Technology has had a significant impact on many aspects of our lives over the last decade. The fishing field got its fair share as they have developed a lot of fish finders with amazing technology.
Whether you are on a budget or not, you can still enjoy having a fruitful fishing trip. This article is primarily written for those who want sub-$500 fish finders.
What is a fish finder, you may ask? Well, it is a device that sends sound waves into the water to get you enough information about what is going on under the water. In other words, it brings the underwater environment onto your screen so you can easily see where your target fish is and catch it effortlessly.
The technology has even developed more by employing an in-built GPS and a Chartplotter that allow you to save your waypoints and your favorite fishing spots. I would say that this is a pretty impressive feature because it saves you a lot of time you would otherwise waste on trying to find that fishing spot you had luck in on your last trip.
Because we know that you may get confused fishing for the best fish finder under $500 between numerous sites, we have made you this buying guide.
Here, you will find some of the best fish finders on the market today. Plus, you will find some information that is so important to soak before you make any decision.
List of the Best Fish Finders Under $500:
- Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar – Best Overall
- Garmin Striker 4 – Best Fish Finder for Deep Scanning
- Lowrance HOOK2 4X – Best Budget
- HawkEye Fishtrax 1C – Best Battery
- Humminbird 410160-1 PIRANHAMAX 4 DI – Best Fish Finder with Down Imaging
Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar
|3 x 5.3 x 5.9-in.
90kHz- 55°/ 290 kHz-15°
Garmin Striker 4
|3.6 x 1.6 x 5.9-in.
|480 x 320
|1,600 feet freshwater, 750 feet, saltwater
50/77/200 kHz CHIRP (mid and high)
Lowrance HOOK2 4X
|3.3 x 6.5 x 3.8-in.
|480 x 272 pixels
|50 kHz to 800’ and 200 kHz to 200’
HawkEye Fishtrax 1C
|6 x 3 x 2-in.
Humminbird 410160-1 PIRANHAMAX 4 DI
|3.6 x 3.9 x 6.8-in.
|272 X 480
|2D depth to 600 feet and DI depth to 320 feet.
200 kHz-455 KHz
The 5 Best Fish Finders Under $500 in 2020
1. Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar – Best Overall
This is a castable fish finder that you can use for fishing from the shore, on boats, or for ice fishing.
It does not have a screen because it uses the screen of your smartphone or tablet as its own. Weird? Not at all. It is compatible with Android and iOS and displays the info on any of them after you connect it to your smart device via Wi-Fi. The good news is that it doesn’t need any cellular data, so you can turn the data off for uninterrupted usage.
Besides, it allows you to analyze, save, and review your maps from the comfort of your bed thanks to its built-in GPS. The GPS lets you create bathymetric maps from the shore, and have free access to Lake book, which is Deeper’s bathymetric management platform.
As for the depth it scans, it is not much as it can only scan down to 260ft. However, it has a fantastic target separation of 0.5″, and makes around 15 scans per second. You can cast it for as far as 330ft / 100m.
Now let’s talk about its sonar. It allows you to choose between using a wide or a narrow beam. What kind of sonar is this? Yup, exactly; it is a dual-beam sonar. Here lies the magic of having a dual-beam sonar. The wide beams (90kHz 55°) cover a broader area but with not much detail; whereas, narrow beams (290kHz 15°) give you a more detailed image of a small area.
Moreover, setting it up is a piece of cake, and it doesn’t require any cables. Also, it is perfect for smooth trolling.
- Dual-beam sonar
- Can be used for ice fishing
- Uses Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth
- Requires no cables
- Short-life battery
If you need a castable fish finder under $500, then Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar is your only and best choice. Its dual-beam and ability to save your scans and maps to the Cloud are amazingly beneficial.
2. Garmin Striker 4 – Best Fish Finder For Deep Scanning
If you need a fish finder that scans to a very deep point under the water, Garmin Striker 4 is your one. It scans down to 1,600 feet in freshwater and 750 feet in saltwater with a frequency range of 50/77/200 kHz. It is also pretty powerful, given that it has a power output (Peak to Peak) of 1600 Watt and an RMS power output of 200 Watt.
As for the sonar, it employs a CHIRP sonar that produces a continuous range of frequencies at the same time, and therefore brings more information and creates crisper fish arches with better target separation.
Moreover, it features an in-built GPS with high sensitivity, giving you the ability to mark your favorite fishing spots to return to them again on your future fishing trips. However, it misses having a Chartplotter.
The GPS also allows you to see where you are in relation to the waypoints you have marked. By the way, it lets you mark up to 5000 waypoints. Magnificent, no?
Want to know the speed at which you are trolling? No probs! You can check it to see whether it is the right speed for the fish you are targeting and the lure you are using or not. It is also really beneficial if you are trolling in a wake-controlled area.
Besides, it comes with a portable kit that includes a sealed, rechargeable battery with charger, storage and suction cup transducer mount and float, and a built-in transducer cable management. Moreover, it is IPX7. For these two reasons, it is suitable for a kayak, canoe, or even ice fishing.
