Time and Tide on Your Wrist: Best Fishing Watches Reviewed For 2019

Some anglers lean toward minimalism, looking for a purity of experience that draws them into a deeper connection to nature. Think about fans of tenkara, for instance.

But others are gear hounds, looking for tech that can help them catch more fish, more easily, and in greater comfort. Among them, you’ll find anglers looking for the latest, smartest equipment they can find.

If you count yourself in this category, you may have considered a fishing watch. Far from a simple timepiece, modern fishing watches provide a range of helpful features to assist anglers.

But what makes a good fishing watch, and what can one do for you? Keep reading to find answers to these questions

Quick glance at the best fishing watches available in 2019:

Buying The Best Fishing Watch: Considerations

Ruggedness

The watch you wear to work in an office or to a cocktail party might need to shrug off the occasional knock or bump, but fishing is another story entirely.

A struggling pike can ram your wrist into the gunwale of your boat with enough force to crush most timepieces, and from impacts to abrasions, constant sun to salt spray, a fishing watch needs to be robust enough to absorb plenty of abuse. That’s not a tough task when you’re dealing with simple mechanisms, but a smartwatch that can take a beating is another thing entirely!

We recommend that you look for tough sapphire crystal glass, steel cases, durable straps and bracelets, and protected controls and crowns. Ultimately, though, the proof is in the pudding, and real-world experience leads us to shorten the potential list of choices considerably.

In fact, we’ve eliminated a few otherwise excellent watches because actual use tells us that they just don’t have what it takes to deliver in the field. From easily cracked crystals to straps that break, these are not products we can recommend.

Serious water resistance

A good fishing watch needs to be prepared for the elements, and serious water resistance should be at the top of your list of concerns. This almost goes without saying, but it’s a bit more complicated than you might think.

Most watches aren’t truly waterproof. Instead, they’re designed with features like screw-down backs and gaskets that provide a measure of resistance to water penetration.

As a watch sinks deeper into water, whether it’s on its own or attached to your wrist, the weight of the water column above creates greater and greater pressure. This pressure is measured in “atmospheres,” abbreviated as ATM, with each successive number indicating an added 10 meters (about 30 feet) of water pressure increase.

Thus, one ATM is equivalent to pressure at sea-level, while 10 ATM is equal to the water pressure at 100 meters (about 330 feet). Common ATM ratings include 3 ATM, 5 ATM, 10 ATM, and 20 ATM.

But as watch cognoscenti will quickly warn you, don’t take a dip in your new watch just yet!

These ratings are measured in still water with no motion of the watch whatsoever. That means that your 3 ATM watch can withstand being submerged to 30 meters/100 feet if it’s absolutely still–not if it’s on your arm while swimming!

A realistic, real-world standard for watches says that a watch rated to 3 ATM can take a dunk under the faucet, while a watch rated to 5 ATM is fine to wear in the shower.

10 ATM is the minimum water resistance rating we like to see in a watch that may take a serious dip if you end up in the drink.

No smell and easy to clean materials

Leather straps look great, but their classic aesthetics won’t do you much good on the water.

Moisture and salt are the enemies of leather, and to protect your investment, you need to keep your watch where it’s supposed to be, not on the bottom of the lake. We like robust straps rather than bracelets, as the closure mechanism is generally more secure.

And though it may not seem like much, leather and nylon can both create ideal conditions for bacteria. That’s a sure-fire recipe for a stinking, smelly wrist.

Instead, look for stainless steel and silicone. These materials can stand up to the elements, are easy to clean, and won’t end up smelling worse than three-day-old fish.

A bright face

You’ll be spending a lot of time in the sun, and your watch and its features are no use to you if you’re struggling to read them. It’s obvious that we recommend you look for a fishing watch with a face that’s bright enough for full sun.

But for night fishing, pre-dawn, and early evening, an illuminated face is critical, too.

Look for both kinds of brightness in an ideal fishing watch.

Tidal charts and moon phase indicators

If you fish water that’s affected by tides, whether that’s in-shore or in estuaries, you already know the impact tides have on fish.

Some fishing watches offer accurate tidal charts, alerting you to the ebb and flow that can turn fish on or off. This is a great feature to wear on your wrist, especially when you might be fishing in areas with poor cell service and little to no connectivity.

Similarly, moon phases affect fish behavior, and knowing what to expect can turn a good fishing trip into a great one.

