What to Look for in a Portable Fish Finder


Updated on November 9, 2022 by
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When choosing a portable fish finder you should check the transducer quality, the beam and cone angles, the frequency, the screen quality, and the power source.

Portable fish finders have grown in popularity with kayak anglers and even shore fishermen as the quality has improved and the costs have dropped. But you still need to check the key features to ensure that you can gain enough information to catch more fish.

Transducer Quality

Having a fish finder with a suitable transducer is essential to getting good readings. The transducer is what emits and receives the sonar waves telling you whether there are fish nearby. Once these sonar waves are cast into the water, they bounce off every obstacle they meet.

The transducer then receives these waves. Once this data comes back, it is taken to the central unit, where these signals are processed into a picture shown on the display that you can see and understand.

Fish finder transducers come with dissimilar types of mounts. The transom mount is the easiest to install. If you prefer something more serious, or your boat is bigger, you can choose another type, such as the thru-hull mount.

Portable Fish Finders
7 Different Types of Fish Finders
7 Different Types of Fish Finders

Transducer Material

The transducer material you will pick mainly depends on the type of boat you’ll use. A plastic transducer is an excellent choice for casual and enthusiastic fishers. These transducers are well-suited for almost every type of boats.

If the transducer you are using has an in-hull mount or a thru-hull mount, metal hulls or fiberglass need plastic housing. Bronze housing is commonly used on boats with fiberglass or wood hulls.

Recreational users are catered for adequately, as most fish finders are already equipped with transducers with transom mounts or trolling motor transducers. These transducers work just fine with almost all kinds of boats, provided you follow the installation guidelines to the letter. You can choose between bronze and plastic if you are fascinated by the idea of a thru-hull transducer.

Beams and Cone Angles

When selecting a transducer, a key aspect that you should consider is the cone angle. The cone angle tells you the beam’s width emitted into the water from your fishing boat. The wider the cone, the larger the area covered. The cone angle expands as the beam goes down, but the sensitivity reduces as the beams reach the deeper waters.

Transducers’ cones range from 9 degrees to more than 60 degrees. Most of the available device’s cones tend to range between 16 degrees to 20 degrees. For starters, a 20-degree cone is a brilliant choice.

A remarkable feature of transducers is their ability to emit above one cone from one point. A conventional transducer has one beam, but you can get multiple with more advanced units.

Some of these have a side beam, dual beam, and others have a triple beam and so on. Every new beam offers the potential to cover more area. For more extensive water bodies like lakes, more beams are ideal.

While other units come with lots of options, some have single beams. The number of beams determines a particular device’s price. If you are fishing in shallow waters, dual beams are much better than single beams as the cover more area.

Color Screens Versus Black and White Screens

Color screens have, over the years, gradually become a standard in electronics. Color screens offer lots of details and millions of colors, while black and white screens only have 265 shades of gray. Information put out by the transducer will be much easier to read and understand on a color screen.

More colors enable you to see what’s happening much better. Besides, in direct sunlight, black and white displays are more challenging to read. Black and white displays also have limited readability during cloudy weather or when there is darkness.

Screen Resolution

When choosing a fish finder, consider how many pixels and resolution, you need your screen to have. A pixel is simply a single dot on your screen. The more the pixels, the more details the display puts out.

Aim to purchase a fish finder with no less than 240 x 160 pixels. The screen’s resolution determines the picture quality you will get from your fish finder in the long run. When on the hunt for a fish finder, the purpose of buying the best quality and largest display you can afford.

That way, all the numbers and data will be shown on a bigger screen and in greater detail. Smaller screens may clutter up when there are numerous readings to display.

Power

When hunting for a fish finder, you should consider its power. If you wish to have a unit with faster and deeper readings, find one with a higher wattage unit. The more the power available, the higher the waves’ speed, and the more the accuracy of the readings.

You won’t require as much power if you are going to fish in shallow water. However, if you will carry out fishing in deeper waters, find a fish finder having as much power as you can afford.

Frequencies

Aim to buy a fish finder with a higher frequency as it emits more sonar waves into the water, providing you with more details. 50 kHz to 200 kHz frequencies are common for recreational anglers. Lower frequencies give more depth but less accuracy.

There is a big difference in the type of portable fish finder you will select if you want a handheld model for piers or whether you want to be able to move transducers from one boat to another. You should choose carefully to pick the technology that suits your needs.

I always recommend picking a fish finder from a reputable brand, such as Garmin, Humminbird, or Lowrance.


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Russ Egan

Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.