7 Best Kayak Fish Finders for New and Experienced Anglers
A smart man once told me, “play smarter, not harder, stupid.” While I felt pretty insulted at first, I realized that he was right, and being stubborn about fish finders wasn’t helping my fishing.
Choosing a kayak fish finder is a bit more challenging than picking one for a bass boat because you don’t have as much space, and mounting it can be difficult as well. Based on hours of research and decades of experience, I’ve managed to put together this complete guide to the best fish finders for kayaks.
After reading this, you should gain the following:
- A complete understanding of the best kayak fish finders
- The ability to choose a fish finder based on fishing technique and style
- A thorough understanding of buying factors that go into making a purchase
Our Reviews of the Best Kayak Fish Finders
Whenever we’re looking at the best kayak fish finder, we always want to look towards Humminbird. Brand reputation is important, and all their products carry their weight on the water. The screen is great for a fish finder of this price range, but it’s also portable enough and easy enough to install on your kayak.
I strongly suggest going with the trolling motor mount if that’s an option for you. Plus, GPS and mapping capabilities are great for frequent anglers.
Garmin Striker 4
This Garmin fish finder contains a lot of positives, but as with anything that comes at a budget price, there are issues as well. The standout flaw is the fact that you’ll need to buy the mounting arm and protective cover to keep this one safe.
The upside is that the CHIRP sonar helps find fish faster, you get GPS mapping technology, and the keypad interface is much easier to use than a touchscreen when your fingers are wet or dirty.
Venterior Portable Fish Finder
These castable fish finders are great if you’re trolling the water trying to learn about what’s going on beneath the surface. This one contains a color screen with a bunch of different indicators, which is nice for a finder in this price range.
Overall, this is a solid choice. Some people have issues with how long the battery takes to charge, and I also think you’ll have a hard time reading the screen in bright sunlight.
Lowrance kayak fish finders are high-quality, and this is a brand that I truly trust. The TripleShot imaging is amazing and offers the most comprehensive picture of what’s going on beneath the surface. Plus, you get everything the other ones are offering on top of that for a price range that aligns with the number of features this offers.
Hawkeye Fishtrax 1C
If you read some of the bad reviews of this fish finder, they’re merely because people don’t understand what they’re getting. This fish finder is perfect for its intended purpose. It’s accurate, prompt with alerts, and easy to use for those who aren’t tech-savvy. As a kayak depth finder and light-duty fish finder, it gets the job done.
Let me be clear on this – you need a 12-volt power supply to power this using the 25-foot cord it comes with. If you’re fishing from a canoe, you won’t have that supply as you would with a bass boat or something similar. Other than that, installation is simple, and it offers depth tracking, GPS waypoints, and fish arcs from your smart device.
Anysun Underwater Fish Finder
So, why would we use a camera instead of a fish finder? First, it’s a great way to get the clearest picture of what’s happening beneath the surface. Second, it’s also an option if you’re concerned about whether or not your fish finder is accurate. At an affordable price point, it’s a great second option, but it is a bit big to carry around.
How to Choose the Best Kayak Fish Finder
You’re in the market for the best fish finder for kayaks, great, so how do you choose? What criteria should you keep in mind and you’re shopping around? Many of these options are similar, with only a few minor factors that separate them. On the other hand, some are completely different. Here are some of the factors I would keep in mind as you shop.
Technology has moved us forward from the old greyscale displays, so most have a color LCD display at this point. Full color will offer a better picture, but does it really improve how you see the fish? Not really. If you can save a few bucks and go with black and white, go for it.
That applies to basic sonar technology. If you have a standard down or side imaging fish finder, you’ll want a color display because you’ll get a better idea of the structure and location of the fish based on that structure. This will help you “feel around” as you cast and retrieve.
Method of Imaging
The types of imaging is probably the most important factor to most of you. I’m talking about what type of fish finder you have and how it translates sonar into images. You have three primary choices:
- CHIRP sonar
Down imaging is when the sonar funnel shoots straight down from the transducer, offering you an image of what’s happening directly beneath the kayak.
Side imaging will send sonar rays horizontally away from the transducer, which helps you pick up on upcoming changes in structure as well as fish, so you don’t need to be as close to anticipate it.
CHIRP sonar is also referred to as FishID or FishARC technology. These are all essentially the same thing. With this, the transducer sends out sonar bursts every so often, which results in an image rather than a real-time live picture.
Some fish finders offer all three of these, while others have combinations of the three. Down-imaging and CHIRP are more common and more affordable than side-imaging.
By depth, I’m referring to the maximum depth range of the fish finder. This will be important to those of you who are fishing deeper waters in your kayak. Maybe it’s a large river or even a deep inshore canal. Regardless, you’ll need a fish finder with some range.
