The ocean is a vast and mysterious force of nature, and those who love going into the water will attest to how much life is teeming underwater, even if it’s not something you can see from the surface. This is true whether you prefer salt water activities, fresh water activities, or both! But unless you’ve committed to diving in and searching for marine life yourself, it can be difficult to locate what you’re looking for. This is where fish-finders come in. With a fish-finder, you can easily locate with accuracy where marine life lies underwater and then position yourself accordingly above water. Whether you’re fishing, boating, or sailing, a fishfinder can be a useful tool to have on hand to make your expedition smoother and more rewarding.
There are lots of things to take into consideration when buying a fish-finder, beyond the price. You want to make sure that the vertical pixel count is high enough to account for the depth of the water that you plan on exploring, as the ocean is far more deep than a lake. You also want to ensure that the transducer, or the part of the fish-finder that sends and receives sonar, can similarly send a signal deep enough for where you plan on going, and that its cone angle is sufficiently wide. A high resolution screen will ensure that these findings are broadcasted back to you and intelligible in real time. On top of all these, there’s the price you have to consider as well! Given the complexities involved in making this decision, we’ve put together our 2020 picks for the best fish-finder under $300, which ensures that all the ones listed below are going to be quality for the price.
Our Favorite Fish Finders Under $300 In 2020
This Lowrance fish-finder is specifically designed to make fishing easier. It has automated sonar settings so that you don’t need to put effort into figuring out what settings to use or adjustments to make; the HOOK2 does everything for you automatically. The display screen is SolarMAX and delivers high-resolution views of fish, and the unit has easy-to-use menus while the keypad is optimized with one-touch access to all the key features that you might be looking for. The built-in mapping also enables you to easily find depth changes or identify underwater obstacles. This fish-finder is better designed for more stable boats rather than kayaks, since the build itself requires firmer seating and is not made to withstand lots of potential splashing. Otherwise, as one reviewer noted, “the HOOK2 5 is awesome. I’m an avid fisherman that was looking for something that would offer my down scan and 2d sonar with a split screen option. I also wanted it to be compact for my application. This offers what I need. It has super clear pictures of all the screens. Also it has auto tune. Just plug in and go! Great job Lowrance. You did good with this small yet powerful package.”
Garmin’s Striker 4 has a more vertical design and is fairly compact but no less powerful than what you would expect from a fish-finder. The CHIRP transducer provides a higher level of clarity and detail for fish and underwater structures than your traditional 77/200 kHz transducers by sending a continuous sweep of frequencies, allowing a wider range of information to come back to you. In addition to the built-in, high-sensitivity GPS, you can also mark your hot spots, boat ramps and docks, and identify things like brush piles and stumps to help navigation the next time you go back or just when you’re trying to head back to the boat ramp. This is similarly designed less for a kayak and more for a boat, since you need to connect it to a 12 volt power supply, but it’s an easy fix if you have a car battery or other car battery booster units. Otherwise, and especially for the price, this is “hands down best budget fish finder i have ever used. I use it on a job boat and have no complaints. Very accurate in deep/shallow waters as far as i can tell. The amount of detail you can see on color fish finder vs black and white is AMAZING! GPS comes in handy for marking hot spots and marking the dock you used to get in the water so you don’t get lost trying to get back. CHIRP is also a game changer. The two things I’ll never go without again is CHIRP and color! This is a great budget unit.”
- Garmin Striker Plus 5cv with Transducer, 5” GPS Fishfinder with CHIRP Traditional and ClearVu Scanning Sonar Transducer and Built In Quickdraw Contours Mapping Software
As you might expect, the Garmin Striker Plus is a step up from the Striker 4 in terms of the features offered. In addition to the game-changing CHIRP transducer, it also has CHIRP ClearVu scanning sonar and Quickdraw Contours map drawing software, so that you can create HD fishing maps of the places that you’ve been to and will likely return to again and again. On this unit, the display is 5” and easy to read even under direct, bright sunlight so that you can use it in any weather and not have to worry about whether you can decipher what’s on screen. The design is rugged and built for all sorts of environments and fishing apparatus so you don’t need to worry about being too delicate. One reviewer noted that “living on the coast the shorelines often change with storms and such. I have fished the same “deep holes” my father did. However, I can better see exactly where the holes are. When fishing ledges I can see the exact depths the fish are to better fish those areas. I enjoy fishing deep up the ledges to shallow. This thing is great, just spend a few extra bucks and go with a larger screen. Good product, worth the money.”
Humminbird fish-finders consistently rank at or near the top of lists for best fish-finders and it’s certainly the case here. The HELIX 5 boasts software that is unparalleled in terms of flexibility and detail. The sonar technology comes with SwitchFire, which lets you control the way your returns appear. You can choose how much detail (fish, structures, thermoclines) you want to include or exclude. Meanwhile, DualBeam gives you both wide and narrow beams so that you can see both fish and the bottom, and you can combine the two for even more detail in what’s rendered on the screen. It also includes CHIRP technology so that you can have more accurate and detailed returns of fish, structure, and the lake or ocean bottom. The built-in basemap is based on data from LakeMaster and NOAA so that you’re ready to go even before you start fiddling with the technology yourself. As one reviewer raved, the HELIX5 is an “excellent depth finder!!! Will definitely be buying another one in the future!!!!”
- 5-Inch Color WVGA Display
- CHIRP Dual Beam PLUS Sonar. Power Output RMS : 500 Watts. Power Draw : 615 mA
- Precision Internal GPS Chart plotting with built-in Anima cartography
- Micro SD card slot for optional maps or for saving waypoints
- Target Separation - 2.5 Inches