If you are just about to get your feet wet in fishing, you might hesitate to put too much money into your new hobby. That’s when you start looking for more affordable alternatives like cheap fish finders and wonder: are they any good? You’ll find out in a bit!
In case you are totally new to fish finders, we suggest reading our more comprehensive fish finder buying guide about the best fish finders under $500 to learn more about how they work and what features you should look for when purchasing one. If you don’t feel like reading a lot, we’ll give you a tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) version of the article.
Best Cheap Fish Finders of 2020
|Photo||Fish Finder||Details||Check on Amazon|
|Garmin Striker 4||Display: 3.5"|
Max depth: 1,600 ft (fresh)
Max depth: 750 ft (salt)
|Lowrance HOOK2 4X||Display: 4"|
Side Imaging: ✅
Down Imaging: ✅
|Signstek FF-003||Display: 2.4"|
Depth identification ✅
Big/small fish identification ✅
|HawkEye FishTrax 1||Max depth: Up to 240 ft|
Dual Beam Sonar: 200 & 83 kHz
Fish Depth Scale ✅
|Venterior Portable Fish Finder||Depth Range: 3 - 328 ft||See details|
Naturally the term “cheap” is subjective and varies between stores, but for us the limit is somewhere around 100 dollars.
Garmin Striker 4
- Excellent CHIRP Sonar transducer with great depth range
- Ability to leave marks
- Measures water temperature
- Excellent display and very intuitive to use
- Clear Vu scanning Sonar shows you more of what is in the water around your boat; This high frequency sonar gives near photographic images with detailed representations of objects, structure and fish
- The power of simple offers a keyed interface with dedicated buttons; The device is easy to use and easy to install; Available in 3.5, 5 and 7 inch display sizes; Water rating IPX7
- Waypoint map: Use the way point map to easily view, mark and navigate to locations such as brush piles, stumps and docks; Maximum depth 1,600 feet freshwater, 750 feet saltwater; Current draw at 12 volt: 0.23 Ampere
- Chirp Sonar sends a continuous sweep of frequencies which provides a wider range of information; Chirp Sonar is able to create crisper fish arches with better target separation
- Built in flasher: View your sonar data in the classic flasher format; Ideal for ice fishing or vertical jigging. Display size: 1.9 x 2.9 inches (4.9 x 7.3 centimeter); 3.5 inches diagonal (8.7 centimeter)
Quite unsurprisingly Garmin was the unanimous favorite of our test group. The premium features and usability give a taste of the higher end models for the fisher with a tight budget.
It utilizes CHIRP Sonar technology which means (overly simplified) that the transducer is sending continuous sweeps of varying frequencies (from low to high) to give you more data.
If you want to go hardcore you can even upgrade the transducer to either GT8 or GT15 but most regular users will be perfectly fine with the straight out of the box one – the 1.600 ft (488 m) freshwater depth range is plenty and tops the chart for this article hands down. Even in saltwater it will give you a nice range of 750 ft (229 m).
Depending on your style the hot spot marking feature can be a godsent. If you are in unknown waters and like to get an overview of the area before you start fishing, with the Striker 4 you can leave marks on the map and later return to those sweet spots. The GPS also comes handy when trolling if you want to get really accurate with the optimal speed.
Overall the Striker 4 is the ultimate bang for your buck choice if you appreciate a reliable and feature-rich fish finder – the later devices we are about to introduce are all good but this one is the most complete package.
Lowrance HOOK2 4X
- Fish ID functionality
- Autotuning sonar
- Big display
- EASIEST TO USE: The Lowrance HOOK2 4x Fish Finder features auto-tuning sonar and phone-like menus giving you more time to spend fishing and less time dealing with settings.
- WIDER SONAR COVERAGE: The HOOK2 4x offers a wide-angle CHIRP sonar cone giving you double the coverage of traditional fish finders.
- EASY SETUP: A single transducer can be mounted on the transom, inside the hull, on the trolling motor or through a scupper hole. The HOOK2 4x is ideal for small fishing boats or kayaks with limited console space.
- FISH FINDER & GPS: The HOOK2 4x provides basic navigation with a GPS plotter that allows you to add waypoints, follow trails, and navigate.
- TRANSDUCER INCLUDED: The included Bullet Skimmer transducer gives you traditional 2-D CHIRP sonar (fish arch) views.
HOOK2 4X is the simplest and cheapest model of Lowrance’s Hook family of fish finders yet it still delivers an impressive amount of tweakability and features considering its price – it’s more similar to the Garmin than the rest of the cheap fish finders on our list in this regard.
The fish ID functionality is a great example: enabling it will show you more detailed information about what lies beneath. Even though it is not perfectly accurate and might mistake other objects for fish it is a nice addition and a glimpse of what the more advanced and expensive devices offer.
