Long gone are the days when you’d spend hours on end in your kayak waiting for a tug on your rod to finally pull in the day’s catch. A kayak fish finder makes the job much easier since it can help you find what can be hard to locate through the surface of the water.
It doesn’t matter if you like fishing near the coast, or on a small inland lake, because there are fish finders built for every need. In fact, some versatile models can be used for more than kayak fishing as well, so you needn’t settle for less than whatever suits your needs.
What is a Kayak Fish Finder?
A fish finder is a device that can determine where fish are located underwater. It does this by sending out deep frequency sound waves and then detecting them as they reflect. Based on the variation, a kayak fish finder can give details as to whether this is a shoal of fish, reef or any other structure that could make it difficult to get in. They feature a graphical display that lets you check measurements of distance that the reflected waves traveled.
Why Use a Kayak Fish Finder?
You can rely upon the fish finder to know whether the upcoming areas are flat and how much depth there is to the bottom of the lake. You’ll also learn whether massive structures are lying under the surface and there’s an alarm to warn you of shallow water. All these features and the main advantage of a fish finder make it a great aid on fishing trips by maximizing your catch and saving time.
Which of the Best Kayak Fish Finders Should You Get?
However, kayak fish finders are no novel invention; there are plenty of models and versions of them, which can make it confusing to find one that suits your needs. In this case, it may seem like a high price equals quality but you don’t need to splurge on a kayak fish finder to get one that does its job, although, you may need a pricier version if you want additional features.
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What to Consider?
If this is your first time going kayak fishing with a fish finder, you’ll need a lesson in the basics to understand the differences between distinct technologies and models. The whole idea is to get a fish finder that suits your needs based on where you usually go fishing and how much information you need on the water below. To determine what kayak fish finder you’ll need, it’s crucial that you go through some of the features that make a decent model, and some others that offer extra perks.
The frequency of your kayak fish finder should depend upon where you go most often for fishing since modes are different in shallow and deep waters. Kayak fish finders function with differing frequencies, and they’re available in different versions that support either one or two modes.
If you intend to purchase one with a single mode, remember that a high-frequency version will work best in waters with shallow depth while deeper waters require waves that can penetrate deeper, so low frequencies will be desirable.
Black and White or Color Screen
Initially, fish finders would give little information, and it was all in black and white so you couldn’t tell what species would be lying under your boat and whether a school could be hiding under a nearby structure. Now, things have changed, and color screens are all the rage. Why? They provide more accurate representations and detail as well.
By providing colored imaging, kayak fishers can learn to identify species and figure out depths at which schools are present. Despite being very readily available, a few first-time kayak fishers opt for black and white screens thinking that different colors will make things more confusing. That isn’t the case; it’s much easier to look at a colored screen in bright daylight and every other weather condition, including fog.
It probably sounds preferable if you selected a high-powered fish finder for all your needs, but that won’t be beneficial since water depth can change how much power is required. For fishing in shallow water, you’ll need a low powered fish finder since you don’t require much detail, or wave penetration either. In deeper waters, however, you’ll require a high-powered kayak fish finder because it requires more energy to travel and penetrate deeper, and display detailed readings.
The Angle of Transducers
The ‘transducers’ is a form of technology that sends and receives signals by converting electrical pulses into waves of sound energy. These come in different angles, such as wide and cone, while the range is 9 to 90 degrees. When selecting a kayak fish finder for versatile fishing situations, opt for one with a more extensive angle range, since a wide angle version will operate best in shallow waters and narrow ones work best for deeper waters.
Not all kayak fish finders possess a GPS tracking system, but it sure does help to have it. You’ll need to decide between getting GPS and not, based on where you usually go to catch fish. If you prefer to fish inshore, there’s not much use for a GPS system because much of the land is visible around you. On the other hand, fishing trips in open oceans, untraced swamps, and bigger lakes require that your kayak fish finder have a GPS system so that you can track your location as well as any active areas.
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The Graphical Display
You’ll want to be able to read information and readings accurately as well as check any hot spots around you. For this reason, you’ll have to check whether the screen size is big enough and if the brightness is high enough to allow daylight visibility. A large screen offers clarity since you can easily distinguish between different readings.
