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Buyers Guide & Information

Best Kayak Fish Finders Reviewed

Be sure to always find a catch with these cheap, reliable and portable fishing products!

by PITeam

Buyers Guide & Information

Best Kayak Fish Finders Reviewed

Be sure to always find a catch with these cheap, reliable and portable fishing products!

by PITeam

by PITeam

If you fish regularly, then you’d know that fishing trips aren’t always a success – especially if you go for kayak fishing.

While this style of fishing is a popular choice with anglers because of its many advantages – such as solitude and access to shallow water bodies – the water found in lakes and ponds is often muddy and weedy. This can really affect visibility and make it difficult to find a good catch for you.

Thanks to advancements in technology, there’s now a solution for this – fish finders. These are devices that use a sonar (Sound Navigation and Ranging) system to help you locate fish underwater.

Although this equipment has been around since the early 1900s, today’s models are very refined and advanced compared to their predecessors. Not only do you now have multiple options to choose from when selecting a digital screen, but some models even come with GPS and Wi-Fi technology.

If you're going kayak fishing any time soon, then it’s a good idea to invest in a fish finder so you can save a lot of time and effort locating fish – and come back with a good catch! Here are the nine best fish finders on the market that you can choose from to make your next trip a success.

How Fish Finders Work

Like we said, a fish locator device can help you fish better, out there alone in the water on your kayak. But how exactly do these machines help you locate fish?

These units have transducers that convert electrical signals into sonar (sound) and emit them into the water. When the sound waves come up against an underwater object, they can approximately predict its size and depth. The item they come across isn't always a fish; it can be anything from a rock to a school of fish, or even the floor of the lake.

This contact results in the production of an echo that is relayed back to your device. The machine then creates an image of the underwater object(s) and displays it on the screen.


Types Of Kayak Fish Finders

  • Castable
    These are Wi-Fi and mobile integrated devices that are powered through smart devices. While these devices are a great choice for those who fish near the shore, wandering farther away can limit internet signals and affect their functionality.
  • Mountable
    These models are great for smaller vessels, as they are a hybrid between fixed and portable devices. They can be mounted at different places, such as your fishing craft, depending on the mount of your transducer.
  • Portable
    These are small pocket-friendly devices that come with portable batteries. Conventionally, such models have a case that holds the accessories, such as batteries, power cords, etc.
  • Fixed/Affixed/Permanent
    Fixed fish locators are devices that need to be installed permanently on your kayak and cannot be taken off after each trip. While they minimize the hassle of assembly and mounting each time, they limit the potential use of your kayak.However, these are more advanced than the portable types with more integrated high-quality technology and better screen resolution.
  • Standalone
    If you own a kayak and want to go fishing in smaller bodies of water on a limited budget, these stand-alone locators are just the option for you. They help you see what’s below the surface and do not usually contain any other technology. These models can be hooked on to a GPS (bought separately) or even multiple screens if there’s need and space.
  • Combination Fish Finder/Chart Plotter
    Chart plotters are GPS combo units that facilitate navigation and allow you to mark the course of your journey. While these are ideal for mid-sized boats that go into the sea and need help navigating back, there's no reason why you shouldn't have it on your kayak fish finder.
  • Networked System
    Network systems are devices that support a wide range of data sources such as vector GPS charts, satellite radio, radar, video, Bluetooth, raster, and Wi-Fi.

Types Of Sonar Systems In Fish Finders

Standard Sonar

These are the oldest of sonar technology and are the most difficult to read. This is because the transducers used for these sonars operate at 50/83/200 kHz and produce a rather low-quality resolution compared to the newer types.

These devices aren't as accurate about temperature and depth reading but do a decent job – especially considering their low price point.

Down Imaging

This is a type of sonar where the sound waves are emitted by transducers in a downward direction, below the boat. While this is great for deep water bodies, it is not as accurate as side-imaging. If you’re on a budget, then getting a down-scan is a good investment as they are cheap, yet effective.

Side Imaging

This is the most efficient of all sonar technologies; it not only covers a larger surface area of water because it emits sound waves from both sides of the boat but is also highly accurate in its readings.


Benefits Of Kayak Fish Finding Tools

  • It helps you locate fish, so you don't waste time waiting in an area where there are none to catch.
  • Underwater imaging helps you identify areas where your line and hook, or even your kayaking paddle, can get stuck.
  • With this technology, you have an advantage over the game – you can see it before the fish become aware of your presence.

