It can be difficult to tell the difference between the cheap fish finder that doesn’t show you anything and the thousand-dollar model used by commercial anglers. I have put together this article to explain everything you need to know to be able to select the best fish finder for kayaks. I have also put together a selection of the 10 best kayaking fish finders on the market at the moment.
As a shore fisherman, the thing you wished for since you were a little kid was trying to visualize what the bottom of the lake looked like. In modern times you can now use a fish finder to get a fish eye’s view of what’s actually happening below your kayak with Down Imaging technology.
Don’t worry. I have gone through the marketplace and drawn up this list of some amazing fish finders for kayaks at a reasonable price. If you are looking for some more information on what makes a fish finder good value for money then please read through this separate article.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- 1 Quick Summary – Best Kayak Fish Finders
- 2 Why Invest in a Kayaking Fish Finder?
- 3 Kayak Fish Finder Buying Guide
- 4 10 Best Fish Finders for Kayaks
- 4.1 1. Garmin Striker 4 GPS Fish Finder for Kayaks – Best Fish Finder GPS Combo
- 4.2 2. Deeper Pro Fish Finder for Kayaks with Smart Sonar – Castable Fish Finder
- 4.3 3. Lowrance HOOK2 4x Fish Finder
- 4.4 4. Humminbird HELIX 5 Fish Finder
- 4.5 5. iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder
- 4.6 6. Humminbird PiranhaMax 4 Fish Finder
- 4.7 7. Lucky Portable Fishing Sonar
- 4.8 8. Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro
- 4.9 9. HawkEye Fishtrax Fish Finder
- 4.10 10. Venterior Portable Fish Finder
- 5 Specification Comparison
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7 Wrapping up
Quick Summary – Best Kayak Fish Finders
Why Invest in a Kayaking Fish Finder?
Fish finders are devices used to seek and identify fish. As a result, Fish finders give you the options of seeing underwater structures, and viewing the depth, locations, and water temperature.
Let’s see what the other advantages of having a fish finder are:
- High-end fish finders come with GPS which shows the location of the kayak as it moves on the water. This is particularly useful if you are trying to reach a hot fishing spot and also in marking your current location if you find a good spot.
- It can be used in various water conditions, for example when raining, under ice fishing, on lakes, saltwater, and even on aggressive rivers.
- A temperature gauge is often included in the fish finder that is handy to improve your fishing results, especially during the spawning time. Some fish species are very sensitive to water temperature and knowing this will improve your fishing results.
- It will help you to find the structure, such as weed beds, timber, and holes as well as flat areas like sand flats.
- They are user-friendly and have easy-to-understand icons. Fish finders have evolved a lot over the last decade to the benefit of the angler.
Kayak Fish Finder Buying Guide
Let me take a wild guess, you have already thought that you going to miss some must-have features as your budget is pretty tight.
Here are some crucial factors that you should consider for good quality Fish Finders for Kayaks. Some of these criteria are must-haves and some are optional. But consider all of these features based on your own personal requirements.
Remember – the best fish finder for a commercial fisherman’s boat is not the same as the best for a kayaker. Pick the option that is right for you.
Read through our explanation of how a fish finder works for more details.
The display is the second most important feature of a fish finder. It contains the screen and the user interface.
A high resolution and sharp contrast make everything easier to see and read, which also helps as the screen can be viewed in full daylight. So undoubtedly, it’s a crucial feature.
Screens are available in anything from 3 inches to 6 inches (or even larger for the boat-based models). For a kayaker where space is a premium then you want to get a fish finder where the display is as small as you can handle while still seeing everything clearly.
If you need reading glasses but don’t intend on taking these with you when kayaking then keep this is mind when selecting a screen size.
The resolution is defined as the number of pixels on each side of the screen with the larger number dictating how clear the image is. This can be anything from 240 x 160 up to 640 x 640. The smaller resolution displays are significantly cheaper but are not as clear.
Don’t be tricked by the low price tag of a low-resolution display if you can’t actually see any fish or structure on it while paddling up the river.
