Having the right sonar on your next fishing trip is important, and can mean the difference between a successful fishing excursion or a wasted day. Here, we took an in-depth look at two popular sonars to see how they compared and which was more bang for your buck.
Which Is the Best Portable Fish Finder?
While I find the Deeper Smart Sonar fish finder to pull ahead of the Lowrance Fish Hunter fish finder in my opinion, you should continue reading to see how I came to this determination.
What matters to me may not matter to you and the other fish finder option may be better for your fishing experience. You might also need different features depending on whether you will be using a small boat, a float tube, a kayak, or simply doing some bank fishing.
Lowrance Fish Hunter Review
Coming from an extremely well-known name in fishing sonar, this depth finder model has stayed somewhat hidden from the masses for some reason. It’s not the most popular fish finder sonar Lowrance offers, but it has some great perks including being a very portable fish finder option, as well as being a castable fish finder.
The best fish finder sonars are great for areas where you can’t get your boat into, or if you are into kayak fishing, shore fishing, or ice fishing, and are quite affordable as fish finders go. The app is easy to use and can be installed on both Android and iOS phones through their respective app stores.
This unit comes in two models: the Lowrance Fish Hunter Pro (the original) and the slightly improved Lowrance Fish Hunter 3D.
- Fully castable and very portable fish finder for kayak fishing
- App works on both Android and iOS
- Uses a dual-range sonar frequency
Lowrance Fish Hunter in Detail
The biggest perk here is that the Lowrance Fish Hunter fish finder is one of the most portable fish finders. Whether you are renting a boat or doing some float tube fishing or shore fishing, a portable and castable fish finder sonar is an absolute necessity for you.
It’s extremely lightweight, weighing less than half a pound, which makes this smart fish finder great for packing up to that hidden mountain lake you’ve always wanted to fish at.
It also continues to work great when the temperatures drop, making it the perfect fish finder for an ice fishing trip. This highly portable fish finder sonar can work in temperatures of -22 degrees Fahrenheit without missing a beat.
This smart fish finder sonar includes a rechargeable battery that offers a longer battery life. Since this fish finder dial beam sonar doesn’t have a lot of extra features to drain the battery life, you’ll notice a better lifespan as well as a long distance and range.
You’ll be able to get clear and precise depth and fish information from 160 feet away, and in water up to 150 feet deep making this smart fish finder sonar usable in pretty much any body of water you may find yourself at.
This is a relatively simple portable fish finder dual beam sonar when it comes to extra features. Castable fish finders offer the vital information you need to know including bottom depth, water temperature, where your lures are, and where the fish are, and have GPS capabilities for map route plotting making it a versatile addition to your fishing gear kit.
The Fish Hunter portable fish finder offers both bathymetric mapping and three-dimensional mapping features. The three-dimensional 3D mappings are great for identifying drop-offs and ledges, overhangs, bluffs, and contours even in murky water.
The bathymetric mapping is perfect for creating your own routes and adding important information such as bottom depth and fish previously found in that area.
The FishHunter app included with this smart fish finder sonar does not need WiFi, a data connection, or Bluetooth to work with your mobile device. While you will need to download the app through your device’s app store, it connects quickly and is ready to use within minutes.
One of the biggest issues anglers have with the app is that you will need to log in to your account before it will work. For some, this can be a non-issue, but for others, it can easily make or break a portable fish finder app and great sonar.
In order to log on, you will need to be connected via WiFi or a data connection which can be frustrating. You may need to connect at your home before leaving on your fishing trip to get the full effect of finding fish with the app.
The app works with both the Lowrance Fish Hunter Pro and the 3D model.
Deeper Smart Sonar Review
As another portable option, the castable Deeper fish finder dual beam sonar is quite a bit more popular than the Fish Hunter among anglers that fish on rented boats or from shore. The Deeper portable fish finder is a very popular choice for anglers that fish from a kayak or a canoe and has been highly recommended among various fishing circles I frequent.
The fish finder app can be a bit of an annoyance to some since it will need to be pre-downloaded and set up before you head to the water, but after that is done this smart fish finder can hold its own when it comes to delivering a clear image of your surroundings.
- Great option for canoe, kayak, or float tube fishing
- Perfect in cold temperatures for ice fishing
- Makes use of CHIRP sonar technology
Deeper Smart Sonar Portable Fish Finder in Detail
This portable fish finder sonar is easy to take wherever you may go and has very few limitations. It’s extremely lightweight and very easy to cast, and the Deeper Pro+ unit has a depth maximum of 260 feet with a casting range of 330 feet.
It’s not uncommon to find shore fishing anglers who say this is one of the best castable fish finders on the market today. It’s also become very popular in the ice fishing circle as being the best portable fish finder that works in extremely cold conditions.
You won’t need to have an active data connection or active internet on your mobile device to use this portable kit.
It comes with its own built-in WiFi connection, like some other fish finders, which makes it a very accessible smart fish finder for any anglers that may be on a data limit or who simply don’t want to be forced to use the internet on their devices during their fishing trips.
Depending on the version of Deeper Smart Sonar portable units you go with, you may not have GPS capabilities. On the lower-end fish finder, there is no GPS, but on the Pro+ there is a standard GPS feature for mapping and route plotting.
