Keeping your budget modest when it comes to a basic fish finder to locate fish is a reasonable expectation, especially if you are new to fish finder technology.
These useful electronics are a great addition to your boat fishing if you want to find the next best fishing spot. For the best fish finder under 200, you can find a range of fish finders that will meet or exceed your fishing style needs.
When it comes to the best fish finder under 200, some of the features you want to look for are the display. Some will be black and white, but most will be in color. Even if it’s not a high-definition color or a large screen size, having some color contrast in your sonar results is a huge benefit. When available, always opt for the color display.
Additionally, you can find display screens that range from 3 to 5 inches most often. In this price point, a 4 or 5-inch screen is not uncommon, but larger or smaller may be found as well.
You’ll also notice a wide range of resolutions, so be sure to go with the best you can find within your budget.
There is quite a range of variation when it comes to sonar as well. Most fish finders in this price range will have standard down imaging sonar as a basic feature.
Others may include better sonar options such as side imaging, ClearVu, and CHIRP sonar technology. Some even have dual-beam sonar capabilities.
You’ll have to take some time to compare the different sonar features available on budget fish finders in general and see which fish finder works best for you.
When it comes to popular name brands in the fish finder universe, Garmin Striker is well-known around the world. The Garmin line of fish finders is known for having some of the best and most accurate GPS on the market.
You’ll even be able to find it in their fish finders under 200. If you’re looking for powerful waypoint abilities, the Striker 4 with the dual beam transducer is a reliable fish finder.
Using a dual beam transducer, you can waypoint and place markers on your favorite fishing spots giving you an easy way to find them anytime you want to have a prosperous fishing trip.
As for Sonar, the Garmin Striker 4 uses CHIRP technology and a built-in flasher to give you the best and most detailed view of what's below or around your boat.
You’ll notice greatly increased sonar capabilities and display screen resolution if comparing this budget fish finder to other fish finders at the same price point.
In addition to using CHIRP sonar technology, the Striker uses DownVu down imaging sonar data to give you a high-resolution result even though the display is a mere 3.5 inches.
Somewhat on the small side, the resolution of 480 x 320 still makes it easy for you to find fish or locate underwater debris and other objects.
- High-quality GPS with built-in flasher for a Budget Fish Finder
- CHIRP Sonar with DownVu Imaging Technology
- 3.5 Inch Screen to Give Clear Images of Fish
If you’re looking for a slightly larger display screen than the previous model, the Humminbird PiranhaMAX is a great option (click here for our extended review article on the PiranhaMAX). The display measures just under 4.5 inches.
Its bright LED backlit screen helps make viewing sonar waves data readouts in bright sunlight much easier. Additionally, it’s a perfect option for a night fishing environment due to the vibrant backlighting feature it boasts.
While it does not have CHIRP sonar, PiranhaMAX offers 2D sonar imaging in extremely high quality that other fish finders do not have. You’ll be able to accurately chart contours and locate fish arches at depths of up to 600 feet.
The dual beam sonar has two unique frequencies that can help increase your chances of accurately locating deepwater fish, with an accurate 2.5-inch separation capability. You can choose between narrow or wide beam coverage with dual beam sonar data capabilities.
You’ll find the down imaging can reach 320 feet or more to give you a range of depths to work with to find that next trophy fish.
The biggest downside to the PiranhaMAX is that it does not have a built-in GPS, so you will not be able to easily mark fishing locations or make waypoints.
However, for this price point, the features it does have are done extremely well. If GPS capabilities are not a high priority for you, the PiranhaMAX is an affordable and very useful fish finder to consider.
- 2.5 Inch Target Separation Capabilities
- High-quality 2D Sonar Imaging
- LED Backlit Display for Easy Daytime Reading
Another Garmin entry on this list of affordable fish finders under 200, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an easier-to-use fish finder at this price point. This transducer fish finder offers a 4-inch display screen that can handle a range of colors to give you the clearest contrast between your different sonar wave readings.
Stop spending your time struggling to make sense of blobs and blurry lines on your current fish finder, and turn to the Striker Vivid for a much easier experience reading what's on the screen.
The Striker Vivid makes use of both CHIRP sonar as well as ClearVu scans to give you the most detailed view of what's below your boat. Its included transducer is a GT20-TM model known for being able to handle some of the highest-quality scan results around.
Combine that with the extended color palette of 7 new color shades for your sonar, and you will be shocked to see how detailed your scan results are.