Yeah, it knows it’s an advanced feature and hard to find on a small budget. But the good news is some manufacturers have designed the fish finder with a GPS at a very reasonable price. So look for whether the fish finder you choose has this feature.
This is particularly useful if you are going in an ocean kayak out to sea. Knowing exactly where you are and where you are going is both a safety feature and allows you to fish in hot spots that are indistinguishable from the water surface.
GPS can also be useful if you are traveling long distances in your kayak up a winding river and need to find your isolated campsite.
The transducer sends out the signals of sonar that find the fish. This feature allows you to mount on your kayak. With upgraded fish finders, you can use several cone angles operating to send the signals to go deep and wide.
The transducer is the most important feature of your fish finder. It provides the accuracy and information that is shown on your display. Selecting the correct transducer for your water depth is critical for the high performance of the entire unit.
The frequency of a fish finder is normally one of either 50, 83, 192, 200, or 455 kHz.
Generally the shallower the water you are fishing in the higher the frequency you will require.
No matter if the frequency is low as 50 kHz, which may offer a vast angle for the signal. The good news is nowadays fish finders brands offer several frequencies so that you can easily switch from low and high frequency.
There are also 4 different types of frequency including High, Low, Dual, and CHIRP.
High-frequency signals are most suited for shallow water fishing locations. This gives a lot of information at close distances but doesn’t penetrate the water as far.
Low-frequency signals are best suited for deep water as they can penetrate the water more easily, but they don’t carry as much information so the image isn’t as crisp and clear as high frequency.
Dual-frequency fish finders allow you to switch between High and Low Frequency depending on what you need at any point in time. They are the best of both worlds.
CHIRP stands for Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse. It is the most superior technology for transducers that changes between frequencies to provide the highest accuracy regardless of the water depth.
If budget is no question, then always go with a CHIRP fish finder.
One of the key criteria you will see in any fish finder’s specifications is the cone angle. This can be anywhere from 10 degrees to 65 degrees which is a very wide range.
Transducers have been designed to send out multiple beams simultaneously.
Some fish finders come with alarms that ring out when they find fish. This is called a fish alarm. If you are fishing in a location that is full of large healthy fish then this can be extremely annoying, however, if you are desperate for even the smell of a fish then I would recommend turning your fish alarm on.
The depth that you are fishing at does change the type of fish finder that you need. If you are fishing in deep holes or in the ocean then you will need a down-imaging sonar. This will give the highest accuracy at depth.
If you are only going to be fishing in shallow lakes or rivers then a side-imaging fish finder is a better option. This will show more water underneath your kayak and help you to find the best locations to cast a lure.
Some fish finders will display the water temperature in the top corner. This is particularly useful when fishing for bass around their spawning season. Many recreational fish species change their behavior and location based on the water temperature.
Having this feature in your fish finder and knowing how your target species behaves at different temperatures can be the difference between a day paddling and a day catching fish.
If you are looking at the large, high-end fish finders then you will notice they are generally hooked into the boat’s electrics and are powered directly from the 12V batteries. Obviously, this is not suitable for a kayak when space and weight are at a premium.
You will want to select a fish finder that uses internal, rechargeable, or replaceable batteries.
A key consideration is how you are going to mount the display and the transducer of your fish finder onto your kayak. Some high-end fishing kayaks come with their own transducer mounting locations.
Some kayaks also feature scupper holes that allow you to pass the transducer through the hull. Make sure you understand how you are going to mount your fish finder before making a purchase.
You might also want to pick a fish finder that suits your kayak. Old Town and Ocean Kayaks have been designed to fit Humminbird Transducers, while Hobie and Wilderness Systems kayaks are better suited for Lowrance mounts.
If you don’t have any dedicated space for a transducer mount and a display mount, then you might want to consider a portable fish finder with a castable transducer. These often Bluetooth to your smartphone. Just toss the transducer into the water and see what’s underneath you.
