7 Best Marine GPS Systems: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

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GPS has changed the fishing game since it first became publicly available in the 1980s. Marine GPS can help chart routes, save favorite fishing spots, and target particular fish. Anglers shopping for the best marine GPS to sharpen their fishing can use the information in this complete guide to finding the most effective device.

Preview

Model

Type

Display Size

Check Price

Humminbird 410940-1 HELIX 7 CHIRP MDI (MEGA...

Humminbird 410940 -1 HELIX 7

Mountable

7 inches

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Waterproof Marine GPS and...

Garmin GPSMAP 78sc

Handheld

2.6 inches

Garmin eTrex 20x, Handheld GPS Navigator,...

Garmin eTrex 20x

Handheld, portable

2.2 inches

Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with...

Garmin Striker 4

Mountable, portable

3.5 inches

Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv, 9' Keyed-Assist...

Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv

Mountable

9 inches

Lowrance HOOK2 12 - 12-inch Fish Finder with...

Lowrance HOOK2 12

Mountable

12 inches

Humminbird 410230-1 HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2...

Humminbird 410230-1 HELIX 5

Mountable

5 inches


Why Invest in a Marine GPS System

A device's position is found by pinging against a network of 24 satellites in medium earth orbit. The regular update and maintenance of this system is provided by the US government and can help anglers get to any fishing spot in the world. It’s also helpful to share information and record fishing journeys. Units can be small for fishing kayaks or large enough for a boat’s control panel.

On a smaller scale, GPS helps anglers label dangerous structures with waypoints and other labels. Planning and strategizing are both made much easier with the right marine GPS unit, which should be waterproof, high-definition, and ideally have a fish finder built right in. It’s easier to stay safe and share information with others, and most units can also help with turn-by-turn directions to specific locations on the way to the water.


How to Choose a Marine GPS (Buying Considerations)

GPS Navigator Type

Size and portability vary with the type of marine GPS device. Portable and handheld models are better for use on fishing kayaks, while mountable ones are generally better for boats. Smaller varieties usually have more limited functionality.

Larger mountable devices frequently have built-in fish finders that save space and make fishing more strategic. If there’s limited room and a basic point-to-point and chart plotting function is all that’s needed, smaller units do just fine. They’re less expensive, but they also have less memory than larger models.

Satellites, Accuracy/Reliability & Coverage

While GPS is a system of 24 satellites, not all devices ping off all 24 satellites. At a minimum, they should use 12 of them. Some use both GPS and GLONASS, which helps get a signal quickly and hold a signal in remote high and low elevations. Powerful receivers can also help catch and maintain a strong signal.

For models that have built-in fish finders, the transducer is as important as the receiver. Transducers can be designed specifically for ice fishing or saltwater use, but they should have CHIRP sonar capability regardless.

Transducer

Marine GPS fishfinders are only as good as their transducers. The strength of the sonar signal determines how deep into the water anglers can see and how sharp the returning images will be. CHIRP sonar sends more simultaneous waves at various frequencies to glean more up-to-the-minute and comprehensive information about conditions underneath the surface.

The transducer cable can be cumbersome or, on the other end of the spectrum, too short to get a signal to the bottom of deep water. Anglers should take care to match the transducer to the particular needs of their target and location.

Interface

Larger models also provide more screen space to show multiple kinds of displays. Downscans beneath the boat, scans cast out to either side, and even flasher readouts are available to see structure, cover, beds, and fish.

High-resolution screens help bring out details like contour lines and target separation on fish finders. It’s important to have a screen that can be easily read in strong sunlight since there isn’t always shade around. Navigating the menu should also be quick and simple to maximize how much of your time is spent fishing versus messing around with equipment settings.

Data Storage & Sharing

It’s most common for marine GPS units to hold a few gigabytes of data, but that can be expanded with the help of an SD or micro SD card. Data is used for maps as well as for waypoints, routes, weather conditions, and any other metric the user wants to record to look at later.

