Best Fish Finder for Kayak Fishing (Updated 2021 Season)


Fish finders on any size vessel are a distinct advantage. I used to have a Island Gypsy Cruiser and being able to plot my way to my numbers 20 miles offshore (kindly shared by a local fisherman) and put friends on a day out onto fish was much better than an empty cooler at the end of the day. It was the fish finder that managed that.

FeaturesGarmin
Striker 4
Garmin Stricker
4 CV -CHIRP
Humminbird
Piranha DI
Hawkeye Fish
Trax
Venterior Portable
Fish Finder
Humminbird
Helix 5 SI / GPS
Display info3.5 inch LCD4 inch QSVGA4,3 inch, 256 Color TFTLED TFTN ColorTFT LCD Color16bit 800×400
Sonar typeCHIRPCHIRPDI dual beam sonarDual BeamSingle beamSide Imaging, Dual, CHIRP
GPSyesyesnononoyes
Connectivitywifiyes
Depth600ft1500/600ft320ft240ft120+1500ft
Maps / Waypointswaypointswaypointsnononoyes
Extrasipx7 ratingportable4 x AAA batteries4 x AAA BatteriesLOADS!!
Check PriceCheck PriceCheck
Price
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Price
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Price

That’s not to say that Fish Finder are just spotting fish, though they do, There is much more to them than just spotting a passing fish. It is important to know which features are essential and which are a just a bonus. This is especially important in the space conscious environment of a fishing kayak.

What Features Are Needed Fish Finder For A Fishing Kayak?

A quality fish finder will incorporate CHIRP Sonar to distinguish fish from other structures, A GPS for both safety and for logging of fishing numbers, a good quality,  weather and glare resistant Hi-Res screen and electronics. They also need to be portable, priced and low powered enough for a small craft.

Let’s look at those features to see if they fit your fishing style and then we pick 5 of the best options for kayak fishing.

The best Fish Finder for a fishing kayak will have as many of the features that its bigger brothers have, but ideally in a smaller, less power hungry and weatherproof form. I actually prefer a horizontal form so avoid getting in the way of casting and rod handling, but vertical forms works fine (and are often cheaper).

Some of these features are not a requirement, though they are nice to have, depending on which type of Kayak fishing you do. GPS for example is practically an essential with sea fishing kayaks but if you are fishing a small lake near your house it becomes somewhat less important. We also have an article on finding crappie with a fish finder as well.

Before You Purchase Any Fisher finder For A Fishing Kayak You Should Consider The Following :

  • Your budget
  • The water body you want to use it on
  • The type of fish you intend to find; different fishes live and commute to varying depths in water.  
  • The depth and level of the fish habitat; to ensure the sonar depth can reach where the fish moves. 
  • Type of Transducer material; depending on the kind of boat you are using 
  • The beam angle of the transducer 
  • Water resistance; to prevent damage from splashes

The Best Fish Finders for Kayak Fishing

1. Garmin Striker 4cv With Transducer, GPS and CHIRP Review

Garmin make great equipment and this model of fish finder is no exception. A clear display that helps with sun glare. It is not as bright as high end models but at this price point it is a great compromise.

A lovely and well welcome on a fish finder costing 160 dollars is the GPS that records hot spots so you can mark them and return later. You can hope the fish have as good a tracking system as well!

It will likely weight less than your reel at 230g which makes it great for kayak fishing. Light weight and small form are very much needed when you are waving rods about.

CHIRP sonar is great to see on such a low priced model it offers a much clearer and higher return from the sonar. While it is great for ice fishing and jigging, where you are more static, but if you a re spinning then it is good for spotting features and structures to throw lures at and past to try to coax out bass and groupers.

Pros

  • Fair price for the features
  • Good Clear Display
  • Has GPS
  • Water Resistant
  • CHIRPS

Cons

  • No Micro SD slot (for maps)
  • No screen protection
  • No NMEA Connectiveity.

2. HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder Review

A very popular, if not as cool looking, fish finder option for fishing kayaks. It is small form, lightweight and a floating transducer to explore harder to reach swims. It has fish alarms included and measures to about 240ft.

This evergreen model is easy to use and well designed with over size controls for those glove wearing chilly mornings. We feel it is more suited to kayaks than larger boats due to screen size and the transducer features. It is not CHIRP however, though this may change in future updates.

