Best Overall: Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with Transducer
“The Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 is great for any kayaker that is new to GPS use as it has a simplified interface that can be mastered to use in just a couple of tries.”
Most Convenient: ReelSonar Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder
“The ReelSonar Wireless Smart Fish Finder is ideal for on-the-go anglers as it can be easily paired to an IOS and Android device. It can also operate at depths up to 135 feet, which should be sufficient for the bulk of freshwater applications.”
Best Budget Finder: LUCKY Handheld Portable Fish Finder
“The LUCKY Portable Fish Finder is a self-contained unit that operates in absence of a large, fixed monitor, instead of placing much of the same data into the palm of your hand and is easy to use. It has a miniaturized monitor, with a 2” LCD screen, which allows for quick on-demand viewing of all that lies below your kayak.”
An ever-increasing number of anglers are now beginning to take to the water in kayaks, searching for any hot kayak fishing action that awaits. As the popularity of fishing from a kayak has grown, so has the available technology that can be used in such endeavors.
As of late, numerous compact fish finders have been released onto the market, offering kayakers the opportunity to take their fishing adventures to the next level.
Today’s premium compact fish finders utilize high pixel-count monitors, multi-faceted imaging, and significant operating ranges. Units of this nature are also highly water-resistant and are capable of withstanding a significant amount of abuse.
Table of Contents
- The Rundown
- Featured Recommendations
- Best Fish Finders for Kayak for 2021
- What Should I Look For When Buying Fish Finders for Kayak
- Matching the Fish Finder with Your Fishing Style
- Questions & Answers
Best Fish Finders for Kayak for 2021
Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with Transducer
Best Overall: Simple to use, yet rich in overall capabilities
- Clear Vu technology for improved visual acuity
- Built in GPS mapping for waypoint storage
- Easy to navigate controls for trouble-free usage
The Garmin Striker 4 should be the perfect option for any kayaker that is new to GPS use. This fish finder features a simplified interface, which allows any angler to navigate through various menus seamlessly. In fact, one can expect to become proficient in the use of the Garmin Striker 4 in as little as a couple of afternoons’ worth of use.
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ReelSonar Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder
Most Convenient: High-end fish finding capabilities, in the palm of your hand
- IOS and Android device compatible for seamless pairing
- Outstanding battery life for long service life
- 135’ maximum depth for versatile operation
The ReelSonar Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder should find favor among those who fish from a kayak and are reluctant to use a more sizzle, full-screen sonar technology unit.
The ReelSonar Fish Finder can be placed into the water at any position, offering substantial opportunities for those who cannot use, or do not wish to use traditional fixed transducer units. In contrast to standard fish finders, the ReelSonar Fish Finder does not use a dedicated control head. Instead, this unit pairs to an angler’s mobile device, to convey its findings.
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LUCKY Handheld Portable Fish Finder
Best Budget Finder: A handheld unit capable of probing depths far greater than most
- Convenient handheld screen for on-demand viewing
- 45-degree range of detection for depth of viewing
- 328-foot maximum operating depth for unparalleled versatility
If you are looking for an ultra-portable fish finder, that is capable of operating to significant depths, then you will likely appreciate the Lucky Handheld Fish Finder, this self-contained unit operates in absence of a large, fixed monitor, instead placing much of the same data into the palm of your hand and is easy to use. This information can then be referenced as needed.
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HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder
Clearest Display (Handheld): Handheld detection with unparalleled clarity
- Audible alarm for simplified fish detection
- High-definition color display for enhanced target depiction
- 240-foot depth of detection for ample freshwater coverage
If you are currently searching for a handheld fish finder that provides clarity that is on-par with some of today’s most premium fixed screen sonar units, then you will likely find favor in the HawkEye Fishtrax 1c Fish Finder. This unit features a VirtuView HD color display screen with LED Backlighting, which is easy to decipher and resists glare even in the most direct of sunlight.
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Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS
Best High End Finder: Stellar mapping capabilities to satisfy even the most demanding of anglers
- AutoChart Live programming for instantaneous feedback
- Side and down imaging capabilities for greater image depth
- Crystal clear imaging for streamlined usage
The Humminbird Helix 5 CHIRP sonar should be ideal for those who fish in a kayak tournament league and find themselves on various bodies of water on any given year. This unit’s Live Mapping and Precision Internal GPS Chart Plotting make it easier than ever to decipher the nuances of any lake, including those that are unfamiliar to an angler.
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What Should I Look For When Buying Fish Finders for Kayak
Portable or Permanent Fish Finder
When selecting a fish finder for purchase, one must first determine whether a portable or permanent fish finder is right for them. While permanent fish finders tend to be more technologically advanced, they cannot be easily swapped from one kayak to the next, if the need should arise.
The larger a fish finder’s display screen, the simpler deciphering an image becomes. While small portable fish finders are highly versatile, they often feature scenes of much smaller dimensions, many of which can be difficult to read.
The quality of the image that a fish finder presents is denoted in pixels. The higher a unit’s pixel count, the clearer its depiction of what lies beneath your kayak. Premium fish finders also feature a backlight, which allows their screens to be easily viewed in both lowlight and periods of direct sunlight.