Buying A Top-Quality Kayak Fish Finder

Size, Space & Portability

Before you buy a fish finder, it's essential to consider the size and use of your kayak. You should also decide beforehand if you want a permanently affixed unit or a portable one.

Consider how much you use your kayak, and for what purposes?

If your use is somewhat limited to fishing alone, then getting a fixed fish finder will save you the hassle of installing it every time. But if you go for recreational kayaking from time to time, a fish finder that's always present can get in the way of fun.

If you intend to purchase a model that needs to be mounted, you should ensure that there is enough space to hold the accessories that your fish finder comes with – battery, cables, and the screen.

Fishing Style

Your fishing habits also play a significant role in deciding what type of fish finder you ought to get. For one, it helps you decide the sonar system you will need – if you like to fish in deep water, then a down scanner would fit your style better.

In comparison, people who stick to shallow water-bodies should opt for a side-imaging scanner. Similarly, how far you travel while fishing and whether or not you try to catch game in larger water bodies are also some factors to consider.

If you like catching fish far from home, then investing in a model that is equipped with a GPS would be a good option. These combo-units are relatively more costly than those without – many people often consider getting two separate devices; a fish finder and a GPS.

But considering kayaks are already short on space, getting a GPS equipped machine can save you mounting space.

Frequency & GPS Integration

Before you invest in a fish finder, ask yourself:

Do you want a single frequency sonar (conventional) or one that transmits a spectrum simultaneously (CHIRP)?

The sonar frequency plays a huge role in determining resolution quality and accuracy. GPS integrated units help you not only keep track of your path but can also save your co-ordinates and redirect you to a spot where you got a good catch in the past.

User-Friendly

Modern-day fish finders come with several features to choose from which make them ideal for different users. While a larger screen might be useful for those with larger vessels, kayak anglers should opt for models with small screen sizes.

Newer models are designed to be smartphone compatible; meaning that instead of occupying extra space in your kayak, these units display the images on your phone.

Power Source

Most devices require a 12-volt marine battery to function – ensure that it's in a waterproof casing to avoid damage. If you're trying to utilize less space, especially for kayak fishing, it would be ideal for you to invest in portable battery-powered devices that are smaller and transmit to your smartphone directly.

Durability/Versatility

Looking for a durable product should always be one’s prime concern – you don’t want to spend money again and again on re-purchase or repairs.

When it comes to fish finders, look for waterproof models – all devices are water-resistant, but few can survive submersion. Ensure that the transducers are also built using durable material that prevents corrosion.

Transducer Style

Transducers are integral to fish finders as they are the component that emits sonar signals. The echo produced from the interaction of these waves with other objects is what creates an echo and generates images.

Here are three options you can choose from:

  • Hull Mounts
    These are transducers that are mounted on the hull of your kayak by cutting a sponge and placing the part there. Such transducers create a strong signal with minimal loss.
  • Transom Mounts
    These are one of the cheaper options – made of plastic – but are durable and increase the device’s portability. This type of mount submerges your transducer in the water to create a powerful signal, but beware; if you go fishing in shallow waters, then you could hit a rock and damage the device.
  • Scupper Mounts
    If your vessel already has a scupper pre-installed, you can use that to mount your transducer. If not, you can always buy it as an additional item to add to your kayak and make your fishing experience better.

Extra Features

Looking for additional features in a kayak fish finder can help make your fishing trips more productive – and fun. Look for devices with integrated combo systems, such as those with GPS, Wi-Fi, and smartphone integration.

Some units also have temperature gauges to detect water temperature, so you know where you'll have a better chance of finding fish. Speed-o-meters are also an added feature offered by some devices that calculate the speed at which you’re paddling.

Installation Ease

Out in the kayak, you don’t have the room or the time for complicated installations. Therefore, investing in devices that are easy to set up is a good option for all small-vessel anglers.Look for options that require minimal assembly or come mostly pre-assembled.

Price & Warranty

Fish finders come in a huge range of prices, but before you a purchase one, consider the following:

  • Do the features included make it worth the price?
  • Will you need to pay extra for additional features?
  • Will you require professional paid help for assembly?
  • Does the device meet all your requirements?

If the answers are satisfactory, you are good to go ahead with the purchase.

