There are several fish finders available for kayaks. Finding the perfect one for your preferences may seem overwhelming. This article’s objective is to assist you in refining your search to make your shopping more efficient and prevent you from being sold something you don’t need.
Here is a brief overview of the best kayak fish finders based on different features, budgets, and fishing styles:
- Humminbird Helix 7 Mega SI GPS G4 – Best Sonar Imaging
- Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 Splitshot – Best Budget with DownScan (Down Imaging)
- Garmin Striker Vivid 4CV – Best Under $200
- Deeper PRO+ WiFi Fish Finder With GPS – Best Portable
- Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 63CV – Best Under $500
- iBobber Castable Wireless Fish Finder – Best Cheap And Portable
- Garmin Striker Vivid 7SV – Best Budget Side Imaging For Kayaks
Best Kayak Fish Finder – Reviews
1. Humminbird Helix 7 Mega SI GPS G4 – Best Sonar Imaging
Humminbird Helix 7 offers the best sonar imaging on a 7” screen which makes it the top rated fish finder for kayaks.
This is the only 7-inch fish finder on the market with a sonar frequency greater than 1 MHz. The side imaging and down imaging details are excellent, allowing you to quickly see fish near structures or separate game fish from bait balls.
Helix 7 Mega Side Imaging can scan upto 400 feet on either side of the Kayak. You can quickly scout a large lake and mark GPS locations of fishing hotspots like weed edges, rockpiles, boulders, ledges, etc. directly on the screen.
Talking about the size, the 7” screen is optimum for kayaks. It’s small enough to not interfere with paddling or casting and large enough to view sonar and maps clearly.
On top of it, Humminbird offers the best-in-market screen resolution at 1024×600 pixels which comes in handy when looking at tiny details in the water. No other brand offers an HD display in a 7″ fish finder. Also, explore the best hummingbird fish finder here.
- Dual Spectrum CHIRP sonar with Mega Down Imaging and Mega Side Imaging
- HD display of 1024×600 px.
- Bright screen – easy to view in kayaks under sunlight
- The transducer can be easily mounted on the transom of a Kayak or you can also use the side arm mounting option with it.
- Pre-loaded Humminbird basemap that cover more than 10,000 US lakes.
- Micro SD card slot to upgrade to premium charts like Navionics
- Built-in GPS with auto charting option of uncharted lake
- No touchscreen
2. Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 Splitshot – Best Budget with DownScan (down Imaging)
Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 is specifically targeted at kayak owners. It has a small screen size and no networking capabilities, which helps lower the price. For $300, you can get down imaging (DownScan), traditional sonar, pre-loaded maps, and many other beginner-friendly features.
Let’s start with the features that make this fish finder easy to use:
- Fish Reveal – FishReveal enhances the appearance of fish as an arch by brightening and presenting them more clearly. It aids in identifying fish when they are close to a structure or submerged vegetation. This is great for beginners who are unfamiliar with reading a fish finder.
- Autotuning Sonar – The parameters of autotuning sonar are automatically adjusted when the water depth changes. This is great for Kayak owners who have limited mobility. Instead of fiddling with the fish finder settings, they may concentrate on finding and catching the fish.
- SolarMax display – Even under bright sunlight, the SolarMAX display provides great clarity and daylight visibility.
- Genesis Live – Genesis Live is a live mapping application. You may generate your own own 1/2-foot contour maps of your local unexplored lake in real time.
Hook Reveal comes equipped with SplitShot transducer that features wide-angle high CHIRP sonar (200kHz) and high-frequency DownScan imaging (455/800kHz).
This frequency range is best suited for freshwater fishing and privdes high resolution sonar images of the bottom. You can target fish species like Bass and crappies with the Hook Reveal fish finder.
The down imaging results are comparable to high-end fish finder like Helix 7. But, they lack target separation where you can see fish near the structure or bottom in great detail.
The lack of high-level details is expected from a budget fish finder. It is still good enough for structure fishing, where you can drop waypoints on weeds, trees, brush piles, bottom transitions, etc. The built-in GPS helps you return to these fishing hotspots to cast the bait.
Do you want to mount the fish finder transducer without drilling holes in your kayak?
Here is the good news. SplitShot transducer can be mounted on the kayak’s hull without affecting the sonar image quality. You can use the Lowrance kayak scupper mount for in-hull mounting.
