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
Garmin Striker 4 Fish Finder
The Garmin Striker 4 is a hugely popular fish finder with CHIRP sonar and transducer. And that comes as no surprise, considering how much is packed into this compact, powerful, and highly portable unit.
The Clear-VU scanning shows more of what is around your craft, which offers near-photo quality renditions of fish, terrain, objects, and underwater structures.
Very easy to install, with keyed interface and user-friendly operating system, it has a waterproof rating of IPX7, and is housed in a durable unit that’s built-to-last.
A waypoint map allows you to easily navigate and mark locations of note, and it offers a maximum depth of 1,600 feet in freshwater and 750 feet in saltwater.
- Highly portable fish finder.
- Great price point.
- GPS included.
- Built-in flasher for ice fishing.
- Very highly rated.
- Not easy to read in bright conditions or direct sunlight.
There’s a lot packed into this Garmin Striker fish finder, and the size makes it a truly awesome option for kayak and small boat fishing. Heck, you could probably rig it up on one of these compact fishing float tubes, too! One of the best kayak fish finders available – especially for the money.
Lowrance HOOK2 5 Fish Finder
Lowrance is a by-word for quality fish finders, offering some of the best sonar devices in the world.
Their HOOK 2 model is one such option, available in a choice of sizes – but the five-inch machine is probably the best for use in a fishing kayak.
With a TripleShot transducer and US inland lake maps pre-installed, it’s very user-friendly, with phone-like menus and auto-tuning SONAR, so you spend more time fishing and less time messing around with buttons.
A wide CHIRP SONAR cone provides double the coverage of most fish finders – including side imaging – and the SolarMax display gives crisp, clear feedback with excellent visibility in daylight.
And a GPS plotter allows you to add waypoints and navigate the waters you’re fishing as you go.
- Name to trust.
- Super-simple user interface.
- Down, side, and CHIRP SONAR functions.
- Bright, vivid screen.
- Shows larger fish arches.
- Perfect for limited console space.
- Reports of some issues with the transducer bracket.
- One of the more expensive fish finders.
The Lowrance Hook 2 range of fish finders are very popular in the community, and the five-inch version is ideal if you’re a kayak angler.
But it’s probably that super-simple user interface that makes this a solid contender for the best fish finder there is. Even the technophobes should be able to have a successful fishing trip with this!
Vexilar SP200 T-Box Smartphone Fish Finder
A company that’s known for making some of the best ice fishing finders on the market, Vexilar have created one of the most portable fish finders available – because you’re already carrying it!
This ingenious device turns your smartphone into a fish finder, capable of a maximum depth of 240 feet, that’s every bit as easy to install as a permanently-mounted accessory.
Perfect for use with fishing kayaks, it offers audible alarms for fish, shallow conditions, and low battery, and is able to work anywhere in the world.
All you need is a 12-Volt power supply and a smartphone with compatible OS, and you’re good to go.
- Probably the most portable fish finder out there.
- No cellular service required.
- Water temperature and depth indicator.
- Easy to install.
- Neoprene armband for smartphone.
- Free app download.
- Low resolution images.
- Gain adjustment can be problematic.
If you’re a kayak fishing angler that just happens to be interested in the latest gadgets and gizmos, this could well be the option for you.
Easily the best portable fish finder available, but it might be a good idea to invest in a waterproof phone case for extra peace of mind.
Garmin EchoMap Fish Finder
Another Garmin entry now from the GPS experts, this is their Echomap fish finder and transducer that offers key-assisted touch-screen capabilities.
The super-bright, sunlight-readable screen is nine inches in size, which is a great sweet-spot for the center console for a kayak angler.
Over 17,000 US lakes are covered with the pre-installed software, and it includes a GT54 transducer for ultra-high-definition reads, CHIRP and side-view SONAR capabilities.
Create personalized fishing maps with one-inch contours, which you can then share with the community if you choose. It’s even compatible with the Force trolling motor, which allows you to control the motor from the unit. What will they think of next?
- Market leading fish finder.
- Super-clear visuals.
- Side imaging.
- Excellent target separation.
- Quick-release bail mount.
- Compared to other fish finders, this is on the more expensive side.
Sure, it might be a little pricey, but this is a top-drawer kayak fish finder from Garmin that comes with all the bells and whistles – and that super-bright screen is really useful when the sun’s out.
And speaking of, you should be wearing a protective fishing hat to keep those UV rays at bay.
LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder
Let’s dive to the other end of the price spectrum now with the Lucky portable fishing sonar. The compact unit comes with a sonar transducer and is capable of displaying water depth, approximate fish location, short and tall weeds, as well as any sand and rocks on the bottom.
A castable fish finder, the device is capable of a 45-degree cone underwater, with a maximum range of 328 feet, and has 25 feet of SONAR cable.
Offering five sensitivity modes, a fish alarm, depth and battery strength indicators, and backlight mode; the Lucky fish finder is all you need for your fishing trip – particularly for kayak anglers.
- Outstanding price point.
- Depth finder.
- Ideal for shallow water.
- Portable and lightweight.
- Weed detector.
- Fish alarm.
- Suitable for ice fishing.
- One of the best fish finders for kayaks.
- Limited battery use on four AAA batteries.