Some GPS devices make it easy to share locations and other data with other users without even connecting to a computer. For the most convenience, a machine that can communicate with others without needing wifi is optimal.

Water Resistance/Temperature Capabilities

Waterproofing and water resistance are measured with IP ratings. These ratings can involve additional information about the ingress of additional materials like dust. Still, most models are rated only for water ingress, which is why their IP rating includes an X in place of the third numeral.

In environments like surf fishing and ice fishing, a rating of IPX7 is the smartest way to guarantee damage prevention from water. A battery and transducer that can stand low temperatures will also be necessary in cold climates.

Mapping System/Functionality

While most marine GPS devices are built to make adding new maps simple with an SD card, a detailed and worldwide base map will make it easier to go out on spur of the moment trips and navigate even without additional maps.

Many anglers build custom maps, so a device that can download these maps is a useful tool. Anglers need mapping systems that will work anywhere in all kinds of weather conditions without dropping out, leaving the user stranded in unfamiliar territory. If it can also give detailed information in tides and weather patterns, so much the better.

Power Source

Handheld and portable marine GPS units usually run on rechargeable or disposable batteries. Larger units require 12-volt batteries and a mount to fit on kayaks. The larger kinds also draw more power, so the battery life is often comparable across brands and models.

These units last anywhere from 10 to 30 hours, but if they’re in a limited operating mode, then they draw much less power and might last 200 hours. Manufacturers usually try to include the battery life in the product description, so keep an eye out for their rating.

Safety Features

One of the best parts about a GPS is the added certainty that fishing trips and the anglers who take them will be safe. Other features that help ensure safety are low battery alarms that keep devices from dying suddenly before anglers can start heading back to shore, collision alarms and trackers for other vessels, compasses and barometers for finding one’s way and tracking weather patterns, 12-channel receivers that won’t lose signal, and track navigation that can guide anglers from A to B and back again.

Price & Warranty (Value for Money)

Marine GPS units come in many sizes and many corresponding prices. Less expensive models may have black and white or low-res screens in addition to being single-purpose marine GPS devices rather than fish finder combos.

The models with more features tend to have a higher price but are generally protected with longer and more comprehensive warranties. Of course, these are not hard and fast rules and research should be done on particular models before purchase.


7 Best Marine GPS Devices Reviewed

1. Humminbird 410940 -1 HELIX 7

Best Marine GPS

Type

Mountable

Display Size

7 inches

Preloaded Maps

10,000 lakes + coasts

Water Rating

IPX 7

Weight

84.8 oz

Maximum Depth

125 feet

Built with a transom mount and easy-to-use buttons on its face, this Humminbird marine GPS is both versatile and robust. The high-definition display offers as much detail as an angler could need, whether looking at the GPS or at one of the fish finder modes, which can offer clear target separation down to a distance of 2.5 inches.

Contour lines appear distinctly and the preloaded maps are accurate for finding fishing spots. In terms of internal data storage, the Helix 7 can hold thousands of waypoints and even routes. It’s easy to offload data to a computer after the fishing trip is over, and the screenshot feature works great for remembering specific places and conditions. 

One of the best features of this device is the Humminbird AutoPilot program. Anglers can set a heading or turn pattern, and AutoPilot will keep you on course while you fish. There’s also built-in technology called AIS that helps track other vessels to prevent collisions or over-pressuring certain fishing spots. The Helix 7 makes tactical fishing much easier and way more effective with its accurate GPS positioning and map data integration.

The mount and transducer are both included with this model. Confirming map data with the dual-beam sonar can be done in wide or narrow mode, looking either underneath the boat or off to the sides. Even with all these performance features, the battery lasts for hours. The screen is visible in direct sunlight, and the whole thing is backed up with a 1-year limited warranty that protects against any possible defective artifacts from the manufacturing process.