Grayscale versus Colored Displays
Fish finder displays come in both grayscale and collared forms, while grayscale monitors tend to be far more economically priced, they are often more difficult to read. Colored displays, on the other hand, depict areas of contour in various colors, thereby allowing an angler to quickly discern between bottom type and variations in structure.
Glare from the sun
The midday sun can present issues for those attempting to monitor a fish finder. The glare created upon such a unit’s screen can be blinding, and create substantial difficulty for those attempting to quickly monitor water depth or structure. A number of premium fish finders feature backlights and screen brightness adjustments that can circumvent many of these issues.
GPS equipped fish finders can be indispensable, as they allow anglers to easily mark waypoints, find their way to and from certain locations, and determine distances. This can be extremely important when attempting to fish in the most efficient manner possible.
A fish finder’s transducer is an essential part of the sonar system, which sends and receives signals. The transducer essentially sends out acoustic waves, which return back at varying speeds. Data related to the speed at which these waves return is used to calculate water depth.
The power rating of a fish finder is denoted by a particular unit’s RMS designation. This designation depicts the amount of power that is being driven through the system’s transducer. The higher this rating is, the easier it is for a fish finder to transmit a signal to deeper depths, especially in less than ideal water conditions.
It is a given that any fish finder will be exposed to its fair share of water. However, not all fish finders are created equally when it comes to water resistance. When fishing from a kayak, choppy water can quickly drench your electronics, making it essential that a fish finder be highly resistant to water ingress.
Number of Frequencies
Many fish finders now have the ability to operate under multiple frequencies. This is of value due to the fact that a fish finder’s frequency determines its ability to operate efficiently in varying circumstances. The higher a fish finder’s frequency, the faster its detection speed. However, lower frequencies penetrate to deep depths.
Fish finders are available at virtually any price, from $50 to 5,000 dollars. A unit’s features and capabilities most often determine the point at which it is priced. Basic fish finders that offer little in the way of additional features fall toward the lower end of the price spectrum. While highly-advanced, GPS-equipped units bring a premium.
Matching the Fish Finder with Your Fishing Style
When structure fishing, or covering large expanses of water, the use of a GPS-equipped fish finder can be of immense importance. Sonar units of this nature offer high-definition depictions of what lies below an angler’s kayak at all times. This makes it possible to know when and where to cast in the bulk of situations.
Most top-tier fish finders also come equipped with a host of GPS capabilities. As such, anglers can store waypoints, judge distances, and navigate as they please. This increases an angler’s efficiency while they are on the water, and assists one in catching a greater number of fish.
When fishing in the shallows, close to your launch location, one will need little more than a basic fish finder combo. In this situation, there is little reason for GPS use, or the use of additional mapping features, which tends to tack additional costs onto the total purchase price of a new fish finder.
In many cases, a basic fish finder can be purchased for approximately $100, with higher-end models being priced in the $200-$300 range. A unit of this nature is perfect for the avid weekend angler.
Questions & Answers
How deep do you fish?
When fishing from a kayak, the depth at which you fish is directly determined by the species of fish that you are fishing for. While panfish, such as bluegill, crappie, and redear sunfish can often be found in water as shallow as 5 feet, species such as catfish are notorious for residing at depths of 20 feet or deeper. Therefore, your fishing strategy should reflect the seasonal patterns of the type of fish that you are pursuing.
How far do you travel?
Kayak anglers travel a wide range of distances to reach points of interest. The exact distance which is traveled on a given day is often determined by launch access, or a lack thereof. If an angler is able to launch their kayak in close proximity to the location they intend to fish, travel can be minimized. On the other hand, difficult to reach areas can necessitate travel of up to a mile or more.
How much room do you have?
While many newer kayaks tend to be far more spacious than those from days gone by, there are still many space-related constraints facing kayak anglers. As a result, an ever-increasing number of those fishing from a kayak has begun utilizing handheld fish finders, as opposed to permanent fish finders, which can be more difficult to mount with space at a minimum.
How will you connect the transducer to your kayak?
There are several ways that a transducer can be mounted to a kayak. One can mount their transducer in the hull of their boat, secure it to pre-fixed mounting recesses found on the underside of some kayaks, or hang their transduce over the side of the kayak with any number of specialty mounting products.
What is your power source?
Standard fish finders have been traditionally powered by deep cycle batteries, in much the same way as a trolling motor. However, more recently, small portable fish finders have drawn their power from small rechargeable or disposable battery packs.
How Much Mounting Space?
It is often difficult to find enough surface area to mount a fish finder display within a kayak. However, numerous kayak specific fish finder mounts have been released over the past several years, which come in both universal and model specific forms. These mounts make it possible to affix a fish finder display to a kayak in many different ways.
Is A Fish Finder Worth It On A Kayak?
For serious kayak anglers, a fish finder comes as a worthy purchase. A fish finder allows you to make more efficient use of your time on the water, which typically equates to a better overall catch. GPS equipped fish finders can also be of significant value when attempting to navigate unfamiliar waters. However, in the case of a casual weekend angler, whether or not to use a fish finder often comes as a matter of personal preference.