Finally, you can mount your transducer to the transom either at the rear or stern of your kayak. This can make them vulnerable to damage from any accidental collisions.
Decision Time: Which One Should You Pick?
If you are on a tight budget and think that you have to buy a low-quality fish finder, then you might be mistaken. Even with a limited budget, you can get some awesome gear.
Let’s discuss some of them now.
10 Best Fish Finders for Kayaks
Here are my reviews of the top 10 of the best fish finders that you can find on the market at the moment.
Check this out:
1. Garmin Striker 4 GPS Fish Finder for Kayaks – Best Fish Finder GPS Combo
Overall Score – 5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- CHIRP sonar that gives near-photographic images
- Simple keyed interface
- Available in 3.5, 5, and 7-inch models
- IPX7 Water rating
- Waypoint map
- Maximum depth – 1600 feet in freshwater and 750 feet in saltwater
- High-quality imagery from CHIRP Sonar
- IPX7 Waterproof can handle splashes
- GPS Waypoint Map
- Simple Keyed Interface
The Garmin Striker 4 is my favorite fish finder. It is extremely cost-effective but has all of the features that you would expect from a high-end model.
The CIRP sonar gives detailed representations of structure and fish. The GPS means that you won’t get lost or miss your favorite fishing spot.
It is suitable for ice fishing or vertical jigging.
With this fish finder, you can go anywhere and do anything.
Such a great fish finder!
My first impression of the Striker 4 was very positive. There are just so many features packed into this small package. The wide options of display sizes available with the best of the best transducers mean that you will see everything under your fishing kayak even at deep water depths.
The display also shows the water temperature which is a must-have for bass anglers over the spawning season.
Oh did I forget to say that its Water rating is IPX7? This means that it can handle 1 meter of water depth for up to 30 minutes. This is not classified as waterproof – don’t drop it overboard, but it can handle rain or splashes from your paddle.
View your sonar data and information in the classic flasher format with the Display 1.9 x 2.9 inches; 3.5 inches diagonal.
Plus, it includes CHIRP transducer, tilt/swivel mount, and trolling mounting cable. But one negative is for top-performance CHIRP; you have to buy a GT8/GT15 transducer separately.
It offers a keyed interface with amazing buttons. One definite advantage is this device is extremely easy to use. The user interface is simple and robust.
What I Like Most?
- Easy to install.
- Waypoint map.
- Clearvü scanning sonar.
- Convenient keypad operation.
What Could Be Better?
- This fish finder has an IPX7 water rating. This means that it can withstand incidental exposure to water up to 1 meter deep for up to 30 minutes. In reality, this means it is suitable for splashes, rain, or snow but not submerging.
- Not so good in shallow water.
2. Deeper Pro Fish Finder for Kayaks with Smart Sonar – Castable Fish Finder
Overall Score – 4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Built-in GPS
- Castable sonar that syncs with iOS/Android smartphones through Wifi
Deeper Pro Castable Fish Finder
- Castable Sonar suitable for Kayakers or Shore Fishing
- Built-in GPS that connects to your smartphone
- Dual Beam Sonar
- Requires a Spare Rod to Cast
An out-of-the-box option that you might not have considered is a castable fish finder. These don’t come with a display but connect directly to your smartphone.
Just throw the transducer into the water and see what is happening under the water with ease. No mounting brackets, no batteries – simple.
Finding the lake fish is effortless with the Deeper fish finder.
Just mark and return to the hot spots, and share your favorite routes with your friends. That means you can see the fish’s location, size, and suspended depth easily. Not only that, but also able to give a clear image of underwater structure, bottom contour vegetation, and hardness.
Deeper Pro plus fish finder is a versatile, castable fish finder for pro and avid anglers, especially with an emphasis on kayak fishing.
It generates its own Wi-Fi signal. That means you can sync it with your smartphone anywhere. It is compatible with iOS as well as Android devices.
It also comes with an easy-to-use Deeper App, which is updated monthly. One definite advantage is the company provides 24/7 customer support.
