Best Fish Finder For Kayaks – Top Sonar Tech Picks
You have your new kayak. A shiny new paddle. A life vest with every pocket filled with your fishing essentials.
Like many kayak anglers, you may even have splurged on a trolling motor. Great!
But what's missing?
A fish finder is the next logical step.
In this buying guide we'll drill down what key features you should be looking at when choosing fish finders for kayaks. Then we'll look at and compare some of the best kayak fish finders that are available right now.
Ok, kayak anglers, let's go hunting and check out our favorite fish finders for kayaks reviewed!
Top Choices: Popular Fish Finders
What Is A Fish Finder?
You may want to know what a fish finder is and what exactly it does before you decide whether or not you need one. First of all, a fish finder is a device that allows you to locate fish that you'd never see with the naked eye. It uses sonar technology to detect the pulses of sound and movement from fish under the water.
Fish finders feature a screen that lets you see where in the water your fish are. Some of them will allow you to see deeper into the water than other fish finders, but they will all give you a location that is best for fishing. This basically prevents you from casting into empty water conditions.
Why Do I Need One?
If you’re planning on using your kayak to go fishing it might be a good idea to invest in a fish finder for kayak fishing, as it will not only save you time in searching for fish but it will improve the likelihood that you’ll actually make a catch. And you can spend more time fishing.
By showing you the fish swimming on a screen, you may have a more enjoyable and productive time fishing as a kayak angler, unless, unlike most anglers, you consider yourself a lucky fish finder. A fish finder will also give you the extra technology to be able to determine where there are underwater grasses or weeds, so you can avoid getting your fishing line or paddle caught.
Fish finders give you a better understanding of the underwater world and allow you to better navigate through the water conditions. The technology also means you are able to locate and catch fish that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.
With a fish finder you have an advantage over the fish as a kayak angler, as you are able to see them before you cast your line.
The transducer on a fish finder for kayak fishing is the part that determines what is under the water, be it fish, vegetation or landscape. The transducer sends signals to the display unit to let you know where the fish are and how deep the water is, so it needs to be under the water.
It uses scanning sonar technology to communicate what it can detect under the water. This means when you’re mounting it, consider that it can detect bubbles and movement from a trolling motor or pedal drive. So it should be positioned away from these, so the transducer sends accurate signals.
Some Wilderness Systems kayaks and other brands have dedicated sonar transducer mounts or a transducer scupper for easy installation. But you would have to check the transducer compatibility beforehand.
Fish Finder Features To Look Out For
For any kayak angler when choosing a fish finder for kayak fishing, you’ll notice that they are available in many different shapes and sizes. But for a fishing kayak you’re going to need one that is more compact than the types you might see on larger boats.
Many of the fish finders will require some type of mounting to your fishing kayak but it’s also possible to get a fish finder that can be held in your hand. This uses floating sensors to send the signals back to the handheld screen.
With the advancement of technology there are now fish finders that you can pair up with your phone. Many of them connect via Bluetooth to an app on your phone, so instead of having a separate screen, the fishing data and sonar data are sent to your phone - super convenient for a kayak angler.
There are fish finders available that will let you catch fish in all sorts of underwater environments and water conditions, from lakes and rivers to the open ocean. So, when you’re choosing a fish finder for kayaking you should take into account where you’ll be using it.
There's no point having a fish finder for kayak fishing that can detect fish 220 feet under the water when the lake you’re fishing in is only 40 feet deep. For sea kayaking, a fish finder with a deeper depth finder may often be of better use than when fishing in rivers, shallow waters or other close quarters fishing spots. This means some of the most expensive options may not be the best value.
A fish finder will be able to tell you the depth of the water that you’re currently in and the various depths of the underwater landscape in your immediate vicinity.
With fish finders you need to keep in mind the power of the scanning sonar and the frequencies that it can operate between. The higher the frequency, the shallower the water you can fish in.
This is because the higher frequencies create more accurate readings, so when you’re in a shallower area of water, the high frequencies will allow you to potentially catch more fish.
