Buyer’s Guide & Information

Best Fish Finders Under $300

Searching for the best fish finder under $300? We have reviewed and compared the best brands for finding fish on your next fishing trip.

by Andrew

Buyer’s Guide & Information

Best Fish Finders Under $300

Searching for the best fish finder under $300? We have reviewed and compared the best brands for finding fish on your next fishing trip.

by Andrew

by Andrew

Any seasoned angler knows that to fish successfully, you have to have the right tools out on the water. Typically, that means bringing along your best rod, the right bait, extra hooks, and more. But for the modern fisherman, there’s one more essential item that must be packed in with the tackle box – a fish finder.

Chances are, you’ve seen one of your fishing buddies using a fish finder before. These innovative devices use a form of sonar to detect the presence of fish underwater while also visually depicting their approximate depth. As such, they can take the guesswork out of landing fish at various depths and ensure that you always reel in a top-tier catch.

As you can imagine, though, these devices don't always run cheaply. In fact, you'll need to look carefully through the crowded fish finder market to find an affordable model. Of course, you could also just read this guide to the best fish finders under $300. This guide includes reviews of several top tier models while also highlighting the kind of features any worthwhile fish finder should have.

Fish Finders Under $300 Compared

Preview

Product

Screen Size

Depth Range

Check Price

Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2 Fish...

Humminbird

410210-1 HELIX 5

5 inches

Up to 2,500 ft

Garmin Striker Plus 5cv with Transducer, 5'...

Garmin Striker

Plus 5cv

5 inches

“Moderate”

Deeper Special Pro+ Summer Bundle with Dry...

Deeper

Special Pro+

App-Based

260 ft

HOOK2 5 - 5-inch Fish Finder with SplitShot...

HOOK2 5

5 inches

N/A

Humminbird 409600-1 Helix 5 DI Fish Finder...

Humminbird

409600-1

Helix 5 DI

5 inches

600 ft

How Fish Finders Work & the Benefits of Using Them

At their core, a fish finder is a consumer-oriented fathometer, which itself is a device used for safe aquatic navigation based upon sonar-detected depth. In a slightly modified form, a fish finder is then able to detect the presence of fish underwater and display their approximate depth on a screen. This can really benefit fishermen who are looking to cast out in areas where their target fish are currently present.

Fish finders have other benefits, too. For example, a fish finder can help a fisher quickly identify the water depth beneath their vessel. This, in turn, can help them safely navigate as well as decide what kind of tackle they should use before casting out. Even a fish finder under $300 has its benefits, given that those units usually operate at a comfortable median between price and core performance.


What to Expect When Buying a Fish Finder Under $300

Fishing Type & Environment

Modern fish finders are designed with specialized use in mind. As such, it is essential to choose a model that is designed for the type of fishing environments you frequent. To that end, lake and stream fishers can usually utilize a basic model, while an ocean fisherman may need a more powerful unit.

Mounting Type/Material

Fish finders today come in several mounting styles, including fixed, handheld, wireless, and more. Each has its own benefits when it comes to portability and practicality, particularly when you are out on the water with a rod in hand. A unit's mounting style may also impact its durability, which is essential when it comes to taking a piece of technology out on the water.

Type of Sonar

On today's market, you'll find affordably priced fish finders that utilize one of two different types of sound-based detection – SONAR and CHIRP. Many fishers are already familiar with SONAR, given that many boats already use it for depth detection. In any case, SONAR is the gold standard for fish finding because it can reliably detect at both shallow and deep depths (so long as you have a multi-frequency transducer, that is).

CHIRP, on the other hand, is a newer technology. Short for “Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse,” CHIRP’s main difference is that it has a longer “pulse” than SONAR. This allows them to gather more depth-based information in a single pulse, with data gathered in this manner becoming more reliable in turn. You can also read a detailed comparison of the two here.