You’ll also be able to accurately chart contours, depth changes, waypoints, sunken structures, and more. This can be especially useful when night fishing cover spots, or when bank fishing and searching for potential spawning areas to find fish.
The Pro+ version of this portable fish finder also includes a Lake Book in the app which gives you access to thousands of new lakes and waterways, as well as different routes and charts for each depending on what you are looking for.
You can download what you need for your upcoming fishing trips without draining the battery life on the Deeper smart sonar pro version.
You’ll find a range of different usable modes on this fish finder including basic and advanced sonar, GPS system, boat fishing or onshore modes, as well as ice fishing features.
The ice fishing is a great addition and implements a flasher on the screen to provide two sonar views at one time. You also have the ability to make custom lake maps to store or share with other anglers online to help them find fish or navigate new areas.
Deeper Fishing App
When looking at the reviews of this portable fish finder app on the Google Play Store, you will notice a lot of positive results from shore anglers, night fishing enthusiasts, ice fishing groups, and more.
Most anglers that use castable fish finders agree the app is very easy to use and is very intuitive. It’s not confusing to understand and many portable kit users have noticed improvements as the app is updated over time.
Deeper vs Fish Hunter: Portable Fish Finders Compared
The dual beam sonar on the Fish Hunter portable fish finder can feel outdated as it lacks CHIRP. The sonar is usable, but the images it delivers could be much more clear when compared to other dual-beam sonar in the same price range.
The technology used by the Deeper portable fish finder provides a better CHIRP sonar scanning distance and does so at a faster refresh rate. You’ll also get a much clearer fish finder image quality giving you definite answers on what are fish and what is vegetation.
My choice: Deeper
When it comes to weight and castability, both portable fish finders match up extremely well. These portable fish finders can both be carried around to mountain lakes or ice fishing holes in the middle of nowhere without problems.
They’re also both small enough to be tucked into a pocket, backpack, or satchel and taken on any canoe or kayak without being in the way of other fish-related supplies and gear.
However, when it comes to the usable range of these castable fish finders, the Deeper pulls ahead by offering almost double what you can get from the Fish Hunter portable fish finder.
Obviously, this won’t make much difference if you are sticking to shallow lakes and reservoirs when you fish, but in some cases, long casting may be necessary and your fish finders will need to offer that range.
My choice: Deeper
The Fish Hunter fish finder offers both bathymetric maps and 3D mapping capabilities, which gives you a very clear and precise way to identify contours and a real-time depth map and fish view on your CHIRP sonar readings. You, unfortunately, won’t be able to download extra lake maps with the Fish Hunter simply due to the limitations of that feature.
The Deeper fish finder shares some of the same GPS system and underwater topography capabilities and can offer just as accurate chart plotting and course making. The only way this fish finder pulls ahead is by offering other user-generated charts and custom maps for downloading if you have an internet connection or Wi-Fi signal on your device which many anglers will not.
My choice: A tie
While both fish finder apps are available for both Android and iOS devices and are both equally easy to download and get set up, the Deeper fish finder app seems to be more in-depth and prepared for long-term use.
While Lowrance has some absolutely amazing fish finders for permanent mounting, their portable fish finders and technology seem to be lacking quite a bit. Deeper, on the other hand, only has portable fish finders so their technology is a bit ahead of the curve.
My choice: Deeper
Pricing on portable unit fish finders can change drastically with different seasonal sales and warehouse clearances, so it’s hard to give an accurate breakdown for each castable fish finder in this category.
However, for anglers on a tight budget, the Fish Hunter fish finder is considerably more affordable than Deeper and can be the perfect introduction to portable and castable fish finders.
It has a variety of features you’ll use, and a few you might not need, but for the price and what it offers, this fish finder is an excellent value.
Deeper is somewhat more expensive, but when it comes to features it offers about the same as what the Fish Hunter does. If price is your final determining factor in which fish finder sonar to purchase, Fish Hunter will pull ahead in this category.
My choice: Lowrance Fish Hunter
The Fish Hunter sonar only comes in one model currently, and that one may soon become outdated and unsupported depending on how Lowrance decides to take that category of their smart fish finders.
Deeper has various smart fish finders including the Deeper Start, Deeper Pro Depth Finder, and Deeper Pro+. Each year the Deeper company adds more support and additional features to their fish finders making this a viable choice going forward.
My choice: Deeper
Lowrance Fish Hunter vs Deeper Smart Sonar: Full Verdict
After breaking down the two smart fish finders, Fish Hunter from Lowrance and the Deeper Smart Sonar Pro, you may now have a better idea of which sonar device will fit your needs and budget better and be the best portable fish finder for you.
For me, the Deeper Smart Sonar Pro and lesser versions pull ahead of the Fish Hunter in a few categories, but the lower price of the Fish Hunter is a nice draw when it comes to the best castable fish finder.
However, the possibility of the Fish Hunter not being fully supported in the near future makes me wary, while the Deeper Smart Sonar Pro and other versions seem to be getting regular support and updates.
If you plan on using your smart fish finders for a long time, it might be better to go with the Deeper smart sonar. This is also true if you like to create custom lake maps and share them online since you won’t be able to do that with the Fish Hunter.