The screen is bright and compares well to more expensive models and the lack of need for a marine battery is a definite plus for those of use worried about space and wires on a kayak. The batteries are stated to last 30 hours, in reality a spare set tucked in your bag some where is a good idea.

It is a great option for freshwater, and a reasonable option for salt water and if a long way offshore you will fare better with the larger ( and more expensive) options in this list. The three modes are useful but it is likely you will be using one more than the others.

  • Fish finder: the General mode. Will be used most of the time.
  • Data: Depth Temperature in a larger form
  • Ice flash: Primarily used for Ice Fishing and suspended fish.

It is certainly a good deal with a lot of features packed into a small portable and well priced fish finder. There are two cheaper models, but really the 1C in the way to go. The lack of a marine battery is a big deal and if you don’t have a need for power like that ( trolling motor etc.) then it should be a definite consideration. Just pack those spare batteries.

Pros

  • Small form
  • No marine battery!!
  • Clear screen
  • 3 modes
  • Price
  • Adjustable SONAR sensitivity
  • Floating Transducer option

Cons

  • Battery life Questionable
  • Screen refresh can lag
  • Better suited to Freshwater
  • No Maps / GPS
  • Small Screen

3. Venterior Portable Fish Finder Wireless Review.

Well, look what we have here! A wireless fishfinder under 100 dollars! The transducer can be cast to a spot and the information relayed back to the unit. This is a nice trick for the kayak fisherman. This is a basic model and the price reflects that. However it is not just the prices that is attractive, its portability and castability make it work a consideration for kayak fishing.

It has a single beam transducer, which is less than ALL of the others we discuss here, but this is our budget offering and it still works well within those constraints. It can spot fish from 2 to 120ft although a swimming pool test suggests the refresh rate may not be that fast.

With that depth it is probably more suited to lake than sea fishing however.

Although possible to use for trolling, you would need to fix it not float it, it is better for static fishing and will spot moving fish. You wont be able to tell the size of those fish unless you lower the sensitivity down, but now accurate some of these size detectors are is always a little up for debate.

The display though fine, suffers in sunlight and this could be an issue. However remember it is a 80 dollar sonar, so if you want to try that then you may have to be prepared to move your face closer to it from time to time!

Pros

  • Portability
  • Great Price
  • Uses AAA Batteries
  • All the essential features

Cons

  • Screen viewability
  • Single Beam Sonar
  • Lack of features

4. Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2 Fish Finder

Well, lets go for it shall we. We have looked at units with Single beam, Dual Beam and CHIRP. SO lets go all out and look at a fish finder that is small enough for a kayak, but includes side imaging to reduce the time searching for fish, and give you more time on top of them. Though the learning curve, and price, is steep!

Lets not beat around the bush, and with this you wont have to, this is pricey, almost half the price of a fishing kayak if you don’t have a Hobie that is. For that price is is jammed with features to help you find fish in almost any waters.

Is it a smaller from that the 7 and 9 inch models so is certainly suited to smaller craft. the resolution is 16bit color and back lit so you can get 24 hour night and day use out of this. It is clear in most conditions and the colours jump out of the screen.

Side Imaging: That’s why this raises eyebrows. Although there are increasingly more options appearing as the technology becomes more mainstream. The Helix 5 from Humminbird does a steallar job at it. You can scan 480ft to 100ft from the side of your boat and look for structures and fish in a much MUCH wider range than other fish finders.

It also provides down imaging, for when you have spotted structures 100 metres away, waypointed them and then come round for another pass. This allows to focus in on exactly what is down there and decide if its worth dropping a bait down. For Kayak fishing this is great as we are not the fastest boats on the water.

It also comes with SwitchFire sonar, which allows anglers to check for individual objects like fish or turn it to max and spot larger structures. They also include CHIRP and Dual beam. In fact the only thing missing is a sketch artist to paint an image of whats down there.

SmartStrike is a nice feature that uses LakeMaster map data to help you locate fish all year round. It needs a GPS, some user data entry and a little practice.

You may, or may not, know that side imaging is better for shallower waters to about 100ft deep. So inshore or inland but not so useful in deep water. It will work fine in 2D mode but then so will plenty of cheaper models.

It really is an awesome piece of kit and the price justifies what it can do. If you need all the features it can do depends on the kayak fishing you do and where you do it. However this takes the excuses out of fishing. If you have a bad day it will not because you cant find the fish!