An important thing to remember is to check for the manufacturer’s warranty – see what parts and services are covered under it and how long it will last.


9 Best Kayak Fish Finders Reviewed

1. Garmin Striker 4 With Transducer

Best Overall Kayak Fish Finder

Display Resolution

480 x 320 pixels

Display Size Dimensions

3.5 inches

Maximum Depth

1600 ft. in freshwater; 750 ft. saltwater

Transmit Power (Wattage)

200 W

GPS

Yes

Warranty

One-Year Consumer Limited Warranty

This product is perhaps the best you can find on the market and comes equipped with the latest technology – a hallmark of Garmin.

Its scanning sonar is capable of producing high definition images that provide a detailed and accurate representation of the objects present underwater near your boat. This is enabled by the CHIRP sonar system that is designed to emit a spectrum of frequencies into the water, instead of just one.

With an integrated GPS, this device can help you plot your course using a waypoint map, which comes with a simple and easy to use interface. The 3.5-inch display makes it ideal for kayaks, considering this device would not require a lot of mounting space.

What’s more, this highly portable device comes with a kit and rechargeable batteries so you can use them over and over again without having to worry about storage space.

Pros

  • Has a high maximum depth capacity
  • Equipped with CHIRP sonar technology
  • Comes with a speedometer

Cons

  • Some people might prefer bigger screen

2. Humminbird HELIX 5

Excellent Fish Finder + GPS 

Display Resolution

800 x 480 pixels

Display Size Dimensions

5 inches

Maximum Depth

1500 ft.

Transmit Power (Wattage)

500 W

GPS

Yes

Warranty

Yes

Next up on our list is the Humminbird HELIX 5, which has earned a reputation as the best kayak fish finder with GPS.

Here’s everything that makes this product great:

This product is equipped with a down imaging sonar that can help detect depths of up to 1500 feet. Combined with the CHIRP (Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse) technology which emits multiple frequencies to produce clearer images, this unit has no parallel. 

With superior imaging technology, you can accurately identify fish, boulders, reefs, and other underwater structures.It even allows you to choose the mode of view or how you want to see your results. These are the options offered:

  • Max Mode
  • Clear Mode

With a built-in base-map, you can see the underwater terrain while plotting your course in real-time with the help of the Auto-chart live feature.

Pros

  • Upgradeable Software
  • Real-Time Sonar
  • Instant Image Update

Cons

  • The display size may be too much for small kayaks

3. Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar

Best Portable Fish Finder For Kayak

Display Resolution

Not Applicable

Display Size Dimensions

Not Applicable

Maximum Depth

260 ft.

Transmit Power (Wattage)

Not Applicable

GPS

Yes

Warranty

1 year

The Deeper Pro+ is every anglers dream. It's a high-end castable and portable fish-finding system that is perfect for the tech-savvy, and easy to use for those who’re not.

What does being cast-able entail? It merely means that you can hook your locator to a line and put it in the water. The waterproof feature of the device gives it a casting range of 330 ft., which means that the device is not merely water-resistant, but submersible as well.

With its in-built GPS technology and depth sensing, you can map the underwater terrain without having to get your boat out. This helps you pre-determine the areas to avoid while kayaking.

The best part is that it connects to your phone using Wi-Fi, thereby saving you the hassle of choosing and maintaining a separate display. It also emits a powerful dual-beam frequency to locate fish accurately and scan a large area of water.

Pros

  • Built-in GPS
  • Integrated Wi-Fi
  • Dual sonar frequency

Cons

  • Some people might find it to be expensive

4. Vexilar SP200 T-Box Smartphone

Best Smartphone Integrated Kayak Fish Finder

Display Resolution

Not Applicable

Display Size Dimensions

Not Applicable

Maximum Depth

240 ft.

Transmit Power (Wattage)

Not Applicable

GPS

No

Warranty

2 year

Why are we calling it the best smartphone integrated locator?

Well, this unit comes with a Wi-Fi patented signal technology that helps you connect it to your smartphone or tablet, and turns an everyday device into a full-fledged sonar system. To link the two devices, all you need to do is download the free SonarPhone app on your phone.

But this isn’t the only best-selling feature of this product. Vexilar SP200 also has automatic ranging, an accurate depth calculator and a temperature measure to tell you how cold the water is. All of these features make it easier for you to navigate to areas where the fish you’re looking for might be found.

