5 Best Depth Finders [For Boats & Kayaks]

If you’ve searched for depth finders, you’ve probably ended up with a bunch of articles on your screen that talk about fish finders instead. This is a common issue when searching for these because they both use sonar to find the bottom of the water as well as fish. 

For those who are specifically in need of a depth finder, not a fish finder, then you’re probably more concerned with how deep or shallow the water is. Divers may also be in search of a depth finder to help discover the best diving spots. 

We’ve scoured the internet and found the HawkEye DepthTrax 1 because of its unbelievable accuracy, easy-to-use functions, and programmability. If you want to check out our other options, feel free to do so. 

Top Depth Finders On The Market 

1.HawkEye DepthTrax 1 – Best Overall 

For most individuals boating, depths of over 200 feet aren’t a concern since there’s no chance of running aground. Rather, the main concern is the accuracy of the reading, which is something the HawkEye DepthTrax 1B offers, which is why we’ve chosen it as our best overall. 

Accurate Depth Readings

The HawkEye DepthTrax 1B offers an accurate depth range from 2.5-600 feet, even at speeds of over 60 mph, thanks to the 300 watts of DepthTrax SONAR. If you’re moving at a quick rate of speed, there’s a warning system that will keep you from running your boat aground. As you approach shallow depths, the warning system will go off to notify you. 

Functions

This depth finder is very user-friendly. It offers you a glare-free display that makes reading the depth and temperature easy in even the brightest sunlight. Additionally, there’s a backlight on a large display that allows you to easily read it in low light conditions. So if you’re boating at dusk you can still see your depth. We know how difficult it is to dock a boat in the dark. 

Durability & Versatility 

Any product that you bring on a boat with you should be durable and at least waterproof. The HawkEye Trax is encased in a rugged ABS housing with dual O-ring seals and inductive switching technology. It’s backed by a 2-year warranty to ensure product satisfaction. 

What We Like

  • Can be mounted or glued in-hull
  • Glare-free display
  • Accurate up to 1/10th degree
  • Marine-grade plug and play connector
  • Dual depth alarms 
  • Waterproof

What We Don’t Like

  • Inaccurate reading if there’s an object under the surface

2.Faria Depth Sounder– Best For Sailboats

Sailboats are one of the most difficult boats to steer, so you must know what depth you’re at no matter where you are. The Faria Depth Sounder is one of our favorites for sailboats because it can be installed as an in-hull or transom mount. 

Depth Readings

This depth gauge is capable of reading depths of up to 199 feet. It can be adjusted through the programmable keel offset function and if you’re about to hit shallow waters, you can hear and see the alarms to let you know. These are also programmable via the three-button interface that we found unbelievably easy to navigate. 

Display

The oversized, backlit display allows you to easily read depth and temperature in any condition and displays readings in meters, feet, and fathoms. The easy-to-use buttons make it simple to program certain functions. This is an important feature to us because when being used for just depth readings, these depth finders shouldn’t be difficult to operate or understand. 

What We Like

  • Programmable for deep and shallow water
  • Audible and visible alarms
  • Easy to install 
  • Oversized backlit display
  • Decently priced
  • In-hull transducer
  • 1-year warranty

What We Don’t Like

  • May encounter inaccurate readings 

4.HawkEye FishTrax 1 – Best Value

If you’re looking for something basic and without a ton of functions that you’ll never use, then consider the HawkEye FishTrax 1. The main difference between this model and our top pick is that this one only has depth readings up to 240 feet down as opposed to 600 feet. 

Depth Readings

We were impressed by how well this basid depth finder worked. It could give us accurate readings up to 240 feet down at 200 kHz. It doubles as a fish finder as well and will give accurate fish depth readings. With the five levels of adjustable sonar sensitivity, you can read just about anything that may pop up under your boat. 

Functions

For an affordable dual depth finder, we thought that it performed fairly well. It has a one-touch power button that instantly gives you the depth of water, fish, and composition of the bottom. There are audible fish alarms as well as real-time water temperature readings.  

Reliability

The algorithmic software programming reduces the chance of false readings and sounds from fish and shallow waters. Additionally, the glare-free icon LCD with LED backlight allows you to easily see the depth you’re at without fail. No matter what the weather’s like, you can still view weed and rock indicators, presence of fish, and composition. The sensor is trollable, floatable, and boat mountable. You can use it anywhere you need to. 

