This guide is only focusing on castable and portable fish finders ( aside from explaining how fish finders work in general ). If you want more detailed information about finding a best fish finder overall check out this resource, if you are looking for kayak-specific advice – click here.
Although humans already caught fish for thousands of years before the first fish finders were invented, it’s much easier for modern anglers to catch when armed with high-quality electronics.
Especially now that the portable fish finders are available on the market that enables you to easily carry it along wherever you go or switch the unit between boats without a hassle.
In this article we:
- Give you our TOP-3 portable and castable fish finders available on the market today
- Briefly explain how fish finders work, how portable technology works and what are its benefits.
The 6 Top Portable Fish Finders of 2019: Outdoor Empire Reviews
These are our top recommendations for portable and castable fish finders of 2019:
- Best overall portable: Get the Garmin Striker 4 (Read 410+ Amazon customer reviews)
- Best overall castable: Get the Deeper Smart Fishfinder 3.0
3 Best Portable Fish Finders
Keep in mind that many companies make portability kits that feature a portable battery, a suction-cup mount for the transducer, and a carrying case. These kits can turn virtually any small fish finder into a portable tool.
|Resolution||480 x 320 pixels||320V x 240H||320 x 240|
|Operating Frequency||Traditional: 50/77/200 kHz|
CHIRP (mid and high)
|Power Output: RMS||200 Watts||300 Watts||Max 180 Watts|
|Cost||Check Price||$$||Check Price|
1. Garmin Striker 4 Portable Bundle
The Garmin Striker 4 Portable Bundle is a fully-functional GPS and fish finder with an easy-to-see, full-color, 3.5-inch screen. It can detect fish and bottom structure down to 1,600 feet in freshwater and 750 feet in salt water, and features traditional CHIRP sonar technology, which allows it to produce very detailed images.
Garmin’s CLEARVU scanning sonar is available as an option, for those who want the most detail possible from a portable fish finder. It also comes equipped with a dedicated flasher circuit, making it perfect for ice fishing or vertical jigging.
Designed to work on a kayak, dock, boat or on the ice, the Gamin Striker 4 Portable Bundle comes with a high-powered transducer, transom and trolling motor mounts, a tilt-swivel mount, a power cord and a padded carrying case to protect the unit from damage and make it easy to carry.
In fact, the entire kit only weighs 10.8 pounds, so you’ll find it very easy to carry around the lake.
- Weighs less than 11 pounds, making it easy to carry
- Comes with a dedicated flasher circuit for ice fishing or vertical jigging
- Images down to 1,600 feet in freshwater or 750 feet in salt water
- Utilizes CHIRP and CLEARVU scanning sonar technologies
- Padded carrying case and multiple mounting brackets are included
2. Humminbird 345c Portable
The product is not available in major sport’s retail stores. Will replace this pick shortly.
Equipped with a padded carrying case, AGM battery and charger, the Humminbird 345c Portable is a feature-packed fish finder that is easy to move from boat to boat or carry around the bank. It also comes equipped with Humminbird’s Quick Disconnect system, which makes it very easy to unplug the unit after a day of fishing and reconnect it quickly and easily the next morning.
The 345c boasts 300 watts of RMS power output, which allows it to accurately resolve objects in water up to 1,000 feet deep. The 345c is equipped with DualBeam Plus Sonar, which allows you to use a wide sonar beam when scanning or a narrow beam when trying to appreciate fine details or visualize objects in deep water.
The 3.5-inch, full-color displace produces crisp images, which are easy to see from multiple angles, and Humminbird’s patented SwitchFire technology gives you the chance to switch between maximum- and reduced-sensitivity modes with the flip of a switch.
- Comes with padded carrying case, battery and charger
- Quick Disconnect system makes it easy to hook up and disconnect
- SwitchFire Technology makes it easy to switch between detailed and low-clutter views
- Images down to depths of 1,000 feet
- Includes temperature alarm
3. Lowrance Fish Finders
Several Lowrance fish finders can be purchased with an optional portability pack, including their entry-level unit, the Lowrance Hook 3x. But while the Hook 3x is quite affordable, it is equipped with many features that are more commonly associated with intermediate-level fish finders.
For example, the Hook 3x features a very impressive and intuitive keypad interface, with dedicated quick keys to allow you to call up frequently used screens or functions.
A dual-frequency unit, the Hook 3x allows anglers to operate the fish finder at 83 kHz for scanning wide areas or 200 kHz when you want more detail. The Hook 3x comes equipped with a full-color, backlit screen that makes it easy to spot fish and discern bottom contours.
In fact, the Hook 3x makes it easy to determine things like bottom hardness and structure details, and you can even use it to locate the thermocline. The Hook 3x also displays fish in icon form, alleviating the need to interpret arcs.
- Dual-frequency unit allows you to scan wide areas or focus in to appreciate subtle details
- Backlit screen is easy to see in all weather conditions
- Built-in temperature probe allows you to monitor the thermocline depth
- Fish ID icons alleviate the need to interpret arcs
- Advanced Signal Processing automatically adjusts the sonar and display settings for you
3 Best Castable Fish Finders
Most handheld fish finders work in conjunction with your smartphone, rather than featuring a dedicated display unit. This is particularly useful for bank anglers.
|Sonar Type||Depth scale & Fish depth||Dual beam||Piezo-Electric Ceramic Crystal|
|Depth Range||135 ft||130 ft||160 ft|
|Bluetooth Range||100 ft||140 ft - 160 ft||200 ft (Wifi range)|
|Battery Life||10+ hrs||up to 6 hrs||up to 10 hrs|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. iBobber Bluetooth Smart
iBobber Bluetooth Smart is the smallest and lightest personal castable fish finder on the market, making it a great option for anglers on the go. Unlike other portable fish finders, which include a transducer, battery and separate display, the iBobber is a self-contained unit that is about the size of a traditional fishing float (the internal battery can be charged via an included USB charger).