Maximum Depth & Water Resistance

Because fish finders are designed for use in and around water, it only makes sense that they are typically designed with some degree of water resistance. This is communicated through an IP rating, which numerically establishes how well a unit’s enclosure protects it from moisture and direct water intrusion. A chart of the various IP ratings can be found here.

Frequency

Fish finders output a variety of sound-based frequencies to ensure a user has a full picture of the waters below them. Generally, higher frequencies are used to view deeper bodies of water, while lower frequencies can view shallow waters with greater detail. Ideally, your chosen unit should include options for both so that you can see fish at multiple depths at once.

Performance Features

There are also some performance-related features that you can sometimes find in a sub-$300 fish finder. One such feature is extra SD storage, which is great for saving data and settings without taking up too much of the unit’s onboard memory. Viewing angle adjustments are another useful feature that can ensure you aren’t having your finder’s view obstructed by large aquatic objects.

Warranty

As always, a warranty may end up impacting your fish finder’s final price. A unit may look affordable at first, but its lack of a warranty would make it a liability if it didn’t perform as expected. As such, any fish finder that costs less than $300 and still includes a warranty is a bargain worthy of your consideration.


5 Best Fish Finders Under $300 Reviewed

1. Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5

Our Top Pick

Screen Size

5 inches

Mounting Options

Fixed

Depth Range

Up to 2,500 ft

Chirp or Sonar

Both

Warranty

Yes (Length Not Listed)

First up, I want to talk about my top pick for the best Humminbird fish finder – the Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5.

This is one of the newest models from this trusted brand, so you can count on its features to be head-and-shoulders above its competition. This can immediately be seen in this model's charting and cartography abilities—a direct result of its inclusion of built-in Anima GPS functions. In addition, you'll find that this, the best fish finder GPS under $300, also comes with Basemap and Autochart Live right out of the box.

The Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 is also one of the premier models on the market today that includes both SONAR and CHIRP capabilities. With these functions combined, this unit allows you to easily see every fish and structure both below and beside your boat at up to 2,500 ft. in depth. Should you need to filter out what you see, though, this model’s SwitchFire control panel allows you to easily choose which data you want up on the unit’s 5-inch screen at any time.

It’s worth noting, too, that the Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 includes a microSD card slot. Though this is a small feature, it can make a big difference for users who want to save maps and waypoints without having to erase old data on the unit.

Pros
  • Includes both CHIRP and SOANR
  • Comes with Basemap and Autochart Live
  • SwitchFire control panel allows for more customized interface
Cons
  • Includes a warranty, but its length is unclear

2. Garmin Striker Plus 5cv

Best Garmin Fish Finder with GPS under $300

Screen Size

5 inches

Mounting Options

Fixed

Depth Range

“Moderate”

Chirp or Sonar

Both

Warranty

-

Next up is the Garmin Striker Plus 5cv, which definitely stands out as the best Garmin fish finder with built-in GPS under $300. Given that Garmin is well-known for its GPS units, it should be no surprise that this unit utilizes similar global positioning capabilities. Using this built-in GPS, you’ll be able to do everything from mark ideal fishing locations to determine your current movement speed. It even keeps itself up to date with info on wake speeds in your area.

Beyond its GPS functions, the Garmin Striker Plus 5cv is also a top performer when it comes to detection. That's primarily because it comes standard with both SONAR and CHIRP modules. When used in conjunction, these detection types can detect nearly every object in your vicinity. They can even recognize some of the smallest fish with near-photographic accuracy thanks to this unit's proprietary ClearVü scanning system.

This model also includes an intuitive user interface that even new users can learn in minutes. That includes this model’s Quickdraw Contours mapping software, which allows you to store numerous maps right on the device. Even this model’s 5” screen is user-friendly, given that it is resistant to glare and easy to read in the bright midday sun.

Pros
  • Reliable built-in Garmin GPS
  • ClearVü scanning sonar provides clear image of nearby fish
  • Quickdraw Contours mapping software allows for map creation and storage
Cons
  • More expensive than average

3. Deeper Special Pro+

Best Castable Fish Finder under $300

Screen Size

App-Based

Mounting Options

Portable (Smartphone)

Depth Range

260 ft

Chirp or Sonar

SONAR

Warranty

-

The Deeper Special Pro+ is a little different than most fish finders you’ve probably used before.