Newer models of kayak fish finders come with Wi-Fi connectivity, which is helpful since it can then sync with your smartphone, giving you readings in the palm of your hand. This also has an element of portability to it that lets you carry your fish finder everywhere instead of just mounting on your kayak.
These fish finders hold essential data that can help you trace schools of fish, but you’ll want to focus on the waters as well. This makes it necessary that you safely mount your kayak fish finder instead of holding it or in the case of bigger screens, place it anywhere on your kayak. You’ll require a mounting system that suits your kayak model and shape. Most fish finders come with their mounts, and these are commonly inclusive of various kayak models.
Even if you spend big bucks on a recent model, it’s inevitable that the brand will release an advanced version in the upcoming years. While your model won’t be obsolete, it’s best to know whether it’s compatible with a different transducer, sonar or GPS system. This benefit means that you can come to develop a unique fish finder set up that meets your needs better than any ready-to-use type on the market.
Portable or Not?
You’ll also want to decide if you prefer a fish finder that can be carried in your kit wherever you go. If you like to switch between ice fishing, kayaking, and fishing off the dock, then a portable fish finder will work better. But if it’s only kayaking that piques your interest, then a kayak fishfinder will work best.
It’s desirable to get a kayak fish finder that comes with a transducer included in the pack. This makes it much easier to install and set up in your kayak. Check for the style of the transducer, whether it’s thru-hull, transom mount, in-hull, or trolling motor. Remember that each type operates differently with a kayak, based on the materials it comprises of and its shape.
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The Type of Fish Finder
Just like with other categories of marine technology, there are different types of fish finders, with varying levels of advancements. Some kayak-fishing enthusiasts prefer older models while others search for the best kayak fish finder with all the latest upgrades like GPS, Wi-Fi connectivity, and so forth. You’ll need to be clear as to what kind of fish finder you want. Otherwise, it’ll be difficult to choose from the wide range of available options.
Standalone Fish Finder
This is a simple option, and it just shows what’s underwater. Advanced versions give high-quality graphics displays on bigger screens, and they’re very affordable as well. This option is the best for experienced kayak fishers who are on a budget and only need a little guidance as to what’s underwater. Another reason why standalone kayak fish finders work best is if you usually go fishing in smaller inland water bodies instead of the coast.
You won’t feel stuck by getting this type of model either, because you can always upgrade it to a combination fishfinder with a chart plotter by adding a GPS to your setup. In most upgrade scenarios, the larger screen of a standalone fishfinder works best.
Fish Finder with Chart Plotter
A combination fish finder would be better suited for middle-sized boats and kayaks taken to a range of different waters. Since you’ll be in larger water bodies like rivers or near the coast, you’ll require a GPS feature that helps you get near the best place where schools are usually resting.
This way, you can navigate your way to the fishing grounds without spending too much time guessing which route would be best. If you use a black box sounder module, it offers the benefit of turning a chart plotter into a complete setup once you install a transducer.
Networked Fish Finders
A fully connected and networked fish finder system can be found at all major brands so you won’t have any trouble purchasing one. These systems offer the most connectivity because they support a diverse range of data sources, such as vector GPS, radar, and satellite radio.
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Additionally, newer models will have WiFi and Bluetooth, giving you the opportunity to leverage information from the palm of your hand, using your Android or iOS-based smartphone. There are even multi-display systems that provide you more data, but this is mostly needed for larger boats or if you have your sights set on kayak fishing away from the coast.
It’s crucial that you understand the type of technology that your fish finder is packing because if you’re a weekend warrior who visits the same lake every week, you won’t need as many features as someone who only goes once every season or so.
Sonar has come a long way ever since the first models of fish finders, but they remain the primary method to detect fish species. They take a wide-ranging but less detailed scan of the parameters around your kayak to give you a simple outline of what’s underneath and around. You won’t be able to identify the species or get a clear picture as to the size, but most kayak fishers prefer this method since it’s better than guesswork.
Down and Dual Imaging
This type is more advanced than a traditional sonar-based transducer because it casts a scanning beam straight below your kayak. It gets a clear scan of the area directly below your kayak and gives you data in the form of 2D imaging.
