Written By Vern Lovic
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You've probably been on a fishing boat that didn't have a fish finder. My kayak didn't have one for years. When you don't know the area you're fishing and you don't even know what the bottom is like, it's basically like gambling with your time as you try to locate a productive fishing spot.
I have tested and rated all of the top fish finders so that I could find the best fish finders under $200 for you.
Garmin striker 4
hawkeye fishtrax 1c
Best with camera
aqua vu stealth
In This Guide
- Best Fish Finders Under $200 At A Glance
- 1. Best Overall: Garmin Striker 4 Fishfinder
- 2. Best Handheld: HawkEye FishTrax 1C Color Handheld Fishfinder
- 3. Best With Real Camera: Aqua-Vu Micro Stealth Underwater Viewing System Combo
- 4. Best Portable: LUCKY Water Depth Fish Finder
- 5. Best Budget: ReelSonar iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder
- 6. Best Detection Accuracy: LuckyLaker Sensor Handheld Fish Finder
- Who Needs A Fish Finder
- Fish Finder Buying Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Wrapping It Up
Best Fish Finders Under $200 At A Glance
Reviews of the Top Fish Finders Under $200
1. Best Overall: Garmin Striker 4 Fishfinder
This Garmin Striker 4 is our choice for the top-rated fish finder under $200. It's much less than that, actually! This unit has some unique and valuable features as well as some of the usual features found in fish finders in this price range.
The Garmin Striker has a high-frequency scanning sonar that generates detailed near photographic-quality images showing fish, bottom, and submerged structures.
It uses CHIRP Sonar Technology, which is far superior to other fish finders in this price range.
Garmin designed this fish finder with simplicity and practicality in mind. Essentially, this fish-finding device has many dedicated buttons on the outside of the unit that you'll find easy to use.
My favorite feature of the Garmin Striker is the GPS, which is crucial for navigating and also for finding your way home if you get caught in the fog. It also allows you to mark waypoints and save them, so that you can come back to the exact same spot at another time.
- Clear Vu scanning sonar that generates high-resolution images
- Scanner resolution of 480 x 320 pixels
- Bright LCD screen size of 3.5 inches
- Black color plastic body
- Worldwide map coverage
- Ethernet connection technology
- Water rating of IPX7
What We Like
What We Don't Like
Here's a video showing the features of the Garmin Striker.
2. Best Handheld: HawkEye FishTrax 1C Color Handheld Fishfinder
If you are looking for a handheld fish finder this the one that stood out during my testing. I used this fish finder in my kayak and I was very impressed with high resolution HD color screen.
The sonar sensor can be trolled, mounted on a boat or kayak, even just floated.
It has 3 different modes, fish finder, data and ice fishing flasher. I used it in the fish finder mode and it marked numerous fish for me, while showing bottom contours, depth and temperature.
The Hawkeye Fishtrax was the best handheld fish finder that I tested in the under $200 category by far.
It also comes with a TraxNut mounting system, which can be used on a boat or kayak.
- Full-color, high-definition VirtuView TFTN display
- 15 foot transducer cable
- Waterproof design
- Auto zoom bottom tracking
- 200/83kHz dual-frequency sonar
What We Like
What We Don't Like
Here is a video showing all of the features of the FishTrax 1C Fishfinder.
3. Best With Real Camera: Aqua-Vu Micro Stealth Underwater Viewing System Combo
Another portable option for kayak or ice fishing. The cool part about this fishfinder is that it actually has a camera! You can literally see the fish on the screen!
The screen resolution for this fish finder is 800 x 480 pixels. It comes in two parts, the underwater camera is paired with a high-definition LCD monitor.
You'll be able to discern fish species, sizes, and numbers of fish in the area. Some customers of this device enjoy dropping the camera down beside their baited hook to see what the fish are doing with it.
Ultimately, the device shows you where the fish are and makes for a fun fishing experience.
- Working temperature between -500°F and 1,000 °F (is this real?)
- Camera wire is 50 ft. long, super-thin, and has a tensile strength of 90 lb.
- Battery life of 8 to 10 hours
- 4.3" LCD screen with sun-visor
- Screen brightness of 600 NITs (cd/m2)
What We Like
What We Don't Like
4. Best Portable: LUCKY Water Depth Fish Finder
This Lucky unit is another fish finder that may suit your needs under $200. It is portable and is ideal for ice fishing, fishing from shore, fishing from a kayak, or from any boat.
Lucky's sonar transducer also enhances the product’s overall reliability. The sonar in this unit uses a 200 kHz frequency angled at 45° (beam angle). It can detect fish up to 100 meters deep, so it isn't ideal for deep-water fishing like the Garmin we mentioned above.