As the best castable fish finder under $300, you can bet that this unit uses a special module that is cast out into the water and feeds detection information back to you via a smartphone app. This makes the Deeper Special Pro+ one of the most portable units on the market, too, given that it does not require permanent mounting at all. Instead, you can use this model to search depths up to 260 feet right out of the box.

Naturally, you might be hesitant to throw a piece of technology such as this out into the water on purpose. But in fact, the Deeper Special Pro+ comes with a 100% waterproof dry bag that is designed to keep the detection module safe. That dry bag is also impressively durable as a result of its welded and glued joints. This model also comes with a comparably sturdy phone case so that you never need to put your phone at risk while using this fish finder.

As an added value proposition, this model also comes with free access to Lakebook, this brand's bathymetric management platform. With it, you'll have all of your maps and data automatically backed up in case your detector unit or phone meets an untimely fate out on the water.

Pros
  • Comes with 100% waterproof dry bag and phone case
  • Easy-to-use app can mark fish locations, structures, water temperatures, and more
  • Includes free access to Lakebook, their bathymetric management platform
Cons
  • High shipping costs

4. HOOK2 5

Best Lowrance Fish Finder under $300

Screen Size

5 inches

Mounting Options

Fixed

Depth Range

N/A

Chirp or Sonar

Both

Warranty

-

You might not be all that familiar with the HOOK2 5. But if I told you that it is the best Lowrance fish finder under $300, you might be better able to understand that this unit was engineered by a trusted brand.

As a result, you can count on this model’s DownScan sonar and CHIRP sonar to provide you with a comprehensive view of the waters around and beneath your watercraft. However, precisely how deep this model's SONAR and CHIRP can detect is unclear because it does not list a depth range in its specifications.

This particular model comes with a few options that you can select from based upon your needs as a fisherman. One of those options relates to this unit’s screen size, which comes in 4”, 5”, 7”, 9” and 12” variations. Regardless of which model you choose, that screen will be built around this brand’s unique SolarMAX technology. This allows them to be extremely easy to read in broad daylight as well as after the sun goes down.

The HOOK2 5 is also fairly easy to use right out of the box due to its preloaded mapping features and data. To that end, this model comes standard with C-MAP US Inland Lake Maps for over 12,000 lakes in the US. As such, there's a good chance that it already has a lake near you mapped out!

Pros
  • Autotuning sonar adjusts to current aquatic environment
  • SolarMAX display has great daytime visibility
  • Comes preloaded with C-MAP US Inland Lake Maps for over 12,000 lakes
Cons
  • Not very waterproof

5. Humminbird 409600-1 Helix 5 DI

Best Fish Finder for a Kayak

Screen Size

5 inches

Mounting Options

Fixed

Depth Range

600 ft

Chirp or Sonar

SONAR

Warranty

-

Finally, we come to the Humminbird 409600-1 Helix 5 DI. Though it may not look like it on the surface, this is actually one of the best fish finders for a kayak, regardless of price. That’s because this unit takes a no-frills approach to fish finding that kayakers will surely appreciate. One particular aspect those kayakers will likely enjoy is this model’s reliable SONAR module and its ability to detect fish at depths up to a full 600 feet below the surface.

Whether you are kayaking or not, you’ll also likely find this model’s XNT 9 DI T transducer to be precisely what you are looking for. This particular component provides users with access to several different SONAR frequencies, thus allowing them to visualize several different aquatic depths at the same time. That visualization only works downward, though, which means you won’t really know as much about what fish are out to the sides of your watercraft.

While the Humminbird 409600-1 Helix 5 DI’s 5-inch display isn’t perfect, it is plenty clear and easy to read in most daylight conditions. To make up for this average feature, the Humminbird 409600-1 Helix 5 DI also includes a very user-friendly keypad control system that even a novice can learn in minutes.