The only drawback is that this device would likely be a bit complicated to mount on a kayak without its own dedicated battery mount since it won’t run on disposable batteries. It wouldn’t be impossible, but this is definitely a better marine GPS for boats than for kayaks and floats.

Pros
  • Great screen detail
  • Long battery life
  • Easy to store & offload data
  • Fishfinder included
  • Built-in AutoPilot
Cons
  • Not ideal for kayaks

2. Garmin GPSMAP 78sc

Best Marine GPS Chartplotter

Type

Handheld

Display Size

2.6 inches

Preloaded Maps

BlueChart g2

Water Rating

IPX 7

Weight

7.7 oz.

Maximum Depth

N/A

Plotting a course with this Garmin handheld marine GPS is easy thanks to its compass, which is balanced to show your direction regardless of the angle of the device. The included BlueChart g2 maps are detailed and clear, making them ideal for use as a base map. Loading new maps is simple once you have an SD card, which isn’t included with the purchase of this device but is easy to come by nonetheless.

The GPS keeps a signal reliably, even in remote places and at varying elevations. Sharing your information is also simple with this device, which will allow you to do so without plugging into a computer. A built-in barometer not only lets you stay up to date on the current weather but also keeps track of weather changes over time, so you'll know when unfavorable conditions are developing.

Garmin also has a program that lets anglers view their previous fishing activity online, overlaid on Google Maps so that they can remember successful trips and make a note of favorite fishing spots. There’s also an available software for converting paper maps into downloadable digitized ones.

This marine GPS runs on 2 AA batteries and lasts up to 35 hours in its most frequent updating mode. Set it to update every half hour, and it can last up to 200 hours. It’s a really convenient device that can fit in a pocket and stow in a small storage compartment. Kayak anglers and anybody who prefers to pack light will love the lightweight of this device.

Plus, it’s completely waterproof and is even constructed to float in the water to make it retrievable in case it accidentally goes overboard. It can keep track of a whopping 2,000 waypoints at once with its 1.7 GB of memory, making it an optimal choice for anglers who need a reliable way to get where they want to go and return safely.

Pros
  • Easy to update & share info
  • Long battery life
  • Waterproof & floats
  • Small and lightweight
  • Plenty of internal memory
Cons
  • SD card sold separately

3. Garmin eTrex 20x

Best Handheld Marine GPS

Type

Handheld, portable

Display Size

2.2 inches

Preloaded Maps

250 maps & Worldwide basemap

Water Rating

IPX 7

Weight

5 oz.

Maximum Depth

N/A

Its simple design belies this Garmin handheld marine GPS’ high-quality performance. Tracking movement with both GPS and GLONASS means the eTrex 20x can get a signal and triangulate the user’s position much faster than using GPS alone. 250 maps from Garmin’s Birdseye software will help anglers plan routes and get back to shore safely.

The software also makes it easy to download new maps and share information with other anglers. Turn-by-turn routing like a traditional car GPS unit will help get the boat to a body of water and mark how to get to a boat ramp on land.

The compass on this model is accurate and only very rarely loses its signal. While it’s just as waterproof as competing marine GPS models, the eTrex 20x has twice as much internal memory. The 3.7 GB that comes stock can also be added to with a standard SD card. Its 25 hours of battery life are plenty for fishing trips but perhaps a bit less than some of the larger models. Luckily the device plugs in with mini-USB, which makes it easier to charge with a power bank or a car charger.

Additional maps are needed to search points of interest like National and State Parks or hydrographic features like coastlines, perennial and seasonal streams, or wetlands. That being said, the display on this model is sharp and high-definition enough to see what you’re looking at clearly, even in strong sunlight.

It’s the best portable marine GPS for anglers who want a single-piece tool that is easily carried in a vest pocket or stowed away in a regular-sized tackle box. Subscriptions for additional software will be required to take full advantage of all the GPS abilities of this unit. Still, for relatively small monthly fees, the full gamut of mapping technology will be at the disposal of any angler with this marine GPS.

