The 10 Best Hand Fish Finders

Updated December 01, 2017 by Quincy Miller

10 Best Hand Fish Finders
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 41 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top selections for this wiki. If you've ever thought how much easier fishing would be if you could see where the little swimmers were, then a portable fish finder should be on your shopping list. These small, hand-held devices use sonar to reveal the location of your prey, so you don't waste time casting in a barren spot. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best hand fish finder on Amazon.

10. Reel Sonar iBobber

The Reel Sonar iBobber has a castable design that looks like a classic float and works with a phone app that can store trip logs with date, time, conditions, and more. Unfortunately, there can be a lag between when the sensor registers a fish and reports it to your phone.
  • apple and android compatible
  • excellent for dock and bank casting
  • doesn't work well in heavy weeds
Brand ReelSonar
Weight 11.4 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Signstek FF-003

If you want a reliable depth finder, then the Signstek FF-003 gives extremely accurate measurements, so you'll always know exactly how far away you are from the bottom. It's better for deeper expeditions, though, as the readings get a little erratic in under 6' of water.
  • quick manual zoom
  • multi-language menu
  • no mounting options
Brand Signstek
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

8. Vectorcom FFW718

The Vectorcom FFW718 has an adjustable contrast screen and white LED backlighting for nighttime use. It has rubber grips on the sides to prevent dropping it, but is water-resistant, just in case. It would be nice if the transducer line wasn't so thin, though.
  • reads up to 120 feet deep
  • large dot matrix display
  • runs through batteries quickly
Model FFW718
Weight 3.2 ounces
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

7. Camonity 1100

If you want a stout, no-nonsense unit that won't weigh you down, then the Camonity 1100 is a fantastic choice. It has multip levels of sensitivity, so just dial it up if you're fishing in weeds or muddy water. It's not very intuitive, however, so read the manual first.
  • fits in pockets or tackle boxes
  • detects potential snags like rocks
  • doesn't measure water temperature
Brand Camonity
Weight 15.2 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. Venterior Sonar

The Venterior Sonar has a neck strap that's convenient for keeping it close without worrying about dropping it in the sea, while the energy-saving mode prolongs battery life and saves money. If you're a kayaker, you'll likely find that the transducer line is way too long.
  • metric and standard measurements
  • 45-degree beam angle
  • fogs up if exposed to moisture
Brand Venterior
Model VT-FF001
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

5. Humminbird PiranhaMax 197c

The Humminbird PiranhaMax 197c uses two distinct sonar beams to give you the clearest images possible. The narrower shaft tells you exactly what's underneath the boat, while the broader one gives you a more general view of the area. You can't use them both at once, though.
  • comes with battery charger
  • reliable fish id feature
  • power cable is extremely short
Brand Humminbird
Model 409680-1
Weight 10.2 pounds
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

4. Lucky FFW-718

The Lucky FFW-718 has a dot matrix screen that is easy to read and allows it to show high levels of contrast. It comes with a waterproof bag that props up well, so you can keep an eye on your targets while you chase them around the lake.
  • accurate temp and depth readings
  • auto-off feature when not in water
  • built-in memory stores settings
Brand Lucky
Model FFW-718
Weight 12 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

3. HawkEye Fish Trax

The HawkEye Fish Trax has an HD color display that's crisp and clear even in direct sunlight. The transducer is effective on the float, but also works well mounted on the hull. It gives you a discreet click when fish are around, so you're alerted without scaring them off.
  • backlit display for night angling
  • 2 frequencies to fine-tune readings
  • ice flasher mode for lake fishing
Brand HawkEye
Model FT1PXC
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Lowrance Elite-3X

The Lowrance Elite-3X has 60-degrees of conical coverage, which helps it sweep large swaths of water and gives you accurate fish arches. It displays thermoclines as well, so you can find the temperature that your prey prefers and target them there.
  • uses a broadband sonar
  • includes an ice and dock transducer
  • fits inside most fishing packs
Brand Lowrance
Model 000-11673-001
Weight 12.2 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Garmin Striker 4

The Garmin Striker 4 includes a high-sensitivity GPS tracker, enabling you to mark hot spots so you can find them again next time. It uses continuous, multiple-frequency CHIRP sonar to give you an accurate peek at what's going on in the depths below.
  • comes with portable kit
  • outstanding battery life
  • programmable settings
Brand Garmin
Model 010-01550-10
Weight 10.8 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

The Invention Of The Fish Finder

Many sources wrongly cite Darrell Lowrance and his father Carl as being the inventors of the first fish finders, and while they are responsible for bringing it into the mainstream U.S. consumer market, they weren't the first to produce such a device. This distinction goes to the Furino brothers of Nagasaki, Japan.

