From avid fishermen who are on the lake in summer, spring, winter and fall, to weekend sailors who like to take the occasional spin around with the sails up, safety is of paramount importance anytime you leave the shore. Canoers, kayakers, and even paddleboarders also need to be aware of their surroundings and can benefit from a marine GPS that can help them find fish, find the shore, and find what areas to avoid.
There are several different types and levels of sophistication when it comes to marine GPS models and we’ve included three that are appropriate for just about any recreational boat. Using a marine GPS can mean being able to mark areas where you want to return at later dates, find your way back to shore after a long trip, share your location with others, or even spot fish that may be several feet below your boat.
A marine GPS can also be an excellent safety tool, with some units equipped with technology that makes it possible to detect high weeds and grass, rocks and more, alerting boaters of areas they should avoid so as to not risk getting stuck.
Whatever your type of small watercraft, a marine GPS is just as crucial to have on board as a life jacket.
1. Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer
For a screen that is easy to see, we recommend the Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer, which comes with a 3.5-inch color fish finder and high sensitivity GPS. Made with a CHIRP (77/200 kHz) sonar transducer, the Garmin Striker records speed, features a high sensitivity GPS and provides readings on your surroundings. Boasting a rechargeable battery, the Garmin Striker also comes with a portable kit that makes it ideal for use on small boats like kayaks and canoes.
Pros: The Garmin Striker is easy to use thanks to its keypad. We also like that it enables users to mark hot spots like docks, ramps, and areas with ample fish, making it easy to return to these locations at a later date.
Cons: The Garmin Striker has a 1,600-foot freshwater depth, which is not as deep as other Garmin models.
2. Garmin GPSMAP 78S Marine GPS Navigator and World Wide Chartplotter
Go anywhere with the Garmin GPSMAP 78S Marine GPS Navigator and World Wide Chartplotter, which includes international base maps that make it ideal for use at your local lake and when traveling. The GPSMAP features a 3-axis tilt-compensated electronic compass that can give you a directional reading whether you’re moving or standing still. The lightweight and compact Garmin GPSMAP is waterproof, floats and gives users access to Garmin Connect where they can share maps.
Pros: The Garmin GPSMAP has several convenient features that also make it a great safety item on any boat. The GPS comes with a barometric altimeter that tracks pressure changes over time and can alert users to large changes in pressure that can be a sign of turbulent weather. It can also send locations wirelessly to other users, even in heavy cover or deep canyons, which is great for sharing fishing spots or letting a friend know your location if you’re lost.
Cons: The Garmin GPSMAP is the most expensive option on our list. It also doesn’t include a depth reader and at 2.6-inches, has a smaller screen than the Garmin Striker.
3. LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder
See what’s beneath the water, including fish, with the LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder, which can detect short and tall weeds, sand, rocks and of course, fish. A great addition to any fishing boat, the LUCKY will help keep you out of unsafe areas by providing readouts of murky regions by using a small floating device that includes a 25-foot cable and has a depth reading between 3 to 328-feet. The LUCKY can run up to five continuous hours on one battery and includes a battery saving mode, a back-light mode, a fish school alarm and more.
Pros: Designed for fishing, the LUCKY is also a smart addition to kayaks, canoes and other small watercraft because it can alert users when they are entering areas that may be unsafe due to weeds and rocks. The LUCKY will work even when in motion up to speeds of 5 mph.
Cons: Unlike the first two options, there is no GPS included in the LUCKY.