(2017 Update) Up until recently, fish finders and depth finders were really only meant for anglers who owned or frequently used a boat. Most fish finders/depth finders are permanently mounted, which is ideal for use with a vessel. However, as a result of the technological advancements of the last few years, there are now additional options in terms of displaying a depth finder’s transducer signal. Specifically, manufacturers now offer transducers that utilize wireless signal transmission. There are two immediate benefits to going wireless: no more tangle of wires and cables to deal with, and increased overall flexibility of use. A castable depth finder can save anglers a ton of time in finding hotspots, especially when fishing from the banks or shore (where it can often take quite a while to find resting predatory fish). In short, the technology can seriously improve your catch. What more could you want?
Below, we’ve outlined the 5 most widely-available models on the market today. The Deeper and iBobber fish finders – as well as Vexilar’s depth finder – work in conjunction with your smartphone. Starting with the Pro version, models of the Deeper fish finder transmit via Wi-Fi, which means an increased operating range of up to 330 ft (100 m). The Bluetooth model is rated for a maximum range of 130 ft (40 m) (and usually manages less).
The Vexilar depth finder also uses Wi-Fi and manages a range of up to 300 ft (90 m), according to the manufacturer. While it is slightly heavier than the Deeper fish finder, its shape does let it pass through the water more easily and with less bucking than the Deeper sphere. And because you can go without a dedicated depth finder display, you don’t have to schlep as much around with you. The Condor 250 Wi is an all-in-one apparatus which requires 10 AA batteries (alkaline or rechargeable). It has a theoretical range of 200 ft (60 m), but our tests indicate that 50-100 ft (15-30 m) is more realistic.
The good and the bad
Our clear favorite among the line-up is the Deeper Pro Plus with GPS. This article offers a comprehensive rundown of all its benefits and drawbacks. Don’t even bother with the other fish finders in the range. What we didn’t like was the aperture angle of over 40° found on portable fish finders. That setup scans the greatest possible number of fish, but there’s no way of knowing if those fish are positioned to the left or the right of your boat. It’s common knowledge that seeing more fish does not necessarily equate to catching more fish.
Another thing that bothered us was the relatively low frequencies at which the portable fish finders operate. It may be true that they use up less battery, but at such low frequencies, you can hardly tell tightly grouped fish apart. At a frequency of 100 kHz, the minimum distance between fish would need to be at least 12 in (30 cm) in order to distinguish individuals. 12 in!! Even walleye and perch swim in tighter formation than that.
With the Deeper, you get both 290 kHz with a 15° aperture angle and 90 kHz with a 55° aperture angle – the modes are freely selectable. Color us convinced!
Below, we’ve put together a chart comparing the wireless portable fish finders currently on the market.
|Deeper Pro||Deeper Pro Plus||iBobber||Condor 250 Wi||Vexilar Sonarphone|
|Transducer weight||3,5 oz (100 g)||3,5 oz (100 g)||1,66 oz (47 g)||1,3 oz (37 g)||4,23 oz (120 g)|
|Max. depth||130 ft (40 m)||130 ft (40 m)||135 ft (41 m)||100 ft (30 m)||120 ft (36 m)|
|Range||165 ft (50 m)||330 ft (100 m)||100 ft (30 m)||200 ft (60 m)||300 ft (90 m)|
|Output frequency||290 kHz / 90 kHz||290 kHz / 90 kHz||N/A||115 kHz||125 kHz|
|Transduction angle||15 ° / 55 °||15 ° / 55 °||42 °||80 °||30 °|
|Battery life||6 h||6 h||10 h||32 h||4 h|
Deeper Pro Plus on Amazon
Deeper Pro on Amazon
iBobber on Amazon
Vexilar Sonarphone on Amazon