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 top 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
$445.11 $424.68

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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11/27/2022 05:34 am GMT

I’ve been fishing for most of my life and have found that many fish finders do the same thing. They locate 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 finders 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 fishing. 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 smaller boats or personal watercraft like fishing kayaks or pontoons 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 top 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 fish finders for small boats:

Best Fish Finders for Small Boats Reviewed

Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2 Fish Finders

What You Get

  • 5“ Color Display
  • CHIRP Sonar Technology
  • Internal GPS
  • Micro SD Card Slot  
  • Fish alarms
  • Built in maps

The Helix 5 fish finder 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 mark waypoints on the lake, making it easy to revisit great spots. You can load purchased maps as well. The transducer clearly shows a maximum depth of 1500 feet (0.46 km), and the add-on transducer brings it to 2500 feet (0.76 km).

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

Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar Fish Finders

What You Get

  • Maximum depth of 260’
  • Works with IOS/Android. Works With Tablet or Phone-Doesn’t Use Cellular Data
  • Internal GPS Antenna
  • Bathymetric Maps from the Shore, Kayak, or Boat 
  • Real-Time Data
  • Includes USB Charging Cable
  • Portable fish finder

The Deeper Pro+ fish finder is the only portable, castable combo that creates Bathymetric maps while shore fishing. Connect this fish finder to the side of your small jon 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 with this fish finder 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 fish finder helps you build a database of fantastic resources.

The Deeper Smart Sonar Pro+ fish finder 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. This portable fish finder is 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 Finders

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” Color Display

The Hook Reveal 5 fish finder is an excellent fish finder that lets you scan in both 3d and 2d to get down super deep with a narrow beam. Get down to a maximum depth of 1000 feet (0.3 km) in 2d and 300 feet (ca. 91 m) in 3d. CHIRP sonar with impressive target separation is super accurate and detailed images on the 5” display.

The Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 is upgraded to Lowrance’s latest CHIRP sonar 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 Fish Finders

What You Get

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

The Garmin Striker 4 fish finder is a terrific option for those kayak anglers out there. It’s small, easy to read, and can scan up to 750 feet (0.23 km) 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. The Garmin Striker 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 Finders

What You Get

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

The LUCKY handheld 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 kayak fishing 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 these fish finders. The overall cost for this fish finder is under $50.00, so it’s very affordable.

Selecting the Best Fish Finders for Small Boats

best fish finder for small boats

When you’re choosing a 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 finders 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

transom mount 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 in deep water. Deeper waters need a combination of high and low frequencies. Look for a fish finder with multiple frequencies, and you’ll have the best of both worlds. The higher frequency will push through the vegetation and another cover on the bottom, while the lower frequency will extend the range.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a portable fish finder on a boat?

Yes, portable fish finders are a great option on small boats. They can be easily transported, and they’re very affordable compared to traditional fish finders. Plus, they typically don’t take up very much space.

Is a 7-inch Fish Finder big enough?

The answer is always, get as big of a display you can afford. As I continue to grow older (I don’t consider myself old yet) I become more dependent on my glasses for close up vision. This includes MFD screens on boats, especially in direct sunlight! A 7″ display is certainly sufficient for one who is looking for basic readings and data but not heavily relying on the MFD for chart plotting, detailed structure, or split screen use.

Tying knots with small fishing line also has its challenges for my aging eyesight; especially if there’s some chop.

Is a fish finder worth it?

If you’re planning on fishing from a boat or kayak, then buying yourself a fish finder is really worth the investment. Fish finders with GPS will keep you safe while navigating channels, and allowing for efficient angling; they also make it easier than ever before to create your own maps to help mark waypoints and navigate to your favorite fishing spots!

Conclusion

best fish finder for small boats

In conclusion, I’ve found the Helix 5 fish finder to be the best fish finder for small boats. It provides everything you’d need, plus several options usually found only on higher-end fish finders. It has a 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.

All the fish finders on this list are all worth the money and help you catch more fish, but the Humminbird Helix 5 stands above the other fish finders. You can purchase it here, You’re sure to get your money’s worth.

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

Eric Larson

Eric Larson

Hi, my name is Eric. I am a contributor for A Fellow Fisherman and a former charter captain who has been saltwater fishing since before I can remember. I grew up in New Jersey, fishing mostly the Delaware Bay and River, as well as many offshore charter trips. I have had an enormous passion for fishing my whole life, and am lucky to have done it as a profession. I am confident when it comes to telling people about the best techniques for catching fish, but am still open to a good debate.

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