A lot of fish finders can operate on dual frequencies, such as dual spectrum CHIRP, giving you a balance of low and high frequencies for a wider range that can help you locate more fish in more environments.
Another thing to look out for is the wattage of the transducer. The transducer is the part of the fish finder that essentially finds the fish. It is the device that uses the sonar technology to receive signals and then send them on to your screen.
Video: One Way To Mount A Transducer
If the fish finder has a transducer with a higher wattage it will be able to work quicker and locate fish faster. A higher wattage also means it will be quicker to transmit the data to your screen as you move through different depths of water.
A rechargeable battery (or replaceable batteries) can be a good idea if you plan to fish frequently.
You’ll notice when you’re looking for fish finders that there are a range of products that are aimed at different environments. There are some that are only for freshwater fishing or only for saltwater.
However, there are fish finders out there that can be used in both saltwater and freshwater, giving you more flexibility over where you fish. Some fish finders will also be able to do more than just tell you where the fish are hiding, such as show you your current location or your speed.
Larger screen sizes can let you see fish and structure in a clearer image but can be less portable more difficult to mount on a kayak.
There are various features on fish finders that will make for an easier trip when you’re out kayaking, lessening the need for other equipment and letting you save some space (important for any kayak angler).
Most fish finders will be able to detect underwater hazards, as well as fish, as the sonar technology bounces off of rocks and lets you see the structure of the land underneath the water. They will also be able to show you underwater plants and grasses.
Some fish finders will tell you the temperature of the water you’re paddling in, so you have a better idea of what the conditions are like to improve your chances of catching fish. Some are also designed for ice fishing, so you are able to see the fish beneath the surface of the ice.
You will find that there are a lot of fish finders on the market that have additional selling features, such as color screens with high definition images, that you can easily see in bright sunlight or low light. Having built-in GPS can also be a good feature to look for and can be found in the best units, often giving you the most bang for your buck.
Side imaging can be another great feature to have. A side imaging fish finder can let you see what's around your boat, rather than just directly beneath. Side scan technology means you can see potential honey holes and underwater structures or pinpoint fish that might be off to the sides of your vessel. A side imaging sonar can be a useful feature in rivers and lakes.
Best Kayak Fish Finders
1: Garmin Striker 4 Built-in GPS Fish Finder
The Garmin Striker 4 features a 3.5 inch screen size and a color display that makes it easy to read the data. It also features built-in GPS (high sensitivity GPS) so you can track and mark your location or your fish location. The keyed assist interface is also made to be easy to use with dedicated keyed interface buttons and active imaging.
Another of the key features of this kayak fish finder is that it has a 200 watt CHIRP transducer that can be mounted to your fishing kayak and it can operate on dual frequencies, with dual beam CHIRP.
A benefit of the Garmin Striker 4 is that it can work in both salt and freshwater, with a depth range of up to 750 feet in saltwater and 1600 feet in freshwater. This can be an excellent fish finder if you're a kayak angler who likes to fish in a variety of environments.
Note that you need a 12 volt battery to operate and you may need a battery box. It comes with a fish finder mount included but there is no side imaging on this model and it doesn't have built-in Quickdraw Contours mapping.
2: Deeper Smart Sonar Pro
This is a versatile and portable kayak fish finder that can be a good choice if you’re planning on fishing in a lot of different types of water. The best thing about it is that it comes in a small package that can connect to your phone or tablet via its own Wi-Fi signal, so it doesn’t require an additional screen or any wires, and it’s a handy size.
It doesn't require internet or cell signal. This is one of the best portable fishing finders for kayak anglers looking at saving space with limited transducer options.
It comes with a GPS (an important feature), Maps, a fishing log, and a diary. This means that you can store all the information you want about the spots and routes you intend to paddle, so you can visit them again or even study them at home, all from your touch screen smartphone. It's compatible with both iOS and Android devices.
It's a castable fish finder that can be used in extreme temperatures, ranging from -4 degrees to 104 degrees Fahrenheit and works on dual beam frequencies. This fish finder will also show you the water temperature as well as the depths and structure, and can help you find fish in waters up to 130 feet deep.