Pros
  • reliable imaging at up to 600 feet
  • variety of frequency options
  • Simplified keypad controls
Cons
  • No longer manufactured, so stock is limited

Comparing CHIRP to Traditional Sonar

Fishers who are in the market for a fish finder today often debate between units with traditional SONAR and modern CHIRP detection. This comparison is apt, given that each has its own benefits when it comes to active use in the field. SONAR-based units, for example, can often gather data on multiple depths at once. SONAR-based units are also typically cheaper due to their standardization for this purpose.

CHIRP is newer by comparison, so some aren't entirely familiar with how it works. In essence, CHIRP outputs longer, more stable sound bursts when activated. This allows them to gather more data at a greater depth far more rapidly. CHIRP’s sound-based structure also allows it to resolve targets in greater detail, making it easier to visualize the presence of certain fish species.

Further comparisons between SONAR and CHIRP can be found here.


How to Install & Operate a Fish Finder

  • How to Install a Fish Finder
    Installing a fish finder can either be very simple or a bit time consuming, depending on what type you’ve chosen. If you have a portable unit, you’ll likely just need to pop in some batteries. However, a permanently-mounted unit will require you to hard-wire the unit into your boat. You can see how this is done in this video.
  • How to Use a Fish Finder
    Learning to use a fish finder requires a bit of practice. Often, your user's guide can provide you with insights about how to adjust your unit's settings for its first use on the water. Beyond that, you may need to experiment depending on what type of body of water you are on, as well as what kind of fish you are targeting.
  • How to Read a Fish Finder
    Reading your fish finder’s visual and numeric outputs will generally depend on the model you are using. As such, a translation key can often be found in the unit’s user’s guide. However, if you are still feeling a bit lost, check out this video to learn more.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How important is a GPS feature in a fish finder?

GPS is a worthwhile feature to have in a fish finder. It isn’t an absolute must, but it does help simplify your tech array on your boat. It can also make it easier to mark out ideal fishing spots based upon the data gathered by the primary fish finder components.

Which is better - a down-imaging or a side-imaging fish finder?

In theory, neither type is inherently better than the other. That’s because a side scan fish finder is as likely to spot fish in your general vicinity as a down scan fish finder. Ideally, your chosen should be able to scan in both directions to some degree so that you can maximize your underwater view of nearby targets.

Are fish finders waterproof?

In almost all cases, yes. Fish finders are usually waterproof against regular splashes and some ambient moisture. That being said, they should still be kept in a dry location whenever possible. Also, some units are rated to withstand direct submersion in water. However, this kind of protection will usually only last a few meters before water intrusion is likely.

What other fishing gear should I have aside from a fish finder?

There are plenty of other types of fishing gear that any angler must have when heading out on the water. This includes a reliable rod and reel, such as a spin caster or a drop shot. You should also ensure that you have a net onboard for hauling in big catches. Don’t forget your organized tackle box, either!

How accurate are fish finders? Do they work in rivers & lakes?

Most modern fish finders are fairly accurate, so long as they are used in the proper environment. To that end, most base-level units can detect in rivers and lakes with ease. However, those units may lose some accuracy when used out in the ocean. For that reason, specialized oceanic fish finders are made. Those units can view far deeper into the ocean, allowing for more accurate readings in that environment.


Conclusion

If you thought that you'd never find a worthwhile fish finder under $300, then think again! As this guide has shown you, there are a handful of reliable models on the market today that won’t burn a hole in your wallet. These models come from trustworthy brands, too, so you can be sure that they’ll perform as expected through many, many fishing trips to come.

Speaking of reliable brands, I think you should also give the Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 a second look. This model comes standard with a full-color screen, making it easy to read even in direct sunlight. It also features both SONAR and CHIRP outputs, allowing it to obtain an expansive and accurate view of the fish around and near your boat at all times.

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