Kayak fishing is a sport that continues to rise in popularity. Whether you’re a beginner, or an expert who wants to take your game further, a good reliable kayak fish finder can really make the difference in your time on the water.
What Makes the Best Kayak Fish Finder
Once you’ve decided you’re interested in Kayak Fishing, there are some simple questions that you should answer, that make the whole process of outfitting your Kayak much easier.
Firstly, what style of fishing will you be doing? To answer that, you should consider your geography and the topography of where you’ll be fishing. If you’ll be taking your Kayak into deeper waters, like oceans or sea areas, you will want a fish finder that has great depth capability.
While, if you’re fishing near reefs, edges of land, and ocean fauna, you might be looking for something with great target separation, to help you differentiate between structures and fish.
These are some simple questions that help you filter out what kind of device you need. Some additional criteria that make for an ideal Kayak Fish Finder are:
- Mounting Space
- Transducer Compatibility
- Personal Needs
Let’s dive into those real quick, to give you a sense of what kind of fish finder you want to bring along with you.
1. Mounting Space
A fish finder might not seem like a big device, and you’re right, the screen is often no larger than 6 inches, but since you’ll be mounting your fish finder, and bringing all the rest of your equipment with you, you’ll want to make sure you have enough space.
Begin by thinking about the size of your fish finders screen. While you’re paddling you don’t want the size of your display to distract you from what’s ahead.
Then start figuring out how much you can bring with you, and if you have the room necessary to mount. With these devices, you’ll need space for your mount, a battery, cabling, and all kinds of equipment before you even throw in your paddle.
2. Transducer Compatibility
Next, when you start thinking about an appropriate depth finder for your style of kayak fishing, pay attention to two variables: location and Kayak brand.
For sake of transducers, know that these are at the core of fish finders, and your style of Sonar Transducer will determine what kind of visibility you have around you and below you.So, again think about the depth you’re going into, and the types of structures you might be running into, before choosing a fish finder with a particular transducer.
For the second variable, there are certain fish finders that are paired perfectly with certain Kayaks, as manufacturers are now teaming up with Kayak companies. The list below will give some credence to this idea.
3. Personal Needs
Things like color and aesthetic might not be your number one priority, but it’s important to figure out if you want to actually ‘like’ your device. There are certain aspects to top-rated fish finders that rely on personalization.
So, when you’re done mulling over the logistics of which fish finder suits you, it’s good to decide what kind of device suits your taste.
10 Best Kayak Fish Finders 2020
Hummingbird Helix 7
Most Simple And Compact
Raymarine Dragonfly-4 Pro
Hummingbird PiranhaMax 4PT
Garmin Striker 4
Lowrance Elite TI 9
CHIRP + Downscan
Helix 5 CHIRP Sonar GPS G2
Garmin eachoMAP PLUS 43cv
Lowrance Hook2 5
Best Well Rounded
Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 55dv
Best Deep Water
1. Mark-4 HDI Fish Finder – The Best Buy
If there was a clear log-line description for this tool, it’d be: “pick it up, get the work done.” The Mark-4 HDI Fish Finder is a great example of an intuitive and easy to use design. This is especially helpful if you’re new to using FF’s. The Mark-4 uses Advanced Signal Processing or ASP to make it so you don’t have to adjust device settings yourself.
The backlit screen is 4.3 inches and is LED which comes in handy if you’re fishing on a sunny day. It’s not a complete portable, in that amount may be necessary, and it requires a 12v battery, which won’t be replaced that often. The devices functional capabilities are its main highlight.
The Mark-4 has Hybrid Dual Imaging, which is a neat combination of Downscan Imaging and Broadband Sounder. First, Downscan Imaging allows for resolute, clear images of underwater topography. While the Broadband Sounder grants the ability to see the size and trajectory of the fish you’re tracking.
You can imagine a fish finders imaging as a focused map of where you’re fishing, but the ability to zoom out, and gain an understanding of the larger picture is hugely important.
The Mark-4 responds to this with advanced-GPS. The device’s Chartplotter can recognize up to 3000+ inland bodies of water in the US, giving a user the ability to adjust their device’s settings to meet their situation. When you include the HDI’s ASP, Hybrid Dual Imaging, and advanced-GPS, these stats alone are enough to make a great buy.