- No CHIRP sonar data available.
Probably the best cheap fish finder for kayaking you can buy, this is a popular and easy-to-use SONAR system that is all you need for giving you the extra edge when you’re out on the water. And it’s also available in a rechargeable model, too.
Humminbird PiranhaMAX 4 DI Fishfinder
It wouldn’t be an article about SONAR technology without arguably the most popular fish finder company there is.
Humminbird has developed a loyal and dedicated following thanks to their world-class products, and the PiranhaMAX4 has been specially designed for kayaks and small fishing craft.
The dual beam SONAR allows you to choose the size of your cone, which helps you identify what’s going on under the water, and the down imaging gives you a crystal-clear view directly below your boat.
A bright LED screen is easy-to-read and offers a full color display for reading the water depth up to 600 feet, while the interface itself is very easy-to-use.
- Affordable price.
- Name to trust.
- Super-sharp visuals.
- Tilt and swivel mounting system.
- Fish ID and alarms.
- Zoom function.
- No GPS functions.
- No side imaging.
An ideal fish finder for taking out on one of these awesome river fishing kayaks, the compact size and easy-mounting options make it perfect for kayak fishing. Aside from that, it’s just a really solid unit all round.
Venterior Portable Fish Finder
This handy little device is a fully rechargeable, compact fish finder that features a rather clever wireless transducer.
Simply attach some fishing line and allow it to float out onto the water – or cast it further if you so choose. It’ll then work its magic, bouncing a signal back to the portable unit, to give you temperature and depth information, as well as fish sizes and depth, and bottom contour.
Able to be read in bright sunlight, the display is clear and colorful, and you’ll be able to get a reading up to a maximum depth of 131 feet.
Perfect for a fishing kayak, or if you just want one of the most accessible SONAR devices available.
- Castable fish finder.
- Highly rated.
- Charging cables and neck strap.
- Choice of background colors.
- Easy-to-read screen.
- The unit is not waterproof – be careful.
An absolutely brilliant kayak fish finder that is extremely effective and highly portable. Stick it in one of these practical kayak fishing tackle boxes the next time you set out – and see how much it raises your game.
Lowrance HDS-7 LIVE Fish Finder
This Lowrance fish finder is up there with the most advanced technology on the market, offering extraordinary fish finding capabilities.
It allows you to view two CHIRP SONAR readings at the same time, to give you the best possible view around and under your craft.
It features a dual-core processor, to ensure it’s a superfast unit with plenty of power to update quickly and accurately, with a dynamic color range and high visibility contrast on screen.
Identify objects and structures easily with near-photographic image quality, and you can navigate the channels faster with automatic route planning that auto-plots the shortest and safest course based on your vessel’s draft, beam, and height.
This is some next-level tech from Lowrance right here.
- Powerful, accurate images.
- Live, on-screen mapping.
- Preloaded US map charts.
- SolarMAX HD screen for bright sunlight.
- Wireless and Bluetooth connectivity.
A seriously advanced piece of kit, this is an excellent fish finder you can use on your kayak, boat, pontoon, or whatever you happen to be rocking. I think the seven-inch option I’ve included here is the best size for a kayak fish finder, but there are a range of sizes available.
Humminbird Helix 5 Fish Finder
This Humminbird fish finder is actually offered at a comparatively good price considering what you get – and should be more than enough for most kayak anglers.
It’s packed with features, including a five-inch full color display, with CHIRP technology that filters out noise for a much clearer view all around and below your kayak.
See beautiful, razor-sharp images to help identify fish, with a dual beam option for a wider search area, or to focus for more precision.
GPS mapping, AutoChart Live and Humminbird Base map are all on hand to help you navigate the waters and plot your course, with a transducer, power cable, and gimbal mounting bracket all included.
- Large, sharp display.
- Create real-time maps.
- Two display modes.
- Enhanced base map.
- Backlight for bright conditions.
- The map plotting isn’t the best.
You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck here – even if it is more expensive than the smaller, cheap fish finder models in the review. If you’re looking to seriously improve your kayak fishing success – this might well be the way to do it.
Humminbird APEX 16 Mega SI+ Fish Finder
If you’re looking for the latest and greatest kayak fish finder technology, then look no further than the brand-new Hummingbird APEX series.
Offering the sharpest imaging fish finder on the market, Humminbird has blown everything else out of the water. With a 15.6-inch, full-color display, you’ll be able to see everything, thanks to the MEGA side imaging+, MEGA down imaging+, and the dual spectrum CHIRP sonar.
It also includes charts of more than 10,000 lakes and coastal coverage for the continental US.
Fully customizable, it might be a bit large to truly be the best kayak fish finder, but for anyone with a larger craft, this is going to make fish finding a breeze.
- Up there with the best imaging fish finder money can buy.
- Wireless Bluetooth connectivity.
- High speed Ethernet.
- Internal GPS basemap.
- Live, real-time maps.
- Endless upgrades available.
- Advanced, crystal-clear display.
- Very expensive.
- Can be difficult to get hold of.
- Too large for smaller kayaks.
While you are going to need a larger craft, this is still an absolutely stunning fish finder for kayak angling. If you like your gadgets big, bold, and easy-to-read – then this is the one for you.
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!