- Built-in lithium battery
- Fish alarm rings when fish swims into a chosen detection area
- Shallow alarm rings upon detecting shallow waters
- Sensitivity adjustment
- Multi-color contour display showing actual fish avatars, not arches
What We Like
What We Don't Like
5. Best Budget: ReelSonar iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder
If you are looking for the best affordable fish finder available on the market, this one comes at a very budget-friendly price. Unlike other fish finders that feature an LCD screen, this one incorporates an LED beacon that lights up when the sonar identifier detects fish. In addition, it syncs with Android or IOS smartphones through an app.
ReelSonar created this fish finder with ease of use, practicality, and affordability in mind. Using Bluetooth technology to connect with the app on your phone this fish finder can alert you to fish biting and fish in the area. It also functions as a floating bobber that flashes when fish are beneath.
- Battery-powered (10+ hours of use)
- Records temperature, rain, wind, barometer
- Measures 2" x 2" x 1"
- Saltwater/freshwater detection depth of 135 feet (good for the price!)
What We Like
What We Don't Like
6. Best Detection Accuracy: LuckyLaker Sensor Handheld Fish Finder
If you are looking for a fish finder under $200 with the highest detection accuracy, then this one from LuckyLaker is the one for you. The reason this unit has better detection accuracy is that it has two sonar units included, each with a different frequency (83/200 kHz). One device has a wire connected and the other is wireless, you can cast it out to where you want to detect fish.
The fish finder unit with the screen has a waterproof (floating) design that is easy to read. You can use this in saltwater or freshwater
- Wired sonar detects fish between 2.3 to 328 feet deep
- Two-in-one sonar
- Sensitivities adjustment function
- Waterproof design
- Entire unit weighs 2.71 lb.
- 9.61" x 6.54" x 4.29"
What We Like
What We Don't Like
Who Needs A Fish Finder
As a recreational angler, you need a reliable fish finder to help you locate the fish within a body of water - a river, lake or ocean. Knowing where the fish are will increase your chances of landing more fish. Knowing where the fish are is one of the biggest benefits you can have while fishing!
Whether you are fishing the open sea, big lakes, or rivers, wouldn’t it be nice if you could see fish under the water and drop your bait to them instead of riding your boat around for a couple of hours to get nothing?
Every angler who has a boat needs a fish finder to help land more fish.
Fish Finder Buying Guide
In order to find you the best fish finders available on the market for under $200 we had to look at the vast array of designs and specifications for many brands.
Think about the type of fishing you will be doing primarily and how the fish finder will help you the most.
A fish-finding unit with many pieces and functions may or may not be ideal for the situation you will use it for.
For instance, though the idea of a video camera dropped to 50 feet down below the surface to see fish moving around sounds incredible, it may not be what you really need. What if the water is especially murky and you can't see anything? This is a case where a sonar fishfinder would be much better than a video fish finder.
Let's take a look at the things you should consider when buying a fish finder.
These are the exact things that I rated the above fish finders on during my testing.
Fish detection depth is a vital factor to consider in your buying decision. The depth the finder works is crucial because it has to cover your target species. If you're fishing for tuna, there's only one fish-finding device on this page you could possibly use – the Garmin in the number #1 slot. It covers saltwater to 750 feet. That may be enough for you, but you may even need a stronger device.
There are a number of factors that determine the fish detection depth of the device. One is the beam angle for the device's sonar transducer. The transponder needs to be in the water completely and should be angled out about 3° from the hull angle for the best result.
This can change depending on what fish you're targeting and the slope of the bottom. Another factor is the frequency used to detect fish. Some use 70 or 83 kHz and most cover the 200 kHz frequency.
When looking for cheap fish finders to purchase, you should look out for the detection accuracy of different models. This can vary substantially.
While a commercial fisherman will have a much more powerful sonar device on the boat than the devices we list here for under $200, you may still need a very accurate device for that price point. If you're taking people out on the water to catch fish, the accuracy of your device will directly impact your daily catch and profitability overall.
Spending a little more will actually save you time and money and your paying customers will be happier when you consistently find fish with a highly accurate sonar device.
The range (depth) and area a device can accurately detect fish depends on the frequencies of the transponder used. Multiple frequencies are employed to cover a greater area.
High-frequency ultrasound is great for a detailed search but is not good for deep water. Low frequencies can be used for deep water and to cover a wider area. This is why good sonar-based fish finders use a minimum of two frequencies, so they can cover more area accurately.
The availability of both wireless and wired sonars in a fish finder allows you to cover more area as you're fishing. If you had the LuckyLaker unit covered above, you could stand on the dock and drop the wired unit straight down to see what was there. Then you could also cast out the wireless unit as far as you could throw it to see if there were fish in that area. It's quite useful!
Well-designed fish sonars with high detection accuracy can give you a visual representation of the fish but also the exact GPS location, water depth, and temperature where the school is located. The Garmin unit above is highly accurate like this.