- LED Screen.
- Downscan Imaging and Broadband Sounder.
- Useful UI.
- A learning curve for beginners.
2. Hummingbird Helix 7 – The Most Simple And Compact
Off to a good start, this Hummingbird comes with a 7-inch color WVGA display that is still fully visible during bright sunny days. Along with this, the screen has multiple view-states so no information is lost on you.
In terms of sonar, or your ability to spot fish quickly and efficiently, Hummingbirds 2d pulse sonar, which uses SwitchFire technology, is an excellent choice.
One thing to know about Hummingbird, is that many Kayak manufacturers are teaming up with the company to create ideal pairings. This is one of the reasons why the Helix 7 is a simple and compact choice. This device isn’t oversized, the display has high clarity, and SwitchFire is a straightforward sonar to understand.
- Great display.
- Strong sonar.
- Simple and compact.
- Somewhat unintuitive UI.
3. Raymarine Dragonfly-4 Pro – The Best Social Fish Finder
The Raymarine Dragonfly-4 Pro is a great example of a well-rounded fish finder. Starting with the display, you’ll be working with a 4.3 inch LCD screen with high resolution, giving you security in knowing your screen is going to have a clear display and not fog up.
With a depth range up to 600ft, the Dragonfly-4 Pro’s CHIRP sonar is a safe bet for effective underwater readings. The Pro includes dual-channel functionality. Both offer Raymarine’s specialized CHIRP DownVisionTM imaging and traditional CHIRP sonar channel, offering room for experimentation.
Some of the other big selling points are Raymarine’s emphasis on shared information. The device comes with WiFish App compatibility, which allows for you to view your records, and screen display and change settings all from your smartphone or tablet. Along with an SD card and Screenshot capabilities, it’s possible to upload files from your journeys and share your findings with other Anglers.
All in all, this device is a safe bet if you’re looking for something that allows for quick connection, effective sonar, and tools for sharing and saving your personal data.
Of all the devices on this list, the Dragonfly-4 Pro cares about the social element of kayak fishing. The WiFish App is a great way to simplify your habits dealing with a fish finders UI, and recording your data. The SD card and Screenshot capabilities add to your ability to safely follow your own progress and share it with your peers.
- Greatly specialized fish finder.
- WiFish App.
- Very affordable.
- Few and far in between, except for the simple nature of the device itself.
4. Hummingbird PiranhaMax 4PT – The Most Reliable Kayak Fish Finder
Hummingbird is attempting to revamp the way it manufactures and sells its devices. This leads to some of the new capabilities thanks to this new generation of PiranhaMax.
For starters, like some of the fish finders on this list, you’re looking at a 4.3-inch screen, with a 480×270 resolution. The PT, compared to its PiranhaMAX peers, still has a 200/455 kHz DualBeam, and a max depth of 600 ft.
Along with this, the PT includes its previous XNT 9 DI T sonar, which is effective at sorting out flora and fauna, giving you a better chance of spotting a catch. Still one of the most important changes about this unit is its portability and affordability.
The Hummingbird PiranhaMAX 4 PT comes with a carry case, base, reliable transducer, and a rechargeable 12v battery. This is a big deal for those who might be traveling alone or plan on a longer trip with the need of recharging their finder. What makes this unit further in terms of its reliability is a price. Chances are, you’re not going to find a more inexpensive yet sound fish finder nowadays.
In gist, Hummingbird PiranhaMAX 4 PT is a surefire device if you want something affordable, nicely portable, and well-rounded in its imaging.
- Nice sized high-resolution screen.
- Could become unwieldy with all the gear.
5. Garmin Striker 4 – The Best Personalized Fish Finder
The Garmin Striker 4 is a choose-your-own-adventure style fish finder. Right off the bat, you’re able to choose between three different standard sizes for the unit, with the screen size averaging out at 3.5 inches. Like most high-quality fish finders, this one packs great visuals. It holds a full-color display and has straightforward design-mechanics, making for an intuitive piece of tech.
This Garmin comes with a high sensitivity GPS, allowing for clear, purposeful tracking of new fishing spots. Most new fish finders have begun to incorporate CHIRP sonar to the works, and this is no exception, this clean, pretty device offers modern CHIRP which is still today a thorough means of spotting fish.
