Best Kayak Fish Finder: 2020 Buying Guide
One of the biggest problems kayak fishermen face while fishing is getting a bite. Kayak fishing is great exercise, but the goal is obviously to hook a fish. You can have all the skills and equipment necessary, a great fishing kayak, but more often than not still leave the waters empty-handed. This is especially true for predatory species like musky and king salmon. So what’s the trick?
Luckily, there’s a handy little tool that actually helps in locating fish, aptly named the “fish finder”.
A portable fish finder is what every kayak fisherman needs. This handy tool provides anglers all the relevant information needed to catch fish, including their hiding locations and the water’s depth/temperature. Having side imaging capability is also an added bonus when fishing from a kayak.
If you’re searching for the best kayak fish finder, you’ve come to the right place!
Here are our top selections for the best kayak fish finder sure to satisfy even the most selective angler. We’ve also included a buying guide to help you choose.
Let’s dive right in!
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
Best Overall: Garmin Striker 4
Garmin is well-known for its high-tech smartwatches and GPS systems. If you’re looking for a reliable fish finder while kayaking, the Striker 4 is an excellent option to consider.
This device is small yet powerful. It’s packed with features that make it one of the best fish finders in the market.
Its portable and easy-to-mount design makes it perfect for impromptu kayaking without having to worry about tricky installations.
The Striker 4 comes in three different display sizes: 3.5, 5, and 7 inches. It features a high-frequency sonar that provides users a full-color display of detailed representations of objects, structures, and fish that swim around your boat. It’s also a side imaging fish finder, which is extremely useful.
Equipped with a keypad-styled interface and navigation, control is achieved with the mere click of a button. With its meticulously designed hardware, you’ll have full access to all the necessary data needed while fishing, including weather conditions. You can even share it with other Striker users!
Its built-in GPS allows you to easily navigate to locations, such as brush piles, stumps, and docks, all with the use of Striker 4’s waypoint map.
Another feature we like is the Garmin CHIRP 77/200 kHz transducer. This system continuously sweeps frequencies with a higher level of clarity and detail for fish, compared to traditional models.
This fish finder’s maximum depth reaches up to 1,600 ft for freshwater, and 750 ft for saltwater. Its built-in flasher function makes it easy to see the bottom, including any relevant speed data.
Striker 4 is easily one of the most popular fish finders in the market. With all its features coming at a wonderful price, it’s no wonder it’s so well-loved.
What We Liked
- Simple but intuitive interface
- Functions very well when reading depth and foot accuracy
- Has a clear display with good contrast and little glare
- Great for kayaking and ice fishing
- Device’s built-in flasher is excellent for vertical jigging
What We Didn’t Like
- Screen/keyboard unit isn’t waterproof
- Needs to be connected to a 12v battery supply for it to run continuously
Most Affordable: LUCKY Handheld Portable Fishing Kayak Fish Finder
If you’re looking for an affordable, bang for the buck, quality kayak fish finder, look no further than the LUCKY Fish Finder. This device greatly demonstrates that you don’t need to spend a fortune to add to your kayaking adventures.
This portable fish finder helps you by distinguishing the depth of the water and the inexact area of the fish, including any stones and sand on the base of the water body.
The Lucky Fish Finder’s transducer can be connected to the side of your fishing kayak, on the water’s surface by using the included float or attached to a post.
Included in this device is a 25-foot cable that can be connected to the aforementioned transducer to where you find it most convenient. You can even hang it around your neck if you prefer.
Depth-wise, this kayak fish finder scans up to 328 feet below the fishing sonar transducer. It includes 5 modes of sensitivity options, including set alarms for either individual fish or schools of fish. It would run for 4-5 continuous hours with battery saver mode on.
With a 2-inch anti-UV LCD display with backlighting, a 1.81-inch diameter transducer sensor, and a sensor temperature operation with a 200Khz sonar frequency, this device has everything you’d need for a trip to the sea.
What We Liked
- Accurately reads fish location
- Flexible and can be mounted practically anywhere in your boat
- Wide sensor range
- Easy setup
- 12 months warranty
- Can be used in a variety of fishing environments, including offshore fishing, kayak fishing, ice fishing, lake fishing, to name a few
- Great value for the money
What We Didn’t Like
- Handheld isn’t waterproof
- The screen can be small for some users
Best Professional Fish Finder: Deeper PRO Portable Wireless Wi-Fi Fish Finder
Although the Deeper Pro+ Fish Finder is a little more expensive compared to some of the other devices on this list, its features make up for the extra dollars you’ll be paying.
This device is all about power and versatility. The PRO+ provides extremely fast data transfer and reliable connectivity with the use of Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth, to connect to your smartphone.
Its transducer sends 15 scans per second with a target separation of just 1″, and has a casting range of 330 ft.
The Fish Deeper app saves every scan and map and is even available on any computer by using Lakebook. This allows you to create a detailed record of every fish location you’ve visited.
