The Best Fish Finder For Kayak Fishing: 2021 Buying Guide

Kenneth ReavesEdited by: Kenneth Reaves
Michael DarmontReviewed by: Michael Darmont

Last Update:

The Rundown

Best Overall: Garmin Striker 4 (click to see)
“The Striker 4 has a built-in GPS mapping for waypoint storage and it uses ClearVu sonar technology for excellent picture quality. It may be for a kayaker new to GPS as it has a simplified interface.

Most Convenient: ReelSonar Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder (click to see)
“The ReelSonar Smart Fish Finder operates at depths up to 135 feet which should be sufficient for the bulk of freshwater applications. Ideal for on-the-go anglers as it can be easily paired with an IOS and Android device.”

Best Budget Finder: LUCKY Kayak Portable Fish Finder (click to see)
The Lucky Fish Finder is a convenient handheld screen for on-demand viewing that is capable of collecting data from depths of up to 328 feet, which is far deeper than other similar units at a higher price point.”

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An ever-increasing number of anglers are now exploring the waters in kayaks, searching for any hot kayak fishing action that awaits. As kayak fishing becomes more popular, the fishing gear that goes with it also keeps on popping up the market.

Recently, numerous compact fish finders have been released, allowing kayakers 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. They are also water-resistant and are capable of withstanding almost any rough conditions when fishing.

Sources researched
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Sources researched
Customer reviews
15,885
Customer reviews
Hours spent testing
14
Hours spent testing
Products tested
5
Products tested
Our Ranking
Ranked #1
Ranked #2
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5" GPS Fishfinder with Chirp Traditional Transducer
ReelSonar CGG-MY-IBOBBER iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder for iOS and Android devices,Classic,Small
LUCKY Kayak Portable Fish Depth Finder Water Handheld Fish Finder Sonar Castable Kayak Boat Fishfinder Transducer Fishing LCD Display FFC1108
Our Grade
Our Rating 96/100
Our Rating 91/100
Our Rating 88/100
Feature 1
Clear Vu technology for improved visual acuity
IOS and Android device compatible for seamless pairing
Convenient handheld screen for on-demand viewing
Feature 2
Built in GPS mapping for waypoint storage
135 feet maximum depth for versatile operation
328 feet maximum operating depth for unparalleled versatility
Best Overall
Product Name
Our Ranking
Ranked #1
Thumbnail
Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5" GPS Fishfinder with Chirp Traditional Transducer
Our Grade
Our Rating 96/100
Feature 1
Clear Vu technology for improved visual acuity
Feature 2
Built in GPS mapping for waypoint storage
Most Convenient
Our Ranking
Ranked #2
Thumbnail
ReelSonar CGG-MY-IBOBBER iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder for iOS and Android devices,Classic,Small
Our Grade
Our Rating 91/100
Feature 1
IOS and Android device compatible for seamless pairing
Feature 2
135 feet maximum depth for versatile operation
Best Budget
Our Ranking
Ranked #3
Thumbnail
LUCKY Kayak Portable Fish Depth Finder Water Handheld Fish Finder Sonar Castable Kayak Boat Fishfinder Transducer Fishing LCD Display FFC1108
Our Grade
Our Rating 88/100
Feature 1
Convenient handheld screen for on-demand viewing
Feature 2
328 feet maximum operating depth for unparalleled versatility

Best Fish Finder For Kayak Reviews

  1. Best Overall: Garmin Striker 4
  2. Most Convenient: iBobber Bluetooth Smart Castable Fishfinder
  3. Best Budget Finder: LUCKY Kayak Portable Fish Finder
  4. Clearest Display (Handheld)HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder
  5. Best High End: Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS

Garmin Striker 4

Best Overall: Simple to use, yet rich in overall capabilities

Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5' GPS Fishfinder with Chirp Traditional Transducer
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KEY FEATURES

  • 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. As a result, one can expect to become proficient in using the Garmin Striker 4 in as little as a couple of afternoons’ worth of use.

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Many anglers are likely to find favor in the Garmin Striker 4’s GPS-enabled capabilities. When a suitable location is found, or a point of interest is noted, the GPS coordinates for this location can be stored for easy return later. This feature is also convenient when attempting to navigate unfamiliar waters, where confusion can occur. In addition, you can mark your point of launch on the Garmin Striker 4’s monitor, making it quite simple to find your way back after your outing.

The Garmin Striker 4 also utilizes ClearVu sonar technology, which provides excellent depth and clarity to its picture. This sonar operates at 200 kHz and scans to a maximum depth of 1,600 feet in freshwater and 750 feet in saltwater. This operating range should be more than sufficient in the vast majority of applications, as few commonly pursued game fish species reside beyond these depths.

This kayak fish finder features a 3.5” color display, which provides a phenomenal definition, and is easy to decipher. The Garmin Striker 4’s resolution is also high enough that anglers should account for even the most subtle structure and lake bed composition changes.

ReelSonar Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder

Most Convenient: High-end fish finding capabilities, in the palm of your hand

ReelSonar CGG-MY-IBOBBER iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder for iOS and Android devices,Classic,Small
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KEY FEATURES

  • IOS and Android device compatible for seamless pairing
  • Outstanding battery life for long service life
  • 135 feet 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.

It 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 with an angler’s mobile device to convey its findings.

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Many “on-the-go” anglers should find immense favor in the ReelSonar Fish Finder’s wireless connectivity feature, as the unit can be used without a bulky display. Instead, this kayak fish finder relies upon Bluetooth connectivity to put its findings right in the palm of your hand. This unit is also compatible with both IOS and Android mobile devices and can be paired effortlessly for streamlined performance.