Pros
  • Easy-to-use software
  • Display visible in sunlight
  • Detailed screen
  • Plenty of internal memory
  • Turn-by-turn road routing
Cons
  • Additional subscriptions recommended

4. Garmin Striker 4

Best Marine GPS for a Small Boat

Type

Mountable, portable

Display Size

3.5 inches

Preloaded Maps

None

Water Rating

IPX 7

Weight

8.1 oz.

Maximum Depth

1,600 ft. freshwater

 750 ft. saltwater

Even though it needs a larger power source than some of the handheld marine GPS units, the Striker 4 is still one of the best marine GPS fish finder combos for smaller boats and even for kayaks. Having a fish finder and a flasher on board can help anglers who like to fish vertical presentations or want equipment that can be used for ice fishing in the wintertime as well as in the warmer months.

The CHIRP sonar on this model gives good enough target separation to use when anglers are jigging, and the fish finder's performance makes it useful for trolling as well. Waypoints are simple to set on the Striker 4, and assembling them into a waypoint map before the fishing trip will help reduce the need to spend lots of time routing and rerouting when you’re out on the water. If you tend to fish spots more than once, keeping these waypoint maps stored makes it easy to hit the same places on different fishing trips.

The CHIRP sonar can be upgraded with the separate purchase of a stronger transducer, although most anglers will find the stock option suitable for everyday fishing. In terms of hardware, the keypad on this device makes inputting information easier than usual. The connections for the mount and the transducer could be stronger.

While there wasn’t any feeling that the whole thing would topple over or fall into the water, it could have felt more secure just for additional ease of mind. It's still the best low-cost marine GPS for anglers who depend on waypoints and want a detailed and accurate fish finder included on their device.

Pros
  • Fish finder & flasher included
  • Upgradeable
  • Easy waypoint mapping
  • Built-in keypad
  • Large max depth
Cons
  • Connections feel loose
  • Requires a larger battery

5. Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 93sv

Best Garmin Marine GPS

Type

Mountable

Display Size

9 inches

Preloaded Maps

17,000 lakes

Water Rating

IPX 7

Weight

36.8

Maximum Depth

2,300 ft. freshwater

 1,100 Ft. Saltwater

This marine GPS is larger and heavier, but it outshines just about all of the competition with its performance. It can read deeper and store more information and makes sharing that information with other anglers even easier. It’s hard to say definitively which is the best out of all the devices they make, but this has got to be the best Garmin marine GPS on the market.

For serious anglers who don’t mind making the more substantial investment, this machine does absolutely everything you could want a marine GPS and fish finder combo to do. It takes up to a 32GB SD card and will hold a vast 5,000 waypoints or 50,000 track points.

Mapping with the included LakeVu G3 maps is a cinch. The program will help find the quickest way to get where you’re going on highly detailed recreations of 17,000 different lakes. The larger size of the unit makes it that much easier to see these recreations in greater detail.

It’s definitely a marine GPS meant for boat anglers who want to have top-notch equipment on their vessel. A transducer can be purchased with this model, but it’s not absolutely necessary to do so if you have one already or don’t plan to use the fish finder on this unit for whatever reason.

If you have a compatible trolling motor, the ECHOMAP can be used to pilot it. The SONAR on this model is one of the nicest aspects, offering a crystal clear look at what’s going on under the surface in a variety of display modes that work great in any conditions. Trolling, casting, and vertical presentations pair great with this device, although anglers who ice fish or go out on a kayak likely don’t need a marine GPS as robust as this one.

Pros
  • Larger screen
  • Tons of preloaded lake maps
  • High-def fish finder
  • Works with Garmin trolling motor
  • Holds tons of data
Cons
  • Overkill for kayaks & ice fishing
  • Heavier overall

6. Lowrance HOOK2 12

Best Marine GPS Fishfinder Combo

Type

Mountable

Display Size

12 inches

Preloaded Maps

4,000 US lake maps

Water Rating

N/A

Weight

Unspecified

Maximum Depth

300 ft.

