||Color||High||Dual||$|
|Deeper Smart Sonar||2.55 x 2.55 x 2.55||High||N||Color||Average||Dual||$$|
|FishHunter Pro||1.0 x 1.0 x 1.0||Average||Y||Color||High||Tri||$$|
|FishHunter Directional||1.0 x 1.0 x 1.0||Average||Y||Color||High||Tri||$$|
Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ Review
Among the fish finder series released by Deeper, the latest improved version will be the Deeper Smart Sonar Pro Plus. It is a networked system fish finder – only 2.55 inches wide, about 11 ounces and only comes in black color, which actually gives it a modern, stylish look.
This invention can be used in both freshwater and saltwater, meaning it is anti-corrosive and water resistant. It has a rechargeable battery, where it can actually last up to 5.5 hours on a fully charged, single use – and a charge cycle up to 6 months.
What’s cool about this fish finder is it has wireless WiFi connectivity, where you can actually transfer data to your phone or tablet. You can actually download their application “Deeper App” from your playstore.
During online or even offline, you can actually use the application for Solunar Forecast Calendar, Fishing Notes, Offline Maps, Weather Forecast, Camera, Day/Night Screen Color Mode, Social Media Sharing and many more.
With its extremely accurate internal GPS receiver, it enables the instrument to create bathymetric maps while fishing inshore or offshore. From this feature, you can increase the probability of a fish-bite by accurate observation of underwater status.
For your information, this is the only castable echo sounder that allows you to access accurate data that was previously available only on the consoles of expensive fishing boats.
The color display screen is amazing where you can adjust it to suit the time and brightness of the day. The resolution is so clear on this fish finder that it increases target separation and noise reduction. You can use this device for boat, kayak, ice or boat fishing, making it multipurpose and suitable for all-rounder angler.
Another feature that comes with the device is the adjustable sensitivity. Lower sonar sensitivity can be used for muddy water to filter out image distractions whereas choose high sensitivity for crystal clear water conditions and focus on even the smallest underwater action.
It can go up to 260 ft deep with a distance of about 100m away, meaning it has the combo of side and downwards scan. The Amplitude Scope Mode has the ability to detect movement of the smallest lure or bait in real time.
Split Screen function transmits both regular and ice fishing flasher modes on one screen. The Zoom attribute allows ice anglers to enlarge the area to focus on objects of your choosing on the Vertical Flasher for better real time lure and fish tracking.
The downfall for this fish finder is that it does not work in shallow waters well, where the data either not transmitted or sometimes turns out blurry. The battery lifespan is not exactly as claimed, and upon high usage, the battery would sometimes only last about an hour or so, which can be inconvenient for anglers.
The WiFi and GPS is rather unstable as well as reported by some, when it’s left on the water, at times the location detects a different place and map contours really inaccurate. WiFi connectivity seems to be unstable most of the time even when there’s minimal disturbance from the surroundings.
But overall, this is a really good fish finder among the rest out there and the price is slightly above average, but in my opinion, it will be worth it.
Deeper Smart Sonar 3.0 iOS and Android Compatible Review
This fish finder by Deeper is exceptional due to its latest compatibility ability with smart-phones and tablets, whether iOS or Androids. This Smart Sonar comes only in black color, just like most other fish finders out there in the market.
Weighing just 3.5 ounces / 100 grams and measuring 2.5 inches / 65 millimeters in diameter, Deeper diminutive device is suitable for every standard rods and lines. It actually features a wireless Bluetooth connectivity option up to 40m distance.
Smart Sonar 3.0 has a rechargeable battery. It works in both freshwater and saltwater, so durability is not an issue. It is designed in a way that its small and ultralight for convenience.
It is a castable design, where you can throw it into any spot of the water, where it will float and transmits the sonar waves to provide you with the detailed readings onto your screen. It captures depth, bottom structure, temperature, fish location, and other worth information you need while fishing.
This device is dual-frequency sonar beam with either 90 kHz or 290 kHz, and it can go to a maximum depth of 130 ft and minimum depth of 1.5 ft – with relatively stable connectivity.
