A fish finder, also known as a sounder, is a device that can be used to locate fish under the surface of the water. The sonar detects pulses based on sound energy, which can be used to determine the whereabouts of otherwise elusive fish!
Got it? Okay, so now let’s take a look at some of the best affordable fish finders. We consider affordable to be under the $300 mark, so all of the fish finders below can be purchased for $300 or less.
Great question. We’ve evaluated the following based on how easy they are to pick up and use right away, quality of the transducer (ie sonar), the display screen and other features such as GPS and live-mapping. All of this needs to come in under $300 to be included in this guide.
Ready? Let’s make your fish finding easier, faster and with far less waiting around for a bite… Let’s go!
The Garmin Striker 4 packs a lot of features into a very affordable fish-finding unit. The two standout features are CHIRP technology and GPS. These two features are normally found in much more expensive units, but somehow Garmin has squeezed them into the Striker 4.
CHIRP technology works by sending out signals in a range of frequencies, rather than the traditional method of only sending in a single frequency. These frequencies are interpreted by the transducer and the end result is a feature-rich sonar map that shows more detailed fish arches with better target separation.
The 3.5” color screen allows you to see the reading in crisp detail on the 200 kHz reading, or you can use the 77 kHz reading to expand your scanning area. Yes, the 3.5” inch screen is smaller than some others in this list, but it still provides a nice viewing resolution of 480 x 320 pixels. Allowing you to see the bottom structure and
The integrated GPS allows you to set waypoints for various markers including known hot spots such as reefs, wrecks or bank contours, or key points that just help you navigate towards your favorite spot and back to the boat ramp. You can save up to 5,000 waypoints with the Striker 4.
You can also the in-built flasher display for ice fishing or vertical jigging. Numerous buyers are very happy with the Striker 4 for ice fishing, and some have achieved additional performance by purchasing a dedicated ice-fishing transducer. If ice fishing on a budget is your thing, then don’t forget your affordable 4 season tent.
We’ve featured the cheapest Striker 4 base unit, but you get additional functionality if you upgrade to:
The Striker 4cv includes CHIRP ClearVü that operates on 455/800 kHz frequencies. This provides almost photo-like images with great target separation to easily identify structures, fish, and submerged objects. You’ll pay another $80-$100 for this model.
Are you primarily looking to use on rented boats or even enhance your kayak or canoe fishing game? The Striker 4 with portable kit includes a bag, tilt/swivel mount & handle, suction cup mount, foam float, kayak in-hull transducer mount, rechargeable battery, power cable and AC charger.
The portable kit costs another $70 or so.
You can also choose the Striker 4 + arm mount package for an additional $25. Perfect for mounting to kayaks and canoes.
The Striker 4 is best for small boats that want the benefits from GPS and CHIRP technology at a very affordable price.
The Hook2 4x with GPS is Lowrance’s entry-level 4” finder. We’re reviewing the unit with GPS as it only costs an additional $10 and we think this is well worth the price of a GPS plotter.
The wide-angle sonar operates at 200 kHz with a conical beam transducer covering 40 degrees. The wider angle allows for greater coverage without having to move your boat.
This model does not have CHIRP sonar, you’ll need to upgrade to the Hook2 5x model for CHIRP and downscan imaging.
The autotuning feature is a great touch as it allows you to continue fishing without needing to manually tune the feeder as you move. It’s all about maximizing your time spent fishing rather than playing around with the finder.
The GPS plotter is great for setting waypoints, courses and for general navigation. It’s a plotter only, so it doesn’t come with any maps, nor does it have any ability to import them. You’ll need to go up in price if GPS mapping is a must-have for you.
You can mount it with the classic quick-release bracket and the front-dash mount - both are included.
Whilst we like the Lowrance Hook2 4x with GPS, it doesn’t have quite the same features as the Garmin Striker 4. Most notably, it doesn’t have CHIRP sonar technology. Both entry-level units are competing at the same price point, so unless you really want a widescreen format, we suggest the Garmin Striker 4 is the better buy.
The Piranhamax 4 DI from Humminbird offers 2D and DI (Down Imaging) with a nicely sized screen for this budget offering.
The 4.3” LED backlit screen is slightly larger than its Garmin and Lowrance competitors at the same price point.
We like the traditional sonar offerings of 200 and 455 kHz for 2D to provide views in the narrow and wide frequencies. The additional down imaging sonar 455 kHz allows for significantly better differentiation of objects on the bottom and is a great inclusion for the price.
The 2D range of 600 ft is sufficient to allow for some offshore fishing too, whilst the DI has a more limited range of 320 ft.