The other technology usually equipped with a down imaging system is a dual imaging one, which scans the areas around a kayak as well. With both features, you’re able to get more representations of what’s underwater, know how deep they are and what temperature the water is.
Fishfinders with built-in GPS systems are considered to be top-tier devices because of their extensive lineup of features. Mainly, you’ll be getting all the perks of a down and dual imaging fish finder, and more, i.e., a more prominent display, photographic-like imaging, and precise detail. Of course, the GPS offers its benefits, like data on underwater contours and surrounding topography that allow you to create different travel logs.
The Frequency of The Transducer
The nature of inland fishing has changed drastically; it’s no longer known as the passive pastime activity because there’s much more of a strategic aspect involved. This would explain the developments in technology that once-modest transducers have gone through. There are now transducers with frequencies that let you see what’s below or at the side of your kayak, and some models can give a 360-degree view.
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Fishfinder manufacturing brands are making rapid upgrades to their systems so kayak fishers can have a more extensive assortment of options to select from. This includes different bandwidths, directions, and frequencies that add to the overall experience. Here’s some of the basic terminology you need to know about transducers concerning their frequencies before you can make a decision.
These transducers have more wave cycles every second and shorter wavelength as well. This offers you the advantage that you’ll be able to see more details underwater, which includes smaller species of fish. However, you won’t be able to see deeper than shallow waters so you’ll be limited to smaller inland water bodies.
For instance, a 200kHz frequency transducer produces a sound wave that’s about 1/4th of an inch. Therefore, it will be able to detect fish that are almost the same size. The high-frequency capability gives a clear picture of what’s at the bottom, and if you want better resolution, a 455kHz or 800kHz transducer will do.
This type of transducer delivers longer waves at the tradeoff of fewer waves per second. In simpler terms, you’ll be getting less information as to what’s underwater, but your transducer’s waves will reach greater depths.
A 50kHz frequency transducer produces waves that are almost an inch long, so it’ll only be able to identify species of fish that have similarly sized air bladders. So while you won’t get any details of smaller fish, you do get better functionality in deep waters like Lake Michigan.
The name says it all; these transducers can release shorter waves at higher frequencies and longer waves at lower frequencies. Using an element of piezoceramic nature, i.e., vibrating crystals, the transducer sends and receives dual frequency pulses simultaneously.
Quadra or Dual Beams
Highly advanced models of transducers implement the use of varied elements, and each of these operates in a specific direction.
Things To Remember
- Choosing a low-frequency transducer gives you the benefit of finding more massive structures, which could be prime hiding locations for fish.
- On the other hand, high-frequency transducers don’t provide much detail as to what’s lurking right under your kayak.
The Type of Transducer
The process of choosing the best kayak fish finder for your needs takes a lot of time, and it’s not enough that a transducer is included in the package, but it should be compatible with your boat as well. Aside from being compatible, the mounting system of a transducer can significantly impact the quality of information you get. Also, specific mounting systems take longer than others, and the results you’ll get from each type of mounting system differ significantly as well.
The most challenging transducer type to install is the thru-hull since you’ll mainly be drilling right through your kayak. However, it does provide clear and high-quality signals because the transducer is placed just right. These often come in the form of triducers, which have extra perks like temperature and depth sensors.
This is easier to install and can be done with almost any kayak fish finder that comes with its bracket. You can usually adjust the angle on these brackets, which are either bolted or screwed on to the transom. The transducer hangs below deck, at the back of the hull. It’s much easier to install than the thru-hull design, but the placement of the transducer can result in rough water flow.
This type of transducer doesn’t need to come in contact with the water to provide a signal. Instead, it can be placed inside the kayak using a durable material such as epoxy or silicone. This may seem like the most comfortable option, but it’s limited to fiberglass-based hulls and doesn’t work with kayaks that have steel or cored hulls.
The Best Kayak Fish Finders
We’ve gone through the main details you need to consider before choosing a fish finder to buy, but it doesn’t take much confusion out of the choosing process. After all, you need a recommendation for something that has been tried and tested by kayak fishers out on the field and not something that only looks good on paper.