With a loud alarm for fish and a clear and easy to understand fish icon, there’s no way you will miss a catch with this system. As it is a permanent mounting device, you don’t have to worry about installation every time you want to go fishing.

Pros

  • Minimum system requirement: Android 2.0; IOS 4.3
  • Wi-Fi enabled
  • Zoom Bottom Track

Cons

  • Some people prefer mounting or portable type

5. Lowrance HOOK2

Best Lowrance Kayak Fish Finder

Display Resolution

Not Applicable

Display Size Dimensions

9 inch

Maximum Depth

500 Feet

Transmit Power (Wattage)

Not Applicable

GPS

Yes

Warranty

1 Year Warranty

Lowrance is a name well-known to fishing enthusiasts, and this product is the prime example of why the brand is so successful. The most important feature of this device is its CHIRP sonar that provides extensive coverage and yields accurate results. It is an easy to set up machine with a transducer that can be mounted whichever way you like: hull transom or scupper.

And you know what? This device is as easy to use as your phone – here’s how:

This model has an auto-tuning sonar with a menu similar to what most digital devices have. In short, this means that you can focus all your attention on catching as many fish as you can, without having to worry about fiddling with the settings.

With its SplitShot transducer, it not only down scans to efficiently map any geographical details under the water, but also provides accurate and distinct arches to represent fish.

Pros

  • CHIRP sonar
  • GPS integration
  • User-friendly

Cons

  • Might be expensive for some buyers

6. LUCKY Portable

Best Cheap Model

Display Resolution

Not Specified

Display Size Dimensions

2” X 2”

Maximum Depth

328 ft.

Transmit Power (Wattage)

Not Specified

GPS

No

Warranty

1 Year Warranty

If you are searching for an easy to use fish finder with good battery life and all the features of a high-end product without breaking the bank, then this product is for you. This product from Lucky is the best cheap fish finder available on the market, so it's not only user-friendly in design but also has a great price point.

Not only does this unit allow you to take your kayak out during the day, but with a night light feature, you can even go for overnight fishing trips. Another great feature that facilitates any long fishing trip ideas you might have is its power-saving mode that can help you conserve battery for up to 4-5 hours.

This castable unit can even be used without leaving the shore; hook up to a line and see as it uses the sonar frequency to map the underwater region for you.

Pros

  • Portable and castable
  • Waterproof
  • Battery saver mode

Cons

  • Is not GPS integrated

7. Humminbird 409620-1 Helix 5

Best Finder for Bass Fishing

Display Resolution

480 x 800 pixels

Display Size Dimensions

5 inches

Maximum Depth

300 Feet

Transmit Power (Wattage)

4000 PTP

GPS

Yes

Warranty

1 Year Warranty

This is the second product from Humminbird on our list – because that’s just how good their fish finders are. With an accurate GPS mapping system and an integrated UniMap cartography, this model is ideal for chart-plotting and mapping your course.

The Humminbird 409620-1 Helix 5 model comes with down imaging sonar that helps locate fish in deep water by emitting sound waves downwards from the bottom of your kayak.

Additionally, it comes with a micro SD card slot that can be used to introduce maps or save waypoints for future navigation.

Pros

  • Temperature detection
  • GPS enabled
  • Easy installation

Cons

  • Does not accommodate ice fishing

8. Garmin Striker 4cv

Another Top Garmin Fish Finder

Display Resolution

480 x 320 pixels

Display Size Dimensions

3.5 inches

Maximum Depth

1,750 ft. freshwater, 830 ft. saltwater

Transmit Power (Wattage)

300 W

GPS

Yes

Warranty

1 Year Warranty

Next up is our second entry for Garmin – the striker 4cv. This device comes with all the quintessential features we associate with great Garmin fish finders. It has a user-friendly, easy to read 3.5-inch color display that provides accurate and speedy data, and helps make locating fish easy.

With a high sensitivity GPS, it ensures precise marking of all underwater bodies, including fish, and helps you to save maps and waypoints so you can return to previously discovered hot spots. The CHIRP scanning sonar emits multiple frequencies to display clear images with sharp color contrasts.