Pros

  • So many!
  • Side Imaging, Down Imaging Dual beam and SwitchFire
  • CHIRP
  • 1500ft Depth
  • FIsh ID / Alarms
  • GPS
  • Maps and Micro SD
  • Great Screen
  • Waterproof IPX7
  • 360 imaging
  • and more…

Cons

  • no cover included
  • 100ft limit of Side Imaging
  • pricey for a fishing kayak

5. Humminbird PIRANHAMAX 4 DI Fish Finder Review

PirahaMAX fishfinders from Humminbird are squarly aimed at smaller watercraft with an eye on budget. This model is an upgrade of the 197s and comes with a bigger hi res screen at 4.3 inches.

This model is a step up from the 2D models, it has better returns and can show better details. The DI (down imaging) Although there a better sonars this will let you tell the difference between features n the bottom. All the way down to120ft.

They are designed for portability, and come with a base, carry case transducer and 12vt rechargeable battery. This model does not come with a GPS.

Pros

  • Nice Price
  • Lowest Price Fish Imaging
  • Great for Small Craft
  • Portable

Cons

  • No GPS
  • No CHIRP
  • small screen
  • Better options for 30 dollars more

6. GARMIN STRIKER 4 BUILT-IN GPS FISH FINDER REVIEW

Finding fish is what we are all about. Although there is still a place for reading the skies, wind and water, it becomes much easier with a fishfinder. This Garmin model for around 100 dollars is a great introductory model. With the Striker 4 Fish Finder, you can now easily find fish in the ocean even if you don’t have 50 years of experience!

The Garmin Stricker 4’s small form, and power consumption make it a better fit that its bigger, horizontal brothers. In an ideal world in would be horizontal but after a few trips to get used to it it will serve you well, especially with structure finding in lakes and just offshore.

Its transducer can be mounter on the hull and as it is relatively user friendly you can spend more time fishing and less time fiddling with settings you are unlikely to need.

It comes with a preloaded CHIRP sonar transducer of about 77/200 kHz and transmitting power of 200 W RMS /1,600 W peak-to-peak. The sensor is very powerful and of top quality, but you can upgrade it to another of higher performance and possessing a GT8 or GT15 transducer. 

PRODUCT FEATURES

  • Navigate Your Way With The Waypoint Map: It uses a waypoint map to view, navigate to and mark locations such as docks, stumps and brush piles.
  • CHIRP Sonar: the CHIRP Sonar sends multi frequency signals into the water. It carries a sweep of frequencies continuously into the water and provides information and better separation of targets to better identify fish and structures.
  • Built-in Speedometer: the Striker 4 Fish Finder helps you display the exact velocity at which your boat is moving. It ensures that you are conscious of the speed you approach your spot.
  • The Clearv├╝ Scanning Sonar: The Striker 4 Fish Finder uses this sonar to show you clearly defined structures and shoals under the boat.
  • Great Display: the Striker 4 Fish Finder consists of a 3.5-inch screen with a clear display. It works in sunlight and is splash proof, but you don’t want to be submerging it anytime soon.

PROS:

  • It is straightforward to use and do not require rocket science
  • Sends multiple signals to ensure that images of objects present in the water are up to date
  • It uses top technology devices to provide optimum performance
  • Upgradable to ensure that different compatible add-ons are usable
  • Separates targets to ensure that objects are differentiated from each other easily
  • Perfect for all kinds of boats

CONS:

  • Small screen display although it comes bigger also 
  • Mounting devices may not be entirely reliable
  • screen could be better anti glare

Final Thoughts

A fish finder, used properly, is a superb addition to a fishing kayak. There is learning curve for sure, but once you have the basics and start spotting drop offs, trees and fish then you are unlikely to look back.

Which model you go for is going to depend on your budget and fishing patch. We LOVE the humminbird model but it is a high price to put on a kayak, if you have the money go for it, if not, or you are sensible then the Garmin Striker is a tried, tested and reasonably priced version. It makes more sense for a fishing Kayak, but every now and then we are allowed to go a little crazy, right?

what ever Fisher finder you choose for your kayak you are going to have a lot more fun, and we wish you a full cooler and a tight line!

Hi I am Marc, when I am not in a classroom teaching you will find me, or more likely not find me, on a boat, trekking through the woods, sitting by a river or pier hoping for tight lines or a straight shot. I have been teaching Outdoor skills, fishing, archery, shooting, Kayaking, Climbing and more for over 30 years. Its about time I shared some of that with you all.



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