Technology is great, isn’t it?
There are some truly incredible inventions out there to help make life easier – and they’re getting better all the time.
As little as 20 years ago, you’d never have dreamed that one day you’d be catching fish with a personal SONAR device on your kayak.
That stuff was only meant for submarines!
But here they are – the best fishing finders for kayaks in 2023. Nemo has nowhere to hide.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
- The 10 Best Fish Finders for Kayaks in 2023
- Garmin Striker 4 Fish Finder
- Lowrance HOOK2 5 Fish Finder
- Vexilar SP200 T-Box Smartphone Fish Finder
- Garmin EchoMap Fish Finder
- LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder
- Humminbird PiranhaMAX 4 DI Fishfinder
- Venterior Portable Fish Finder
- Lowrance HDS-7 LIVE Fish Finder
- Humminbird Helix 5 Fish Finder
- Humminbird APEX 16 Mega SI+ Fish Finder
- How to Choose the Best Kayak Fish Finder
- Why should you consider a fish finder in your kayak?
- Do I need a kayak fish finder?
- Where should a kayak fish finder be placed?
- Should I use a portable or permanent fish finder?
- How well do fishing finders work?
- Can you put a fish finder on a kayak?
- How does a fish finder work on a kayak?
- What are the best fish finder manufacturers?
- Are fish finders waterproof?
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The 10 Best Fish Finders for Kayaks in 2023
How to Choose the Best Kayak Fish Finder
Fish finder technology can be a little tricky to get your head around – even for more experienced anglers.
Read on for a buyer’s guide to help you wade through all the babble – and hopefully help you find the right finder of fish for you.
How a Fish Finder Works
Fish finders use SONAR technology to help locate and identify what is going on in those underwater realms that are far from our prying eyes.
Short for Sound Navigation and Ranging, it’s exactly the same technology that has been used by submarines since WW1, and an early form of it was invented by naval architect Lewis Nixon in 1906.
Scanning sonar sends soundwave pulses into the water – often referred to as ‘pings’ – and these bounce back off any obstacles, terrain, or structures that happen to be down there.
This information is then translated into readable data, and you can accurately find where the little critters are hanging out, as well as identifying any hazards, vegetation, or any other structure and obstacle under the water.
Advantages of Fish Finders
There are several advantages for adding a good kayak fish finder to your setup – the most obvious being that they help you find fish.
And if you can pinpoint fish, then you’ll enjoy more successful fishing trips, and a well-stocked freezer to boot!
Aside from that, they can also be useful for locating and navigating around underwater hazards, creating your own fishing routes and plotting courses, adding points of interest, using GPS tracking, and more.
You need to make sure your chosen fish finder has all these capabilities, though – as not every model is equal.
A transducer is the device that you lower into the water – or mount somewhere on the hull of your craft – that will send signals to your fish finder unit for what is located in the water column below.
How wide this column is will depend on the strength and quality of the transducer – as well as your own settings on the device.
More powerful transducers will be able to identify and read underwater activity and terrain more clearly and accurately.
Some transducers will also be castable, enabling you to get a sense of what is happening further away from your craft.
They can also be lowered through scupper holes in the hull, which makes them excellent fish finders for kayaks.
Transducers are popular for ice fishing, given that you can clearly see the water column below the hole, which you will likely have made with one of these powerful ice augers.
They are still a useful addition to craft on the move, as it’s good to see and know what’s directly under your kayak as well as what lurks at the sides.
It’s not just about seeing what’s in the column directly below your boat, and most kayak anglers like to have a wider reach when it comes to underwater activity.
Dual beam sonar, for example, offers two readings – one is a column directly below the boat (which is useful for reading deep water), and a second reading that provides side imagining around the boat.
Rather than write pages of waffle on a subject I don’t profess myself to be an expert in, you should check out the informative video below, which will tell you everything you need to know on how SONAR works.
And – most importantly – how it helps us catch fish.
CHIRP Sonar Technology
Compressed High Intensity Radar Pulse. That’s what CHIRP stands for.
This is the next level of SONAR capabilities, and you’ll only find it on the high-end models out there and in the review above.
It works by sending out a range of frequencies to give a far more accurate reading than a device that relies on a single frequency alone.
As such, you’ll enjoy the significant benefits of detailed underwater readouts all around your vessel – but at a price.
If this is important to you, look for devices that have CHIRP capabilities, as they make for the best fish finder technology available.
Frequency and Depth
The higher the fish finder frequency, the more powerful the device will be, thus significantly improving accuracy when it comes to locating your next meal.
The maximum depth figure is exactly that – how far down a fish finder is able to achieve readings. Remember, this is going to be a higher number in fresh than it is in saltwater.
You don’t need the technology to see right to the bottom of the ocean when you’re fishing from a kayak – a couple of hundred feet should be more than adequate.
But if you do want to fish larger and deeper bodies of water in a kayak, then get yourself a fish finder that’s capable of hitting the depths you need.
And don’t forget to wear a good quality fishing PFD – no matter how deep the water is.
Power and Portability
Something that can be overlooked is how a fish finder is powered.
And the more powerful the fish finder, the larger the battery pack required.
This can put a serious dent in how portable the unit is, and, ultimately, how portable and efficient you and your craft will be.
Remember, you need to find the room to store battery packs if you’re using a very powerful device – which can cause issues when you’re tight on space.