- SplitShot transducer with high CHIRP sonar and DownScan imaging
- FishReveal technology display fish as arches
- Genesis Live real-time mapping with GPS plotter
- Mapping options include C-MAP Contour+ or basemaps
- SolarMAX display for superior brightness and clarity in direct sunlight
- Keypad with one-touch access to key features
- MicroSD card slot
- Not ideal for seawater or deep fishing. The minimum sonar frequency is 200KHz which can scan up to 500 feet.
- 5″ screen is bit small to identify fish and fish-holding structures quickly
- Down imaging lacks high-level details
- No touchscreen
3. Garmin Striker Vivid 4CV – Best Under $200
The Garmin STRIKER Vivid 4CV is priced just under $200 and has features comparable to a mid-range fish finder.
It is compact and lightweight, making it ideal for carrying on Kayaks where space is limited.
Because of its low power consumption, standard portable kayak batteries could power it for a long time. Ideal for long kayak outings.
It offers down imaging (ClearVu) at 455/800 kHz with a transmit power of 300 W. The results of the down imaging are good enough to identify bottom transitions and fish holding structures.
The downside is the small screen size, where its difficult to catch tiny details like fish near the bottom or the structure. The zoom-in feature can help you give a closer look and overcome this problem. You can also have a look at all Garmin Kayak Fish Finders here.
- Lightweight and small
- Low power consumption
- Beginner and user friendly – various color palettes to distinguish between fish and structure
- ClearVu and Dual Chirp sonars
- It can scan both shallow and deep waters, so you can use it whether you’re fishing in shallow lakes or deep seas.
- Built-in GPS with auto charting
- Quick release mount enables you to remove the item when not in use effortlessly.
- Screen size is relatively smaller.
- No maps.
- Down Imaging falls short of the quality of high-end fish finders. However, it would suffice for occasional anglers.
4. Deeper PRO+ Castable WiFi Fish Finder with GPS for Kayaks – Best Portable
Deeper Pro+ offers the simplest way to start fishing without any installations in your kayak.
Connect your smartphone with the castable sonar device using Wi-Fi and see the sonar images and custom-drawn maps on your phone’s screen. It has a 330-foot range to connect with your phone while detecting fish and structures up to 260 feet underneath the water.
You can take it in your kayak to small lakes, rivers, or even for fishing from the pier. You can see the water temperature, bottom layout, fish depth, structure, weeds, and everything on the smartphone.
Its expanded casting range (330 ft) provides a significant advantage in scanning hard-to-reach areas like shelves and drop-offs. You can cast the lure with confidence if the structure holds any fish.
Deeper Pro+ also allows you to create custom bathymetric maps. The maps are automatically saved on your phone and synced with Deeper’s cloud server. You can later analyze the maps and sonar on your laptop and mark the fishing hotspots you might have missed. Next time you can go right at that structure and start catching fish immediately. You can have a look at the best portable fish finders here.
- Very easy to use on Kayaks. No installation required
- Rechargeable batteries that can last a day in your fishing trip.
- Travel light in your Kayak without fish finder battery
- Best for occasional anglers
- No down imaging or side imaging
- Difficult to identify fish holding structures
5. Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 63CV Fish Finder Chartplotter with U.S. LakeVu g3 Maps – Best Under $500
Garmin Echomap UHD 63CV provides the best mapping options for kayaks. The pre-loaded maps cover over 18000 lakes in U.S with 1’ contours, depth shading, auto guidance technology, and POIs.
The contour maps can help you identify fishing hotspots like steep dropoffs, ledges, lumps, etc. The GPS auto-guidance feature can help to plan the route to these spots.
You can study the maps beforehand, hop on the kayak and start fishing immediately.
The depth shading in Echomap UHD helps you avoid shallow areas that can be hazardous for kayaks. You can also target the fishing depth based on the time of day and the species you want to catch.
Echomap UHD 63CV comes equipped with the Garmin GT-20 UHD transducer. It provides CHIRP Sonar and Down Imaging (ClearVu) at a high frequency of 800KHz. If you’re fishing in shallow lakes, you’ll get picture-perfect details of the bottom. You can quickly identify fish-holding structures such as trees, vegetation, brush piles, etc.
- Maps with a wide coverage of US lakes.