That’s why we scoured around for the best kayak fish finders out there based on performance, features, and reviews. The following fish finders are depended and relied upon by a large number of experts in the kayak fishing community. So, rest assured that you’ll have no trouble getting used to any of the following recommended products.
This is quite possibly the best kayak fish finder I have come across because of its advanced technology and seamless Wi-Fi connection to smart devices. This is the PRO version that is a step above the Deeper START, which serves as a good beginner’s tool. To connect the transducer with your smartphone or tablet, you don’t require cellular data or access to a wireless Internet connection. The application is compatible with both iOS and Android-based smartphones.
With this fish finder, you receive instantaneous information on underwater details, such as species available, structure, depth, and contour. It has a Boat Mode, which activates to help you design bathymetric designs and maps of your favorite fishing areas. You can come home and analyze them on a computer using Lakebook, which is a free software provided by Deeper for excellent data management.
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You’re able to remove or add fish icons on the display, and for a change of view, choose between different graphics displays. Once your trip is over and you’ve returned home with the catch, you can review your scans by accessing them in the History feature; these can help make a detailed plan of your next trip. You can also get useful info from the map functions, weather forecasts, and Solunar calendar.
- Features a casting range of 330 feet
- Has a scanning depth range of 260 feet
- The dual angle between 15 and 55 degrees for deep and shallow waters
- Can operate in standard kayak fishing and ice fishing temperatures: -4oF to 104oF
- GPS feature allows mapping using smartphone accessibility
- Features two different display modes: detailed and basic
- You can adjust the sensitivity to your preferred range
- The graphics display comes in variant color palettes
This is a portable fish finder that you can carry with you, just like the Deeper PRO, and it syncs to a smart device as well. It has sonar technology that helps it identify fish, and an LED beacon to help you find it again after casting, on a foggy day. The battery is rechargeable, and it also has an indicator light so you can check battery levels. With ten-hour battery life, this kayak fish finder can give readings up to 135 feet deep. It comes with all the materials so you can quickly swap from a bobbler to a fish-finder, and you can sync it with your smartphone using the free app that’s available on Android and iOS stores.
There are many options as to graphical views and charts; for instance, you can select between fish tagging and raw sonar. You also get extra features like seeing waterbed structures under your kayak and mapping contours. You can develop your own customized map using GPS spot tagging and log your trips with various factors like temperature, species, weather, and number. Its portable nature makes the iBobbler extremely versatile for all kinds of fishing situations, be it ice, kayak, dock, or shore fishing. It comes complete with a ReelSonar digital fish scale and multi-tool pliers as well.
- Portable style suitable for multiple fishing scenarios
- Rechargeable battery with ten-hour operating time
- Gives readings that are up to 135 feet deep
- Syncs with smart devices
- Get real-time contour mapping and observe waterbed structures
- Develop your map with GPS mapping
- Log your fishing trips with different details
- ReelSonar digital fish scale helps you measure and weigh your catch
- ReelSonar Multi-tool pliers for on-site fixes
This powerful fish finder isn’t quite portable, but it’s specially designed to aid with kayak fishing. It has heavy-duty construction and features the best technology for the ultimate experience. It comes in 4, 5 and 7-inch screen versions to offer greater visibility on graphs and charts. This model comes equipped with Navionics+ charts.
These cover a wide range of water bodies across the U.S. coastal areas and even Canada, so you’ll have a continuously growing list of over 20 thousand lakes. It has Ultra Wide CHIRP DownVision, which offers exceptionally clear images of an underwater view. The DownVision integrated into this fish finder can perform at depths of up to 600 feet.
The Dragonfly Pro has Dual-Channel CHIRP Sonar, which is a fish-targeting channel that offers regular sonar graphics; it’s standard on all the models. Most importantly, the fish finder kit includes a Transom Mount type transducer, Dragonfly CPT-DVS. The ball-and-socket mounting system makes it easy to install the Raymarine Dragonfly Pro.
All models have built-in Wi-Fi so you can sync your smartphone and receive sonar data right onto your device. Using the Wi-Fish app, you can rewind and capture great shots of your catch right before pulling it up. It also offers an augmented reality navigation feature to make it easier for beginners.