As with all Garmin fish finders at this price point, you’ll find the Striker Vivid to have extremely sensitive and highly accurate GPS capabilities. You’ll be able to pinpoint the exact location of your current fishing spot and return anytime to hook a trophy or waypoint your path around obstacles and other hazards your sonar found earlier.
Maps can be saved and will display 1-foot contours in real-time to give you an accurate view of the waterways. Additionally, you’ll be able to easily see the speed your vessel is moving to ensure you remain within speed regulations in wake zones and while locating sensitive fish species.
- Accurate, Sensitive, and Reliable GPS Capabilities for Waypoints and Route Plotting
- New Vibrant Color Palette to Give Clear Sonar Results on the Display
- Built-In Speed Tracker for Wake Zones and Other Areas
When it comes to the ultimate level of portability, the Deeper PRO is one of the best choices on the market. It’s not your everyday fish finder; in fact, many new or intermediate anglers may not even know about castable fish finders. They’re somewhat niche but can be extremely useful for a wide range of fishing applications.
For example, if you prefer to do your fishing from the shore, a long pier, or a smaller watercraft such as a kayak, you won’t be able to install a permanent fish finder. Portable units are the only way to go, and castable fish finders are some of the most effective and highly portable units you can buy.
The Deeper PRO is the best combination of affordability and functionality. Being a smart fish finder under $200, it offers a range of features you’ll find on permanent installation units as well.
One of the biggest benefits of using a castable fish finder is that you will receive the sonar results on your smartphone.
If you have a high-quality smartphone with a high-resolution screen, you’ll be able to view your sonar image results in excellent resolution and definition to ensure there is no doubt as to what you may be seeing in the images.
Additionally, the Deeper PRO includes an integrated GPS capability which is a rare find in some other portable and castable fish finder technology.
While you won’t find pinpoint precision in your GPS right down to the degree, you’ll still get highly accurate results to help you mark your favorite fishing spots along the shore or from the ice.
You’ll be able to collect pathing in real-time to help you chart your route and plan future fishing trips. And it offers a great battery life and is one of the reliable down scan fish finders.
- Extremely Portable and Easy to Cast from your Fishing Rod
- Includes GPS Capabilities with Real-Time Tracking
- It’s ready for any type of fishing - shore fishing, ice fishing, kayak fishing, or boat fishing
Buyers’ Guides Choosing a Budget Fish Finder
When it comes to the budget options of fish finders, especially a low-cost fish finder under $200, there are quite a few options for anglers of all experience levels.
Whether you are looking for a simple down imaging unit or want to find one that has a few additional features, you’re sure to find an affordable fish finder within your budget that meets or exceeds your needs as a freshwater or saltwater angler.
When it comes to portable or castable fish finders, the display is a moot point as it will send the sonar images directly to your smartphone. In this case, you simply want to ensure your smartphone has an average display screen size to give you high results from your fish finder.
For permanently installed fish finders on boats and other vessels, the right display screen can make a huge difference in finding a successful fishing spot or just wasting your time on the water.
Being able to view the sonar images in high enough resolution and color contrast to ensure you know what you are looking at is vital.
You want to find a smart fish finder with a display that has at least 480 x 240 screen resolution. Anything higher is, of course, much better, but at that resolution, you’ll be able to distinguish bait schools from large fish arches easily.
Type of Sonar
Depending on your needs, you can find fish finders with traditional sonar, CHIRP sonar, and trademarked high-frequency sonar options. What works best for you will depend on your fishing technique and which areas you are fishing in most often.
The different sonar options also have different effective depths, meaning if you are fishing in extremely shallow water depths, a fish finder set to deep water fishing may not offer accurate results.
The frequency of the sonar is what determines the maximum depth of usefulness of the fish finder. For example, your basic traditional sonar fish finder can have a frequency range between 50 kHz and 200 kHz.
The higher frequency output will work best in shallow water depth and give much clearer results. For deep water depth, you want a fish finder that can be adjusted to much lower frequencies to get an accurate view of what lies well beneath your boat.
If your fish finder uses CHIRP technology, the frequency range can quickly cover a wide range giving you accurate and rapid results in water of all depths, regardless of freshwater or saltwater.
Most fish finders are usable in both fresh and saltwater, though some may have limits on their sonar capabilities when it comes to one or the other. Always be sure the fish finder you are looking at will work in your chosen water type.
Most fish finders, especially those from well-known companies such as Garmin or Humminbird, will stand behind solid warranties for their fish-finding technology. Some may be 6-month warranties, some may be 2 years, and some may even be longer.
