Best Portable Fish Finders

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I am a kayak angler. Each fishing trip begins and ends the same way–installing and removing my fish finder. Though I’m fishing in a small plastic boat, I still want the same fish finder technology used on motor boats. The best portable fish finders for kayak and ice fishing combine the transducer, battery and multi-function display in a package that can be taken anywhere.

In my opinion, a portable fish finder has to do more than just package the basic components. Whether an angler is launching a kayak on an isolated marsh creek or hiking across the ice to a winter honey hole, they must be easy to carry and difficult to damage. 

When it comes to ice fishing, a waterproof, padded case with space for the display, battery, transducer and cables prevents damage to the sensitive components. Add space for tackle and tools and the portable fish finder keeps important gear close at hand. 

For fishing from a kayak, canoe, or other small vessel, combining a high-quality fish finder with an installation system saves time at the launch. The best models for kayak fishing are easy to remove between fishing trips. One option is a mounting system that attaches to a gear track and holds the display, battery and transducer. Twist a couple of knobs to remove the whole system in seconds. 

As more people take fishing on the go, the best portable fish finders are becoming more durable and easy to carry without sacrificing technology. I can have the same features as a boater anywhere I fish. 

Our Picks for Best Portable Fish Finder



From ice fishing in winter to kayak fishing during spring, summer and fall, a portable fish finder has to do it all. Just because I fish out of a small plastic boat or through a hole in the ice doesn’t mean I need a less powerful and capable sonar.

Humminbird’s Ice Helix 7 Chirp GPS G4 All Season fits the bill with everything I need to take the fish finder from the ice to open water. In addition to the real-time flasher for stationary fishing, the Helix 7 also has a powerful dual spectrum CHIRP sonar to search the water for fish and structure. The Helix 7 G4 CHIRP transducer uses two variable sonar signals to display targets with ¾-inch separation. Instead of a school of fish appearing on the screen like a big red blob, the G4 sonar allows me to see individual fish huddling together. 

The Helix 7 G4 also includes a full-feature GPS that is compatible with Lakemaster and Navionics charts. The upgraded charts add incredible detail and navigation information along with depth contours and notes on obstructions. I can track my progress and position on the charts in relation to the depth information on the sonar to pinpoint fish-holding structure.

The ice fishing bundle includes the display, ice transducer, 12-volt battery and all cables. For open water fishing in my kayak, the kit also contains a transom mount transducer and mounting bracket for the display. I installed the traditional transducer in my kayak and attached the display to a RAM mount Universal Marine Electronic Mount. 

In winter, the Helix 7 ice fishing kit  fits on a lightweight and sturdy carrying shuttle with space for the display, transducer, batteries and cables. During the rest of the year, I use the Helix in my kayak with a YakAttack CellBlok and SwitchBlade transducer mount. The system holds my display, battery and transducer and it attaches to my kayak gear tracks in seconds.


  • Navionics and Lakemaster charts
  • Dual Spectrum CHIRP signal
  • Kit includes ice shuttle, kayak and boat transducer


  • Needs a carrying case

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When I go fishing I make no compromises. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to catch a fish. The Lowrance Elite Explorer Pack allows me to take the epitome of fish finder and navigation capabilities wherever I go fishing. 

On the fish finder side, the Elite fish finder displays CHIRP, down-view, side-view and live-view sonar. When I’m searching for fish in the kayak, I employ side-view sonar to find targets and structure. Down-view gives me a lifelike image of structure with photographic detail. Then, forward facing sonar provides real-time video of fish and structure; I can even watch a fish react to my lure. 

In the navigation department, the preloaded Lowrance Elite C-Map Contour+ has access to 15,000 US lakes and 9,000 Canadian lakes with all the precision navigation features expected from a full-feature GPS. Best of all, I don’t have to buy aftermarket maps or pay a subscription for access to premium charts.

The high-powered fish finder and GPS display attaches to a compact hard-plastic shuttle frame. The frame fits in a carry case with space for two tackle trays. The Explorer Pack comes with everything I need for ice fishing including the traditional transducer and the Live Target transducer. The package has a transducer pole to hold the transducer under the ice and a 24ah lithium battery with voltage meter. 

I like the little touches; my favorite added feature is two USB-A charging ports I use to keep my phone and portable speaker powered up. In addition to the Explorer Pack, Lowrance offers a long list of portability options. To connect the transducer to my plastic boat and hold the battery, I added the Portable Kayak Kit. 


  • Live View, Down-View, Side-View, CHIRP sonar
  • Preloaded detailed navigation charts
  • Kit includes transducer pole
  • Wireless, NMEA 2000 and Ethernet connectivity
  • Touch screen
  • Easy to carry
  • 24ah battery


  • Expensive

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Garmin is famous for top-of-the-line electronics, and their entry-level fish finders and GPS units meet the same high standards at a lower price. The Garmin Striker 4 is a perfect example. The 3.5-inch screen is Garmin’s smallest multi-function display. Still, Garmin packed the down-sized unit with their best technology.

The Striker 4 combines highly-detailed CHIRP sonar with a full-color display to make it easier to read the small screen. The CHIRP transducer uses a high and mid power signal to pick up slight variations in bottom contour and composition and show fish and bait with pinpoint detail. For even more detail, I can upgrade to a high-performance transducer.