Along with all of this, the Garmin Striker 4 might just be an Anglers best friend. The device comes with built-in memory and history, giving even the most experienced fishers the chance to recall all their previous fishing spots. This itself is a nice addition to the Garmen’s already well-distributed attributes but throws in an additional personalization by way of recording your progress on the water.
The ability to personalize a device isn’t for everyone. But, if you are indeed hoping to have a better sense of your kayak fish finder, and how to use it, it’s ideal to have some trust. The Garmin Striker 4’s memory and history are specifically made for a fisher who wants to remember where he’s been and what he’s caught.
- Personalized experience.
- Great GPS.
- Limited transducers.
6. Lowrance Elite TI 9 – The Best Display
This Lowrance is a sight to see. Most high rated fish finders stay around 3-5 inches in the display, but the Lowrance Elite TI 9 comes out the gate with a high-resolution 9-inch screen, Active Imaging Software, and can have two views for down and side view transducer.
The finder also comes with 4000 preloaded maps and a recording module which allows for tightly accurate histories of your most recent fishing spots. Once you’ve taken advantage of the units main perks, you can share your latest prized fishing areas with other Lowrance device owners, through its wireless connectivity.
A good display isn’t hard to come by, but a truly great display, especially for a kayak fish finder, is both rare and very important. The Lowrance Elite TI 9 is our pick for Best Display for several reasons, beginning screen size and sheer clarity.
The only point against a screen this large is that it might be a little distracting. But as long as you can get past this, you have a useful display on your hands, which gives you the ability to spot your game easily.
- Great visual display.
- Offers multiple transducers for better accuracy.
- Wireless connectivity.
7. Helix 5 CHIRP Sonar GPS G2 – The Best UI Kayak Fish Finder
For the Helix 5 CHIRP Sonar GPS G2, there are some major improvements to the unit, as opposed to older Helix models. There are some fish finders that raise their stats over time and end up proving themselves to be true, solid devices.
The primary form of Sonar that the Helix 5 uses is CHIRP, which gives this finder some points in its favor. So, you already know you have a finder that uses effective tech. But one of the biggest changes to the GPS G2, is its keypad UI.
You are able to control sonar sensitivity, make snapshots, and navigate through the open menu easily. The main supporting point for this fish finder is its intuitive user interface. This ease and control via keypad make for a convenient process while getting on the water.
Along with these improved features from previous Helix’s, this model has some nice GPS. From AutoChart Live, to live vegetation mapping, hardness mapping, and SmartStrike which is a predictive tool for finding likely populated fishing spots, the GPS is well made.
The Helix 5 itself, has high-grade visual components, along with a UI virtue that brings the device neatly into your hands. Besides this, are its modern versatile GPS, altogether making for a good buy. There are some cons though, such as price, and one form of CHIRP sonar, but besides this, the Helix 5 Chirp Sonar GPS G2 is a good buy.
Good UI cannot be underestimated, and it certainly isn’t with this device. The importance of functional and intuitive UI in the Helix 5, is to make you a better fisher, and a better tech user. With the help of the keypad UI, you lose less time on the water, and can quickly navigate helpful features, getting you to the top of your game.
- Step up from previous Helix devices.
- Great UI.
- Autochart and Smartstrike are extremely useful.
- Can be quite pricey
- Slight learning curve
8. Garmin eachoMAP PLUS 43cv – The Best GPS
This Garmin is a compact useful fish finder with many pros in its favor. The 4.3-inch screen is sunlight protected and has a nice clean screen. Again, the value of a good and clear display can’t be overlooked.
The echoMAP has traditional CHIRP and clearVU, a combination that offers great target separation and nearly photographic results when viewing under the water. Alongside this, LakeVU maps add 17,000 lakes, and additionally, Quickdraw Contours give a fisher the ability to spot 13,000 1’ contours, giving one the chance to closely visualize individual routes and fishing spots.
The unit itself comes with a mount, all the hardware, and software necessary to connect with peer Kayakers, and leaves a buyer with a great package overall.
For sake of this list, this Garmin has the best GPS. If you’re wanting a kayak fish finder that is perfectly suitable for your fishing location to the fine details, this is the way to go.