A barometer

Barometric pressure is a measure of the weight of the air column above a sensor. Often reckoned in millimetres of mercury (mmHg), inches of mercury (inHg), or hectopascals (hPa), low pressure is associated with stormy weather, while high pressure generally signals clear, blue skies.

For anglers, changing barometric pressure is important. Rising and falling pressure are connected to feeding behavior, and knowing exactly what’s going on with atmospheric pressure via a wrist-mounted barometer can be the ticket to fantastic fishing.

Professionals know this, and they’ll target barometric changes with their clients. With the right watch, you can too!

As Terry Sullivan, a fishing guide from New Jersey, says, “I’ve seen striped bass go on a wild feed right before the barometer began to drop… The fish sense that a change in weather is about to occur and feed heavily right before the front… I guess they know they won’t be eating for a few days, so they have to gorge themselves.”

Ray Rosher, a charter captain in Miami, explains a similar connection between barometric pressure and hot fishing. “A lot of people think it’s all wind direction that gets the sailfish moving and feeding, but it’s high pressure as well… When we have a strong northerly wind opposing the northbound Gulf Stream, the fish rise to the surface and use the wind direction and waves to help propel them against the Stream’s current. Those are the conditions that really get them moving south. When they’re tailing on the surface, they’re burning more energy. And since they’re more active, they must eat more. This is when those red-hot bites materialize.”

Whatever you’re after, a barometer can be the key to figuring out when the fishing will peak.

GPS and compass

While a good fish finder will offer GPS and maps, you might not have one, and even if you do, a solid backup is always a good idea. Whether you want to mark way points, hot fishing areas, or potential hazards, a watch connected to a GPS system is a solid choice as it’s always there with you, strapped to your wrist.

And while a compass may seem outdated in the era of satellites, I’ve learned my lesson about this. GPS connections can fail, batteries can die, and a secondary method of navigation is critical. That hike to a nice trout stream can turn hazardous quickly if you get lost on the way, and one channel in a salt marsh looks very much like every other, too.

Do yourself a favor: either carry or wear a compass.

We especially like watches like the Suunto Traverse Alpha and the Garmin Fenix 5 that feature “breadcrumb” navigation. These systems keep track of your route, allowing you to find yourself if you make a mistake. They also enable you to make your way back to your starting point by the path you took to get where you are.

Battery Life

But the more–and the more complex–the features, the greater the draw on your watch’s batteries. Battery life is a critical concern, and it’s important to assess this element of your fishing watch with options like GPS activated.

Expect all-day battery life, at a minimum, with the GPS capable watches we recommend. That may not sound like much, but these devices are running on tiny rechargeable batteries.

Best Fishing Watch Reviews

Suunto Traverse AlphaOur Pick!

Suunto Traverse Alpha - Black/Red
Amazon 

Size: 50mm x 15mm
Weight: 75g
Water resistance: 10 ATM/100 meters
Case: composite
Lens: sapphire crystal
Strap/bracelet: nylon with a silicone aftermarket option
Battery: rechargeable lithium-ion
GPS: Yes
Compass: Yes
Tidal chart: Yes
Moon phases: Yes
Barometer: Yes

Suunto is a trusted name for outdoorsmen, and their military-grade smart watches have proven themselves to soldiers, hunters, and anglers in the worst conditions you can imagine. Normal smartwatch buyers aren’t as appreciative of what Suunto offers, but it’s hard to find outdoorsy people who aren’t impressed.

In our view, the Traverse Alpha is a very solid choice and a welcome addition to our list. While not perfect in every respect, it has a winning combination of looks, durability, features, and battery life that earns it our top spot. We’ll note it’s problems, too, but for our money, this would be the one to choose.

Some very smart tech is at the heart of this watch. It features a variable accuracy, full-function GPS system, weather updates and barometer readings, moon phase data, sunrise/sunset/moonrise/moonset info, a thermometer, a digital compass, and available tidal data, anglers won’t be disappointed by what this watch offers. This is probably the fullest-featured option of the bunch, and that’s saying a lot with competition like the excellent Garmin Fenix 5.

Those barometer readings are ticked off in 1 hPa/.03 inHg increments, and the storm warning is a handy feature to keep you out of real trouble. Moreover, the Traverse Alpha’s compass is accurate to 5 degrees with automatic declination adjustment. That’s more than good enough to get you back to your truck or launch.