What We Like 

  • You can use it anywhere
  • It’s versatile
  • Superior reliability
  • Durable
  • Accurate depth readings
  • Glare-free LCD with LED backlight
  • Affordable

What We Don’t Like

  • Inaccurate fish readings

5.Humminbird ICE-45 Best For Ice Fishing

When you’re ice fishing, you want to be well aware of the depth you’re fishing at and what lurks beneath the ice. When the water is iced over and covered in snow, you can’t see the weeds or contour of what’s below. This is where the Humminbird ICE-45 comes in handy. 

Unmatched Sonar

In terms of sonar capabilities, this depth finder is equipped with the ICE HELIX G2 and G2N Series with dual spectrum CHIRP sonar.

There are four manual and seven automatically adjustable settings for depth scales at 20,40,60,80,100,120, and 200 feet using 1,800 watts of peak-to-peak power at 455 kHz and 240 kHz. You can use it in both shallow and deep water. 

Functions

We enjoyed using this depth finder. It’s easy to operate and the extreme-temperature backlit LCD allowed us to easily and instantly see what was beneath the thick ice. It also sets the flasher scale automatically. We could zoom to see any part of the water column even when it was really sunny out, we could still see the information coming on the screen thanks to the backlit, three-color fiber optic display. 

Versatility

One of our favorite features of this depth finder is that you don’t have to use it in just the wintertime for ice fishing. You can transfer the unit to your boat by adding a transducer or you can use the one that comes with the all-season model. It’s a durable piece of equipment that will make your ice fishing experience much more enjoyable. 

What We Like

  • Can be used in the summer and winter
  • Accurate depth readings
  • LCD can be viewed in sunlight
  • Manual and automatic depth scale adjustment
  • Can be used in shallow and deep water
  • Rechargeable battery for up to 7 hours

What We Don’t Like

  • Faulty object separation
  • Questionable quality

What Is A Depth Finder?

You may have heard of it through word of mouth and thought that you could benefit from one. But do you know exactly what it is? We do and we’ll explain it. A depth finder is a device that uses sonar technology to show you the depth of the water under your boat. This isn’t to be confused with a fish finder. 

A fish finder has the same concept, but it gives a visual video image of what’s under the water as opposed to a digital number readout. You can buy a two-in-one fish and depth finder, but it may cost more and has more features that you may not necessarily need. 

Why Do You Need A Depth Finder?

Safety is a top priority when you’re out on the water. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or boater, you can use a depth finder to improve your experience. A depth finder is a beneficial piece of equipment that can be helpful in shallow water to ensure you don’t run aground and ruin your boat. You don’t necessarily need a depth finder, but they’re helpful when you don’t knw what’s under the surface of the water. 

How To Choose A Depth Finder

Now that you know exactly what a depth finder is, it’s time to get a better understanding of what you have to look for when purchasing one. You should never dive headfirst into a purchase without being 100% sure of it because there are some pretty important factors to take into consideration. Let’s discuss those.

Mounting

How are you going to mount your depth finder to your boat? Are you going to mount it at all? These are a few questions you need to ask yourself before purchasing a depth finder. There are actually a few transducer mounting styles that you should check out: 

Transom Mount

A transom mount is an adjustable-angle bracket that’s bolted or screwed to the transom with the transducer dangling below and behind the hull. This is a simple installation, but it’s prone to turbulent water flow. It’s a popular and versatile option for trailerables You can use this mount on aluminum, steel, wood, or fiberglass hulls with single or twin I/O outboard and jet drive systems. 

You will find that these transducers are generally mounted to the starboard because this is where the blades move downward. It should be mounted at least 3’ beyond the propeller swing radius. 

In-Hull

For the in-hull option, the transducer will be installed inside of the hull bottom and send a signal through the hull. These transducers don’t need water contact and are glued inside of the hull. They’re a great choice for trailered boats, boats with stepped hulls, or other boats with high-performance hull designs. 

In-hull transducers need to be installed on solid fiberglass. There can’t be any foam or plywood coring material. The typical 600W transducers can send signals through ½” to ⅝” fiberglass.  