Product design and how the fish finder goes about finding fish matters. Do you need sonar, or would a video be better? Do you even need to see a visual representation of the fish below, or just know where they are?
Also, there are limitations of design. If you bought the video camera unit, you cannot see very far ahead. You could try to move the boat forward and continue shooting the video, but you may snag the wire on some obstacle and lose your camera. You may have to scan an area, pull up the camera, move to another area, and drop the camera again.
Not exactly speedy and efficient, is it? So, there are trade-offs you should keep in mind with any of the devices found on this page.
Versatility is a critical aspect that needs to be considered as you decide which fish finder under $200 is the right one for your needs.
If you fish in both saltwater and freshwater, you'll want a fish-finding device that can handle both environments for you.
You may have two different boats and want to easily change the location of your device from one to the other. Some will easily allow that and are perfect for this, others will need some more planning to make it easily done. You may need a bracket on both boats to hold the screen, for instance.
Saltwater fishing exposes your gear to a higher pH than freshwater environments because of the higher salt concentration. Buying brand-name technology by one of the top manufacturers in the field – Garmin – is probably a good idea since the price is so comparable.
The level of water resistance your fish finder has may be important to you. If you've installed the unit behind glass on your console, you probably don't need to worry too much about it, but you should definitely get a unit with high water resistance since you'll be out in the splashing water and light and hard rain at times.
Water resistance ratings given by manufacturers are typically dumbed down a bit, which means that your device will probably perform better than the specifications state. This is because they don't want to be replacing devices for free if there's water damage.
In stating levels that are lower than what they really are, they can protect the company from paying for replacements for people who abused their devices by exposing them to a lot of water.
Choosing a fish-finding device that can function through rain, saltwater splashes, and even drops into the water is a good idea. The more waterproof or water-resistant, the better.
Keep in mind, some units float, and others sink. Which one do you need? Will you be hand-holding it or will it be mounted somewhere?
If you are in the marketplace for cheap fish finders, the length of time you can use the battery is important. Will you only be out for a few hours? All fish finders can handle that. What if you're out on the boat for an entire weekend?
Battery capacity typically strongly affects the price, so you'll need to consider that and maybe pay a little more than you thought. The Garmin fish finder above takes a 12-volt lithium battery you have to buy separately. It will last for a much longer time than any of the other units on this page.
When looking at the battery specifications of different fish finder models online or at brick-and-mortar stores, you should know that the abbreviation for battery capacity is milliampere/hour (mAh).
When you do choose a sonar device for fish finding, make sure you pay attention to how long it takes to charge rechargeable batteries. This can also be a huge factor in your decision.
The ability to read your screen in the bright sun is essential while out on a boat. Most fish finders have LCD screens that show you what is underwater like fish, bottom, and obstacles. You need to see all of that with good clarity or your fish finder isn't worth anything. Good high-resolution and high-contrast screens are essential out on the water so you can distinguish between underwater objects.
Fish finder screens are improving all the time, and even under $200, you should be able to get a legible screen. Those with underwater cameras also need a high resolution to enable you to see clearly what is going on under the water. A screen resolution of 480 x 320 is about the minimum usable resolution at this time, and ideally, you will get a more detailed screen as you can afford a better unit.
RELATED: Ice Fishing For Brown Trout
Multiple technologies provide more features and make for a better fishing experience. You'll need to analyze what functions you need and what would be nice to have (optional) in your sub $200 fish-finding device.
For example, a digital zoom or way to focus in on details can be handy in deep-sea fishing where fish species and other objects may not be clearly visible.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much does the best fish finder under $200 cost?
The best one we've found – the Garmin at the top of the page is just over $100 and gives a great representation of functions anglers need to find fish in freshwater and saltwater.
What factors determine the cost of fish finders available in the marketplace?
A fish finder’s brand, battery capacity, screen size and resolution, and the technologies used all influence the price of fish finders.
What is the most reliable fish finder brand?
The most reliable fish finder brand is Garmin. This brand receives consistently high ratings from consumers across the range of technology products they develop.
What is the advantage of using a sonar transducer over an underwater camera?
A sonar transducer can detect fish over significantly greater distances and depths than an underwater camera.
Wrapping It Up
When operating on a budget, you need to find an affordable fish finder that gives you enough value for your money. Hopefully, this buying guide has made it easier to choose the best fish finder under $200 that matches your fishing style and needs.
My top pick for the best fish finder under $200 is the Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 Fish Finder because of its suitability to a broad range of fishing environments. Its high-frequency scanning sonar generates detailed photographic-level images depicting fish and submerged structures. In addition, it gets phenomenal reviews, its user interface is easy to use, and its price point gives buyers great value for the money.
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