The GPS is easy to use and plenty good enough to lead you to where you need to be, even in the lower accuracy settings.

And like the Garmin Fenix 5, the Suunto Traverse Alpha offers “breadcrumb” trailing and a “find back” feature that can lead you back to your starting point. While perhaps more useful to hunters than anglers, if you regularly fish remote streams or need to hike to your honey hole, these extras can quickly become staples.

Real-world users report that this watch is bomb-proof.

The Traverse Alpha uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a novel power system that uses a clip on the face to supply electricity. It’s simple to use, and a full charge lasts pretty well with the GPS turned down to low accuracy. That’s still good enough for 50m resolution, and should provide something on the order of three days or more of battery life in the real world. Expect a full day’s fishing on the high setting.

If there’s a downside to this watch, it’s the NATO-style nylon strap. It’s going to start stinking really soon, and we recommend buying the silicone replacement immediately. It’s also pretty big, and people with smaller wrists may find that off-putting.

Pros:

  • Great looks
  • Bright
  • Extremely durable
  • Easy to read
  • Awesome features

Cons:

  • Acceptable battery life with GPS enabled
  • Bulky
  • Nylon strap needs replacement pretty much immediately

Casio AQW101-1AV

Casio Men's AQW101-1AVCF Active Dial Multi-Task Gear Sport Watch
Amazon 

Size: 46mm
Weight: 113g
Water resistance: 20 ATM/200 meters
Case: Resin
Lens: Resin
Strap/bracelet: 26mm resin
Battery: lithium ion
GPS: No
Compass: No
Tidal chart: No
Moon phases: Yes
Barometer: No

Casio’s fishing watch is a great option for the budget-minded, offering fewer options than many of its competitors while still delivering quality and durability.

Don’t expect GPS, a compass, tidal charts, or a fancy barometer. Instead, think rugged styling and real-world toughness. Water resistant to 20 ATM and tough enough to take hard knocks, this Casio will stand up to years of fishing.

This watch offers three fishing specific applications: a thermometer, a moon phase indicator, and a “fish indicator.” Those first two are self-explanatory, though it’s worth noting that the thermometer can be adjusted to account for your body heat. But it’s that fish indicator that makes this a particularly good buy.

The Casio uses four fish icons to predict how well the fish will be biting. It does this–probably–by gauging the time and moon phase together, but whatever the formula or inputs, most anglers find that it works.

That in itself is enough reason to shell out the few dollars this watch will run you.

The face is plenty bright enough to read in full sun, well-illuminated for night fishing, and relatively easy to read. The analog hands can get in the way of some its features, and there’s a fair amount of clutter to get used to. It’s also important that you read and understand the manual when setting-up this watch.

Battery life is excellent as it lacks intensive-draw features like PS connectivity.

All-in-all, if you can live without the advanced features, this is an excellent choice for most anglers.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Bright
  • Durable
  • Great battery life
  • The fish indicator actually works!

Cons:

  • Lacks high-end features like GPS
  • Cluttered dial

Casio Pro Tech PRW2500T

Casio Wristwatches (Model: PRW2500T-7CR)
Amazon 

Size: 50.5mm x 15mm
Weight: N/A
Water resistance: 20 ATM/200 meters
Case: Resin
Lens: Resin
Strap/bracelet: titanium
Battery: solar rechargeable
GPS: No
Compass: Yes
Tidal chart: Yes
Moon phases: Yes
Barometer: Yes

The Casio Pro Tech is a decided step-up in function and price from its cousin. Both more expensive and more functional, if you’re looking for a premium offering from Casio that’s designed with anglers in mind, this is a good place to start.

Unlike the other Casio we review, you won’t find any analog features, but rather a data-rich liquid crystal digital display. And in addition to the usual watch features, a number of fishing-specific applications are available.

While this watch lacks a GPS, it offers a digital compass, tidal chart, moon phase indicator, barometer, and thermometer. All are easy to access and read, and the tide and moon data is pretty much front and center, a design choice we appreciate.

The Pro Tech’s compass uses the usual 16 compass points, measuring 1-degree units with an automatic declination adjustment to keep pointing to true north. Its barometer assesses pressure across a 260 to 1,100 hPa (7.65 to 32.45 inHg) range in 1 hPa (0.05 inHg) increments.

