Best Fish Finder for Small Boats

best fish finder for small boats

Looking for the best fish finder for small boats?

I tested five of the best fish finders for small boats and found the Humminbird Helix 5 to be the best all-around fish finder.

Our Pick
Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2

The Helix 5 is an excellent option for those looking to get some great features and still keep the unit small enough not to overwhelm a smaller boat.

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I’ve been fishing for most of my life and have found that most fish finders do the same thing. They find the fish for you. Will you catch those fish? That depends on several factors. The finder is a part of that, along with your knowledge of the water, bait, technique, and time of year. You can find out about the last four with a Google search or a conversation at your local tackle shop.

The overall best fish finder for small boats will get you on the first part more accurately than a run of the mill version. I’ve used enough of the low-end, inefficient versions to tell you it’s worth it to invest in a quality piece of equipment.

That brings us to my overall top pick. The Humminbird Helix 5 is perfect for a small boat or kayak. It connects easily and can be removed without too much fuss. For the cost, this fish finder delivers exceptional clarity and depth and includes built-in GPS. You can record your waypoints with ease.

The best thing about using a smaller boat or personal watercraft like a kayak or pontoon is the ease of getting on the water. Portable electronics are the way to go. You want the portability but need functionality. You can use a portable fish finder and connect it to your small boat in just a few minutes, and then you’re ready for the water.

In some instances, you might want something you don’t have to mount. There are several options out there, so I’ve investigated the best of those. Other times you want a more permanent solution and want to remove the base unit when not in use. Those are available as well.

Look through this list of the best fish finders for small boats, and you’re sure to find the right one that will make your next trip to the lake even more successful.

Here are my top five best fish finders for small boats:

Best Fish Finder’s for Small Boats Reviewed

Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2

What You Get

  • 5“Display
  • CHIRP Sonar.
  • Internal GPS
  • Micro SD Card Slot  

The Helix 5 is an excellent option for those looking to get some great features and still keep the unit small enough not to overwhelm a smaller boat. Internal GPS and CHIRP sonar for under $300.00 is a fantastic find. The 5” display delivers a high-quality image in full color with a backlight. It’s clearly visible in both bright light and at night.

The micro-SD card allows you to create waypoints on the lake, making it easy to revisit great spots. You can load purchased maps as well. The transducer clearly shows a max depth of 1500 feet, and the add-on transducer brings it to 2500 feet.

You can’t beat the price for what this fish finder comes with. This unit is highly customizable and can have several map packs loaded to it. You’ll enjoy its easy to use interface and the fact that you can remove the base with ease.

Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar

What You Get

  • Scans to 260’ Deep
  • Works with IOS/Android. Works With Tablet or Phone-Doesn’t Use Cellular Data
  • Built-In GPS
  • Bathymetric Maps from the Shore, Kayak, or Boat 
  • Real-Time Data
  • Includes USB Charging Cable

The Deeper Pro+ is the only portable, castable combo that creates Bathymetric maps from shore. Connect this device to the side of your boat, pontoon, or kayak, and you’ll have a constant view below the boat, sorting out the cover from the fish.

You can create detailed maps and later add notations online to enhance them even more. Time of day, temperature, season, weather, barometric pressure, and anything else you’d want to add can make the next trip even more successful. This device helps you build a database of fantastic resources.

The Deeper Smart Sonar Pro+ casts easily and has a good amount of weight to it. It’s very accurate and maps everything to within an inch. It takes up no room at all. It’s around the same size as a golf ball, so not too much concern about it taking up the spot of another angler or another tackle box.

Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 Fish Finder

What You Get

  • FishReveal is a Proprietary Technology to Separate Fish from Cover.
  • Create Custom Maps
  • Split shot Transducer allows wide view and narrow view for more focused, cleared images
  • Hook Reveal Autotuning Sonar
  • 5” Display

The Hook Reveal 5 is an excellent unit that lets you scan in both 3d and 2d to get down super deep. Get down to 1000 feet in 2d and 300 feet in 3d. CHIRP sonar is super accurate and provides crisp, HD pictures on the 5” display.

The Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 is upgraded to Lowrance’s latest CHIRP technology to provide the most accurate images at this price point.

It isn’t quite as user-friendly as other models, and it lacks features more expensive models take for granted, but it is a good choice for an entry point fish finder for a smaller boat.