- High definition down imaging (ClearVu) sonar @800 kHz.
- Traditional sonar ranges from 73 – 200 kHz to fish in shallow and deep water.
- Provides high-wide CHIRP for clear target separation.
- Wi-fi connectivity to sync smartphone. See maps and other data on your smartphone.
- No side-imaging
- No touchscreen
6. iBobber ReelSonar Castable Wireless Fish Finder with Smartphone Sync – Best Cheap and Portable
- Good cheap option in just $100 for occasional fishing. Plenty of features and is a good option if you are on a tight budget or just want to try a fish finder before investing in the high end one.
- 100% portable and no installation required on Kayak. Sync with smartphone via Bluetooth
- Works in up to 150 feet of water. Good for kayak owners who are mostly fishing in shallow lakes
- Good battery time of 10+ hours. It can last a day fishing trip on Kayak. Plus, it can be recharged with a power bank.
- Built-in GPS that can log your fishing trip on an interactive map. Tag your points of interest on the map
- Gives an accurate reading of water temperature and depth
- Results are not accurate. Anything submerged in water could be tagged as fish.
- You cannot identify the hard or soft bottom. It is not reliable to keep you safe from the hazards of kayaking in shallow water.
- Life is limited of this product. It can last for 1 year, but after that, the accuracy starts deteriorating.
7. Garmin Striker Vivid 7SV – Best Budget Side Imaging for Kayaks
The Garmin STRIKER Vivid 7SV is a mid-range fish finder with both side imaging (SideVu) and down imaging (DownVu).
The Striker Vivid 7SV’s standard GT-52 transducer is less powerful (350 W) than Garmin’s GT-56 transducer (500 W). It does not provide UHD sonar images, but it displays fish arches with decent target separation and a clearly defined structure below and to the sides of the kayak.
It is suitable for freshwater anglers looking for an affordable side imaging fish finder.
- Clearly define underwater structure.
- Vivid color palettes to view fish, structure, and bottom in different color combinations.
- Wi-Fi connectivity for syncing your smartphone with the Garmin ActiveCaptain app.
- Integrated GPS for marking fishing hotspots.
- Custom map creation with GPS and sonar.
- Simple head unit installation with tilt/swivel mount and transom or trolling motor mount for the transducer.
- Compatible with conventional Garmin saltwater transducers
- No mapping option
- No touchscreen
- No MicroSD card slot
How to buy cost-effective fish finder for kayak
Your budget will play a major role in determining what fish finder you ultimately purchase. Fish finders range from under $100 to well over $1,000. Some networked systems even go above $10,000.
Here is a brief overview of the factors that directly affect the cost of a fish finder:
- Screen size, resolution, and whether it’s a touch screen directly affect the cost. Bigger the screen, the higher the cost.
- Types of Sonar: there are mainly 3 types: traditional 2D sonar, down imaging, and side imaging. Fish finders with side imaging have all 3 types of sonar in them and are more expensive.
- Sonar quality is directly dependent on the transducer frequency and output power. Fish finders offering a high scanning frequency of more than 1 MHz are more expensive.
- Mapping Options – Fish finders with pre-loaded maps are more expensive. They have built-in maps plus an SD card slot to purchase premium maps.
- Networking – It connects different boat electronics with the fish finder like trolling motor, radar, etc. These are high end fish finders and mostly used by high end fishing boat owners.
Let’s go over these factors to narrow down the selection process.
There are tradeoffs associated with different screen sizes of fish finders on kayaks.
Small screen sizes are difficult to view when running sonar and maps simultaneously on a split-screen. But small screen size fish finder is lightweight and easy to carry on kayak where traveling light is a priority. Moreover, it consumes less power, and a small kayak battery would be sufficient to run it for a long time.
Large screen is great for viewing sonar maps and especially side-imaging. You can quickly identify structures and fish on a bigger screen than a small one. But they can get in the way when you are paddling or casting.
In my opinion, 4 – 7 inches is the optimum size for the kayak. Anything below 4 is very hard to see. Anything above 7 would start causing hindrance.
But the fishing enthusiast loves bigger screens. If you have big apatite for fishing, don’t hesitate to go for the bigger screen but mount it strategically on the kayak.
Selecting the right sonar frequency depends on how deep you are fishing.