The sharp display and the longer reach of its CHIRP sonar make this model from Lowrance one of the best marine GPS fish finders for anglers who want to be able to view multiple fish finder views at once. With its larger screen and TripleShot transducer, the Hook2 12 allows the user to see SideScan, DownScan, and a traditional CHIRP sonar view of the water column all at the same time.

Additionally, the signals it sends out cover more ground and gives up-to-the-minute information about what’s happening underwater. There’s a full chartplotter that works great, although the GPS navigation is pretty basic compared to other devices.

The inland or coastal maps that come stock on this unit present plenty of detail for a large number of possible fishing spots. It’s also possible to upgrade the maps on this marine GPS with Navionics or more C-Map options.

There are buttons on the face of this device that make it easy to set waypoints, including Man Overboard waypoints for emergency cases, even in the middle of sailing or fishing. SideScan on the Hook GPS goes out much further than on most competing models to give anglers the upper hand on scouting missions before serious fishing begins.

To make using this device even easier, there’s a built-in autotune mode that will adjust the fish finder settings as conditions change to make sure anglers can continue getting current information while they fish, rather than having to pull in their lines to adjust their settings.

That also makes this one of the best marine GPS devices for beginners who are unsure of how to get the most useful and accurate information out of their equipment. It’s sturdier and easier to take care of than most of the competition in a similar side range, although the all-important sunshade is not included with purchase.

Pros
  • Easy to clean
  • Autopilot mode
  • Wider SideScan
  • Transducer included
  • Multiple simultaneous views
Cons
  • Sun cover sold separately

7. Humminbird 410230-1 HELIX 5

Best Marine GPS and Depth Finder

Type

Mountable

Display Size

5 inches

Preloaded Maps

Worldwide basemap

Water Rating

IPX7

Weight

161.6 oz

Maximum Depth

350 feet

The Helix 5 is easy to use and every bit as strong as any competing fish finder and marine GPS combo. From the strength of its transducer to the included chartplotting and the detailed mapping that comes built-in, anglers will have all the navigational and underwater visual tools they need to catch any target they want.

The screen is large enough to show two different display modes at the same time. It can show up to 480 feet in either direction with its Side Imaging, look directly down into the water, or monitor the water column with traditional digital sonar. The onscreen detail is sharp enough to make out individual fish and small details of structure and cover.

Updating the device can be done by either plugging in the device or using the included SD card. You can record data as it’s captured or take individual screenshots to remember particular circumstances, which can help turn a fishing style into a more strategic, purposeful one.

The Helix 5 is compatible with Navionics, so the most high-quality maps can be used, although they are not included right out of the box. Some helpful features like AIS, which allows you to track other vessels on the water, aren’t available on this model, but the main attractions are still there.

Temperature and depth readings are taken with the included transducer, and the whole package is covered by a one-year limited warranty that protects against manufacturing defects. It’s as waterproof as any other top-of-the-line marine GPS unit and works great for placing lures exactly where they need to go to be most effective. The buttons make it easy to use even with fishing gloves on, and even though it is larger and heavier than handheld models, it’s easy to carry, transport, and take proper care of.

Pros
  • Great screen resolution
  • Easy to maintain
  • SD card storage
  • Wide side imaging
  • Navionics-capable
Cons
  • Fewer features than other Humminbirds
  • Larger & heavier

How to Read & Use Your Marine GPS

  • Turning on GPS Device
    Make sure the power source is connected correctly, and the GPS device is firmly held or mounted, then hold down the power button until the screen lights up.
  • How to Load Maps
    Updating and downloading maps isn’t exactly the same across devices. Updates via websites or maps loaded onto SD cards generally download and move around like files on a computer.
  • Checking the Signal
    Use the signal meter on the device or large landmarks to check accuracy and consider using an external antenna if you continue having signal issues. A device that uses GLONASS and GPS together will usually keep the signal better.
  • Mark Launch Site
    Setting a launch site marker will save time trying to get back after you finish fishing, especially if you are at a new fishing spot. Many marine GPS devices can set a launch site with the touch of a button.
  • The Breadcrumb Feature
    To mark a path of travel without setting waypoints, there’s a Breadcrumb mode on many models. Engage it to measure movement of a boat or fish over time for more strategic angling.
  • Label Waypoints
    Waypoints are pins on the map. They can be used to mark hazards, good fishing spots, beds, or places where you'd like to return later. Set waypoints using the dedicated button on your device or a finger on the screen.
  • Mark Possible Fishing Sites
    It’s wise to make a sweep of fishing areas before you cast and scan with your electronics, especially fish finders with side-scanning capability. Mark schools, beds, and structures with waypoints to come back later.
  • Storing Information
    Some devices use SD cards, and others have USB ports to load stored information on a computer. Either way, long-term storage is best done on a hard-state drive or in the cloud and not on the GPS itself.

Marine GPS Phone Apps

For rudimentary mapping on your mobile phone, there are a few maps that work passably well. For Apple devices, Fishing Points works fine and provides additional information about tides and fish behavior. Android phones can use apps like FishAngler, which also allows people to share their catch information with fellow anglers.

There are many drawbacks to using your phone as a fishing GPS device. The apps tend to rely on location data, which they’ll access even when you aren’t using the app. That can eat up the battery. Additionally, leaving your phone exposed to the elements could destroy it.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is the easiest marine GPS to use reviewed above?

With its straightforward look and GLONASS capability, the Garmin eTrex 20x has the best balance between ease of use and strong performance. It comes with tons of preloaded maps, and the mini-USB port makes downloading and sharing all kinds of data a cinch.

What is the difference between GPS and chartplotter?

GPS shows the device’s current location and direction but doesn’t place it on a map. A chartplotter places GPS in the context of a map to help guide the user and make routing a path easier. Coordinates from a GPS may make it easy to share a location, but to get there, you’ll want a chartplotter.

Can I use a car GPS on a boat?

You definitely can use a car GPS on a boat, but it won’t have the right maps. To a car device, it will seem that you are impossibly off course if you’re on a boat in the middle of a lake or ocean. You’ll have much more luck with a marine GPS that has plenty of aquatic maps loaded onto it.

How do you install a Marine GPS?

Larger units mount through the boat transom or through the hull, while smaller ones may stand on a mount that looks similar to what you might see holding an external GPS in a car. To mount it on a boat, it’s best to get a professional to drill through the hull, but the smaller mounts frequently attach with screws and can be done by hand. Place your device where it can be at hand while you pilot the craft and scan under the water.

What kind of maintenance is needed and how often must it be done?

Wiping down a marine GPS unit after each use is bound to be enough if you’re thorough enough. You can also use a degreaser from time to time, and a sunshade to cover the whole thing will help prevent damage when the GPS isn’t in use. If there’s a transducer, make sure it’s stored straightened out and keep the whole thing in a dry, temperate place.

How do I update my marine GPS device?

Big brands have updates available on their websites periodically. Some update by connecting to wifi, and some need to be hooked up to a computer, but it’s just as easy as updating a piece of phone or computer software. Check periodically for updates, especially if your device starts to show some bugs.

What are the top marine GPS brands?

The most popular GPS units for anglers come from Garmin, Lowrance, and Humminbird. All three have decades of experience with designing hardware and software that allows sport fishing enthusiasts to find their way to fishing spots, look under the water, and share information with others.


Conclusion

The battery life and screen detail allow the high-performance mapping and fish finder on the Humminbird HELIX 7 to give anglers everything they need in a marine GPS unit. It’s the best marine GPS because it lets anglers fish more strategically and find better fishing spots in general.