While the most basic fish finders on the lower end of the price spectrum will have little more than traditional down view sonar, you can spend a bit more money to find a model that has a few extra features.
FAQ on Cheap Fish Finders
How Accurate Are Fish Finders?
Fish finders can be extremely accurate if configured properly. When purchased, the default settings a fish finder has from the manufacturer may not be set to the perfect conditions you will be fishing in.
The depth capability is usually set much deeper than the average angler would need, so you need to adjust your frequency to reflect your preferred fishing depth. Once the fish finder has been adjusted, the results can be incredibly accurate, showing you the real-time movement of schools of fish as well as single fish.
What Are the Drawbacks of Cheap Fish Finders?
When searching for an affordable fish finder on the lower end of the price range, you may run into several that have very small display screens or a greyscale screen. While this does not make the fish finder unusable, it does make it more difficult to properly distinguish between blips on the image when you’re searching for fish.
Many lower-priced fish finders will also not have GPS capabilities, or the GPS they do have will be slightly inaccurate or not as precise as higher-end models. They don’t have sidescan either. If you want to find a fish finder with better GPS capabilities, you may have to increase your budget a bit.
Even the most basic GPS would be better than no GPS on a fish finder, as this will allow you to pinpoint your favorite fishing spots or water hazards you need to avoid.
How Does a Castable Fish Finder Work?
Castable fish finders are exactly what they sound like: a fish finder you can cast out into the water like you would cast your bait (see here for our full rundown of the best castable fish finders). They are normally small plastic balls, similar to a plastic bobber, that hook to your fishing line and work perfectly well in both fresh and saltwater. They work for some deep water and most shallow waters too.
Like a traditional fish finder, it uses sonar signals to give you an accurate representation of the contour of the area below the surface of the water. It can also show fish arches and schools of bait fish in the area.
This is especially useful if you are long casting into an area you cannot or do not want to take your boat. You’ll be able to cast the fish finder into the area to see if there is any fish in the area or not.
Castable fish finders work in tandem with your smartphone to relay the sonar information back to your fingertips. The larger the screen on your smartphone, the better the resolution of underwater imaging the castable fish finder can return.
Basically, your smartphone holds the application for that specific castable device, while the device itself is considered the transducer that scans and sends the images back to you.
In addition to being able to cast it from your fishing pole as you would a normal bait or lure, you can also simply drop it into the water on a tether. This is especially suitable for kayak fishing as it can quickly be adjusted around your watercraft as needed to pinpoint the location of your next catch.
What About a Portable Fish Finder?
Portable fish finders are great to use if you don’t have a boat or if you have two boats and only want to invest in a single fish finder. Being able to transfer them from one vessel to another and still get the same great results is a cost-effective way to outfit two boats with this valuable piece of technology.
Additionally, they are perfect for shoreline fishing or pier fishing. You don’t even have to own a boat or watercraft of any kind to get a useful fish finder in your toolkit. Portable fish finders can offer many of the same great features as the permanent installation models, including GPS capabilities, waypointing and map collections, and various types of sonar options.
Final Thoughts on the Best Fish Finders Under $200
Fishing is a very relaxing and enjoyable sport, but it can be much more enjoyable if you actually catch something instead of just waiting for that next bite on the line. Having the right fish finder that locates fish as part of your technology toolkit can help ensure you are in a fish-heavy location and not just wasting your time in a pretty spot.
Finding the right fish finder for your needs and budget may take some time, especially if you need exceptionally accurate GPS marking or sonar capabilities.
However, with a bit of an idea as to what may be important to you, finding a good fish finder can be made easier. Additionally, by starting out with a budget fish finder under 200, you can see if the sonar technology is even beneficial to you before you consider investing in something a bit higher value and with more features.
You may be set on purchasing a fish finder that has a large and full-color display screen along with a fishing camera. This can definitely make receiving clear and accurate sonar images much easier when it comes to locating fish.
Instead of seeing a screen full of randomly shaped blobs, a large and high-resolution screen will show you distinct differences in underwater vegetation, schools of bait fish, and single fish arches.
You’ll also be able to track their movement and know exactly where to cast your line next to give you the best chance at landing the big one.
For both beginners and experienced anglers alike, having a fish finder can mean the difference between sitting around for hours before taking home a single fish or spending a short time locating the right spot and landing fish after fish throughout the day.
With the best budget fish finder in hand or on your boat, you can make your friends think you are a fish whisperer, able to find fish no matter where they may be hiding.