Thru-Hull

The thru-hull transducer mounting style involves passing a threaded bronze or stainless steel shaft through a hole in the bottom of the hull. You can choose between an external football-shaped head or mushroom heat thru-hull, but both can be semi-flush or flush-mounted. This is one of the most difficult types to install, but they offer the best quality signal. This is a good choice if you are operating a sailboat. 

Tilted Element

These types of transducers are semi-flush or thru-hull types. The elements inside provide stronger returns and more accurate depth readings. These are ideal for large, tailored center consoles and walk-around cuddy cabin powerboats that can’t accommodate thru-hulls with fairing blocks. They provide accurate readings at over 30 knots. 

Transducer Composition

There are two types of transducer materials that are used: Plastic and Bronze. Plastic thru-hull housings should not be used with wooden boats because the wood swells and absorbs water. This could result in a cracked housing. 

Bronze thru-hull housings can be used on any material except aluminum boats. When saltwater hits both the aluminum and bronze, it will eat away at the aluminum hull and housing.

Sonar Technology

Anglers and boaters find it convenient that there are so many sonar technologies on the market today. Let’s look at some of those. 

Directional Sonar

Directional sonar works like a flashlight beam that can be aimed either mechanically or electronically. There are several beam shapes and frequencies that allow you to see fish-holding spots, drop-offs, channels, underwater structures, and more before you position your boat. Additionally, there are side-scanning sonars that can show what’s on either side of your boat. 

CHIRP Sonar

CHIRP sonar is one of the best technologies you can get for your depth finder/fish finder. These are more likely to be found in combo devices. It continuously searches a spectrum of different frequencies within an extended duration pulse. This is hundreds of times greater than a single-frequency pulse. It provides a clearer and much better detail, resolution, and accuracy at greater depths. There is better target separation and less interference from errant noise. 

High-Frequency Scanning Sonar

If you’re looking for picture-like images, then this is the type of sonar you would want. It has the capabilities to scan an area with an ultra-high frequency signal, producing picture-like images. You can choose between 455 kHz and 800 kHz. 

Fixed Frequency Sonar

This is the traditional type of sonar that hasn’t really changed. Broadband technology has changed the way images are processed, but that’s about it. You can choose bwteern 50 kHz and 200 kHz as well as other fixed frequencies. If you want to see decent resolution while moving at high speeds, use a higher frequency. 

Performance

To get the most out of your depth finder, it should be able to provide you with high efficient readings while your boat is moving. There are certain models that can flop when it comes to high boat speeds, but high-quality depth finders can show accurate depth readings in multiple standard units of measurements from 2.5 to 200 feet, like the HawkEye DepthTrax. These will generally come with adjustable alarms for shallow and deep waters. 

Features

The main purpose of a depth finder is to keep track of what the depth of the water is under your boat, but some units can come with other functions that you can use for fishing. Additionally, some depth finders are equipped with advanced sonar technology that helps track fish under the surface. We found that some of the best depth finders have GPS tracking availability to determine where your exact location is. 

Moreso, there are depth finders that have algorithmic, easy-touch, digital programming that gives you accurate results, such as the HawkEye FishTrax 1. You can also have water and air temperature readings that eliminate the need for multiple devices. This is ideal for kayaking, boating, fishing, and sailing. 

Durability

If you’re paying top dollar for a device, you want it to work for a long time. This is no different with depth finders that have transducers. These may be prone to wear and tear, especially when being used in difficult conditions. You should ensure the device is waterproof and tightly sealed. It has to be able to withstand water submersion. 

Size & Shape

You should be able to easily manage your depth finder. It shouldn’t be bulky or difficult to handle. The screen should be a reasonable size, but it should also be portable. We like the widescreen versions better than regular screens because you can view more information at once. Additionally, the lighter the device, the better! 

Conclusion

After much consideration and review, we stand by our choice for the HawkEye DepthTrax 1 because it offers almost everything one should look for in a depth finder including accuracy, ease of use, and programmable functions. 

This unit is packed full of features and functions that make it hard to say no to. We love the dual-depth alarms, interchangeable faceplates, and programming. It’s a great device at a decent price. 

It is our hope that this guide has helped you make a decision regarding the best depth finder. It’s not a quick process, but once it’s done, you’ll be satisfied with your choice. 

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