Best Fish Finders for Small Boats: A Dinghy Owner’s Dream

If you’re looking for the best fish finder for your small boat, you’re likely looking for something small and portable so it doesn’t take up a lot of space on the boat. It may not need a very big screen, because even if you’re on the other side of the boat, you’re not that far away.

However, it does need to be feature-rich and work for your purposes. Or maybe, you want a simple, affordable device that doesn’t have a lot of features but you know you can count on to give you the basic information you need.

Either way, there are plenty of fish finders on the market that work great for small boats. From integrated smartphone apps to all-in-one units, your small boat fish finder is out there, and after reading on, you’ll be able to make an educated decision yourself. We’ve also written a roundup post of all around best fish finders.

Our Top Pick

After reviewing plenty of fish finders for small boats, we narrowed our top pick down to the Lowrance’s FishHunter Directional 3D Fishfinder. It connects to your smartphone and displays everything you need on the iOS or Android app. The app is free, so once you buy the fish finder unit, you won’t pay anything else.

Plus, with features like five viewing options, built-in Wi-Fi, and incredible detail, the FishHunter Directional 3D Fishfinder is a powerful tool for any fisherman with a small boat.

Reviews of Fish Finders for Small Boats

Now that you know what to look for, let’s dive into these reviews. We tested a lot of fish finders, but these were the best that we found. They have all of the features you need and there’s one for every budget.

ReelSonar iBobber Smart Fish Finder

The iBobber Smart Fish Finder uses your smartphone as a screen so you can ditch the extra equipment that you don’t have room for on a small boat. It sits at an affordable price point, making it a great value as it’s loaded with features. It’s a fantastic unit for most fishermen.

You’ll always know exactly where the fish are with patented sonar technology that can identify fish easily and accurately. The battery is rechargeable and the battery indicator makes it easy to see how much power you have left before you need a recharge. With more than ten hours of use on one charge, you won’t have to worry about running out of battery in the middle of the lake.

Accurate readings will return to you at depths of up to 135 feet and two snap connections give you the versatility you need to throw the transducer in the water as a bobber or use it as a remote fish finder. The smartphone app is free on iOS and Android, so after the cost of the unit, you won’t pay any extra, making it even more affordable than some of the other options.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Erchang Sonar Fish Finder

The Erchang Sonar Fish Finder is a great low-budget fish finder. If you’re looking for a reliable fish finder that won’t break the bank and still gives you the functionality you need, this is the one. The display is easy to read despite not being color, and the unit is simple to use.

The display shows both water temperature and depth. It can also detect fish size and location in the water. The 3-inch LCD screen is a dot matrix display with well-organized pictures, icons, and numbers. It’s also easy to see in the sun because of its anti-glare properties.

A 30-foot transducer sensor cable ensures you have plenty of room to run and a 45-degree beam angle searches a wide area for more comprehensive information. The battery save mode ensures that you get the battery life you need and the back lit screen makes it easy to see at night.

One great benefit of the Erchang Sonar Fish Finder is that it works in muddy water, which is not something that many fish finders can do. It doesn’t have GPS, mapping, or many customizable views, but you can always rely on its durability and accurate readings.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+

The Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ is one of the most comprehensive products you’ll find on the market today. It works with a smartphone app so you don’t have the extra equipment and it’s easy to set up and use.

All you need to do is connect the fish finder to the app and put it in the water. Every reading will come through the app on your smartphone in extreme detail so you know exactly what’s happening in the water.

When you’re used to using your smartphone every day, it makes it much easier to use a fish finder because you are already familiar with the equipment. The app contains plenty of customization options and an intuitive interface, making it easy to get used to.

Here’s a video of it in action:

You can use your Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ in salt water and fresh water and it has dual frequency sonar for better imaging, so it’s versatile and complete. It’s one of the best units at its price point.

The rechargeable battery and 5+ hours on a single charge make it easy to use and recharge in just a couple of hours. Plus, the small size and light weight make it easy to tuck into your pocket and take with you no matter where you go.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Garmin Striker 4DV Fish Finder

The Garmin Striker 4DV Fish Finder is a great portable solution for small boats. It’s made of durable materials and Garmin is a well-known manufacturer with quality customer service and reliable products.

The Garmin Striker 4DV is made with an outer shell that can handle a lot of impact so you don’t have to worry about extreme weather or accidental immersions while you’re on the water. It’s a powerful tool you can trust to work through many situations.

It’s equipped with GPS, which is what Garmin does best, so you know it works well. You can record and save your favorite spots on the map for later and it will also tell you how fast you’re going. By marking waypoints for navigation, you’ll never lose your way.

The CHIRP sonar technology continually sweeps the underwater area to give you all of the detailed information you need about what’s going on down there. You’ll always know where the fish are, and the built-in flasher helps you view the data in flasher format, too.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Lowrance FishHunter Directional 3D Fishfinder

The FishHunter Directional 3D Fishfinder doesn’t have its own screen. It sends transmissions over Wi-Fi to an app on your smartphone, eliminating the need for an extra piece of equipment. You can take it with you wherever you go without having to mount it anywhere.

With five tri-frequency transducers, the FishHunter Directional 3D Fishfinder is a fantastic option if you’re looking for extreme detail, high resolution, and excellent coverage. It gives you more options than any other fish finder on the market.

You also have five viewing options so you can choose which you like the best from 3D fishing, bathymetric mapping, 3D structure mapping, ice fishing flasher, or directional casing view. Advanced customizations like these allow you to tailor the device to your specifications, adding value and making it easier to use.