Pros

  • GPS enabled
  • Light and portable
  • Great for kayaking

Cons

  • Does not come with Wi-Fi integration

9. Garmin Striker 4 With Portable Kit

Best Kayak Fish Finder Kit

Display Resolution

Not Specified

Display Size Dimensions

3.5, 5 and 7 inches

Maximum Depth

1,600 ft. freshwater, 750 ft. saltwater

Transmit Power (Wattage)

200 W

GPS

Yes

Warranty

1 Year Warranty

The best kayak fish finder kit we have for you that is both portable, easy to use, and versatile, is the Garmin Striker 4 with portable kit.

This device is simple but not any less efficient than the other fish finders on this list. So let’s take a look at what makes it such a good investment. The product comes in multiple display sizes, which means that you have the flexibility to choose the one that fits your needs the best.

Its high sensitivity GPS allows you to not only accurately chart your path, but also mark hotspots and locations like brush piles that you can avoid in the future. Equipped with the latest CHIRP sonar technology, it provides excellent resolution and precise images.

Pros

  • GPS enabled
  • CHIRP sonar
  • Clear results

Cons

  • Does not have built-in Wi-Fi

Best Brands Of Kayak Fish Finders

With the popularity of fish finders, more companies than ever are manufacturing this device, which provides consumers an excellent selection to choose from. However, not every manufacturer offers the same quality and customer satisfaction to its clients.

Here are the top three most popular brands on the market.

Garmin

Garmin is a well-known brand that perhaps every angler knows of. Being one of the oldest manufacturers in the market – established in 1989 – they provide quality devices that are equipped with the latest technology.

Lowrance

This is also one of the oldest brands available; in fact, their first product was introduced way back in 1957. To date, they are considered as pioneers for high definition fish finder systems and are known for making high-quality devices.

Humminbird

For a relatively newer brand on the market, Humminbird has set its standards right. Established 45 years ago only, they have emerged as one of the leading manufacturers of fish location systems and can successfully compete against older, more established brands.


Installing A Kayak Fish Finder

While installation may vary slightly from one system to another, most fish finders are easy to put together and set up on your kayak.

Here are some general guidelines for installation:

  • Attach the mount to your boat
  • Place the device in the mount, and make sure the cords reach the power supply
  • Mount the transducer based on its type – ensure that this also has access to power

Note: if you have a mountable or affixed system, make sure to install it before you leave land.

For a more detailed guide, watch this video.


How To Use A Fish Finder Effectively

If you’re new to the world of fish finders, it may take you a while to understand how to read the information displayed on the screen effectively – and how to put it to good use.

Here are a few tips to help you through the process:

  • Read the information from left to right
  • Color intensity signifies echo strength – the darker the color, the stronger the signal
  • Thick lines indicate hard structures present underwater
  • The reading displayed in meters and feet is the water depth reading
  • If you have an ID system, then your fish will appear in the form of fish icons on the screen
  • For people with arch systems, lines and arches help them identify objects – arcs represent fish

You can watch this video for more detailed instructions.


Care & Maintenance

Using your device carefully and conducting regular maintenance can help increase its life. Here are some tips to help keep your fish finder in the best shape:

Display Unit

Regularly clean the display with a microfiber cloth and avoid using liquids. For harder stains, make a mixture of 50% warm water and 50% isopropyl alcohol, and then start cleaning.

Note: Keep industrial solvents away from the machine.

Keys

If grime and dust accumulate in your keys, make sure to clean them out regularly and properly.

Transducer

Transducers can get dirty pretty fast, and without proper cleaning, their efficiency takes a hit. Use a brush or cloth dipped in warm soapy solution to clean your transducer thoroughly.


Frequently Asked Questions

Are Fish Finders The Same As Depth Finders?

While fish finders do give a reading for the depth of the water you’re boating in, they are not the same as depth finders. Depth finding systems are typically limited to calculating how deep the water is and cannot help you locate underwater objects.

What Do Air Bubbles Look Like Under A Fish Finder?

Hitting air bubbles underwater causes your sonar waves to reflect back and hinders the fish-finding process. The transducer can misread these bubbles as fish and appear as arches or fish ID on the screen.

How Long Do Kayak Fish Finders Last?

The life of your product depends on the manufacturer you choose and the frequency of maintenance.


Conclusion

We’ve reviewed and provided a list of the best nine kayak fish finders on the market, any of which can make your trips a definite success. But the best out of all of these is the Garmin Striker 4 with transducer – truly, its clear imagery rivals that of photographs, and it even has accurate speed and depth sensors.

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