- Displays bottom contours
- Measures water temperature
- Estimates the size of the fish (big/small) and the depth that it is at
- sonar technology
- water detective
- water resistant
Signstek is an interesting company – their products vary from air humidifiers and sleep sound systems to FM transmitters. With such mixed bag of technology we were quite surprised by their excellent portable fish finder.
What sets Signstek FF-003 apart from the even cheaper devices is that it gives you more insight rather than the minimal “fish below”. It will tell you how deep the fish is located, give you an estimate of its size (on a big/small scale) and display the bottom contours.
The LCD screen is easy to read in both direct sunlight and dark and once you find the optimal sensitivity settings for your liking from the 100 levels available, it works like a charm.
HawkEye FishTrax 1
- Shows the shape of the bottom
- Shows depth of the bottom and fish
- Can estimate size of the fish
- FishTrax intelligent sonar delivers precise fish finder readings up to 240 feet
- Glare-free ICON LCD with LED backlight offers excellent readability when identifying presence of fish, weed and rock indicators indicating the bottom composition
- Sonar sensor is trollable, boat mountable, and floatable to achieve unmatched, go anywhere, portability
- Algorithmic software programming minimizes false readings and sounds an audible fish alarm signaling the presence of fish; Sonar sensor side-scan adapter allows sonar direction finding under weeds, docks, ice, and more (accessory sold seperately)
- HawkEye products are manufactured both in the USA and overseas using technology designed and developed with American ingenuity
HawkEye FishTrax is a whole family of devices just like the Lowrance Hook’s. The features are quite similar to other models on the list but the screen feels a bit cramped and hard to read quickly for our liking.
It can be used both mounted and portable and the device itself feels really well built and we are expecting to get a good amount of using hours out of it.
Venterior Portable Fish Finder
- Measures depth (of both water and fish)
- Fish alarm
- Detect and display water depth, approximate fish location, fish size(small/median/big), short & tall weeds, sand & rocks on seabed. Setting can be saved when turned off. Backlight mode enables you to use the fish fish finder at night.
- Comes with round transducer with 25 ft cable and removable transducer float. Suitable for fishing off the dock, from a kayak, and ice fishing. Its neck strap allow you to hang it around neck. Apply to lake, river, sea and other fishing environment.
- The fish finder use sonar to detect water depth and fish location. Detectable area is 45 degrees beam angle under the sonar transducer. Detectable depth range is from 3ft/1m to 328ft/100m below the sonar transducer.
- Various features settings: 5 user selectable sensitivity; battery save mode; backlight mode (allow you to use it at night); fish alarm (can be turned off, gives you alerts when it detects fish schools passing by); unit of measure (water depth shows by meters or feet)
- Warranty and Brand Support: All Venterior Portable Fish Finder is covered by a 2-year Warranty. Any questions before or after purchase, please feel free to contact us via Amazon message or brand after-sale support on product package (response within 24 hours every day online).
Venterior is another company that we know very little about, but their portable fish finder is great for the price.
It does not offer any stunning features and is very basic in all regards, but then again there is nothing particularly bad about it which is certainly not the case with all the cheap fish finders on the market.
Well, showing potential obstacles in the water (such as weeds) is something you won’t find in all devices. The display is quite lackluster to say the least but it does the job. A good, solid entry-level fish finder for a great price.
What Are Fish Finders and How Do They Work?
Fish finders are devices that are used to locate fish in the water. As a rough generalization they consist of two parts: the transducer that is placed in the water to get information and the screen that displays the information to the user.
They also fetch other information: the depth of the water, the shape of the bottom (whether there are steeps etc) and possible other objects such as logs and rocks.
What Makes a Good Fish Finder?
The single most important feature of the fish finder is naturally the transducer. High frequency transducers provide more accurate data but don’t work in deep waters, low frequency transducers give less accurate data but work in deep waters.
As a rule of thumb: high frequency is ideal for shallow waters and smaller fish, low frequency is ideal for deep waters (like oceans) and for spotting big fish and schools of fish. Most fish finders are equipped with dual frequency transducers, meaning that they can be used for both.
You don’t need to deeply understand the technologies behind these devices as the product descriptions usually give you pretty accurate information about in which circumstances they perform the best.
The screen is also important – what good is the data if you can’t read and interpret it effectively? As we are focusing on affordable devices in this article, none of these will knock you off your boat with their wow factors, but make sure the screen displays all the data you would like it to show you.
Power in this context is used for measuring the strength and speed of the sonar waves – the higher the wattage the deeper and quicker the readings.
Last update on 2021-02-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API