The accurate information it brings you appears on a display screen of 480 x 320-pixel resolution. Although this is not the best resolution in the market, it’s still an acceptable one. Its screen is small-sized at 3.5-inches only; however, you can get models with 5 or 7-inches if you are willing to pay more. Moreover, you can easily read it under the sun, which is an essential feature.
- In-built GPS
- Sunlight-readable screen
- Allows you to mark many waypoints
- Scans down to a considerable depth
- Small screen
- Not the best resolution
- No Chartplotter
If having a large display and a Chartplotter is not your priority, then Garmin Striker 4 would be an excellent choice. Its in-built GPS, CHIRP sonar, and ability to check your speed are such crucial features.
3. Lowrance HOOK2 4X – Best Budget
Do you want a fish finder that covers double the coverage area of a traditional fish finder? It is right between your hands with its wide-angle sonar cone.
Moreover, it has a Bullet Skimmer transducer that gives you traditional 2-D sonar (fish arch) views. The transducer is so easy to set up as you can mount it on the trolling motor, on the transom, inside the hull, or through a scupper hole.
It has a Solarmax Display of 480 x 272 pixels that offers crisp and clear images of fish and structures alike. The good news is that you can easily read it in the sun.
At 200 watts, it can provide a 50Hz and 200 kHz that can display a signal image of up to 800′ and 200′ deep, respectively.
In addition to all these features, it allows you to find depth changes and roadbeds thanks to its built-in mapping. You will also find your loved fishing spots since it features a built-in U.S. map with great details that features1-foot contours of more than 3,000 lakes.
Will you lose these fishing spots when your trip is over? Nope. You can save them on the micro SD card that you can also use for saving waypoints, routes, and trails.
You will also stay up-to-date because you can update your mapping with an optional chart card.
You have probably already assumed that the settings and interface of Lowrance HOOK2 4X are tough to deal with. Well, I am happy to tell you that you are wrong. This fish finder has phone-like menus, and an auto-tuning sonar, so say goodbye to spending hours just dialing it in. All you have to do is plug it in and start your fishing.
- Offers double coverage
- Solarmax Display
- Easy to use
- In-built mapping
- Micro SD card slot
- Features an auto-tuning sonar
- Lacks a GPS
- Small-sized screen
This is the best budget-friendly fish finder; however, it offers a lot, nonetheless. Considering its auto-tuning sonar and ease of use, we can tell that they want to please their customers, and they are doing an excellent job at it. It only lacks a GPS, which could be a bummer to some people.
4. HawkEye Fishtrax 1C – Best Battery
This is one of the best portable fish finders on the market as it is trollable, boat mountable, and floatable. Another reason is that it is powered by 4 AAA batteries that last for 20 hours.
It is also suitable for ice fishing and for fishing in deep weeds thanks to its sensor.
Moreover, it is known for its ease of setup because it comes with a transducer, sensor float, side-scan adapter, and a cable strap.
In addition, it has a 25-degree beam that successfully delivers very accurate readings down to 240 feet thanks to its algorithmic software programming that minimizes false readings. Want to reduce the time you spend focusing on fish? You got it. This device also sends out an alarm upon detecting fish.
It has three frequency modes 83 kHz, 200 kHz, or dual-view (200 kHz and 83 kHz.)
Where does all this information appear? On its VirtuView HD color display screen that can be easily read under the sunlight due to the presence of an LED backlight.
You can submerge our IPX7-fish finder down to one meter into the water without risking destroying it. Moreover, it features FishArc and FishID fish finder indicators that target the fish depth and HD bottom landscape imaging.
- Long-life battery
- Features algorithmic software programming
- FishArc and FishID fish finder indicators
- Faces problems with registering depths
- Lacks a Chartplotter
- Its waterproof feature might not be of the best quality
We can say that HawkEye Fishtrax 1C is the best fish finder under $500 if you are looking for a portable one that can be easily set up and used. Its accurate readings, amazing screen display, and long-life battery are impressive. However, if you need a Chartplotter and need to scan for some area deeper than 240 feet, this isn’t your one.
5. Humminbird 410160-1 PIRANHAMAX 4 DI – Best Fish Finder With Down Imaging
If you are searching for a fish finder that is under $500 range and features a dual-beam sonar and Down Imaging sonar, this is it.
If you are looking for one with a dual-beam sonar, then I guess you already know what it is suitable for. However, I will brief you on it. The dual-beam sonar gives you the chance to choose between a narrow beam or a wide beam.
The narrow beam is useful for scanning down to the tiniest details, but it can’t scan a large area. On the other hand, a wide beam scans a wide area but without much detail.
Although featuring a Dual Beam Scan is impressive, it only allows you to employ one frequency at a time, unlike the Dual Beam Plus scan that lets you use more than one frequency at a time.
As for the down imaging sonar, it has a 2D depth to 600 feet (200 kHz) and DI depth to 320 feet (455 kHz.) It gives you a detailed image of what is right below your boat.
It is also pretty powerful, given that it transmits 2400 watts peak-to-peak and 300 Watts RMS.
