Kayak fishing has started to increase in popularity over the past couple of years. It’s a simpler, more affordable way to fish than boating, and it puts you closer to the action. In order to get the most out of your experience however you’ll want to have one of the best kayak fish finders.
One of the first tools anyone wanting to fish from a kayak should consider is a fish finder. Not only is it super convenient, but it helps ensure that your fishing day is a stress free experience, and isn’t that what it’s all about?
The Top 5 Best Kayak Fish Finders of 2018
Picking a fish finder for a kayak isn’t quite the same as picking one for a boat, though. There are different factors in play than when in a boat that make different kinds better suited for the job. Limited space, mounting capability, and different needs all call for a more specialized, streamlined device. Be sure to consider all the factors below in your search for the best kayak fish finders.
Factors To Consider For Kayaking
Portability – The last thing you want is for your new fish finder to get in the way while paddling and casting, so finding the right balance between a readable screen and a non-intrusive device is important.
Plus, portable fish finders are more convenient because, well, portability is convenient. Being able to take your finder wherever you go, whether it be kayak or elsewhere, is always a pro.
Fit – Not only do you have less room for a fish finder, the kind of finder that you are able to get is restricted by where and how you are able to mount it to your kayak. Make sure the one you’re considering purchasing fits before you buy it. Most of the best kayak fish finders have alternative mounting options which can help with this problem.
Fortunately, due to the popularity increase of kayaking in recent years, there is greater compatibility between kayaks and fish finders. For example, Old Town, Necky, and Ocean kayaks have been outfitted with mounts for Humminbird finders, while Hobie and Wilderness kayaks are compatible with Lowrance fish finders.
Type of Fishing – The type of fishing you plan on doing also affects what kind of finder you should consider purchasing. If you plan to be fishing around offshore structures like grounded boats or deep reefs, then a combo finder would help you locate structures using GPS and fish using sonar. On the other hand, if you plan on fishing in more shallow waters, a simpler fish finder would be better suited to your needs.
Features – A lot of times, fish finders are bloated with features you might never even use. This not only drives up the price, but for kayaking, can make it more cumbersome than necessary. A lot of the joy associated with kayak fishing comes from its streamlined and simple nature, which doesn’t mesh well with an unnecessarily complicated finder.
Waterproofing – Taking anything out on the water that isn’t waterproof isn’t the best idea, but when you’re on a kayak it pretty much stops being an option. The last thing you want is for your $200 fish finder to be ruined after one trip. Don’t settle for a non-waterproof device!
General Factors to Consider
Aside from kayak specific features, you also want a fish finder that’s got plenty of helpful features like bottom tracking, water temperature reading, smartphone integration, sun glare reduction, etc. All of these features should be considered when you’re looking for the best kayak fish finders. It will most likely end up being the most tech-y you bring with you (aside from your phone), so while you don’t want to go overboard with it (pun intended) you do want it to be at least a little feature dense so that you can carry as little equipment as possible.
83/200 kHz is the standard sonar reading in most fish finders, and will give you an accurate readout. Anything too much lower than that and you’re sacrificing a substantial amount of accuracy. You’ll also want a model with a transducer already attached as it makes the set up process significantly easier.
Best Kayak Fish Finders 2018
The Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro is a feature packed finder, sacrificing a little portability for a lot of functionality. Packed into the 4″, weather proofed casing is a high contrast LED display that allows you to stream live sonar data straight to your smartphone.
It has Ultra Wide DownVision, allowing you to see below the surface with incredibly clear imagery using an included transducer. It is able to display depths of up to 600ft with reliable bottom tracking.
It also includes built in maps of every body of water in the US and Canada, and is expanding to include a list of over 20,000 lakes worldwide. So no matter where you are, getting lost with one of these should be a feat!
It comes with a ball and socket mount that can easily be retrofitted with most after market ball and socket mounts. Raymarine also offers flush mounting kits as well, so if it doesn’t fit your kayak out of the box, there are plenty of options for resolving that issue.
While it may be a bit of overkill for some users, this option is just about guaranteed to meet any fisher’s needs.
Garmin is one of the most recognizable brands in navigation, and for good reason. They’ve been making high quality products for many years, and have rightfully earned their reputation in the market. The Garmin Striker 4 is a budget friendly option that lives up to the name.
It has a compact, 3.5″, full color display. Like the Dragonfly Pro, it uses CHIRP sonar and a 77/200 kHz transducer, making it a fairly accurate finder.
It also comes with a solid GPS built in that allows for things like setting waypoints, creating routes, and noting different types of structures on your map (such as drop offs or obstructions). The GPS can display your speed on screen, which is handy when driving through wake controlled areas.