Keep in mind that even though the manufacturer states it’s accurate up to 250 feet, the closer you get to that maximum, the less accurate it’ll be.
I personally recommend taking 50-100 feet off of whatever they say, and that’s the actual range. If your choice has a variable cone, you can customize how the transducer sends the sonar by shortening or widening the cone.
By shortening the cone, you increase max depth but reduce the range you can send sonar horizontally from the kayak. I won’t get too technical on you but, just make sure you keep in mind where you fish and how deep the water typically is.
What good is a fish finder if you can’t see it? I reviewed some screens that are 3.5” and others that are 7”, how do you choose? Since we’re focusing on portability and compact design, maybe you’ll want to meet somewhere in the middle?
You don’t want a fish finder that’s so bulky that it gets in the way when it needs to fit inside a fishing backpack or carrying bag. But, on the flip side, you need to be able to read it properly without having too much strain on your eyes.
I think all the fish finders for kayaks reviewed above have a large enough screen for most people.
Features are good, right? Some features you’ll want to look for are GPS mapping, pre-loaded lakes, Bluetooth compatibility, mounting devices, castable transducers, and more. There are tons of different features to look for, so don’t be afraid to spend some time reading and searching.
Each of the fish finders reviewed above contains unique features that you might not find in every product on Amazon. Take your time and always keep your fishing style in mind as you shop.
Your budget should also be an important factor because fish finders vary greatly in price. There are some for less than $100, and there are some for more than $1,000. You need to have a budget in mind, but I also don’t recommend going for the cheapest option on the market.
Overall, every one I reviewed above offers features that are appropriate for the price tag. You get what you pay for, so just be sure to factor in all of these buying considerations before pulling out your wallet.
Transducer Compatibility and Space
Since you’re fishing from a kayak, space is important, and installation is even more important. Many fish finder manufacturers are teaming up with kayak builders to make their products more compatible. They realize that more and more people are fishing from kayaks, so space and portability are more of a factor than ever.
Look for fish finders with compatible scupper holes, mounting devices, and reviews from people who are using them on kayaks. Companies like Lowrance, Garmin, and Humminbird, and Raymarine specialize in this.
Having a waterproof fish finder for your kayak is important because you’re much closer to that water than you would be in a bass boat or other type of boat. There could be more splashing with paddling and ultimately, a higher chance of the fish finder getting wet.
As you’re shopping around, make sure you’re looking for fish finders that are either waterproof, water-resistant, or come with a cover that you can use to protect them. Most will offer at least one of these.
How to Choose the Best Fish Finder for Kayaks Based on Technique
Now I want to get a little more specific. In this section, I’m going to tell you which features you should look for based on what type of fishing you do. Where, how, and even when you fish will require you to think differently about what fish finder you should purchase.
This goes out to all my offshore kayak anglers and deep river trollers. If you’re fishing water deeper than 25 feet, you’ll want to read this section.
Deep water anglers need a fish finder with accurate depth first and foremost. You’ll want to look towards some of the more premium fish finders that will offer depth trackers up to 250+ feet. Obviously, you’re not fishing at these depths, but the deeper, the better because it will provide more accuracy at shallow depth.
GPS mapping is also an important feature for you because you’re likely covering a lot of water in a short period of time. It would be nice to be able to keep track of where you went so you can revisit those spots later on.
Structure anglers like to fish around docks, wood pilings, stumps, weeds, and humps. If this sounds like you, you’ll benefit from a triple-shot fish finder like the Lowrance HOOK2. This one is the perfect choice because it offers side imaging, which will allow you to get an accurate representation of the structure and the fish around it without having to get too close.
Thankfully, when we’re kayak fishing, we have a bit more flexibility as to where we can go, but that doesn’t always mean we want to. It’s nice to see what’s coming up before we’re right on top of it, and this type of fish finder is the best choice for supplying that.
GPS is nice too in the event that you stray far away from where you started. GPS technology will help you find your way back.
If you’re fishing shallow waters, rivers, and creeks, going with a basic fish finder should get the job done. You can save a little money because you don’t need anything with crazy depths or GPS tracking since you’re not venturing too far from civilization.
A castable fish finder is also an option in this case since you’re right on top of your fishing spot. Sometimes being able to stay put and cast the transducer out to your ideal location is better than having to go out there and spook the fish.
Saltwater vs. Freshwater
One last important consideration is to understand that not all fish finders will work in saltwater. Many of them will, but they also have different depth ranges and accuracy when you’re fishing saltwater.
As you’re doing your research and reading up on some of the products reviewed in this guide, make sure you read on how saltwater impacts the accuracy and depth of the fish finder.
You read the reviews, you read the buying guide, and now you’re here. Do you feel like you know a little more about fish finders than before? I hope so. Choosing one doesn’t have to be hard, but it’s an investment, so you want to make sure you choose the one that works best for you.