However, it comes with tip 2.5″ target separation so it can detect fish from general vegetation.
Besides, it has an XNT 9 Di T transducer that has a water-temperature sensor. You can mount the transducer, (which, by the way, uses conical sonar beams) on the transom. You can use it to scan the water for fish or even target them for you.
It has one of the best 4.3″ colored LCD screen displays that has 256 colors. It has 272H X 480V pixel resolution and can be easily read in the sunlight because it has an LED backlight.
Just like life taught us, nothing is perfect. So, it doesn’t have a CHIRP sonar, which some users find essential to have. Moreover, it does not come with a built-in GPS or any other navigation function.
- Features Down Imaging
- Uses the Dual Beam Sonar function
- The screen shows 256 colors
- Has an XNT 9 Di T transducer
- No CHIRP sonar technology
- Lacks any navigation feature
- No Dual Beam Plus scan function
- Does not employ a Chartplotter
As much as this fish finder misses some of the perceived-as-essential features like having a navigation function and a CHIRP sonar, for example, it still has a lot to offer. Some of its impressive features are having a down imaging scan and a dual-beam scan, being able to measure the water temperature and having an XNT 9 Di T transducer
What to Look for When Buying for a Fish Finder
Before you buy anything, you must make sure that you know what you are looking for. You don’t want to buy just anything and discover later that is a piece of junk. For this reason, we have decided to write to you about the essential features of a fish finder. However, you still have to decide which of them matters more to you.
Any fish finder has a frequency. The difference lies in whether it has a low or a high frequency. I believe that most of you think that the higher the frequency, the better. Well, you are not entirely wrong, but you are not totally right either. No, it is not a riddle.
Frequency sends waves into the water and returns with some information about what is under the water. An important point to note down is that higher frequency transmits wider beams, whereas low frequency has narrow beams.
If you fish in deep water, you better get a fish finder with a low frequency because it scans deeper into the water; however, it won’t scan a large area.
On the other hand, if you need to scan a large area, go for one with high frequency.
The more wattage there is, the faster the info appears on the screen. Also, it shortens the response time.
This is related to the frequency as the transducers send sound waves into the water. Again, the wider beam scans a large area, while the narrower one scans deep down.
It is related to the cone angle as it transmits cone-shaped sound waves below the water. The beamwidth usually varies between 9° and 60°, and the 20° cone angle is ideal for fishing at various depths.
4. CHIRP Sonar
A CHIRP Sonar technology stands for compressed high-intensity radar pulse. CHIRP Sonar is better than traditional ones because, unlike them, it sends a continuous range of frequencies at the same time. That way, it gets you clearer images with higher resolution.
5. Water Resistance
You better get a fish finder that doesn’t get destroyed with water. It is no brainer that the fish finder will be so close to the water and might get wet as a result. So, go for a fish finder that is IPX7.
6. Screen Resolution and Size
What would good power and frequency do if the screen is small and has no excellent resolution? They would be meaningless. Always go for screens with high resolution as it will show you more details.
It is also essential to go for a screen size that suits your workspace. In other words, a large screen is not always a good idea if you will fish on a small kayak, for example
7. Screen Color
A colored screen is way better than another that shows its info in black and white only.
8. Chartplotter and GPS
Some people confuse a Chartplotter for a GPS and vice versa. However, you must note the difference between them. A Chartplotter allows you to map the area around you so you can do some navigation. This lets you know where you are in relation to where you started.
On the other hand, GPS only allows you to mark waypoints.
What to Expect from a $500 Fish Finder
You can get a lot of features with some of the best fish finders for less than $500.
In this list, you have some that have a CHIRP sonar, some that have GPS, some that have a dual beam sonar, one with a micro SD card, and more.
To sum up, buying a fish finder on a budget is not a set back as long as you consider the features that are crucial to you. The second step is to narrow down your options and then choose the one that best suits your needs.
I hope you have already found your best fish finder under $500. As you have seen, selecting the one that suits you the most is not as hard as it seems. You just have to prioritize your needs, and it will become apparent to you which one is the best.
However, since we know how confusing and anxiety-triggering it is to buy something on a tight budget, we will offer you a recap.
If you need a fish finder that can save your waypoints and perfect fishing spots, then Lowrance HOOK2 4X is the only one on our list because it has a micro SD card slot. The happy news is that it is the cheapest of them all. It is also impressive for its double coverage, Solarmax Display, ease of use, auto-tuning sonar, and in-built mapping. However, it does not feature a GPS.
In case your deepest concern is having a fish finder that scans to a very deep depth, Garmin Striker 4 is apparently the best one, given that it scans down to 1,600 feet in freshwater, and 750 feet in saltwater. Moreover, its in-built GPS allows you to mark up to 5000 waypoints. You would, sadly, have to compromise having a Chartplotter and a large screen.
If you are a fan of castable fish finders, Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar shall be your best choice. Its dual-beam sonar, Wi-Fi usage, and not requiring cables or batteries are to die for.
All in all, this list has the best fish finders under $500 range on the market, so whatever you choose, you will land safely.