Being compatible to our smart-phone, you can download the application by Deeper from play store, on your mobile which gives you additional features such as fish activity calendar, maps, diary, and so on.
This device can be used for shore, kayak, ice or boat fishing. For shore fishing, you just need to attach it to the line and cast it out and then reel inwards to yourself in a slow motion for transmission of relatively accurate data.
If you’re heading for kayak fishing, you’ll need to mount it outside your kayak and it will work just fine. For boat fishing, it is not an issue since its portable, just bring it along with you wherever you go.
As for ice fishing, the added property of a flasher screen enables you to monitor the situation under ice, and you get details of both regular and ice fishing mode on a split screen view. There’s also the zoom feature for clearer view on objects underwater.
Regrettably, the Bluetooth connectivity on this fish finder is questionable rather than claimed. To get connected and stay connected, users experience difficulty and it takes a long time to get a stable connection.
The imaging is also rather unclear and poor, where when you’re at a location for example on land, it actually shows you’re somewhere in the water area. With continuous use, the battery can actually get heated and eventually dead, and its not cheap to get a replacement.
This device was also claimed to be waterproof, but yet some experience cases where water actually enters and disrupts the device, and its unfortunate that warranty does not cover this cases.
In some situations, the size of this fish finder can be an issue where it is quite heavy and upon contact with water when casted, water splashes can cause the fish in that area to scatter away.
Quite a series of downfall to this model, but perhaps if you’re looking for a simple version to start with, this will be a great one to understand the function of a fish finder, and eventually you can invest more for an upgraded version.
Deeper Smart Sonar PRO Series Review
Another small fish finder created by Deeper again, convenience and easily portable seems to be their focus when designing. This version of Smart Sonar Pro is the same size as the other series, 2.55 inches in diameter and only 3.5 ounces, so light-weighted and small. It comes in black color only.
Deeper Smart Sonar PRO is small yet a mighty, castable echo sounder. With a range up to 330 ft, the Pro Wi-Fi connection is strong to give your accurate readings from a sonar to your smart-phone. Did I forget to mention that you can definitely use it in both freshwater and saltwater?
With its high scanning resolution, objects underwater is no longer a difficulty to view. The PRO floats and retrieves readings up to 260 ft in depth, enabling you to detect the most productive fishing zones.
PRO capability is elevated with a doubled scanning frequency up to 15 scans per second that allows to capture faster moving underwater objects. So you could track all the fish passing by your boat. Frequency supported includes 290 kHz and 90 kHz, and it comes with a rechargeable battery.
When operating in Boat Mode, Deeper App pools the recorded underwater information with your smart-phone GPS data and creates real time bathymetric maps. All maps are free to download using Deeper App.
This device unfortunately depends on the GPS on your smart-phone, as it does not have a built-in GPS feature. The readings from this device sometimes seems to be inaccurate based on some users, where it displays that the particular has a lot of fishes when actually its near to the shore line, and there’s nothing.
Wi-Fi connectivity not very strong when casted, and seems to be dropping very often even when its nearby to the boat. I would say this is another suitable prop for beginners to understand the use of fish finder, and for long-term invest in something with more additional features.
FishHunter Directional 3D Wireless, Portable Fish Finder Review
FishHunter is one of the leading fish finder inventors, and they’ve come up with models relatively even smaller than Deeper series. This particular model, the Directional Wireless 3D is only 1.0 inches in diameter and weighs 7.2 ounces.
Based on the frequency of this model, what you will get for the fairly above average price is five powerful tri-frequency beams. Frequency that this device is capable of emitting is 381 kHz, 455 kHz, and 675 kHz. Power from peak to peak is 300W.
With these three frequencies, fishing at any spots is achievable, because lower frequency means greater depth and higher frequency means shallow depth. Due to this high frequency as well, your image resolution will be amazing even when at deeper depths of your spot. It manages to go to a depth of 50m and a range of 60m.
With the presence of 5 capable transducers, you will be able to map larger surface area of your fishing spot. These transducers also giver more power, which will lead you to places with high fish population and thus knowing where to cast your line accurately, and at the same time providing you with detailed 3D maps reading.
