Best Fish Finders Under $300 – Buying Guide For 2017

Most of the well-known players in fishing electronics are now making full-featured fish finders that come in under the $300 dollar price point.

The only question is whether you want a full-size display unit for permanent mounting purposes or a smaller, lighter fish finder that will work for kayak and small boat fishing and applications like ice fishing where portability is a must.

We will try to help you narrow down the decision process here by exploring some of the best fish finders on the market in the under-$300 dollar price range. You are going to enjoy learning about some of the amazing new sonar technologies that are out there. Today’s fish finders can put out a nearly photographic image of the bottom and let you identify individual fish and the type of structures they are hiding in. They can talk to your smart phone or tablet. And some of them can do it all while fitting neatly in the palm of your hand.

Top 8 Fish Finders Under $300 - Comparisons

ImageProduct NameDisplayDepthPrice
Raymarine Dragonfly-4PRORaymarine Dragonfly-4PRO LED600 ftCheck Latest Price
Humminbird HELIX 5 Humminbird HELIX 5 HD1500 ftCheck Latest Price
LowranceElite-4 FishfinderLowranceElite-4 FishfinderHD1,000 ftCheck Latest Price
Garmin Echomap Chirp 43cvGarmin Echomap Chirp 43cvLCD1,100 ftCheck Latest Price
Lowrance Hook-4Lowrance Hook-4HD1,000 ftCheck Latest Price
Garmin STRIKER 5cvGarmin STRIKER 5cvHD2,300 ftCheck Latest Price
Humminbird HELIX 5DIHumminbird HELIX 5DIHD600 ftCheck Latest Price
Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+No260 ftCheck Latest Price

8 Best Fish Finders Under $300 - Reviews

Check out this overview of some of our favorite fish finders under $300. We guarantee that you will be impressed at what these fish finders can do for less than $300 dollars each. 

1. Raymarine Dragonfly-4PRO Sonar

Raymarine Dragonfly-4PRO Sonar

The Dragonfly 4PRO is one of the new breed of Wi-Fi enabled fish finders that pairs with a smart phone or tablet to offer a wide range of functions and capabilities. The Dragonfly 4PRO comes in a compact, portable package that works well as part of a kayak fishing set up. In fact, it is surprising how many features are found in such a small unit. The 4PRO deploys a transom-mount transducer to fire 2-channel CHIRP sonar with a wide-scale DownVision function that produces the detailed pictures of bottom structure that this technology has become famous for. The fish targeting channel produces a focused conical beam that lets you see detail. Deep water capabilities to 600 feet and high-speed bottom tracking ability are impressive options to find on a small unit like this. It has a 72-channel GPS with the typical tracking and waypointing functions and the unit includes US lake, river, and coastal maps on a program that runs from a microSD card. 

The display is built with optically-bonded LCD technology and looks like a high-end smart phone screen. It has weather-resistant and anti-fogging properties. Smart phone connectivity lets the 4PRO do neat things like stream the sonar data to a phone or tablet, where you can rewind the feed and capture images to share online. It can also create custom bottom charts that are stored on your phone or tablet. We found the included ball-and-socket mount to be a little on the flimsy side, but that is in keeping with the overall light weight of this fish finder. On the upside, the unit can easily work in a variety of after-market or custom mount set ups. The Raymarine Dragonfly 4PRO is actually amazing for a palm-size piece of technology and is one of the best fish finders out there for under $300.

What we liked

  • Great for kayak fishing
  • Amazing bundle of features in a small package
  • Basic map software included

What we didn't like

  • Mounting bracket should be beefier
  • It can pick up a lot of screen glare

2. Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2

Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2

Humminbird is a pioneer of fish finder technology and they keep on innovating with the HELIX models. The Helix 5 comes in at just under our target price, and a huge batch of features for that price point make the Helix 5 one of the best fish finders under $300. The 5-inch display can switch between full color and grayscale, and backlighting makes it very easy to see in any light condition. Like the other new Humminbird fish finders, this one has the SwitchFire sonar system that lets you change the display view from clear to very detailed. The clear mode takes out a lot of the interference and clutter in rough or shallow water so that it is easier to see fish. Max mode gives amazing detail for a 2-D fish finder. It can even show temperature gradients and currents. This view is powered by a CHIRP sonar system. The base system on the included transducer has the power to go 1500 feet deep, but you can get the optional transducer upgrade to get down to 2500 feet.