The FishHunter Directional 3D Fishfinder works up to 160 feet with a 100-foot range and is also compatible with ice fishing. The built-in Wi-Fi is all self-contained, so even if you don’t have access to local Wi-Fi in remote fishing locations, you’ll still be able to transmit to nearby devices up to 150 feet away. It also doesn’t require a data connection, so you won’t have to worry if your cell phone is out of range.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Buying Guide

Your small boat needs the best fish finder it can get. That’s why there are so many things to think about when shopping for the best fish finder for small boat fishing. From technology and features to size and color, here are all of the things you should be aware of when looking at different models.

Power

If you have a small boat, you’re less likely to be going out in big waters. Your local fishing hole may be a river, lake, or another relatively small body of water. Power is an important thing to think about when equipping your small boat with a fish finder.

High wattage fish finders work well in deep water, so you may not need a lot of wattage for your small boat. However, if you are adventurous or you do occasionally take your small boat out in very deep waters of more than 200 feet, you may need more power.

Low wattage fish finders work great in shallow waters and may be the perfect size for your small boat most of the time. If your small boat is a bass boat or a canoe, you probably enjoy the slow, quiet nature of fishing and don’t need much power.

Power also has a lot to do with the speed with which you get your readings. High wattage fish finders will transmit information very quickly for real-time data on the screen while low wattage fish finders may have a delay of a few seconds when reading what is under the water.

Battery Life

Do you like to fish in the morning before it gets too hot, or do you like to sit out on the lake all day and relax? Your fishing habits will dictate how much battery life you need. Some fish finders have rechargeable batteries, in which case it’s a good idea to pack a spare in case it runs down.

Other fish finders take AA or AAA batteries so it’s always easy to have extras on hand in case it goes dead in the middle of an adventure. Either way, make sure it’s the easiest and most convenient option for you.

Transducers

fisherman on small boat

The transducer is a very important thing to consider when shopping for fish finders. Transducers do the hard work of emitting and receiving sonar waves for the purpose of interpreting what’s underneath the water and displaying it for you.

A transducer sends signals out across the water. As the signals bounce off of objects and return to the transducer, the transducer is able to read those signals based on how long it took for them to return. It can then interpret those returned signals and tell you how far away the objects are and, in some cases, what they’re made of.

The transducer sends all of this information to you on the receiver so you know what’s going on under there. Here’s where the power comes into play again. Time is an important factor in reading what’s under the water, because as fish move, the transducer needs to be able to send that information back to you as quickly as possible to increase your chances of catching anything.

Frequencies and Cone Angles

Fish finders come in single, dual, and multiple frequency models. Your fish finder frequency is closely related to cone angle, which determines how far and fast the cone beam can travel and in what detail it can read and display information.

A high-frequency transducer will return much more detail than a low-frequency transducer. It emits more sonar waves and collects data on a higher number of returning signals. High frequencies work well for shallow waters.

A low-frequency transducer won’t give you as much detail, but it works well in deep water. It can also work well for you if you have a favorite fishing spot and don’t deviate much from the norm, in which case one frequency will work just fine for you.

A smaller cone angle searches a smaller area in more detail while a large cone angle will return less detail about a large underwater area. You can also get fish finders with both small and large cone areas so you can switch back and forth as needed based on depth or fishing style.

You may not know the right combination of frequency and cone angle for you, but plenty of fish finders have a variety of customizations, allowing you to experiment with different settings and see what works. These fish finders are generally more expensive, but well worth the cost if you’ll use them in a variety of fishing situations.

Display Resolution

More pixels give you clearer pictures, so your resolution is critical to being able to see the screen and read the information presented. For sharp images, you need the most pixels you can find. Other displays with fewer pixels may be enough for you if you don’t need a detailed view with a lot of complex information.

The minimum resolution for acceptable readability is generally 240×160. This image is going to less distinct and very pixelated, meaning you won’t be able to identify very many details, but it works for basic fish finders without many features.

If this is going to be your primary fish finder for all uses, it’s best to make sure the screen is big enough with a resolution that is easy to see, even if you’re on the other side of the boat. You’ll be able to see the detail you need and customize your view accordingly.

Color Displays

Some fish finders present information in black and white while others have color screens. Full color, HD displays will be able to provide more detail than a black and white screen. They have millions of colors, giving your image definition and clarity.

Color screens give you a much better idea of what’s going on under the water in terms of where fish are, what the bottom composition is, and much more. They’re easier to see in the sun without as much glare, and they’re bright enough to see in the dark as well. It’s important to consider what kind of visibility you need before choosing between black and white or color.

Final Thoughts

The best fish finder for a small boat could be one of these, or it could be something else entirely. The beauty is you get to choose. Sure, we compiled this list to help you out, but there are so many fish finders on the market that we couldn’t possibly create an exhaustive review of each. But we’ve created a roundup for a specific kind of small boat, the kayak.

If you’re looking for a fish finder for your small boat, keep in mind things like size and portability because you may not need something huge for such a small space. You also want to consider price, because this may be your primary unit that you use for all of your fishing excursions, or this may simply be the unit that you use only on your small boat.

No matter what you choose, make sure it’s durable and it provides the detail you need. Some screens provide color, others are black and white, some measure water depth, and others have GPS. As long as you are retrieving the detail that helps you while you’re out on the water, you’ll be a happy fisherman.

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