This device scans down to 260 ft, with a 0.5″ target separation, and has a dual broad/narrow beam. All these features will help you gauge the map’s depth and find structures, such as vegetation area and water’s bottom contour, hardness, and consistency.
Another great thing about this kayak fish finder is that it’s the only fish finder on the market capable of drawing a bathymetric map while onshore. It’s still definitely suitable, however, for walleye ice fishing, kayak fishing, and boat fishing.
With its built-in GPS system and incredibly impressive spec sonar unit, it easily provides one of the most reliable connectivity of all fish finders in the market.
What We Liked
- No internet needed to operate
- Provides information, such as humps, depressions, and marginal shelves to aid in locating fish
- Adjustable sensitivity
- Connects to all smartphones
- Accurate GPS sensor
- Wi-Fi range is excellent
What We Didn’t Like
- A little pricey
- Battery life isn’t the best
- You need a larger reel to hold the heavy mono line
Best Sensor Accuracy: HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder
The HawkEye Fishtrax is great for beginner anglers who are looking to haul a decent catch. It helps depict sonar data in easy-to-read variables and comes with adjustable 5-level sensitivity, audible fish alarm, and backlit display for fishing at night.
It’s equipped with an intelligent sonar that allows users to configure and adjust the device to their liking, and a multi-level depth range.
It also helps that it has an auto-zoom ground tracking feature and 2 airwave frequencies to further fine-tune its sonar readings in both shallow or deep water.
The LCD that comes with this kayak fish finder includes a full-color, high-definition TFTN display that includes bottom landscape imaging. Additionally, it features 3 functional modules that give out a real-time view of sonar echoes: The Fish Finger, Data, and Ice-Mode Digital Flasher.
The Fishtrax 1C’s algorithmic software programming reduces the risk of incorrect measurements and delivers precise fish finder readings up to 240 ft.
The HawkEye company comes with a 24-month warranty to ensure you’re getting the best from their product.
What We Liked
- It comes 200 kHz sonar technology, which accurately scans the location of fish
- Easy setup
- 100-level sensitivity adjustment allows you to fine-tune your reading exactly to your liking
- Has an audible alarm for fish detection
- Comes with a 30 ft cord
- Fairly inexpensive
What We Didn’t Like
- The numbers on the screen could be larger
- The case is made of black plastic, which absorbs heat and becomes hot to the touch when used on a particularly sunny afternoon
Best Color Screen Display: Humminbird HELIX 5 Fish Finder
It’s no surprise that the Humminbird HELIX 5 makes it on the list of best kayak fish finders. Packed with features that are unique to the Humminbird brand, this fish finder certainly doesn’t disappoint.
First, let’s talk about what stands out the most in the Helix 5: its uncompromising widescreen color display. The 800×480 pixel 5-inch screen gives you a clear, detailed view of the ocean below.
On the off-chance that you need to save waypoints and hotspots, the Helix 5 includes an SD card option to utilize, which permits you to visit the same spot later on. This fish finder’s target separation is 2.5 inches.
The imaging sonar inside this kayak fish finder gives you a clear view of the sea or lake bottom, allowing you to survey the length and profound depth of the waters underneath with precision.
For usability, this fish finder accompanies a transducer just as mounting equipment.
A Humminbird Basecamp has been incorporated with this fish finder, including GPS mapping and live auto chart feeds, with built-in Anima cartography.
These features will significantly assist users to fish with ease, and it also presents all the relevant information needed before venturing out to the sea.
Best of all? This product includes mounting hardware, transducer, power cable, and gimbal mounting bracket, so you won’t need to purchase it separately.
What We Liked
- Powerful output RMS of 500W for increased battery life
- 5 levels of brightness for the display
- Comes with a micro-SD card slot
- High-definition display with exceptional graphics
- Scans depths of up to 1,500 feet
- Allows side-by-side imaging
What We Didn’t Like
- Because of all the features it has, set up can be a little confusing
- Mapping software must be added via SD card
Things to Consider When Buying a Fish Finder
It’s a good idea to narrow down your options when searching for a fish finder. Here are some factors to consider.
Kayak’s Mounting Space
Before anything, you’ll need to closely think about the space you have available on your fishing kayak.
It’s vital to find a fish finder that permits you to set your device upon an apparatus. Your kayak’s gear tracks are often a good spot to mount a fish finder on. You may likewise mount it someplace on your kayak where you can easily view and access it.
Determining if you have enough room to accommodate your fish finder will also help you decide which format and screen size to purchase.
You might need to invest a couple of bucks into a bigger screen if you own a larger kayak, as it may be a bit difficult to read the information shown on a fish finder if you’re sat opposite the device.
Fishing becomes simpler and more enjoyable when a kayak fish finder is portable.
A portable device permits you to check your data without having to worry about disconnecting it from a power source. When riding a kayak, especially, with all its restricted space, completing things in a snap is fundamental.
A lot of companies include nifty little features with their fish finders. Present-day innovation allows you to connect your fish finder with your smartphone, just like the Deeper PRO Portable Wireless Wi-Fi Fish Finder, or through a built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity.