The Helix 5 GPS receiver supports tracking and chart plotting functions and can save your tracks as well as routes along with thousands of way points and fishing spots. Optional mapping and logging software are available and the Helix 5 have an SD card slot and PC connectivity software. The unit can be mounted in its gimbal frame or dash-mounted for a more permanent option. The Helix 5 has a new operating system that we found to be pretty easy to understand. One thing we did not like so much was the small size of the function buttons. The large digit view mode on the display partly made up for that. This is a lot of fish finder for the money, and it is hard to go wrong with Humminbird.

What we liked

  • More included feature than you usually find at this price level
  • Clear imaging
  • SD card and PC software included

What we didn't like

  • Mount tilts but does not swivel
  • Small function buttons
  • Too many optional purchase items

3. LowranceElite-4 Fishfinder/Chartplotter

LowranceElite-4 FishfinderChartplotter

Another unit that comes in near the top of our target range is the Lowrance Elite 4. This is a small fish finder suitable for kayaks and canoes but it has a solid range of functions. The Elite 4 comes with a Hybrid Dual Imaging transducer that will produce CHIRP sonar images in broadband and down imaging modes. Data is fed to a 4-inch color screen that has surprisingly good overall resolution. We did find it hard to pick out the fish arches clearly but that is what happens once you get into screen sizes this small. The sounding function can read bottom at 1,000 feet. The target resolution is good enough to see bait fish along with the game fish. The GPS antenna is built in and the unit comes with a detailed U.S. map. The basic map is not the most detailed that we have seen, but it works well enough to find the fishing holes and the recording function marks them for you.

The case is built strong and waterproofed to IPx7 standards. We did not really appreciate the mounting base. Although it is strong enough and swivels as well as tilts, the unit vibrates a lot in rough water. A ball joint mount or in-dash mount might be preferable for motorized craft that see a lot of choppy water. The user interface was easy enough to get used to and the button system is laid out like a phone, which we liked. This is a good unit for portable applications like ice fishing because one-handed operation is easy. The transducer is easy to mount, and some of the popular Hobie kayaks come ready for no-drill mounting of the Elite 4. This is a good little fish finder with a range of functions that is rich for the sub-$300 price point.

What we liked

  • Easy to operate
  • Accurate GPS with basic maps included
  • Good button layout

What we didn't like

  • Mount vibrates a lot
  • Difficult to see small fish arches

4. Garmin Echomap Chirp 43cv

Garmin Echomap Chirp 43cv

The Garmin Echomap Chirp 43cv is another solid Garmin product that makes it into any list of the best fish finders on the market. The 43cv is built around Garmin’s CV20 transducer that produces CHIRP and CHIRP ClearVu signals for the photo-realistic images that these Garmin fish finders are becoming known for. Both modes run in 3 different frequencies for maximum resolution in any conditions and for any purpose. This is a powerful little fish finder, with a depth range of 2,300 feet in freshwater and 1,100 feet in saltwater. Functions include water temperature log and graph, a bottom lock mode that shows the scan from the bottom to the surface, and recording/rewind as well as PC interface capabilities. The GPS is one of the most accurate in its class, and it is compatible with other Garmin products so transfer of saved data is possible. A unique feature that we liked was the Quickdraw function that lets you create personalized HD maps right on screen. These can be saved for later use or shared with others on the Garmin Connect social software. The 43cv also comes with Preloaded LakeVu HD maps of over 17,000+ U.S. lakes, rivers and reservoirs, and a MicroSD slot lets you load up even more.

Besides the incredible imaging power, the nice thing about this fish finder is the display. You get a little extra visibility with a 4.3-inche screen but still retain a unit size that is not much bigger than your hand. The resolution is good, and the control buttons are fairly easy to handle even though they are on the small side. We did not really like the mount as there is no swivel function. However, it is easy to install and remove the unit. It also comes with both transom and trolling motor mounts. Along with its overall capabilities, thee xtras included with this fish finder put it near the top of our list of best fish finders under $300.