It doesn’t require a display screen at all, as it beams a signal directly to your smartphone via a free app.
To use the iBobber, you’ll simply cast it out, move it around the water using your rod and start finding fish. Note that the iBobber transducer only weighs about 1.7 ounces, so anglers using light-weight gear may want to bring along a heavier rig for casting. You will need to keep the iBobber within 100 feet of your smartphone so that it can communicate with the device.
The iBobber produces crystal-clear images in as much as 135 feet of water, measures water temperature and offers GPS functionality.
- Built-in water temperature sensor
- GPS-capable unit that allows you to monitor your location and traveling speed
- Transducer capable of imaging down to 135 feet
- Weighs only 1.7 ounces – much lighter than many other castable fish finders
- Connects to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth technology
2. Deeper Smart Fishfinder 3.0
The Deeper Smart Fishfinder 3.0 is another castable fish finder that works very well for ice anglers and those who fish from shore. The Fishfinder 3.0 is a dual-frequency transducer that uses Bluetooth technology to display images on your iPhone or Android-compatible device.
Resembling a black fishing float, the Fishfinder 3.0 is easy to attach to your line, cast and use, but it is quite heavy at 3.5 ounces. So, be sure you bring along a heavy rod for casting purposes.
The Fishfinder 3.0 can produce clear images down to depths of 160 feet, and it will work with your phone at distances of up to 130 feet. It uses a 3.7-volt, rechargeable battery, which works for up to six hours of nonstop usage. It can distinguish different targets that are more than 3 inches apart from each other, which means it’ll provide all of the detail most bank- or ice-anglers require.
- Bluetooth connectivity makes it easy to use the Fisfinder0 with your smartphone
- Images down to depths of 160 feet
- Battery allows you to use the fish finder for six continuous hours
- 3-inch target separation allows you to spot baitfish and small details
- Compatible with iPhone- and Android-based devices
3. FishHunter Directional 3D
Lowrance has jumped into the castable fish finder market with the FishHunter Directional 3D. Like most other castable fish finders, the FishHunter Directional 3D operates in conjunction with your smartphone to display a high-quality, 3D image of the lake bed, as well as any fish lurking in the water.
It has an impressive WIFI range of 200 feet, and it can accurately image fish, objects and bottom contours down to 160 feet.
But unlike many other castable fish finders, the FishHunter Directional 3D features five independent transducers inside the float housing. This provides an exceptionally wide field of view and greater detail than most competing models.
The FishHunter also comes with a dedicated flasher function for anglers working on top of the ice, and it allows you to make your own custom maps on the fly. The FishHunter is also equipped with GPS functionality, which makes it easy to mark and revisit productive fishing spots.
- Provides three-dimensional images
- 200-foot WIFI range is superior to many other castable fish finders
- Images clearly down to 160 feet
- Bathymetric mapping capabilities allow you to make custom maps on the fly
- Flasher mode is great for vertical jigging or ice fishing
How do Fish Finders Work?
In the simplest terms, fish finders emit sound waves from a device called a transducer. These sound waves travel through the water until they eventually hit something and bounce back to the depth finder’s receiver.
The returned signal is then processed by a small computer which analyzes the strength of the returned signal and the time it took to hit the distant object and bounce back to the receiver.
This allows the computer to determine how far away different objects are — such as the lake bottom, creek channel, sunken tree or big bass. This information is displayed on various visual styles, allowing the angler to see what is going on under the surface.
Of course, there are also considerable variations among different fish finders. Some send their sonar signal in a single direction, while others bounce signals all over the lake. Some display their information in full color, while others only have a two-color screen.
Modern fish finder manufacturers are now offering another option that anglers should consider.
Though fish finders were historically considered semi-permanent additions to a boat, some manufacturers are now producing fishing sonars that are portable and some are even castable.
Sure, you could remove an old-style, fixed fish finder when upgrading or selling your boat, but it was more akin to a boat component than a tool for anglers. Meanwhile, these new portable fish finders can be carried around from one fishing spot to the next.
Portable vs Castable Units
The primary difference between castable and portable fish finders relates to their size.
Portable fish finders usually feature a small transducer that you can put in the water or attach to the bottom of your boat. It has a small display screen that shows the information obtained.
Castable fishing sonars feature a very small, yet rugged transducer, that you can attach to your fishing line. This allows you to cast it anywhere you like to get an idea of what is going on underneath the surface.
Some of these newer units lack a dedicated display. Instead, they simply send an image to your smartphone or tablet with the aid of an (usually free) app, Bluetooth, or WiFi.
Who Benefits most from Portable Fish Finders?
Portable fish finders work well in a variety of circumstances, but they are most helpful for anglers who fish from different types of boats and locations:
1. Kayaks, Canoes, Rental Boats
For example, you can attach a portable depth finder at the bottom of your kayak today before using it from a dock the next day. You can even attach it to a rented boat then remove it easily when you need to.
2. Ice Anglers
Portable fish finders are also suited for ice anglers who may want to inspect a dozen holes in the course of a day’s fishing. Fish finders provide more information than depth sounders do, making them a better choice for many anglers.
The only time they are not appropriate is for exceptionally large boats; in which case, the transducer needs to be too far away from the receiver.
Additionally, professional anglers or charter services may prefer a bigger and more feature-packed unit which is too large to make a suitable portable unit.
Portable fish finders are incredibly helpful tools for locating fish. They do not only expand your fishing horizons, but they also aid you to catch more fish. Review the recommended units above and pick one up today!