There are likewise fish finders that permit you to explore the waters with the GPS of your handset.
The size of the unit is additionally what makes the fish finder portable. You may choose ultra-versatile units that are compact and some with sizes that can fit in your pocket, but everything relies upon which size is suitable for you. We recommend the more portable fish finders for inshore kayaks.
It’s recommended to search for a fish finder that has a built-in GPS system in the device. This feature won’t only help you track and locate fish much easier, but it’ll also encourage you to explore the waters without worries.
It also helps prevent getting lost while cruising over the water to locate your ideal fishing spots.
Some fish finders permit you to save your waypoints and fishing hotspots. They’ll even assist you with finding your way back to the main dock.
A fish discoverer with GPS would be a solid purchase. Yet, it may come at a higher price point compared to those units with preloaded maps only.
The longer your battery lasts, the better.
You certainly don’t need your finder to die while in the midst of fishing and miss a perfect catch!
Before buying a fish finder, make sure it’s powered by at least 12V of battery to ensure that you’ll have enough battery to keep your finder going.
Some fish finders are powered by motors instead of a removable battery, which are generally perfect for motorboats, but definitely not ideal for kayak fishing.
With today’s technology, you’ll find fish finder scanners reaching depths of over 1,000 ft.
This isn’t to say you specifically need to buy a device that reaches this depth. But we’d recommend you buy one that scans at least 250 ft to increase your chances of taking home a nice catch.
Resistance to Climate
Since you’ll be out in the water constantly, it’s important to know whether a fish finder is impervious to specific conditions. The climate could be extremely unpredictable and we wouldn’t want to end up with a faulty gadget after just a couple of uses.
It’s wise to invest in a heavy-duty fish finder that can withstand rough conditions, especially from water and residue, such as dust and pollen.
It’s a good idea to consider buying a protective case or gear for your kayak fish finder to protect the device from splashes of water.
The total cost of a fish finder is commonly based upon the brand, features, and additional highlights installed in the device.
This is why buyers need to know what essential features they need and what would be most advantageous when kayak fishing.
Fish finders come in a variety of prices. You’ll find some that cost $30, and others that cost $500. Fortunately, there are affordable fish finders that don’t compromise the overall quality of the device.
However, with the more expensive fish finders, they’re almost always much more durable than the low-priced once. This will eventually save you from paying more for replacements or repairs in the long run.
If you don’t mind paying a few extra dollars, it’ll be a good idea to invest in a fish finder with extra mileage, a better quality screen, built-in Wi-Fi, and a powerful quad-core processor that’ll deliver information without a second’s delay.
Want to learn more about fish finders? Below is a common list of questions asked by customers looking to purchase, or already own, a fish finder.
What is the transducer?
A transducer is a system found in a fish finder that utilizes sonar innovation. This feature produces and conveys sound waves or signals that ricochet back to the fish finder.
It allows the fish finder to then assess and decipher the gathered information that’ll enable users to know where the fish are. Information also includes the state of everything that’s beneath the surface of the water like vegetation and sea-life, for example.
This framework aids you to look for the best fishing spots while maintaining a strategic distance from any expected dangers.
Are fish finders waterproof?
The transducer of a fish finder is waterproof. The fish finder itself, however, isn’t waterproof. Some models are water-resistant, but it’s not always true every single fish finder out there. They aren’t intended to work in full water submersion.
As you’ll be out in the water constantly as you go fishing, it’s advisable to consider purchasing a waterproof casing to secure your gadget.
What screen size is ideal for kayak fishing?
Any fishfinder with a screen size of more than 5 inches isn’t practical or advisable. It would be excessively burdensome for a kayak that has restricted space.
The perfect screen size for little kayaks is 3.5 to 4 inches, while 5 inches will do on bigger kayaks.
What scanning depth should a kayak fish finder have?
It’s best to buy a fish finder with a scanning depth of at least 250 ft – 500 ft if you’re only exploring and fishing in shallow waters. This measurement wouldn’t be sufficient, however, for deeper bodies of water.
The sweet spot is 500 ft for shallow and deep water, but that’s just our personal recommendation. Decide where you’d like to fish and choose accordingly. It all really depends upon personal choice.
The popularity of kayak fishing has steadily grown over the years. From the quiet solitude it brings to its increased access to the shoreline, many anglers are looking to try their hand in kayak fishing.
This experience is further amplified by the use of fish finders. With the aid of these devices and just a bit of skill, you’re sure to nail the perfect catch the next time you’re going kayak fishing.
If we had to choose, our favorite fish finder is undoubtedly the Garmin Striker 4.
The Garmin Striker 4 has everything you’re looking for in a fish finder, including some other features that aren’t found at the same price point. An example is its insane sensor that scans up to 1,600 ft and powerful high-frequency sonar.
This device isn’t waterproof, but to be fair, a lot of other higher-end fish finders aren’t, as well.
If you don’t mind paying a little extra, consider the Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar Fish Finder. It has a ton of features that aren’t found in the aforementioned model.