Downsides are the battery life isn't great (only 5.5 hours), so make sure you bring a power bank for longer days on your kayak.
Also, the Deeper Pro fish finder is not the most lightweight device on the market, but for those looking for an affordable solution or a cheap fish finder it's definitely worth considering.
3: Lowrance 000-12635-001 Hook-3X Sonar
This kayak fish finder has a clear 3.5 inch LED color screen, which also has a backlight for low light conditions. The dual frequency operation means you can target fish in both deep and shallow water and you’re able to manually switch between the two as you’re paddling.
The Lowrance offers a wide conical coverage that can give you up to 60 degrees of coverage at the lower frequency of 83 kHz using fish arches to identify fish and structure. Another feature of this great fish finder is that it lets you target and track fish while they’re on the move, as well as mark waypoints.
Other users report that it just doesn't work when paddling/trolling over 5 mph. It also has its limitations with regards depth.
Bear in mind this is a budget fish finder and not the most expensive model, so don't expect it to work wonders in all conditions and environments. It also doesn't have the TripleShot transducer, the SplitShot transducer or Genesis Live that some of the other Lowrance fish finders have.
4: HawkEye Fishtrax Fish Finder
Featuring dual frequency sonar, this kayak fish finder can be a good choice for fishing in different depths of water up to 240 feet. It’s super portable and can be handheld for convenience or mounted if you prefer.
Another feature of the Hawkeye FishTrax is that it has a clear color screen that can show you the water temperature as well as fish targets. It also benefits from a built in flasher and a fish alarm that will alert you to the fish without you having to check, which can be helpful if you're a kayak angler.
It benefits from an anti-glare screen for a better picture in super bright sunlight and displays fish data in classic flasher format. It can also display the bottom contour for lakes and rivers.
It has dual beam sonar which can give you more information than single beam, letting you capture more details of the underwater environment, including fish and structure.
5: Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2
If you’re looking for a kayak fish finder for deep water then the Humminbird Helix 5 one could be a good choice as it has landscape orientation and detailed images with an excellent display size.
It has a depth of up to 1500 feet and a powerful 4000 watt transducer. It also has the crucial feature of built-in GPS and works on dual frequencies with auto tuning sonar settings and features that can let you monitor speed and mark waypoints.
With the down imaging sonar, high wide CHIRP sonar, AutoChart Live, and Beam Plus Sonar you know what a high quality fish finder is supposed to look like, with high definition images showing both fish and structure in high resolution.
A CHIRP sonar frequency of 50-200 kHz is sent through a transducer with 1500 ft max depth. This can be an ideal kayak depth finder for deep water or vertical jigging.
This kayak fish finder benefits from having a microSD card slot so you can even put in your own personalized fishing maps or save your waypoint map. It also features a large 5 inch color display screen with an adjustable backlight for improved clarity in direct sunlight and it's made by one of the best fish finder manufacturers.
The negatives with this down imaging fish finder is that the transducer arm needs to be mounted close by your kayak, but because of its size and your limited mounting space, installation can be tricky for some other users. But it is more compact than the Humminbird Helix 7.
Additionally, the display may take some time to get used to because not all of the information on the LCD is easy for beginners who haven’t been introduced fish finders before.
6: Garmin ECHOMAP Plus 45cv
The Garmin ECHOMAP Plus is among the best and most expensive fish finders on this list. It benefits from having CHIRP Clearvü scanning sonar which is a fancy way of saying it has near photographic images and an LED beacon for stronger fish finding capabilities and active imaging. It also has built-in Quickdraw Contours mapping software to create your own high definition contour maps.
It offers great signal, as well as important features like GPS that make it worth every penny of its hefty price tag. The sonar frequency is 100 kHz, which provides a strong enough connection for you to see where all the schools are, even if they’re at 328 ft deep, making it the best kayak depth finder for shallow bays or lakes with a medium water depth.
It also comes with a 25 ft cord that allows you to use it from shore or fishing kayak alike, so no need to worry about running out of power while waiting for your battery life to charge up again before heading back home.
