There’s nothing like hanging your feet over the edge of your kayak as you wait for the fish to bite, with the glorious sun beating down on you.
However, kayaks can kick up a lot of dust which often scares the fish or makes it harder to see what’s going on. Compounded by the high likelihood of tipping over in a kayak, finding good fishing spots can be a little tricky.
A kayak fish finder is a great way to survey the underwater life and landscape to determine the best spots to lay your line. Luckily, we’ve put together this handy guide to showcase the best kayak fish finder devices on the market.
Comparison of the Best Kayak Fish Finders
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Ideal Situations for Using a Fish Finder on a Kayak
When you’re fishing by kayak, it can be a little more difficult to move in an agile manner to see the schools of fish below the surface. With a rounded bottom, kayaks are far less forgiving than boats that can capsize if you’re too excitable.
A fish finder makes it easier to locate the fish without having to twist and turn in your kayak, as capsizing can cause you to lose your gear.
Secondly, when you’re kayaking, your paddle tears up the water, stirring up the sand and scaring the fish. By using a fish finder, you can get an idea of the structure of the waterbed and of the surrounding area below the surface.
This allows you to quickly get ready, lower your line in a good spot shown by the fish finder, and get ready for the clouds to clear and the fish to return. As you can be limited by what you can carry on a kayak, you’ll want to be efficient with your bait.
In this sense, a fish finder can help you to locate the fish that serve as bait to the bigger fish you’re looking for. You can either catch a few to use as bait or use the schools to point to the location of big fish.
Aspects of the Best Kayak Fish Finders
As your kayak most likely doesn’t come with a built-in fish finder, you’ll need to source a kayak fish finder. With such a range in prices, determining which one suits you can be a bother. However, here are a few key aspects to consider:
While most fish finders come with a transducer, some don’t. Make sure you buy a fish finder that incorporates a transducer, as this is the tool that emits sonar to find the fish. The bigger the crystals, the better the sonar emission and therefore, the better imaging you receive.
You need to ensure that the model fits your kayak perfectly. Not all models come as a standard size and not all kayaks are the same. You want to make sure it fits snugly and won’t slip when wet.
The GPS tracker on a fish finder can be helpful in locating the best spots. You can record where you have been and trace where you’re going, saving locations that are best for your favorite fishing.
While some models are not waterproof, these are generally more suited to bigger boats where they’re less likely to get wet. With kayak fishing, you need to take into account the increased chance of capsizing, and therefore should look for something that is waterproof. Also consider a device that floats, in case it falls off.
Fancy kayak fish finders come with a whole host of extra features. Some can hook up to your smartphone for more synchronized operation, while others have WiFi. Water temperature and bottom tracking are added features that give you a clearer image of what may be lurking below, while sun glare protection can make it easier to use.
Review of the Best Kayak Fish Finders
Finding a fish finder in the first place can be enough of a quandary. With so many on the market and fishermen recommending different makes and models left, right, and center, it can be confusing. Here is our handy breakdown summarizing some of the best kayak fish finders available today.
Garmin Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5" GPS Fishfinder
Featuring CLEARVÜ Scanning Sonar, this model has dedicated buttons for simple use and is easy to install. It has a waypoint map allowing you to view, navigate, and mark out your route.
It has a max depth of 1600 feet in freshwater and 750 feet in saltwater. With a built-in flasher and chirp sonar, this model can produce crisp fish arches and allows for vertical jigging.
This model is great if you already have a little knowledge of fish finders. Waterproof and highly durable, this model has some of the best technology, allowing it to be very sensitive to the depths and shape of the body of water. The instructions can be a bit complex, however. It is also worth bearing in mind that touchscreen models are a little easier to clean as the buttons can get clogged.
Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+
This kayak fishfinder comes with the highest specs of castable sonar to help scan deeper, further, and with more accuracy. This model can be synchronized with iOS and Android devices, and can be used on shore, kayaks, boats, and when ice fishing.
With inbuilt GPS, this model is the first of its kind to be able to map from shore. Scanning down to 260 feet at 15 scans per second, this highly powerful model gives a great picture of structure, fish schools, and vegetation.
This is quite an expensive model and is a little much for the amateur kayak fisher. However, if you’re looking for a heavy duty model, this incredible fish finder has excellent technology and allows you to fish in a more accurate manner. Be prepared to spend more on accessories.
Best for the Money:
Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder
A lower-priced model, this fish finder is a basic tool that helps to see fish under your kayak. This detects water depth and displays approximate fish location, as well as other features like weeds and rock formations.
The depth ranges from 3-328 feet, while the model includes five different sensitivity settings and a battery saving mode. The round transducer comes with a 25-foot cable and a float that can be removed.
While this cheap model isn’t made from the best materials, it accurately measures depth and indicates moving material very well. It gets a little confused about fish size but makes fishing from a kayak a little easier.
4. Humminbird 410210-1 Helix 5 Chirp GPS G2 Fish Finder
This five-inch model has a color display and is equipped with CHIRP dual beam PLUS sonar with a power output of 500 watts. The GPS chart built into the model comes with Anima cartography, while there is a micro SD slot to save waypoints and geographical points of interest.
This model is more expensive and reserved for fishermen who are familiar with tools like this. A very accurate and comprehensive fish finder, this model would fit straight on your kayak and give you a far and wide picture instantly. Very durable, this kayak fish finder lasts a long time once you get the hang of it!
5. LUCKY Fish Finder Portable
A fairly-priced fish finder, this basic model helps to read the fish and structure of the body of water. It can show weeds, sand, and rocks, and has its own built-in transducer.
Useful in lakes, offshore, in ice fishing, seas, and kayak fishing, this portable fish finder is versatile. It has a 12-month warranty and a 4-5 hour battery life. The sonar works down to 326 feet.
As long as you’re cool with disposable batteries and meters, this cheap model is a great little tool to help improve your fish finding accuracy on a kayak. With a lanyard to prevent you from dropping it, this portable model has five settings and is surprisingly sensitive for its price.
How to Use a Kayak Fish Finder
Despite all the buttons and complicated imaging, fish finders are pretty simple to use if installed correctly. The video below gives great insight into how to get up and running with your kayak fish finder, but here are a few tips from the get-go:
- Use GPS - If it’s your first time using your fish finder, you want to make sure you’re recording your spots on your GPS. This will help you to remember the good spots and bad spots.
- Backup GPS - While having GPS on your fish finder is great, you need a separate handheld backup in case the battery goes dead on the fish finder.
- Look for Activity - When you get to the spot you’ve located on your GPS, turn on your fish finder. You’ll find that for your first look, low GHz settings will enable you to get a good look at the general activity. Higher GHz fires a more narrow beam and shows you with more detail but covers less ground.
- Look for Schools - If you’re struggling to find any big fish, you can always look for schools of small fish. These will show up easily on the fish finder and will act as bait for your bigger fish. You can follow these until you come to your catch.
- Understand the Shape - Your fish finder can help you to understand the shape of the waterbed. This can show you if there are rocks or overhanging banks where fish can hide.
Watch the video below and learn how to use effectively use a kayak fish finder.
Kayak fishing brings you close to nature. With the spray on your face, you can sit low in the water and give yourself that predatory position that makes you feel like a hunter. However, the rockiness of a kayak can make it hard to see the fish, so buying a good fish finder will help to increase your catch.
That said, while the costs can range, don’t skimp out on things like a waterproof housing, as this can save you if you capsize. Equally, consider a fish finder that bolts on as this is far less likely to go overboard!