If you are fishing for tuna and looking for structures around 500+ feet directly under the boat, a low frequency transducer is better. A 50 – 200 kHz frequency range would suffice in this situation.
High frequency imaging fish finders don’t produce good results in deep water due to the attenuation of the signals.
A high frequency fish finder with side imaging and down imaging is best for shallow water fishing under 300 feet.
Side imaging is a game-changing technology. It gives a lot of advantage to the anglers who understand it.
Its usage is not limited to just structure fishing. You will better understand the orientation of the lake or the offshore water body you are fishing in.
Side imaging will show you how the creeks are curved, how the laydowns are orientated, how many laydowns there are, and how many individual stomps there are in 50 feet of water. You can drop waypoints on all those hotspots and fish more effectively.
A side imaging fish finder starts at about $400 in 5-inch screen. However, I do not recommend the 5-inch screen for it because you are cramming too much information onto a little screen. If you’re going to do side imaging, I recommend a 7-inch screen on a kayak.
Down imaging gives you clarity of what you’re seeing on 2D sonar.
A lot of times, clumps of arches can be mistaken for school hybrids or a school of suspended crappy on 2D sonar. But if you draw the same picture with down imaging, it will separate those clumps. Those clumps might be a brush pile which can be seen on down imaging but not on 2D sonar.
Down imaging is also excellent at revealing giant gamefish swimming in middle of the bait school. That big tuna or yellowtail will not be visible on 2D sonar unless they are separated from the bait.
Down imaging has an edge over 2D sonar and take the fishing to the next level. The units with this technology starts at around 250 – 300 dollars in a 5-inch screen.
If you are just starting and have that budget, don’t hesitate to get the fish finder with down imaging.
Kayaks are slow and you might spend days just surveying the lake and finding good fishing spots. A fish finder with lake chart will cut short your surveying time. You will spend less time searching and more time catching the fish.
You can identify drop offs, ledges, creek channels, channel swings, submerged banks and alot more using the contour lines on the map. These are the spots where you can find Bass and other gamefish.
You can study the maps at home, mark waypoint and directly take your kayak to the spot using GPS. For example, if a particular channel swing marked has fish in it, it is safe to assume there are fish in other channel swings of the lake as well.
All modern fish finders today have the built-in GPS but not all come with the mapping option. Fish finders with the pre-loaded maps usually start from $300 mark. These are basemaps with small coverage of the lakes and basic features like contour lines, depth shading etc. Even the basic features are quite helpful in identifying the fishing hotspots.
There are also premium charts offered by Garmin, Lowrace, and Humminbird with advanced features in their premium charts like reef shading, bottom composition etc. They cost an extra 100 – 150 bucks.
I would highly recommend a fish finder with mapping option for kayaks. The maps and GPS are also beneficial in keeping the kayak safe from hazards. If you’re navigating through hazardous areas, such as stumps and long rocks, it leaves breadcrumbs or trails so you can follow the same path on the way back.
Transducer Mounting Options
Many kayak manufacturers have introduced their own specific method for installing transducer in the modern kayaks. They have collaborated with different fish finder brands to create scupper holes that are a perfect fit for the transducers, allowing for a plug and play solution.
Old Town, Ocean, and Necky have scupper holes that are compatible with Humminbird transducers. On the other hand, Hobie and Wilderness Systems kayaks have the pluag and play installation for Lowrance transducers.
But, it is possible to customize the mounting and scupper holes. For example, you can mount the Humminbird transducer on Hobie with little customization.
- 1 Best Kayak Fish Finder – Reviews
- 1.1 1. Humminbird Helix 7 Mega SI GPS G4 – Best Sonar Imaging
- 1.2 2. Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 Splitshot – Best Budget with DownScan (down Imaging)
- 1.3 3. Garmin Striker Vivid 4CV – Best Under $200
- 1.4 4. Deeper PRO+ Castable WiFi Fish Finder with GPS for Kayaks – Best Portable
- 1.5 5. Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 63CV Fish Finder Chartplotter with U.S. LakeVu g3 Maps – Best Under $500
- 1.6 6. iBobber ReelSonar Castable Wireless Fish Finder with Smartphone Sync – Best Cheap and Portable
- 1.7 7. Garmin Striker Vivid 7SV – Best Budget Side Imaging for Kayaks
- 2 How to buy cost-effective fish finder for kayak