It has a suction cup mount, which (while not the most secure) is really versatile. A portable kit is available for the finder, so you can carry it securely if you don’t feel comfortable mounting it.
All around, it’s a great option for beginners, offering enough features to get you by at an awesome price point.
Another highly portable option is the Hummingbird 140C Fishin’ Buddy. It’s streamlined to work with flexible water crafts like a dock, float tube, or in our case, a kayak.
It features a dual frequency sonar scanner that can reach a depth of 320ft and down imaging up to 600ft, which is extremely impressive considering how simple the rig actually is. The transducer is a part of the housing itself, making up an odd but useful device that is a 24″-40″ transducer pole with a screen attached to the top.
With a multi-directional clamp, you simply attach it to any surface that works, extend the pole into the water, and you’re off! It has a 3.5″ screen that comes in either grayscale or 256bit color; the options are a little simple, but that seems to be what they were going for with this finder.
It has a battery life rated for up to 30 hours of continuous use which is very good, so as long as you keep an eye on it, you shouldn’t have any issues with it dying on you while out on the water. The Hummingbird 140C also features SideFinding, which allows you to point the device in any direction and get image coverage from all sides of your boat.
This device is a good fit for those looking for a solid, flexible option that isn’t concerned with fitting the mold. It’s certainly earned a spot on our best kayak fish finders list because of the many benefits it has. It values function over looks, and offers a healthy amount of features for the price.
The Deeper Smart Sonar PRO+ is another unique option in the market of fish finders. Rather than a traditional screen and transponder set up, it is simply a small sphere that sends the sonar information to your phone, which you can then view in an app. This makes the unit super portable and it’s one of the reasons why we think this is one of the best kayak fish finders available today.
Housed in the 3.5oz ball is sonar that scans depths up to 260ft 15 times a second, creating an image made up of bottom tracking, structures, GPS mapping, and most importantly, fish! The installation is basically nonexistent, since there’s nothing to do other than get it in the water and connected to your phone.
It can connect to both Android phones and iOS devices (iPhones and iPads) via a wifi connection. It doesn’t require or even use data, so there’s no need for concern there.
It’s a “cast-able” fish finder, meaning that you can cast it using your fishing rod, reel it in, and it will have generated a map of the area on your phone, making it a live mapping GPS. It also comes with various mapping modes (like Standard, Boat, Ice Fishing and Onshore) for whatever kind of fishing you’re planning on doing.
What makes it such a great option for kayaking is its simplicity. There’s no rig, transducer pole, wires, etc. You can simply cast it out and reel it in, or mount it to your kayak using their specialized Deep Flexible Arm Mount for kayaks. It’s a great choice for the tech savvy fisherman.
The Lowrance Hook-4 is a more traditional fish finder packed with features. It includes a transducer, and uses CHIRP sonar, making it capable of providing down imaging scanning.
It has a 4″, full color display that provides you with customizable parameters, so you can adjust it to meet your needs depending on the day and kind of fishing you are doing. It’s also highly water resistant, capable of being submerged in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
It has a 83/200 kHz and 455/800 kHz transducer for displaying images at a super high resolution, and can reach an astounding 1000 feet deep on 83/200 kHz. It also has a unique feature built in called Advanced Signal Processing, which reduces the amount of manual adjustments the fisherman has to make, allowing you to get all the info you need while focusing on what you’re really there to do: fish.
The Hook-4 also has a built in GPS and pre-installed maps, so finding your way around larger bodies of water shouldn’t be an issue. It also has a multi-window display, meaning that you can view various screens at once, as opposed to a single screen being displayed at a time.
The Lowrance Hook-4 is an excellent option for those wanting a feature filled, affordable option. There’s nothing extraordinary that sets it apart, but that is what makes it a good choice for those wanting something reliable and simple.
Even though kayaking calls for a more specific kind of fish finder, there are still plenty of options that fit the bill. Be sure to pay close attention to your needs and kayak’s capabilities; you don’t want to end up with a finder that will map the abyssal plains of the ocean but won’t mount to the side of your kayak. The trick is finding the sweet spot in the middle, where you get all of the features you want in a device that fits well with your kayak. Be sure to also comment your thoughts on what the best kayak fish finders are below and why you think so.
Portable fish finders come in plenty of shapes and sizes, and meet a broad variety of needs. It’s interesting to see how the limitations that a kayak presents encourages so many different approaches to the age old question of “Where are the fish?” Whether you are looking for a standard fish finder to mount onto your kayak, or a wifi enabled, live GPS mapping globe that streams directly to your smartphone, there’s probably a fish finder for you. Some of the fish finders listed in the content above are some of the best kayak fish finders we could find.