In 1948, Kiyokata and Kiyotaka, owners of a small marine electrical company, were inspired to create a fish finder after talks with a local fisherman who claimed he could tell where the fish were. According to him, when bubbles rose to the surface it meant there was a school of fish below.

At the time, people already understood the properties of sound waves in water and that they reflected off bubbles, so the brothers figured they could rig a device to detect the bubbles made by fish. Kiyotaka created the first fish finder using scrap materials around their shop and Kiyokata took it onboard a fishing boat to test it. Over time they gradually improved their equipment and Kiyokata eventually earned the name "god of sardines" for his amazing ability to consistently locate schools of fish using his fish finder.

In the 1950s Darrel and Carl Lowrance, a father and son team, developed and popularized fish finders in America. Carl had learned about sonar technology while in the navy and figured out how to use the most modern transistors of the time to reduce the size of standard sonar units. The next step was to reduce the pulse length of the ultrasonic signal. The large pulses used by the navy could only detect large objects, but smaller pulses could detect small objects, like fish.

Darrel was able to reduce the pulse length to just one foot, which meant it was capable of detecting larger fish. In 1956, the Lowrances felt their device was ready and named it the Fish Lo-K-Tor. In 1958, they incorporated their business, Lowrance Electronics, and began marketing their fish finder.

How Fish Finders Work

Fish finders use sonar to detect the presence and location of underwater objects. Modern fish finders can provide a range of information, including water depth, condition of the sea bed, and distribution of fish. Some may also include thermometers allowing them to display water temperature measurements. They work by transmitting ultrasonic waves through the water and measuring the strength of the waves reflected back.

The size and depth of the object hit will dictate how strong the reflected ultrasonic wave is when it hits the fish finder's receiver. Every fish finder has a transducer, which can be mounted on a boat or any other kid of object that is sitting in the water. The transducer is responsible for sending and receiving the ultrasonic waves.

Once a reflection is received by the transducer, it is converted into an electronic signal and sent to a receiving circuit in the fish finder. The receiving circuit amplifies the signal and then a processor turns them into the images displayed on the fish finder's screen.

If a fish finder has a color screen, the images will vary in color on the screen based on the strength of their reflection. A very dense fish school or one with larger fish will be displayed as a different color than a sparse school of fish. The sea bed and large rocks will also be displayed in another color, as they are even denser that schools of fish.

Understand The Different Types Of Sonar

When buying a portable fish finder, it is vital that you understand the differences between the types of sonar used in fish finders so you can buy the right one for your needs. The most common are Side Scan and Down Scan. Both of these technologies work in the same way, but send out their signals in different patterns.

A Down Scan fish finder directs its signal straight down from the transducer, while a Side Scan model sends its signal out in a fan-like wave. Down Scan models are good because they allow the user to see greater details, such as fish right next to a structure, or even a single fish within a school. They are also more accurate a depths over 40 feet.

For those fishing from the shore or a dock, or in shallow waters, Down Scan fish finders aren't a suitable choice. In shallow waters their powerful waves often reflect back too powerfully and result in an unreadable blur on the screen. Since they only produce readings from straight below the transducer, they won't be very effective for shore and dock fishers.

Side Scan fish finders cover large swathes of water below, to the front, and to the sides of the transducer. Side scan models can read fish and underwater objects anywhere from 50 to 150' in each operational direction. This means that they can very useful for shore and dock fishers. They also don't require a boat to pass over an area to get a reading, so there is no chance of disturbing the fish and spooking them before casting a line in the water. Those who fish in depths of 75 feet or more will notice that Side Scan models begin to lose their effectiveness.

Recently, combination models with both Side Scan and Down Scan technology have been released that offer the best of both worlds. These are more costly than their single scan counterparts, but are the best option if they fall within your budget.

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Last updated on December 01, 2017 by Quincy Miller

Quincy is a writer who was born in Texas, but moved to Los Angeles to pursue his life-long dream of someday writing a second page to one of his screenplays.

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