To give me a live view of the action below the transducer, the Striker 4’s digital flasher shows me the bottom composition, fish and my lure in real time. I can watch the fish respond to my lure and adjust my tactics to get a bite.

Garmin combined the sonar with a GPS plotter that displays waypoints and boat speed. With the plotter, I mark structure, landmarks and the launch ramp to create a map of my fishing. The Striker 4 can share this information with other Striker and EchoMap units.

My favorite feature for the entry-level fish finder is the water temperature display and water temperature log. Tracking the water temperature is often the first step in finding the fish. 

I run the GPS and fish finder in split screen mode so I can find structure and fish and mark the locations on the GPS. When I’m paddling my kayak, I monitor my speed so I can modulate my effort. The Garmin Striker 4 fits inside a carrying case with a sealed, rechargeable battery and transducer. The kit also includes a suction cup transducer mount for canoes and an in-hull transducer for kayaks. 


  • Kayak and canoe kit included
  • Compact size
  • Price
  • CHIRP and flasher


  • Basic GPS plotter
  • Sealed Lead Acid Battery

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Vexilar built its reputation on portable flashers for ice fishing and they staked it all on the new FLX-38 Pro Pack Elite, available in October. Starting with their top-of-the-line FLX-38 digital flasher with five color palette and depth read out. The broad band transducer transmits on 15 frequencies to reduce interference from nearby fish finders. 

To dial in the flasher for a more detailed image of fish and bottom composition, the FLX-38 uses seven power modes and zoom at one-foot increments. Flashers are popular with ice anglers because the flasher displays a nearly real-time image of fish directly below the transducer. An angler can see his lure and watch the fish’s reaction. 

The Vexilar transducer provides returns with accuracy up to ¼ inch target separation making it easier to interpret fish marks and bait marks. To carry the FLX-38, the Pro Pack Elite includes a full-function shuttle frame with battery, USB-A charging ports and power switch. Instead of a float to dangle the transducer below the ice, the FLX-38 has a retractable arm that keeps the transducer stationary for a more accurate reading. 


  • Seven power modes
  • 15 frequencies
  • 300 interference rejection options
  • 5-color display options
  • Zoom in one-foot increments
  • Efficient and durable brushless flasher


  • Price


Installing and removing a fish finder is part of the kayak fishing ritual. Reducing the time required for the process increases fishing time. On my grab-and-go 10-foot pocket kayak and my standup paddleboard I use for commando launches, I have a Hawkeye FishTrax 1C-K fishfinder, transducer and battery combo. 

The package includes a 3-inch color fish finder display, track-mount transducer arm and transducer. The FishTrax is powered by either 12 volt DC power or four AAA batteries. The fishfinder displays depth, water temperature and battery voltage. The bottom display has programmable colors and popular features like bottom lock, fish ID and dual frequency sonar for detailed images in shallow or deep water. 

The display connects to a plastic arm that also holds the transducer. I attach the arm to a gear track on the side of my kayak while I’m fishing. I can use the fish finder when I need it and quickly store the unit between fishing trips.


  • Color display
  • Dual frequency
  • Sturdy carry case
  • 12v or AAA batteries


  • Small screen
  • No GPS

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The key word in portable fish finders is portable. I look for models that fit on a compact frame and in a durable bag for ease and efficiency in transporting it to the fish. Ice anglers are looking for a fish finder with a carry case that includes a battery, display and transducer. Kayak anglers need a portable fish finder that makes removing and installing the fish finder, battery and cables quick and easy.

Of course, price is the first filter. Recently, fish finders have taken technology to the next level with side-image and forward-facing sonar. At the top of the scale, a full-feature fish finder and GPS can cost a couple thousand dollars. On the other end, advanced technology has come down in price. For example, high-definition CHIRP sonar is now available on bargain fish finders. No matter where I’m shopping on the price scale, I can find the best technology at a great value.

The next step is matching the fish finder to the type of fishing. I have full-feature fish finders for my big-game kayak and boat. On my standup paddleboard and backwater kayak, I save space with a basic fish finder and GPS. For quick trips on the ice or long hikes to distant fishing destinations, a basic fish finder and flasher that fits in my bucket. On the other hand, competitive anglers searching out trophy fish can have the incredible power of forward-facing sonar in a portable package. 

The same goes for mapping. The best navigation systems on the market are available in portable options with detailed charts of thousands of lakes and miles of coastline. Or, with a basic GPS plotter I can record waypoints, create tracks and monitor speed. 

The best portable fish finders include charging ports, master power switch and rechargeable battery. Some systems even include a rod holder, glowing lure charger, tool holders and transducer arm. I like a portable fish finder case with outside pockets to hold tools and tackle I use most frequently.


The first word in Wired2Fish is wired. The editors and contributors at Wired2Fish are electronics geeks with years of experience and access to the latest fishing tech. In addition to testing and reviewing the latest gear, the Wired2Fish staff rig their personal boats, kayaks and ice fishing sleds with their choices for the best products to complement the way they fish.

This perspective offers the best comparison of fish finders and navigation systems so you can match your choice with the way you fish. Just like you, the experts at Wired2Fish value every minute on the water, and we want the electronics and technology that will provide the best experience to make memories that will keep us going until the next fishing trip.