- Robust design ideal for kayak fishing
- The screen comes in different sizes
- Equipped with Navionics+ charts that feature maps of U.S. coastal areas and Canada
- Ultra Wide CHIRP DownVision for accurate imaging at up to 600 feet underwater
- Dual-channel CHIRP Sonar for regular graphics
- Transom mount transducer Dragonfly CPT-DVS
- Ball and socket mount for effortless mounting
- Built-in WiFi for smartphone syncing abilities
- Augmented reality and user-friendly navigation
The Striker 4 is a GPS-oriented fish finder that offers plenty of inbuilt features can be upgraded and is a versatile setup that can be used in many situations. To begin with, it has CLEARVU sonar which offers not just clear imaging, but more details as to what’s in the water. This includes underwater contour and structures. This means you can expect nearly photographic imaging with accurate representations of fish, giving you some insight into the species.
The simpler interface means that it’s much easier to get used to without facing a steep learning curve. The keys offer dedicated responses to tasks, and you don’t need to spend much time installing your fish finder. For a larger display, you can get a larger display because the model is available in screens with sizes of 3.5, 5, and 7 inches.
The system is equipped with a waypoint map that can help you navigate and mark different locations and spots such as docks. It can deliver information from deeper depths of up to 1500 feet of freshwater and 750 feet of saltwater.
The CHIRP sonar delivers the fish finder with a consistent flow of frequencies, so you get more information. It can make fish arches that are effective, while properly separating targets. The entire setup comes with a dual frequency transducer and a mount so that you can install it with ease. If you prefer to make an upgrade to a higher performance transducer, the Striker 4 is compatible with the GT15.
- Portable design can be carried out for various fishing trips
- CLEARVU sonar gives accurate photographic-like imaging with more details
- User-friendly interface with dedicated buttons
- Comes in a variety of screen sizes
- Equipped with a waypoint map
- Reach depths of up to 1500 and 750 feet in freshwater and saltwater respectively
- Comes with dual frequency transducer so you can fish in deep and shallow waters
- Features GPS
This heavy-duty fish finder unit is built for extensive use by kayak fishing professionals and is manual. This echoMAP model by Garmin is equipped with CHIRP sonar technology, which gives it the CLEARVU feature. CLEARVU allows for more precise imaging of what’s inside the water, whether it’s structures or species. Its high-frequency capabilities are the reason you’ll get photographic-like images with highly accurate representations of underwater objects.
The dual frequency sonar makes this fish finder versatile enough to use in deep and shallow waters. A compatible transducer is included in the package and has to be transom mounted. The fish finder can work with thru-hull transducers, but transom mounted transducers will provide the best information. It can form data graphs and recordings as you move; use this information later on to plan your next trip to the same area.
It’s equipped with internal GPS, which means you’ll be getting map navigation in real-time without the need to connect to any internet service. It already comes with U.S. maps pre-installed so you won’t have any trouble if you’re going fishing at any of the inland water bodies. Shallow water shading feature gives optimum data to keep you out of dangerous parts. To keep your fish finder protected from the elements, the package comes with a cover for your unit. It doesn’t take much time to set up and install in your kayak, so don’t worry about spending half a day with the instructions.
- CLEARVU and CHIRP sonar for highly accurate and copious amounts of information
- Get photographic imaging and realistic representations of structures and fish
- Deal frequency transducer gives best results in all types of waters
- Transom mount transducer doesn’t take any time to install
- Gives graphical and recorded data for future reference and charts
- S. maps are already pre-installed for convenience
- In-built GPS offers real-time navigation in different areas
- Shallow water shading feature gives you additional information about surrounding waters
- Comes with cover for unit included
Hopefully, our recommendations will come in handy for your upcoming fish finder purchase. We made sure to review many models, so you don’t feel compelled to buy one type of fish finder. Once you’ve bought a fish finder based on our recommendations, you’ll be better equipped with the skills to make an informed decision the next time you’ll need to upgrade to advanced specifications. Order your very own fish finder today and welcome a world of fishing opportunities.