For a long time, bank anglers were out of luck for fishing electronics. Even kayak and canoe fishermen could attach a transom- or hull-mounted fish finder and tilt the odds in their favor.
But improvements in transducer tech and Bluetooth connectivity have enabled a new generation of tiny, castable fish finders that pair with smart devices. They promise to revolutionize fishing from the water’s edge, offering a view of what’s down there that’s never been available before.
ReelSonar’s iBobber is the most affordable of these devices, offering fish finding tech that anyone can afford.
Let’s take a closer look at the iBobber and its performance.
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Related: Best Castable Fish Finder
Maximum depth: 135 feet
Minimum depth: 4 feet
Maximum range: 100 feet
Transducer beam angle: 42 degrees
Target separation: ?
Compatibility: iOS 11.0 and later operating systems and Android 6 or later that use Bluetooth Smart (4.0)
Battery life: 10+ hours
Charging time: 120 minutes
- Easy to use
- Uncomplicated interface
- Poor real-world signal strength
- Sonar can’t tell the difference between fish and other objects
- Battery discharges quickly - and sometimes while not being used
ReelSonar’s iBobber is a budget-priced alternative to far more expensive castable fish finders like the Deeper series. And for bank and pier anglers or kayak and canoe fishermen eager to get a peek below the water, castable fishing electronics make a lot of sense.
The iBobber is essentially a self-contained transducer that pairs with a smartphone or smartwatch. Any device that runs iOS 11 and newer operating systems - or Android 6 or later operating systems - and uses Bluetooth Smart (4.0) will sync with this fish finder.
The iBobber promises long battery life, excellent Bluetooth range, and a host of fishing features that should get you excited, including GPS spot marking.
So how does the iBobber stack up to the competition?
Basic Function: Connectivity, Battery Life, and Recharging
The iBobber, like the more expensive products from Deeper, relies on a Bluetooth connection to sync with your smart device. You then use its screen to view the information the iBobber provides and select options like raw sonar, spot marking, or weather information.
ReelSonar reports a maximum connectivity range of 100 feet. In the real world, that’s optimistic, as any chop will affect your connection. Most users will find that a constant, steady sync is only possible within 50 feet or so, which is still nothing to sneeze at.
Recharging is performed by docking the iBobber in a cradle. We’d prefer a system with a direct connection, as the cradle can be a touch finicky. Make sure that the iBobber is seated properly, though, and recharging is relatively fast.
From nearly dead to a full charge takes no more than two hours, allowing you to get back on the water on multi-day trips.
iBobber’s reported battery life is 10+ hours, which sounds about right under ideal circumstances, but most users will find much shorter real-world battery lifetimes, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-5 hours.
There have also been multiple reports of rapid discharging when not in use, for instance, while driving to the water from home.
Our recommendation is to check for this problem as soon as possible and make a warranty claim if no-use discharging occurs.
Sonar: Transducer Angle, Depth, and Fish Finding
For castable fish finders like the iBobber, the transducer is literally everything.
ReelSonar reports a single transducer beam angle of 42 degrees. That number seems appropriate for the type of fishing the iBobber is designed for, offering plenty of width for relatively shallow water like lakes, ponds, rivers, and beaches.
No information is available about the frequency or frequencies in use or about target separation.
Higher frequencies allow for more information and great target separation, a measure of the ability of a transducer to pick out one fish from another. Lower frequencies enable greater water penetration, providing more depth.
ReelSonar says that the iBobber can penetrate to 135 feet as well as function in water as shallow as 4 feet. That first number seems right, but be aware that the iBobber typically has some trouble in water less than 8 feet or so.
As you approach its minimum depth, the iBobber’s fish finding, depth detection, and other features can get sketchy.
The iBobber is supposedly able to detect fish, differentiating between those over and under 15 inches by displaying them in different colors (green or orange) and providing size estimates. On the water, the iBobber’s transducer can have trouble differentiating a fish from the background clutter.
In practice, that means that aquatic vegetation and cover like tree limbs or stumps can register as fish or hide the presence of the real thing. As many users note, it will sometimes report fish where none are present or fail to find fish that are actually there, and the size estimates can be wildly inaccurate.
Chalk that up to a relatively inexpensive transducer with limited frequency options.
Image quality depends on the device to which you pair the iBobber, but you’ll find easy-to-read and intuitive controls throughout the app.
That’s a very nice feature, as many fish finders require lots of experience and practice to operate well.
The user interface displays useful information like depth, bottom contour, and the relative location of fish.
Additional Functions: Alarms, GPS Spotting, and Weather Info
ReelSonar equips the iBobber with some cool extras like a fish alarm that can be set to notify you when it detects one. That’s a great feature for bank anglers who want to relax and enjoy their time on the water without focusing on fishing first.
And the GPS spotting makes it easy to mark areas that attract fish, taking the guesswork out of where to cast.
Finally, weather information, lunar calendar, water temperature sensors, and fishing logs can all be great tools to help you figure out when the fish are biting.
So, are we sold on ReelSonar’s iBobber?
If your budget can’t stretch to include the entry-level Deeper, the iBobber is a good choice for a fish finder. Priced right, it offers some useful features limited by a low-end transducer.
Yes, it can find fish. But background clutter can bedevil this basic function. And yes, it does offer contour mapping, but the results aren’t in the same league as its competitors.
All that said, ReelSonar’s iBobber is a great buy for occasional fishermen who can live with the limitations of this affordable product.