What we liked

  • Many extras included
  • A little extra screen space
  • Excellent imaging

What we didn't like

  • No swivel mount
  • Buttons are a bit too close together

5. Lowrance Hook-4 Sonar Downscan Fishfinder

Lowrance Hook-4 Sonar Downscan Fishfinder

The Lowrance Hook-4 is another fish finder that packs a lot of function into a small package. The weekend fisherman might use it in a small boat as the main unit, or it can work as a bow unit for running the trolling motor on bigger boats. It is also the perfect size for a kayak fishing set up. The Hook-4 brings you the CHIRP and down-scanning sonar functions that are the cutting edge today. An interesting feature we found on this unit was Lowrance’sDownScan Overlay technology that combines DownScan Images with the CHIRP sonar readouts. You can look at it all with the tri-split screen function. It’s a lot of information for a small 4-inch screen. That is one downside with the Hook-4 and you had better bring your glasses. However, the large digit display mode helps out. The display is very crisp and colorful, and the display mount was pretty good – a little more back tilt would be nice in a kayak. The Advanced Signal Processing capability works like an autofocus so you do not have to be constantly pushing buttons to get the best settings. And speaking of the buttons, Lowrance was smart enough to put everything in a phone-like configuration that can be operated by thumb with one hand. We usually don’t like small buttons, but the ones on the Hook-4 were so naturally placed that it seemed easy. Gloved operation is still tricky though.

Besides the fish finding capabilities, you have an accurate built-in GPS that comes with a map of over 3,000 U.S. lakes and rivers as well as the coastline out to 1,000 feet. The unit can also run Navionics and several other chart upgrades from a MicroSD card. The ability to use pre-set page layouts and a recording and review function that lets you rewind the sonar history makes the Hook-4 a powerful fishing tool.

What we liked

  • Very functional for its size
  • One-thumb page scrolling and button operation
  • Lowrance warranty

What we didn't like

  • Back tilt angle is limited
  • Transducer mount depends on only two screws

6. Garmin STRIKER 5cv

Garmin STRIKER 5cv

The Garmin STRIKER series of fish finders has gathered an established following among both professional and weekend fishermen, and it includes the 5cv, one of the best fish finders under $300. The STRIKER line is identified by screen size and comes with 4-, 5-, and 7-inch screen options. All are traditional-style boat-mounted fish finders, and even the two large models are very light at barely one pound. They are compact as well, and a portability kit lets you keep your fish finder protected while moving it between boats or using it on the ice. Like the other STRIKER models we looked at, the 5cv consisted of a powerful sonar unit and high-resolution display in a rugged IPX7 waterproof housing. This fish finder hits a nice balance point at price and size with its 5-inch color screen. It still packs almost all of the features of the larger model, with Garmin CHIRP technology and ClearVuscanning sonar. The CHIRP transducer puts out a signal in the 77/200 kHz range. It sweeps a broad frequency range instead of just a single frequency then interprets each level of return individually. This produces clear, crisp fish arches and better target separation. Integrated in the same transducer, the ClearVu scanning sonar shows a wide-angle view of what is below your boat in an image that is almost photographic in its precision.

A high-sensitivity GPS lets you track your location and mark fishing holes for later return. We liked the bottom lock setting that can show the return from the bottom to the surface. And that bottom can be 2,300 feet away in freshwater, 1,100 in saltwater. Another cool feature was the A-scope that gives you a real-time view of any fish that passes through the transducer beam. The unit is easy to remove for transport, but we would have liked to see the side support arms be a little heavier. All in all, the STRIKER 5cv is a great fish finder for the price. 