An added creative feature is the LED illumination which enables you to attract fishes at night. It comes with Wi-Fi connection, which is definitely faster that Bluetooth, and all you need to do is download the application on your phone.
FishHunter Directional features its exclusive proprietary technology to allow you to observe quality images of bottom contour 160ft below the surface and up to 200ft away. This device gives you the power to cast from a boat, kayak, canoe, used from shore or trolled up to 2MPH.
It has bathymetric mapping, which enables you to create your custom maps based on your favourite regular fishing spot just by trolling or reeling the device. The navigation is relatively easy and you can get detailed information on maps.
An awesome characteristic of this petite fish finder is its directional casting. You no longer need to worry of where to cast as it pin points you where to in relation to the sonar readings. Therefore, your chances of reeling in a fish is even increased distinctively.
The screen displays in 3D view, where it helps you to evaluate and identify your bottom features quickly without wasting any time. This device is suitable for ice fishing, where it doesn’t submerge below ice but floats, and plus you do not need to drill a hole in order to identify the depth.
The downfall of this product is that even though its small, it relatively quite heavy, and sometimes when casting, it does alert the fishes in the surrounding. The device is not suitable for saltwater fishing unfortunately.
Also, for it to work better, you will need to be off shore, with a depth of water of about 4-5 feet approximately to get more accurate readings. But looking at the useful features of this one, I think the disadvantages can be overlooked.
FishHunter PRO Wireless Portable Fish Finder Review
FishHunter creation goes on with this PRO version, which is also a small, portable, wireless type of fish finder. Its diameter is only 1.0 inches wide, and its 6.4 ounces. Its relatively very easy to carry around.
The sonar device floats on the water surface and can be cast, trolled, or placed in your ice hole where it is capable of recording temperature, depth, bottom contour and fish spots. It also gives a “ping” sound when it detects disturbance in water.
It emits frequencies of 381 kHz, 475 kHz, and 675 kHz, making shallow and deep water readings possible. Its peak-to-peak records a Wattage of 300W, plus the LED illumination which enables attraction of fish towards the device.
The display screen gives you two types of view, either fish view or raw view. Fish view means using the sonar data, its redrawn on the screen in a simplified manner, then clarifies the bottom by removing surface reverb. Then when it detects disturbance in the water, a fish icon pops up with three possible sizes.
As for raw view, it displays the actual reading of the tri=frequency transducer in real time. This one needs you to understand and be able to interpret different colored lines that appears on the screen to see depth, and “arches” to locate fishes.
Again, this Pro model comes with a bathymetric mapping, enabling you to keep track of your journey and save your favourite spots. It is a very user-friendly device. The Ice Fishing Flasher View uses 475 kHz and 675 kHz.
Both the split screen view allow you to see the bottom, the bottom depth and the temperature conveniently on your smart-phone or tablet. FishHunter Pro has Wi-Fi, with 150 ft of casting range, definitely faster than Bluetooth connections.
Apparently, the difficulty faced from the particular FishHunter model is that the screen glares when it hits sunlight, so viewing is quite difficult. Wi-Fi connectivity is quite unstable even though the range was said to be 150ft, keeps dropping even when its about 50ft away.
Battery seems to be draining quite fast and getting heated upon frequent usage. This is a relatively good model for beginners, but probably if you’re a frequent angler, you would want to invest in a higher capability devices available out there.
Overall if you’ve gone through everything from the start, you’ll find that having a fish finder as a beginner or advanced angler is useful because it actually benefits you through all the features it comes with, GPS, chart plotter and so on. Check out our reviews for the best fishing backpack to carry all your equipment.
Prices may vary according to brand, but know this, usually when something is expensive, it speaks for itself – it will have one of the best features the device can have to benefit the user.
From my review, seems like Deeper and FishHunter brands come out with the most small, portable fish finders. But in the end, it comes to your personal needs (You might need a pair of fishing sunglasses to battle the bright sun when you’re out fishing). So, I’ll leave it in your hands – want to strike every time you’re out in the waters, which fish finder would you go for?