The purpose of LakeVU maps is to quickly record data as you travel and fish. Quickdraw Contours zooms in even further and allows for you, someone on a small craft like a kayak, to be prepared for the particular spot you’re at.
- LakeVU offers lots of resources.
- Complete with all necessary cabling and hardware.
- Well rounded.
- Limited transducers.
9. Lowrance Hook2 5 – The Best Well Rounded Fish Finder
This Lowrance comes with a dynamic 5 inch LCD display, offering two vertical pains so you can choose which mode you want to access. What’s titled the Tripleshot Transducer, is a shorter way of describing three types of sonar: DownVU, SideVU, and CHIRP.
This is an excellent combination of sonar capability, which gives you range below you, beside you, and accuracy where you need it everywhere between. This gives the Lowrance Hook2 5 serious chops in terms of versatility. It also comes with Preloaded maps and is one of the more scalable and affordable fish finders you can find with this level of quality.
The Lowrance Hook2 5 is described as our Best Well Rounded Fish Finder because of its Tripleshot Transducer, and it’s reliable preloaded maps. If you’re Kayaking, and you’ve chosen to bring a fish finder with you, chances are you want something that has fair specs in every area, beginning with great sonar.
The Tripleshot Transducer gives you the ability to spot fish and obstacles below you, at the water’s surface, and deep below you. These are characteristics that make for a great kayak fish finder.
Then you have the preloaded maps, and even the display, which once you piece together all elements of this device, it’s clear there are few holes in terms of utility.
- Multiple forms of an accurate transducer.
- Beautiful and dynamic display
- Nice preloaded maps
- The dynamic screen offers a small learning curve.
10. Garmin echoMAP CHIRP 55dv – The Best Deep Water Fish Finder
Garmin has a consistent reputation in the arena of well-made fish finders. This model is another reliable addition to past units, coming with a 5-inch screen with decent resolution, and is backlit LED which is always helpful when you’re dealing with direct sunlight.
With a depth of up to 1,800 feet, Garmin’s CHIRP sonar, Dual Frequency HD-ID, and CHIRP DownVU are really decent for most deep-water target separation.
As for GPS and device memory, this Garmin like others offers LakeVU’s great record of reliable lake fishing spots and multiple routes.
So what makes this a good fish finder to take with you Kayaking? First off, the display is a size that won’t get in your way, and you have a screen that will be easy to read.
The sonar is flexible to your fishing style and offers great target separation, I’d recommend choosing this device if you’re going into deeper waters, as the DownVU is a stable of this unit, making it a great kayak fish finder for open waters.
- Accurate internal GPS
- Great modern sonar
- Effective transducers
- Deeply involved UI
- A larger learning curve for UI
- Middle of the road price/higher price for beginners
How to Install a Fish Finder in a Kayak (Video Guide)
Kayak Fish Finder FAQs
Q: What is CHIRP sonar?
We cover CHIRP plenty in this article, as it’s one of the most widely used forms of sonar, and now the replacement for traditional sonar, especially for fishing.
While traditional sonar sends a ping, or pulse of sound, and “listens” for an echo, CHIRP generates larger pulses thus acting out of a larger frequency. This difference makes for clearer reads below the surface of the water and is why CHIRP is now so common with recreational fishing including Kayak Fishing.
Q: What is Down Imaging?
Down Imaging is a depth resilient form of sonar, that makes thin slices of waves, capable of separating plant life, rocks, and topography, from fish. The main thing to understand, Down Imaging is useful for deeper waters and tends to be expensive, and more complicated to learn.
Q: What is Side Imaging?
Side Imaging is directly useful for less deep waters. That’s why, if you’re not going too far into deep waters, this is a great way to use sonar. In gist, Side Imaging sends waves, or “pings” to the side, creating visibility around you and under the surface of the water.
The main difference between Down Imaging and Side Imaging is the way each technique sends waves and what those results are. DI is for downwards signals, SI is for width or outward signals.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert kayaker, a truly skilled fisherman, or a combination of both, a reliable and accurate fish finder can make the difference in your sport.
As with all outdoor sports, it’s essential to ask yourself questions about the circumstance you’re in, and what tools are important to get through your experience unscathed and gratified. If you’re interested in getting on the water and doing some fishing, no matter your background, the devices listed above can give you an edge over your game.