The liquid crystal display is bright by day and night, and you can expect the usual Casio ruggedness from this watch. We’d be surprised if you could break it!

Another great feature available on the Pro Tech is solar charging. While the battery life is already excellent, the ability to recharge merely by wearing this watch in the sun is simply awesome.

If we have a criticism to offer, it’s that the case is pretty large, leading to a bulky, heavy watch for people with smaller wrists.

Pros:

  • Bright
  • Durable
  • Easy to read
  • Great battery life with solar recharging
  • Great features

Cons:

  • Lacks GPS
  • Bulky

Garmin Fenix 5

Garmin fēnix 5, Premium and Rugged Multisport GPS Smartwatch, Slate Gray
Amazon 

Size: 47mm x 15.5mm
Weight: 85g
Water resistance: 10 ATM/100 meters
Case: fiber-reinforced polymer with stainless steel rear cover
Lens: chemically strengthened glass, sapphire glass, or sapphire crystal
Strap/bracelet: 22mm silicone
Battery: rechargeable lithium-ion
GPS: Yes
Compass: Yes
Tidal chart: No
Moon phases: Yes
Barometer: Yes

Garmin’s Fenix 5 is a smart watch with the bells and whistles to cover pretty much any activity. Fortunately for us anglers, Garmin thought a lot about the features we need and want, and the Fenix 5 is a top of the line fishing tool.

With sunrise and sunset predictions, full-featured GPS, a digital compass, weather updates including barometric pressure, thermometer, and moon phase data, the only info an angler might miss here is tidal charts. That’s an oversight we’d like to see Garmin address, but it’s also something we could live with given the other functions the Fenix offers. Note, however, that some of these features require the use of Connect IQ, a third-party app platform.

From a safety standpoint, you can count us as particularly impressed by its proprietary TracBack system. As Garmin explains, “TracBack is a feature which allows the user to return along a traveled path or route without marking any waypoints. The GPS device will store a tracklog or “electronic breadcrumb trail” as it moves. To return to the beginning, the device will look at the hundreds or thousands of tracklog points and take the 30 most significant and turn them into a route to get back to the starting point.”

That’s no joke when you’re lost, and an easy-to-use feature like that can be a lifesaver, whether you’ve taken a wrong turn on foot on the way to the lake or in your boat in a featureless marsh.

While not as water resistant as the Casio’s, 10 ATM should get the job done, and the Fenix 5 is plenty tough. Available with three levels of lenses, the sapphire crystal is the priciest–and most robust–option.

The silicone strap is a good choice, providing all-day comfort and plenty of durability.

The Fenix 5 uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery. According to Garmin, with GPS enabled, you can get as much as 24 hours out of it. Real-world use suggests a bit less is more realistic, but a full day of fishing with the GPs features on is well within what you should expect.

Pros:

  • Great looks
  • Bright
  • Durable
  • Easy to read
  • Awesome features

Cons:

  • Acceptable battery life with GPS enabled

Our Pick – Suunto’s Traverse Alpha!

Selecting a top choice was a tough call this time, but Sunnto’s Traverse Alpha eventually won us over.

Its rugged aesthetic, bomb-proof toughness, and full-featured offerings are the stuff of legend among outdoor enthusiasts. And while this smartwatch may not impress the IT crowd in New York or San Francisco, from Maine to California, Alaska to Florida, it’s become the go-to for real-world anglers and hunters.

Expect features like a variable accuracy, a full-function GPS system, weather updates and barometer readings, moon phase data, sunrise/sunset/moonrise/moonset info, a thermometer, a digital compass, and tidal data–all of which can be powered for at least a full day’s adventure. Setting the GPS system for lower accuracy can extend battery life for days, which is a huge plus if you’re far from a power outlet.

The Traverse Alpha’s not perfect, though, and we strongly recommend you shell out the cash for the silicone strap to avoid any unpleasant smells.

It’s nearly matched by Garmin’s Fenix 5, but edges out the competition with a few more useful features. If the need to swap bands bothers you, or you want a more suit-friendly aesthetic, the Fenix might be the better choice.

And if you’re on a tight budget, the Casio AQW101-1AV is almost impossible to beat for the money.

Whatever your choice, these watches have what it takes to track time and tide, giving you every possible advantage on the water.

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