Garmin Striker 4

What You Get

  • 3.5” Display
  • CHIRP sonar
  • Built-in Flasher for Ice Fishing or Jigging

The Garmin Striker 4 is a terrific option for those kayakers out there. It’s small, easy to read, and can scan up to 750 feet deep. It offers navigation and built-in GPS, a bright color screen, and intricately detailed representations of structure, fish, and vegetation.

You’ll need a 12V power source, so that’s a big drawback. This would have made the best fish finder for small boats overall winner if it weren’t for the power source. It has a built-in flasher for ice fishing and jigging. It’s got everything you need but isn’t very portable at all due to the battery requirement.

LUCKY Fish Finder

What You Get

  • Fish Alarm
  • 5 Sensitivity Levels
  • Includes Neck Strap
  • Fish and Depth Finder

The LUCKY fish finder is the perfect option for those who fish every once in a while and want to have a better chance of finding fish. You can throw the transducer/receiver off the boat where you plan to fish, and you’ll get a clear picture of what’s underneath.

As you move along, it will alert you to fish and schools of fish with an alarm. The best thing about this item is its ease of use. You literally throw the transducer out and look at the screen. It comes with a neck strap so it won’t get in the way when kayaking or out on your pontoon.

The newer versions can be switched between feet and meters. They still don’t display yards yet, but including feet is a big leap. It has a battery saver mode that allows the battery to go for five hours or more. It’s recommended to have more than one battery for the unit. The overall cost is under $50.00, so it’s very affordable.

Selecting the Best Fish Finder for Small Boats

When you’re choosing the best fish finder for small boats and kayaks, you need to know more than just what’s on this list. There are a few things at which to look. I’ll break down a few things to keep in mind as you search for the best finders.

Screen

Small boats and kayaks can’t support a huge screen. That means you’ll most likely have to sacrifice on screen size. That doesn’t mean you’ll sacrifice on resolution. The finders I listed above, other than the LUCKY, all have excellent displays. The biggest is only 5”, but the quality is exceptional. You don’t have to sacrifice clarity for size.

You’ll also want to ensure that it doesn’t spend too much time in direct sunlight. Just as you wouldn’t want your brand-new television to have direct sunlight burning out its pixels, your fish finder will have the same issues.

Mounting

The best fish finder for small boats will be easy to install. Small boats and kayaks don’t have much space, so look at the mounting brackets the finder comes with. If they are too cumbersome or require that you drill several holes through your kayak, there might be better options for your needs.

Find an option that is either portable or is simple to install and easy to remove. You won’t want to leave expensive equipment on a Jon boat or a kayak in your backyard for anyone to steal.

Transducer

All the talk about transducers might have you confused. What is a transducer, and why do you need one? You’re buying a fish finder, after all. Well, that’s a good question. A transducer is a device that sends the sonar into the water. There are different types, such as internal transducers, transom-mounted transducers, and transducers hooked to receivers connected to floatation devices and a handheld device. The Deeper line of finders is even castable.

Depending on your needs, you might go with a transom-mounted transducer, though it requires the device to be mounted to your boat. An internal transducer sends the sonar through your boats’ hull, meaning you don’t have to put holes in your boat to use it. You mount it to the inside of the boat. The other options aren’t mounted at all.

Frequency

The highest frequency is the best, right? Absolutely-if you only fish in five feet of water and never plan on moving. High frequencies are perfect for shallow water but are less reliable on deep water. Deeper waters need a combination of high and low frequencies. Look for a dual-frequency unit, and you’ll have the best of both worlds. The higher frequency will push through the vegetation and other cover on the bottom, while the lower frequency will extend the range.

Conclusion

best fish finder for small boats

In conclusion, I’ve found the Helix 5 to be the best fish finder for small boats. It provides everything you’d need, plus several options usually found only on higher-end models. It has the bigger, 5” display and great clarity, plus a fantastic warranty. With everything it comes with, it’s a steal for the price.

You can remove it easily, installation is done in a flash, and operating it is simple. The display highlights fish found around pilings and those hiding in thick cover, so it’s great for the bass anglers amongst us.

The fish finders on this list are all worth the money, but the Humminbird Helix 5 stands above the rest. You can purchase it here You’re sure to get your money’s worth.

For more guidance on choosing your next fish finder be sure to check out the pages below: