When looking for new tech, the right product will either have the right specs or not.
However, things can get complicated when you’re working within the confines of a budget because then you want to find that perfect intersection between quality and affordability.
Fish finders are no different and if you’re fishing on a budget it can get tricky to find quality sonar trackers that retail for under $200.
Fortunately for you, we’ve taken the liberty of making a list of the five best fish finders for under $200 and explain why we think they’re the quality gadgets you need to help your fishing endeavors.
Included is also a buyers’ guide and a small FAQ so you know which specs make a good deal, because when the alternative is overpaying on a subpar product, you want to be off the hook.
In a hurry?
This is our Winner!
Why it’s Our Top Pick
Want to go fishing as soon as possible? We have our top pick right here for your convenience: the Garmin Striker Plus 4 with a Dual-Beam Transducer.
It fits snugly within the $200 budget and is even the new and improved version of an existing Garmin fish finder model which also features in the list below.
See why we chose the improved Plus 4 version here:
- It has a sonar system is a CHIRP style ClearVü scanner which produces down imaging to an almost photographic quality. It works to a depth of 1,750 feet, making it the most powerful of the scanners here.
- Built-in access to Garmin’s ActiveCaptain app to manage your fishing spots by syncing your position with maps of shoreline and lake area and saving any past charts you took.
- Garmin is known for their GPS systems, and the Plus 4 fish finder has one too. Tracks positioning, boat speed, and allows you to place your own map markers to mark out obstacles or points of interest.
Best Fish Finders Under $200 - Comparison Table
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Best Fish Finders Under $200 - Reviews
Our top choice had to be from a very reputable brand: Garmin. Known worldwide for their GPS products, it shouldn’t be surprising that the Garmin Striker Plus 4 doubles as a GPS that tracks not only your positioning but your speed too.
Its main draw as a fish finder though is its CHIRP sonar system, their patented ClearVü technology scanning to a depth of 1,750 feet and delivering down imaging that gets as close to photograph quality as currently possible.
The Plus 4 model also has built-in access to Garmin’s ActiveCaptain app which has access to charts and maps of most US shoreline and lake areas, as well as international locales, which you can save and sync with the GPS so that they automatically sync with your chart plotter with no activity on your part.
If trouble should strike on any of those charts, the fish finder itself is rated as IPX7 on the IP waterproof scale, meaning it can withstand being under 6 inches to 3 feet of water for approximately 30 minutes before sustaining any water damage.
This second option is for those who want to push their budget to the max and acquire a powerhouse of a fish finder.
The Humminbird 410190-1 Helix 5 Series Sonar G2 is, aside from being a mouthful to say, a relatively high-powered fish finder with a scanner that hits a maximum depth of 1,500 feet.
The Humminbird’s sonar system has an impressive amount of versatility for all natures of fish and water you’ll come across, its Dual-Beam PLUS Sonar having a narrow, focused beam for precision fish finding and a wider alternate beam for area scans.
Those scans get displayed via Humminbird’s SwitchFire Sonar display system which allows for two different display modes, each with settings to toggle relevant details such as water depth, water temperature, and turbulence acting upon the water.
It should be said that the mounting clips are flimsy by some people’s standards so it may be your best bet to replace them if this is the product for you.
Where this model missed out is its lack of GPS compatibility that option number one has, but if that’s not something you’re looking for in a fish finder then it’s a great piece of kit that will exhaust your budget and make it feel worth it.
Our next product is not only another Garmin fish finder, but it’s the standard variant of the first entry in this list and an Amazon #1 Best Seller.
It’s the Garmin Striker 4 GPS fish finder complete with transducer and it’s the cheapest product on the list, retailing for roughly half of your budget, give or take.
This price doesn’t mean they’ve skimped in the specs department.
The Striker 4 has features such as both Garmin’s exclusive CHIRP 2D ClearVü sonar scanning that delivers images of the terrain under your boat in near-photographic quality.
These reach depths of 1,600 in freshwater and roughly half that in saltwater.
You won’t get lost when using this model either. It has a function to mark out your own waypoints, whether they are obstacles to avoid or landmarks to find your way.
With a 5,000-marker upward limit, it’s more than enough to map out your local haunt and any other fishing adventures you will have. Like the Striker Plus 4 above, it is also waterproofed to an IPX7 rating.
As for why this model isn’t higher on the list, it suffers from a lack of Bluetooth option and it’s not portable as some have assumed, it needs to be attached to a power source of some kind.
The display is also hard to see when the sun is shining bright, so it’s best seen in the mornings, evenings or if there’s a covering that blocks the shade enough to make it legible.
With the half of your budget saved by this cost-effective product, you could get a simple awning for your boat to keep the sun off your head and mitigate this problem.
This next option is something a bit different, the HawkEye Fishtrax 1C fish finder.
It is a small and compact fish finder which, in the case of the 1C version, is intended for experienced anglers who want a quality fish finder for their inshore fishing adventures. This is because its FishTrax Intelligent Sonar only scans for 240 feet, and so isn’t suitable for those inclined for deeper fishing.
Those scans can be in either 200kHz or 83Khz frequency settings and will alarm you when fish have been detected with an alarm that can be audible at your choosing.
That is if it’s in fish finder mode, as this product has three settings which are fish finder, data for better reading the depth and temperature of the waters, and Ice-Mode Digital Flasher which uses FishTrax sonar to target fish in real time when ice fishing.
Though it comes in many display types we recommend the one with the HD Color VirtuView Display because, while the priciest variant, display visibility is a problem that plagues the more expensive fish finders on this list and even then the VirtuView Display version fits within your budget with room to spare.
Its four AAA battery charging setup can also get tedious, they last only a few hours and repeated uses mean going through a lot of batteries.
Our last fish finder is a castable, wireless one, the Lucky FF718LiC Fish Finder.
This is another finder best suited to inshore fishing that is composed of two parts, a handheld display device that stay on your person and a buoyant, castable section which goes out in the water whilst you stay on dry land.
It scans in a 45 degrees angle at 200kHz or 90 degrees at 125kHz depending on if it’s cabled or wireless when used, adding some variability to its shallow water scanning capabilities.
As mentioned, this is best used as an inshore fishing device due to its limit of scanning down to 328 feet below the water’s surface.
It also lacks the GPS functionalities of models that retail for similar prices that this one does, which acts against this product when making a budget-based purchase.
That said, it fits neatly into the budget with some breathing room left over and has a deeper depth than the other inshore option above if you need a finder for the steeper shores near you.
Best Fish Finders Under $200 - Reviews
How to choose the best fish finders
Like with any tech, if you’re unfamiliar with the field it can get difficult to determine from specs alone which ones are the best. Then you also have to consider ergonomic and aesthetic benefits one product may have over others, but how can you do that without getting your hands on each one?
We have a buyers’ guide here to show you what to look for in the best fish finders. If you’ve taken the bait in the past and had an unsatisfactory purchasing experience, this guide to fish finders is just what you need.
First, it’s important to know the types of fish finder out there. The three main ones are standalone, networked systems and combination fish finders.
Standalones perform the most basic function of a fish finder, which is to scan downwards for signs of life and anything else down there that could imperil your boat. Due to this simplicity and lack of features, standalones tend to be much cheaper and aren’t featured above.
Networked systems are just hyper-compatible with a wide range of apps and tools that can be used in conjunction with them, and the combination fish finder is where such features like depth, speed and temperature, and they make up the majority of this list.
They were designed for hunting fish with the unparalleled navigation that GPS technology affords.
A fish finder is rendered useless if you can barely see the results of its scans in your favorite fishing spot. Poor screen quality is a problem that dogs some of the higher priced products in our own list, mostly in the form of being too faded out by the sunlight but screen size is an important variable too.
Good displays must be easy to read for beginners, report data gathered in an understandable and concise way, and suffer from very little grain in the display quality itself. Fish finders with color display tend to be better for visibility in brighter-lit areas, so that’s what you should look for, and aim to get one with the highest resolution you can find.
Fish finders are equally useless if their transducer isn’t up to scratch, since this is what sends and receives sonar signals in the first place. The quality of a given transducer largely relies on whether you are using it for its intended purpose, e.g. a transducer that sends out wide-cone-angled frequencies for a better spread in shallow waters will do poorly in the deep sea and vice versa.
You can tell the intention of a fish finder, if not explicitly stated on their product page, by the depths to which they work. A 240 feet sonar scanner won’t make a dent in the deep sea where a 1,750 feet juggernaut of a scanner would suffice.
Some transducers have multiple beam settings like dual beams featured above, and others even have side beams so that no area of your surroundings is missed by the scan, though these are better put to use in shallow areas. Transducers mainly just perform down image scanning, however, so that you can see what is beneath your boat.
Transducers can operate within one, dual or multiple frequencies. These can vary from 50 to 83, 192 or 200kHz with number four above having a dual option of 83 or 200. As a general rule, the higher the frequency of a transducer the shallower the water you’ll be using it in.
This is because the lower frequencies send more sonar waves in a shorter amount of time which translates into a clearer display of whatever is hiding in the deep.
The material that these transducers are made from will need to be considered too, since not every kind of material is compatible with the materials used for boats. Thru-hull housing can’t be used on wooden boats due to wood swelling which could damage or dislodge the transducer.
Bronze housings also shouldn’t be introduced to aluminum as these two metals encourage the forming of rust where they meet.
If you happen to be viewing quality fish finders, you’ll see that they come with GPS options. Our Garmin options above, being from a GPS manufacturer, have this kind of functionality in spades. GPS functions in fish finders can be used to collect data from your fishing trips in order for it to be used in the future, which can be useful for charting your fishing routes.
These often come with map cards so that you can load pre-existing maps instead of getting the lay of the land yourself. Whilst not necessary for a spot of fishing, if you want to take your fishing to the next level you would benefit from having the logistics of a GPS map tracker so that you can remember those perfect spots or better plan out new places to cast your hook.
Believe it or not, the waterproofness of a fish finder is another detail to factor into your purchase. Waterproofing or water-resistance is measured using the IP scale, though within the sub-$200 wheelhouse a lot of them achieve a more than adequate IPX7 rating, meaning the fish finders withstood 30 minutes immersed in water 1m deep.
Frequently Asked Questions
How accurate are fish finders?
The advent of CHIRP sonar technology has seen sonar scanning become more accurate than it ever has been. Now we can se the depth of underwater items like fish with a fair degree of reliability. If the target is moving there can be some difficulty in discerning exactly where the fish is, but that isn’t a problem with the quality products out there.
How do castable fish finders work?
A castable fish finder is simply when a transducer is built into a castable object like a float which sends scanning data to your handheld device, which could even be a smartphone if the finder has app compatibility.
Do fish finders work in saltwater?
Most fish finders, including those above, will work in saltwater. The challenging aspect to saltwater fish finding is the fact that all of the number measurements for scanning depth get disrupted by the saltwater, reduced by a factor of about two thirds, which limit your scanning capabilities.
Once you've found the optimal budget fish finder, head on over to our review of the best spinnerbait rod. You'll be all set for your next fishing adventure!