The Best Kayak Fish Finder – Our Top Recommendations
Garmin Striker 4 (Top Choice for Kayakers)
Humminbird HELIX 7 G3 (Best Kayak Fish Finder for Precision Imaging)
Venterior Portable Fish Finder (Best Value Kayak Fish Finder)
Let’s be honest. When you first got your kayak, the next logical step was to pick up kayak fishing. And, as soon as you did, you were hooked.
There’s something inherently exciting about close-quarters fishing that most anglers can’t seem to get enough of. You just never know what you might pull up.
You now want to kick things up a notch and take it more seriously. You’re tired of catching tiny little fish, and now want to do it for sport.
To do this, you would need a foolproof way of knowing where to cast your line. That, dear readers, involves outfitting your boat with the best kayak fish finder. That’s how you turn it into a mean fish-catching beast.
With that in mind, this guide explores the top 5 fish finders on the market today, as well as some important guidelines on how to choose the best one.
How to Choose the Best Kayak Fish Finder – Buying Guide
With so many sophisticated fish finders on the market today, how do you choose the best one? Here are the important questions you need to ask to ensure that you’re getting the best gadget for the job.
How Deep Do You Intend to Fish?
The first thing you need to establish is how deep you intend to fish. This will advise the specific type of imaging sonar to get. If you’re on the hunt for deep-water fish, you need a fish finder that uses down-imaging sonar to get the best view of what lies beneath the boat. Transducers in these devices emit and direct sonar waves downward.
On the other hand, if you prefer to fish for bluegills, bass, and other shallow-water fish in ponds and shallow streams, then a side-imaging unit would be ideal. These types of fish finders rely on transducers to direct sonar waves to the sides of your boat.
Each of them has its distinct advantages and disadvantages. It all depends on where you’ll be fishing.
Pros of Down-Imaging Fish Finders
Here are some of the benefits of fish finders that use down-imaging sonar systems.
- They are more suited to finding fish in deep waters since they search along a vertical plane rather than a horizontal one.
- They produce clearer images even when kayaking at high speeds. This isn’t the case for side-imaging fish finders.
Cons of Down-Imaging Fish Finders
Here are the drawbacks you need to be aware of.
- Most down-imaging gadgets use only one transducer. As a result, they don’t capture as much information and often produce a low-resolution image.
- The data they provide isn’t as precise as that of side-imaging sonars. So, while they may tell you that there’s a big fish 15 feet deep, these systems won’t tell you if it is 20 yards to the left, right, or somewhere in between.
Pros of Side-Imaging Fish Finders
If you’re considering getting side-imaging sonar fish finders, here are the benefits they offer.
- Since they “look” at the water profile in two different directions, they allow you to scan the water faster. So, they cover double the area that down-imaging fish finders do.
- They offer a better point of view of the overall marine environment. So, if there’s a pile of rocks on either side of the boat, a side-imaging device would be able to display them as distinct rocks. Down-imaging finders, on the other hand, would display these as a single patch of rocks.
- Their orientation provides a better image, which makes them particularly useful for finding fish in bays and shallow creeks.
Cons of Side-Imaging Fish Finders
The drawbacks of side-imaging sonar systems include:
- They generally cost more than down-imaging systems, although they are worth the extra expense.
- Because they use side-imaging sonar, things beneath your boat won’t show up on the image. So, you might have to invest in a down-imaging fish finder if you’re also interested in what lies directly beneath you.
- These devices only produce optimal results if the boat is traveling at a low speed. They may not be effective if you’re trying to race across the river or lake to access a different potential fishing site.
Nonetheless, the fact that side-imaging fish finders can scan a greater area of water compensates for this drawback since it saves on time.
How Far From the Shore Do You Plan to Go?
If your fishing expeditions usually take you far from the shore, you might want to find a fish finder with a built-in GPS. While these devices have a slightly higher price point than conventional systems without an integrated GPS circuit, you will appreciate the capabilities they offer.
It’s always better to get a unit that combines both the sonar system and GPS, as opposed to getting a separate unit, since this would require additional space on your kayak to mount it.
How Much Space Do You Have on Your Boat?
Speaking of space, if you don’t have much room to spare on your fishing kayak, find a portable sonar unit that comes with a built-in float-style transducer. Once you toss the sensor in the water, it transmits the data wirelessly to your smartphone.
So, you’ll be able to view the fish, as well as any underwater structures and cover, right from your phone. You will, however, need to download a proprietary app to your device. Most of them are generally free of charge and work pretty well.
Keep in mind though that you need to tether it to the boat using a fishing line or some other attachment to prevent it from drifting away.
How Will You Mount the Transducer to Your Kayak?
Depending on the set up of your vessel, you need to find a transducer that fits the mount outfitted on your boat. Some are designed to be attached to the trolling motor, while others have to be stuck directly to the transom bottom.
Many modern yaks come with scupper holes that allow you to pass the device through the hull and attach it to the transom. So, inspect your kayak’s set up and find a device that is compatible with it.
What Power Source Do You Intend to Use?
Most of the fish finders you’ll come across are generally designed to connect to a 12-volt marine battery that’s usually enclosed in a waterproof box. Since space is a bit of a luxury in most fishing kayaks, you’ll barely have enough room to place a large battery.
To save on space, select one that has a portable battery. That way, it can transmit data to your phone while it is in the water.
If you have the budget for it, then go for a high-watt fish finder. They provide quicker readings, unlike the low-power variants that send sonar waves at a much slower rate. These aren’t very reliable, particularly if you intend to go deep-water fishing.
What Frequencies Does It Support?
The higher the frequency of the transducer, the clearer and more detailed the displayed picture will be. This is because it will be able to send out more sonar pulses at a time. Some fish finders can transmit frequencies that are as high as 400 kHz.
Is It Waterproof?
At the risk of stating the obvious, you need to ensure that the device you get is waterproof since you will, after all, be using it in the water. The last thing you need is to buy a fish finder that gets damaged the moment water splashes on it. A great brand should offer a reasonable amount of water resistance.
What Kind of Transducer Does It Have?
Last but certainly not least, you need to consider the type of transducer the device has. A high-quality transducer means high-quality signals, which in turn translates to accurate, precise, and clear on-screen images of the marine environment.
Do It Like the Pros
Now that you know what features and specs you should be looking for when buying the best kayak fish finder, you’re now ready to go pro. Pick one that fits your goals based on its functionality, and hit the water.
The products we’ve analyzed in this guide would be a great starting point. Don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it.
In the meantime, if you’re in the market for a motorized kayak, check out our buying guide and reviews for the best ones for 2020.