What we liked

  • Generous screen space in an overall compact unit
  • A-scope moving fish tracking
  • Split-screen function
  • Garmin reputation

What we didn't like

  • Generous screen space in an overall compact unit
  • A-scope moving fish tracking
  • Split-screen function
  • Garmin reputation

7. Humminbird HELIX 5DI Fish Finder

Humminbird HELIX 5DI Fish Finder

The Humminbird Helix 5DI is one of the best fish finders for the money for those who are interested in down-imaging technology. This high-frequency sonar function can put out life-like views of structures under your boat. Once you find a piece of timber, pile of rocks or other fish-holding structure, the SwitchFire view on the split screen shows you the fish. It is pretty fun to play with, we found things we never knew were under us. The down-imaging function works down to 350 feet, the full depth range of the unit. Everything shows up well on the LED backlit 5-inch full-color display, and it can be toggled to 16-bit grayscale at will. The DualBeam PLUS sonar has 4 cone sizes for 16-, 28-, 45- and 75-degree bottom coverage. The new Humminbird user interface was friendly enough, but we found the function buttons to be hard to work, especially with gloves on.

This unit had some useful features we enjoyed like the split screen bottom lock, real time sonar, selective fish ID, and the large digit view. It also has the ability to support multiple languages. However, to get down-imaging at this price level, some valuable things have to be sacrificed. The cable and software needed to link to a PC are extra options that must be purchased, and there is no SD card system. There is also no boat speed readout. The unit comes with the transducer mounting hardware, and the display can be dash-mounted or placed in its gimbal mount. Like other Humminbirds, the Helix 5 mount does not swivel, something we find strange. It was also disappointing to see no trolling motor mount included with a unit that costs close to $300. However, for the quality of the display and images, and the down-imaging capabilities, the Helix 5 is a very good fish finder for its price point.

What we liked

  • Down-imaging snap shots
  • Bright display
  • Easy to learn the interface

What we didn't like

  • Mount tilts but does not swivel
  • Small function buttons
  • SD card and PC kit not included

8. Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+

Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+

The Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ is a cool-looking 2.55-inch black ball filled with enough amazing features to make it onto our list of best fish finders under $300. Several of these pocket-sized castable fish finders have hit the market lately, but this is one of the few that uses a WiFi connection instead of Bluetooth. It also has an integrated GPS function that runs in Standard, Boat, Ice Fishing, and Onshore modes. The PRO+ uses a smart phone or tablet to display the sonar imaging via the Deeper application. It is very simple to use and can collect a lot of data, which is easy to transfer onto a PC. One of the things we liked best about it was the power it brings to the shore fisherman. By casting the unit out and reeling it back over multiple paths, the angler can create a map of the bottom. The signal extends to 330 feet, farther than most people can cast and far enough to drift the PRO+ along with the current a bit. Depth capability goes down to 260 feet, and there is a boat mode bottom mapping function as well. Just like a boat-mounted fish finder, this unit has dual beam sonar that lets you use a wide beam to cover large areas and a narrow beam for pinpointing fish. With a .5-inch target separation, this little unit outperforms many larger and more expensive fish finders. A simple arm mount attaches the PRO+ to the side of a kayak or small boat. For still fishing, the unit can be attached to a line and allowed to drift on the side you are fishing from. Battery life is around 5.5 hours of continuous use. It charges via USB cable so recharge from a vehicle or boat cigarette lighter is possible. The Sonar PRO+ is a go-anywhere fish finder that is perfect for kayak and ice fishing, and it opens a whole new world for the bank and jetty fisherman.

What we liked

  • Amazing capabilities for such a small unit
  • Fun to use
  • Extremely portable

What we didn't like

  • Image is sensitive to bottom conditions like weeds and silt
  • Battery life is limited to 6 months

Finding a Great Fish Finder for Under $300

Fish finder quality now is night and day different from what was out there just a few years ago. Sonar and GPS technologies are advancing every year, and displays are getting larger and more durable. The touch-screen revolution has come to marine electronics, and fish finder/chart plotters are incorporating that and many other high-tech functions. It all adds up to some very expensive gear.

It takes some diligent searching to find a sub-$300-dollar fish finder with at least a few of the newest functions like CHIRP, down-imaging, and side vu sonar. We have sorted out some of the best here in terms of capabilities, value, and price-point. Now it’s up to you to look into the models that might work best for your fishing situation. Pick one of these great units up, get out there, and find the fish!

David Valle
 

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!

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