Dual-beam sonar frequency allows overall scanning areas so that you can pinpoint fish. It syncs from up to 330 ft away as well as scans down to 260 ft.
The data you find is saved to the cloud so you can build a detailed record of all of your fishing locations. All scans and maps are saved directly to the app so you can review them after you are back on land.
There are four different models available with the premium model having CHIRP sonar that automatically selects the correct frequency based on your water depth.
What I Like Most
- Wireless fish finder.
- Unique versatility.
- It takes only a few minutes to install.
What Could Be Better?
- The battery won’t last long.
3. Lowrance HOOK2 4x Fish Finder
Overall Score – 4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Transom mounted transducer
- Wide cone angle sonar
- Auto-tuning sonar for ease of use
- Optimized keypad with one-touch access
Lowrance Hook2 4X Fish Finder
Lowrance claims that the HOOK2 4X is the world’s easiest fish finder. I’m not sure if that is true but it certainly has simple menus and is easy to access the important features. The auto-tuning feature means that you will be able to see the bottom faster.
The HOOK2 4X is suited for kayak fishing – it has a 4-inch color display that shows the bottom in great detail.
The Lowrance HOOK2 4X Fish Finder is a great entry-level option at a low cost. If you are a weekend warrior who is only going to be fishing in shallow rivers within 1000 ft of your entry point, then this is perfect for you.
It is a no-nonsense fish finder that does everything you will need without the bells and whistles of a more advanced device.
On the downside, GPS is only available on the more premium models like the HOOK2 4X GPS options.
If you are looking for CHIRP transducer frequency then you will also want to consider a HOOK2 5X model.
There is a wide range of models that allow you to find the one that contains all the features you want and none that you don’t.
The wide cone angle sonar gives a wide view of the riverbed so you don’t miss any key holes or dropoffs.
The transducer is easy to install and can be installed on almost all kayaking setups.
What I Like Most?
- The price is exceptional considering the features
- The wide-angle sonar gives twice the coverage of other fish finders
- The user interface is extremely easy to use
- Quick and easy setup
What I Don’t Like?
- It doesn’t have a GPS or mapping technology
- It doesn’t have advanced transducer frequency like CHIRP
4. Humminbird HELIX 5 Fish Finder
Overall Score – 4/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
- 5 inch color display
- GPS Chart plotting with anima cartography software
- CHIRP dual beam plus sonar
Humminbird Helix 5 Fish Finder
- Dual Beam CHIRP Sonar
- GPS Chartplotter
- Clear Mode and Max Mode
- Color WVGA Display
See a glasslike view beneath your boat.
If your goal is to locate fish more clearly, just start here. Thus, Humminbird’s 2D sonar features are the opposite of two-dimensional. Whether you’re planning for fishing in freshwater lakes, the ice, or coastal waters, you’ll find the right tool for your environment.
The HELIX 5 Series comes with an uncompromising widescreen display. Feature for feature, this gadget has what it takes to win your heart.
At Humminbird, innovation and advanced technology are the core of everything they do. Plus, it includes the intuitive interface, incredible SONAR, precise Broadband CHIRP, and the mapmaking power.
The standard Basemap delivers more detail with a superior angling experience. The incredible images are presented with high-frequency sound waves thrown out in ultra-thin slices.
Gain an unprecedented, stunning side-to-side perspective on the underworld below the surface. In the meantime, the ultra-thin beam searches the area to the left/right of your kayak location.
It also comes with SwitchFire, which is a method for switching between Clear Mode and Max Mode – this lets you decide how much detail you want to see including thermoclines, fish, or structure.
What I Like Most?
- Digital CHIRP.
- Built-In Basemap.
- Color WVGA Display.
- Micro SD card slot.
What Could Be Better?
- More expensive than some of the other options but it comes with the features to justify it.
5. iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder
Overall Score – 3/5 ⭐⭐⭐
- Castable and Portable Wireless Bluetooth Transducer
- Rechargeable battery with 10+ hours of life
- Accurate down to 135 feet
- Bluetooth to a Free App on an iOS and Android Smartphone
iBobber Castable Fish Finder
- Bluetooth to your Smartphone
- 10 Hours of Battery Life
- Castable Fish Finder suitable for Kayakers and Shore Angling
- 100 ft Signal Range
Another option from the portable transducer range is the iBobber. It is specially designed for kayak or shore fishing. It doesn’t require permanent installation onto a hull – just pop it in your tackle box.
The app has a great log system – mark your spots, water temperature, depth, lure type, species, and photos into a fishing trip log.
It is also suitable for ice fishing or night fishing. It also works in both freshwater and saltwater.
I am certainly intrigued by the iBobber. It is a favorite fishing gift every time Christmas or Black Friday comes around. It is a cheaper alternative than some of the multi-hundred dollar devices.
It doesn’t require any permanent installation or mounting, which makes it extremely simple to use and easy to install.
I personally don’t like the app’s display as much – it is more like a fishing game with icons rather than a data-based view of the river bed.
The Bluetooth syncs up to 100 feet away, so you get the advantage of seeing at a distance, rather than just what is directly under your kayak. This is particularly useful if you don’t get close enough to structure.
The app also provides a contour mapper, fish alarms, and a built-in LED beacon.
What I Like Most?
- The smallest portable fish finder on the market.
- This is also one of the most cost-effective fish finding options as it doesn’t come with a dedicated display.
- No requirement for permanent mounting – just put it in your pocket or tackle bag.
What I don’t Like?
- I personally prefer dedicated displays so that I don’t have to worry about dropping my smartphone into the river.
- The display is more of a pictorial representation of the bottom rather than the raw data.
6. Humminbird PiranhaMax 4 Fish Finder
Overall Score – 3/5 ⭐⭐⭐
- 4.3 Inch Color LCD Display
- Dual Beam Sonar up to 320 feet deep at High Frequency and 600 feet deep at Low Frequency
- Cone Angle of 16 and 28 degrees
Humminbird PiranhaMax 4 Fish Finder
The dual-beam sonar means that you can switch between a narrow and wide beam depending on the water depth and amount of detail you want to identify fish, structure, and contours.
The display is also on a swivel mount so you can see it front on no matter where it is mounted on your kayak.
There are also accessories available such as an attachable waterproof case which means you can still use your fish finder when it is raining or you capsize your kayak.
I love the user interface of all Humminbird designs and the PiranhaMAX is no exception.
This is a great entry-level fish finder for the casual kayaking angler. It shows great detail of the river bed including fish and structure, but it doesn’t come with advanced technologies like CHIRP transducers or GPS and contour mapping.
The 4.3-inch color LCD display comes with 272 x 480 pixel resolution.
It is IPX7 water-resistant which means it can handle splashes and rain without damage but it won’t survive drowning.
Dual-beam sonar to switch between narrow and wide cone angle and high and low-frequency signal.
What I Like Most?
- The dual sonar allows you to change the cone angle depending on your depth.
- This device contains a lot of features for its price tag but doesn’t have all the bells and whistles.
What I Don’t Like?
- It doesn’t come with advanced transducer technology like CHIRP.
- It doesn’t include GPS so make sure you aren’t going long distances away from your base camp.
7. Lucky Portable Fishing Sonar
Overall Score – 2/5 ⭐⭐
- 2-inch Handheld Fish Finder LCD Display
- Entry-Level Option
- 45 degree Cone Angle
- 4-5 Hours of Battery Life
Significantly less expensive than the other options is the Lucky Handled Portable Fishing Sonar.
This has the ability for the kayak angler to see the water depth, and bottom composition.
Surprisingly it can read up to 328 feet deep, and comes with a 25 ft cable so you can float the transducer from the kayak, even when you are moving at up to 5 mph.
It is powered by 4 x AAA batteries.
8. Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro
Overall Score – 2/5 ⭐⭐
- CHIRP Downvision
- Easy to Install Ball-and-socket mounting system
- Powered by 12V Battery
- 4.3-inch 16:9 display with 480 x 272 pixel resolution
The Dragonfly uses advanced wide-spectrum CHIRP technology that allows the unit to interpret more detail, and image structure, and target more fish with almost unmatched clarity.
This unit is powered by 12V DC, so it is only suited for large enough fishing kayaks that can handle an external power source.
It is IPX6 and IPX7 waterproof.
Also available in premium alternatives that include GPS chart plotter technology.
9. HawkEye Fishtrax Fish Finder
Overall Score – 2/5 ⭐⭐
- Sonar up to 240 depth
- Trollable, Boat Mountable, Floatable, Portable
- Fish Alarm
- Made in USA
The Fishtrac by Hawkeye is for beginner anglers who are more interested in affordability and ease of use than accuracy.
This handheld model comes in 3 options and includes an audible fish alarm, a backlight display for nighttime viewing, and shows key fishing data like water depth and water temperature.
Personally, for the same price, you can get a much higher quality option from Lowrance or Humminbird – I wouldn’t recommend this fish finder for a kayak fisherman.
10. Venterior Portable Fish Finder
Overall Score – 2/5 ⭐⭐
- 200 kHz sonar frequency
- Accurate to 328 feet
- 2 Year Warranty
- 4-5 Hour Battery Life (4 x AAA batteries)
Last on our list is the Venterior Portable Fish finder. Like the previous two options, this model is focused more on affordability than accuracy.
It comes with a 25-foot-long cable, so you can toss the transducer into the water and see the water depth, temperature, and depth of fish as you pass by.
It also has an audible fish alarm to tell you when a fish swims past.
As with the previous fish finder I would recommend an entry-level Humminbird, Garmin, or Lowrance over the Venterior.
|Fish Finder||Score||Battery Life||Depth Range||Screen||CHIRP||GPS||Price Range|
|Garmin Striker 4||5/5||3 Days||1600 Feet||7 Inch Color||Yes||Yes||$$$|
|Deeper Pro||4/5||4 Hours||260 Feet||None||No||Yes||$$|
|Lowrance Hook2 4X||4/5||6 Hours||260 Feet||4 Inch Color||Premium Only||Premium Only||$$$|
|Humminbird HELIX 5||4/5||13 Hours||350 Feet||Inch Color||Yes||Yes||$$$|
|iBobber Wireless||3/5||10 Hours||135 Feet||None||No||No||$$|
|Humminbird PiranhaMax 4||3/5||8 Hours||320 Feet||4.3 Inch Color LCD||No||No||$$$|
|Lucky Portable||2/5||4 Hours||328 Feet||2 Inch LCD||Yes||No||$$|
|Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro||2/5||4 Hours||600 Feet||4.2 inch||Yes||Premium Only||$|
|Hawkeye Fishtrax||2/5||30 Hours||240 Feet||2 Inch Color||No||No||$|
|Venterior Portable||2/5||4 Hours||328 Feet||LCD Display||No||No||$|
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you mount a fish finder to a kayak?
There are several different ways for mounting a fish finder to a kayak – this can be transom mounted at the stern or rear. You can also get portable transducers that you can throw into the water and Bluetooth to your smart phone. Some kayaks are also designed with scupper holes where you can pass the transducer through the hull.
Are fish finders waterproof?
Most fish finders are water resistant, meaning they can handle some splashes, however, they are not waterproof and cannot be submerged. There are waterproof jackets that are available for some fish finders that make them more robust.
Undoubtedly finding the best fish finder for kayaks on a tight budget is quite difficult. And honestly speaking, you might be compromising with some handful of features.
In this case, you can trust this fish finder list. I put endless effort to pick the best one within a reasonable budget. Each of the fish finders has entered the list due to their top-grade performance.
But my personal favorite is the Garmin Striker – a portable and smart piece of equipment that just amazed me with superior quality even an affordable price tag. So good luck and have fun.
If you have any comments or questions then please leave a message below – we love interacting with our audience.
Last update on 2022-04-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API