And if you’re using more compact devices, you should consider if they require batteries, or if they’re rechargeable. The last thing you want is an expensive device dying on you when you’re in the middle of your hunt.
Display and Definition
HD screens are obviously the best visuals you’re going to get from your fish finder, offering the sharpest display and clearest target definition when it comes to those sneaky fish.
The screen size will play a part too, but having a jumbo HD fish finder isn’t always practical – especially if you’re using more compact craft, like these awesome 10-foot fishing kayaks, for example.
You’re probably best using fish finders with giant displays on larger pedal kayaks, which are going to be more accommodating when it comes to gear, equipment and accessories.
The very best image technology on your fish finder will cost you more, but there’s no reason lower-priced units can’t achieve similar results.
Having a Global Positioning System on your craft is a very useful addition to your setup – especially if you tend to stray into unfamiliar waters.
The very best fish finders will come with GPS included, enabling you to access at-a-glance maps of thousands of lakes, rivers, and watercourses.
A GPS enabled fish finder is great for adding and navigating your own routes, as well as being able to tell you exactly where on earth you are if you get lost.
Ease of Use/Mounting
Good kayak fish finders should be easy to fix on your kayak, and the best will come with the right fish finder mount to do just that.
And once they have been positioned correctly, you should make sure they’re readable, easy to reach and adjust, and won’t get in the way of your fishing.
Look for devices that specify how to attach them to accessory rails and/or mounts. And check out this review of the best kayak brands to find some great options on mounting hardware and accessories from YakAttack.
Alternatively, you might not want to mount anything at all, and you should go with more portable fish finders, such as one you can simply keep in your pocket.
The best fish finder should be capable of at least keeping the weather at bay – given the nature of the activity you’re involved in.
Look for units that are waterproof or water-resistant to a high level. This will usually be confirmed with an IP rating. The higher the water number, the more waterproof the device will be.
If you are concerned about protecting the device from liquids, consider covering the unit with a waterproof case, or – in a pinch – a ziplock bag.
The latest and best fish finder technology doesn’t come cheap, and you can spend a small fortune on some of these devices that the US Navy would be thankful for.
That said, there are deals to be had, and you should always try and stick to your budget.
Remember, some traditional anglers see using fish finders as cheating anyway – so you don’t actually need one – they’re just really useful if you want to catch more fish.
Which makes a good model a sound investment over the years – when you look at how much money you could potentially save on food with a well stocked freezer every season.
Always buy the best you can afford, and consider how much you’re actually going to use it before parting with the big bucks.
Why should you consider a fish finder in your kayak?
Fish finders will certainly give you the edge when it comes to achieving more success out there on the water, and they can make a fun and practical inclusion as part of your kayak setup.
They’re also useful for GPS and navigation – should they offer those features.
Do I need a kayak fish finder?
No – you don’t need a kayak fish finder. You’re perfectly fine just going about your usual fishing practices and catching fish on skill and guesswork.
Just don’t be surprised if your mate Jeff comes back with a fishmonger’s worth of haul because he’s using one, and you’re not.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Where should a kayak fish finder be placed?
Somewhere within easy reach where you can access the controls – and actually see the display.
For most kayaks, this will be directly in front of you, most likely in the center console. The best fish finders for kayaks will be easy to mount, and the best fishing kayak will come with a designated place to mount them.
Just make sure it’s not going to get in the way of your paddling or casting, and if you’re using a pedal kayak, somewhere on the gunwale (kayak side) is probably best.
Should I use a portable or permanent fish finder?
That’s up to you. One isn’t any better than the other (it just depends on the quality of the device) and you should decide based on how portable you want it to be.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but if you choose to mount a permanent fish finder – it’s a good idea to make sure it has the capability to be removed easily – as you don’t really want to be leaving a $1000 piece of tech on there full time.
How well do fishing finders work?
Very well indeed. It’s a technology that humankind has pretty much perfected by now.
Obviously, it depends on the quality and power of each individual fish finder, but for the most part, these things are all but guaranteed to help you catch more fish – providing you’re reading them correctly.
Can you put a fish finder on a kayak?
Yes. At least, I think so. Otherwise, I’m not sure what I’ve been waffling on about in this whole article.
How does a fish finder work on a kayak?
The same way it works on any other vessel, craft, boat, or starship. It uses SONAR to ping sound waves into the water, and the findings are bounced back to the on-board unit or device, then translated into readable data.
See the buyer’s guide above and videos for more information – and you can always research how SONAR works for in-depth tutorials – it’s really quite clever.
What are the best fish finder manufacturers?
There are several choices when it comes to fish finder brands, but the market leaders include (in no particular order) Garmin, Humminbird, Lowrance, Raymarine, Vexilar, and SIMRAD.
Are fish finders waterproof?
It depends on the fish finder. A rating of IPX7 seems to be the industry standard for the higher-end devices. This means that it can be held underwater for around 30 minutes without being compromised.
However, I wouldn’t advise trying it, and always double-check the waterproof rating when using a fish finder for kayak fishing.
The latest SONAR technology allows us to see the murky depths better than ever before, and ensures there’s no place to hide for our quarry.
I hope this article has helped you locate the best fish finder for kayaks in 2023, and you’ll be armed to the teeth with scanning sonar tech the next time you venture out.
Here’s to tight lines and fully stocked freezers!