The problem with this full featured fish finder, is the small screen. But it has built-in lake maps with integrated Navionics data and pre-loaded lake data.
This is a great alternative to the Lowrance Hook Reveal, with its Hook Reveal C-map technology, with all the features you'd expect from a top fish finder.
7: Venterior Portable Fish Finder (Budget Choice)
The VT-FF001 offers great sensitivity and is the best cheap fish finder on our list. Yet it takes accuracy and detection to a whole other level as it tells you whether the fish is small, medium or large with the fishID indicators.
This kayak fish finder can be a good choice if you’re looking for value at a great price or if you're just getting started. It features a wired transducer and an LCD display screen. It can be a good choice for kayak fishing as it will only work at slow speeds.
This kayak fish finder features 5 different sensitivity levels which range from seeing the small details of the bottom to ignoring smaller scenery. It also includes a battery saving mode that can be turned on during your last half hour or so of fishing, extending your time on the water.
It is a handheld fish finder that has a simple display and will alert you to the location of the fish but not the size of the fish. Unlike more expensive fish finders, it will only detect fish that are larger than 4 inches in length. But it can be a good choice if you're thinking about about how much space you have on your kayak.
Battery life of up only to 5 hours isn't great. And one feature it doesn't have is GPS, so it may not be ideal for long distances. But this is a budget fish finder after all and not one of the most sophisticated fish finders.
Kayak Fish Finders: FAQs
How To Power A Fish Finder In Your Kayak?
To keep your fish finder running in your fishing kayak you will likely need to consider using a 12 volt battery. Depending on the amp hours on the battery, you can power your fish finder for several hours.
If you plan on having your fish finder on all day you might want to think about a higher amp hour rating. For a typical all day fishing trip, a 10 to 20 amp hour battery might be ideal. But if you plan a shorter trip of just a few hours, you may be able to use a battery with a lower amp hour rating.
What’s The Recommended Way To Mount It?
Your fishing kayak may already have a dedicated spot to mount your kayak fish finder. But if not, you can mount the display unit to your gear tracks or you can mount it elsewhere on your yak in your preferred spot where you’ll most easily be able to see it.
When you connect it to your battery, you’ll probably want to make sure the wires are out of the way. One way is to have the wires running through the hull, which may require drilling a hole into your yak but you may want your battery to be stored inside the hull too, which can help keep it safe and dry.
How Do I Connect And Mount The Transducer?
This can be a three step process. The transducer needs to be in the water and one of the ways you can mount the transducer in through a scupper hole. Depending on your fishing kayak, it may have a dedicated transducer mount, especially if it’s a fishing boat. Humminbird transducers tend to be transom mount.
There are certain products that can attach to your gear tracks to let you mount your transducer, meaning you shouldn’t need to drill any holes in your hull.
You will have to connect the wires from the kayak fish finder to the connector points on your battery.
You can also mount the transducer through the scupper hole using PVC pipe and drilling holes through the pipe in order to secure the transducer. However, you would need to make sure the wires are running through the pipe before you secure it.
Video: Installing Transducer Using Scupper Holes
The best kayak fish finder is the Garmin Striker 4 because it has GPS, is easy to mount to your kayak, and can be great for both fresh water and saltwater fishing, letting you find structure and fish.
A fantastic runner-up is the top notch Deeper Pro Smart Sonar because it's the ideal size for kayak fishing and is highly portable. And you can use your phone as the screen - perfect for maximizing space on your deck.
Another good fish finder is the Lowrance Hook 3X. This is easy to install, in a compact design that's ideal for fishing kayaks moving at a slow pace. It offers the perfect balance between function and usability.
Having a fish finder on your kayak will be a technology boost that will help you better navigate lakes, rivers and seas when you’re searching for fish. It will also give you clearer images of what’s under the water so you can avoid weeds and other obstructions.
You may even find you get a better understanding of the underwater landscape, which may help you in your future fishing trips, letting you understand the fish and their habitats.
Just remember when you’re choosing fish finders for kayaks to consider where you plan to use it.
Do you have a fish finder? Tell us about it below...