The biggest shortcomings of this finder are the lack of GPS and CHIRP. Both come standard in the Garmin Striker 4.
Overall, this is a solid entry-level unit from Humminbird that is best suited for smaller boats that stick mostly to rivers and lakes but still want some sonar ability if they choose to go offshore a little.
But, if we had to choose, the lack of CHIRP and GPS makes us favor the Garmin Striker 4 over this finder.
The next size up from Humminbird you’ll find the HELIX 5 range. This is a 5” unit that offers solid 2d sonar ability only, without CHIRP, side or down imaging.
The 2D Dual Beam Plus sonar operates in the 200 kHz and 83 kHz frequencies which can be run at the same time and share a split-screen.
SwitchFire technology allows you to choose how the sonar information is displayed. “Max Mode” displays everything, whilst “Clear Mode” filters out a lot of the clutter so you can concentrate on the more important objects.
It offers a good maximum depth of 1,500 ft, making it suitable for light offshore fishing.
Overall, this unit is best suited for those that want a decent-sized screen, good traditional 2d sonar, but don’t need all of the bells and whistles such as CHIRP, DI, SI or GPS available on more expensive finders.
The SplitShot refers to the 2 different types of sonar included. It uses wide-angle high CHIRP sonar at 200 kHz with a 40 degree coverage angle. This radar performs very well for identifying target fish.
The other radar is the DownScan which operates on 455 and 800 kHz frequencies. This provides you with clear images of the bottom structure.
We love the integrated view that combines the fish arches displayed in the CHIRP sonar with the detailed bottom structure images from DownScan. They’ve called this integration ‘FishReveal’ and it’s a great feature that gives you everything you need on the one screen.
The GPS plotter with Genesis live real-time mapping is very handy as it allows you to create your own maps. It uses the 2D sonar and the GPS plotter to draw and record the bottom contours. You’ll need to slot in a MicroSD card to save the maps. And, unfortunately, you can’t load maps downloaded from Genesis Live database. You can only make and save your own maps.
Other sonar features include Fish ID, Circular Flasher, A-Scope, Bottom Lock, Surface Clarity, Noise Rejection, Fish Alarm & Depth Alarm.
Overall this fish finder is a good buy for those that want a 5” screen with some solid sonar features & GPS. But, if using external maps is important for you, then you’ll need to move up to the next price range for this functionality.
The Garmin Striker Plus 5cv comes with several features not available in the Striker 4 reviewed above.
The most obvious is the 5-inch screen that displays 800 x 480 with an LED backlight. This is a significant size increase from the 3.5” of the Striker 4 and it shifts to a landscape orientation.
In addition to the CHIRP 2d sonar, you also get ClearVü sonar which allows you to see a near photo-like wide image of what passes beneath your boat. This might be fish, submerged objects, and other structures.
The ClearVü sonar operates on the 455 kHz & 800 kHz frequencies with a maximum depth of 250 ft. The traditional 2D sonar can be operated to a greater depth of 2,300 ft on the 200 kHz and 77 kHz frequencies.
Similar to the Lowrance Hook Reveal 5X SplitShot, you can use a live mapping function to record your own maps. Garmin calls this ‘Quickdraw Contours’ and gives you the ability to combine sonar and GPS data to create maps with 1’ contours.
But, unlike the Hook 5x Splitshot, there is no MicroSD slot so you’ll be limited to the onboard memory. You’ll get approx 2 million acres or about 1,500 hours of Quickdraw Contours map data from the onboard memory.
From a functionality perspective, there is very little separating the Striker Plus 5cv from the Hook Reveal 5x. They both use 2d CHIRP sonar and a down imaging sonar, both have GPS and live-mapping software and both share the same screen size and resolution. They also share the same price-point that just scrapes into our less than $300 requirement.
Where the Striker Plus 5cv wins:
So, overall we recommend the Garmin Striker Plus 5cv for those looking for an affordable 5” fish finder that comes with 2 sonars, GPS and live-mapping. But, if you want to import maps you’ll need to go up a price bracket.
At the cheapest end of the market, it’s very hard to go past the Garmin Striker 4. Packing CHIRP sonar and GPS plotting into such an affordably priced unit has proven to be a crowd-pleaser as there are loads of raving customer reviews.
If you want a slightly larger screen (5”), then we’d recommend the Garmin Striker Plus 5cv as you’ll then get 2 sonar types including ClearVü, live mapping, and internal storage. This is still an affordable fish finder, but it will cost approx double that of the smaller Garmin Striker 4.