The iBobber Bluetooth Smart Castable Fishfinder operates at depths up to 135 feet, which should be sufficient for the bulk of freshwater applications. A significant number of freshwater fisheries do not exceed this unit’s maximum operating depth, making it the perfect tool for fishing from a kayak in any number of inland lakes. However, there are likely better options for the avid saltwater angler.

This unit utilizes a built-in, rechargeable battery, which provides enough charge for ten hours of continuous use. As a result, all-day service should be provided in the bulk of situations.

LUCKY Kayak Portable Fish Finder

Best Budget Finder: A handheld unit capable of probing depths far greater than most

LUCKY Kayak Portable Fish Depth Finder Water Handheld Fish Finder Sonar Castable Kayak Boat Fishfinder Transducer Fishing LCD Display FFC1108
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KEY FEATURES

  • 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 without a large, fixed monitor instead of 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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The Lucky Portable Fish Finder utilizes a miniaturized monitor with a 2” LCD screen, which allows for quick on-demand viewing of all that lies below your kayak. This data is collected by a small 1.81-inch diameter transducer sensor, which provides a 45-degree angle of detection. This transducer can also operate under a wide range of conditions and handle 14-122 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.

Many anglers will likely find favor in the Lucky portable Fish Finder’s excellent depth of detection. This unit can collect data from depths of up to 328 feet, far deeper than that of many similar units. Because of this, the Lucky Handheld Fish Finder for kayak should be well-suited to virtually any freshwater application and even several saltwater applications.

The LUCKY Kayak Portable Fish Finder runs on four AAA batteries. This is a fact that many die-hard anglers will likely appreciate, as batteries can be quickly swapped if one’s fishing trip grows rather lengthy in duration.

HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder

Clearest Display (Handheld): Handheld detection with unparalleled clarity

HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder with HD Color Virtuview Display
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KEY FEATURES

  • 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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The HawkEye Fishtrax 1c  Fish Finder also utilizes the latest software to detect and depict bottom contour in the highest degree of definition. This can be of significant value when pursuing fish that relate heavily to structure, such as bass and crappie. This algorithmic software also minimizes false readings, which provides an angler with accurate, reliable data and is easy to use.

Many freshwater anglers will be pleased to know that the HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder offers a detection depth of 240 feet. While this detection range might fall a little short for many saltwater anglers, it is ideal when fishing in freshwater lakes, where it is somewhat uncommon for channel depths to exceed 200 feet.

The Hawkeye Fishtrax Fish Finder for kayak also features an audible alarm, which alerts when fish is detected. This is a characteristic that many will likely find of value, especially when other tasks take an angler’s attention away from the unit’s display. This allows an angler to quickly ready their gear to capitalize on the opportunity at hand.

Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS

Best High End: Stellar mapping capabilities to satisfy even the most demanding of anglers

Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2 Fish finder , Black
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KEY FEATURES

  • AutoChart Live programming for instantaneous feedback
  • Side and down imaging capabilities for greater image depth
  • Crystal precise imaging for streamlined usage

The Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS sonar should be ideal for those who fish in a kayak tournament league and find themselves on various bodies of water in 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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Many anglers should find significant value in the Humminbird Helix 5 CHIRP’s AutoChart Live programming. This program allows you to create custom maps of any lake instantaneously. Then, as you pilot your boat, information is automatically stored regarding lake bed contour, vegetation, and bottom hardness. This data can then be relied upon moving forward to provide you with the necessary information to make the most out of your time on the water.

Anglers can also upload any map that they desire through the use of the Humminbird Helix 5 CHIRP’s built-in SD card port. This allows anglers to access a near-infinite number of maps, which can be viewed through the unit’s interface.

The Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS technology is also notable for its use of both side and down imaging. Each of these two types of imaging provides different vantage points from which data is collected. Down imaging is primarily known for its crystal clear depiction of structure and high-resolution capabilities. The unit’s CHIRP sonar technology is also mainly impervious to foreign interference, which bolsters the Helix 5’s reliability.


What Should I Look For When Buying Fish Finders for Kayak  


Portable or Permanent Fish Finder

When selecting the best fish finder for kayak to purchase, one must first determine whether a portable or permanent fish finder is right for them. While a permanent fish finder tends to be more technologically advanced, it cannot be easily swapped from one kayak to the next, if the need should arise.

Screen Size

The larger a fish finder’s display screen, the simpler deciphering an image becomes. While a small portable fish finder for kayak is highly versatile, it often features scenes of much smaller dimensions, many of which can be difficult to read.

Screen Quality

The quality of the image that a kayak 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

The best fish finder for kayak 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

A GPS-equipped kayak fish finder can be indispensable, as it allows 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.

Transducers

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.

Power

The power rating of a kayak 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.

Water Resistance

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 kayak 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.

Price 

Fish finders are available at virtually any price, from $50 to 5,000 dollars. The best kayak fish finder 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


Structure Fishing

When structure fishing, or covering large expanses of water, the use of a GPS-equipped kayak 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.

Shallow Fishing

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

Is a fish finder worth it on a kayak?

For serious kayak anglers, a fish finder comes as a worthy purchase. The best fish finder for kayak allows you to make more efficient use of your time on the water, which typically equates to a better overall catch. A GPS-equipped kayak fish finder 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.

How will you connect the transducer to your kayak?

There are several ways that a fish finder for kayak can be mounted. For example, 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 transducer over the side of the kayak with any number of specialty mounting products.

How much mounting space?

It is often difficult to find enough surface area to mount a fish finder display within a kayak. However, numerous fish finders for kayaks mounts have been released over the past several years, in both universal and model-specific forms. These mounts make it possible to affix the best kayak fish finder display in many different ways.

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.

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, small portable fish finders for kayaks have recently drawn their power from small rechargeable or disposable battery packs.

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 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.