10 Best Kayak Fish Finders: Reviewed, Rated & Compared

The close-quarters fishing done from a kayak is challenging (and fun!) enough. To help your adventures become more rewarding and fruitful, you may want to invest in a fish finder.

The best fish finders for kayaks are different than those made for boats. This article will explain what to look for in your next kayak fish finder, and how to get the best deal for your needs, experience, and budget.

Preview

Product

Screen Size

Max Depth

Check Price

Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with...

Garmin

Striker 4

3.5 Inches

1,600 feet freshwater, 750 feet saltwater

Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5 CHIRP GPS G2 Fish...

Humminbird

410210-1 HELIX 5

5 Inches

500 feet

Humminbird 409620-1 Helix 5 DI Fish Finder...

Humminbird

409620-1 Helix 5 DI

5 Inches

1600 feet

Hummingbird 410950-1 HELIX 7 CHIRP MSI (MEGA...

Humminbird

410950-1 HELIX 7 MSI

7 Inches

125 feet

Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar - GPS Portable...

Deeper PRO+

Smart Sonar

N/A

260 feet

LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder Portable Fishing...

LUCKY

2 Inches

328 feet

HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder with HD Color...

HawkEye

Fishtrax 1C

2.5 Inches

240 feet

Garmin Striker 4cv with Transducer, 4' GPS...

Garmin

Striker 4cv

4.3 Inches

1,750 ft freshwater & 830 ft saltwater

Lowrance 000-14294-001 Chart Plotters (HOOK2...

Lowrance HOOK2

7 Inches

300 feet

Humminbird 410230-1 HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2...

Humminbird

410230-1 HELIX 5 SI

5 Inches

1600 feet


Questions to Ask When Choosing a Kayak Fish Finder

When you head out on the water, there are various characteristics of your equipment and the water you prefer to fish in. To help you identify the perfect fish finder, ask yourself these questions.

How deep do you fish?

There are two primary types of finders, those that use a downward angle and those that use side view. If you prefer ocean and weave or current fishing, you will want a fish finder with a down angle, which is geared towards deeper waters. Side angle finders are ideal for shallow water, rivers and ponds, or for the kayaker that prefers to stay in the shallows or along the banks.

How far do you travel to fish?

The further you travel, the more you need to bring with you. Your fish finder also needs to have a battery that can last the entire day and then some. If you don't have a way to recharge or power your fish finder, it is dead weight.

How much space do you have available?

Unfortunately, not all kayaks are designed for fishing. There are ones that have mounts for rods and fish finders, which means you can get a larger screen or bigger finder with a mounting option. However, if your kayak lacks some essential space, you may find that you are better off with a portable model.

How will you connect the transducer to your kayak?

While considering space and distance, you also need to ask yourself where you will mount the transducer. You aren’t without options either. You can mount the rig under the hull, or near the trolling motor. You may find that it works best for you near the rudder or even just in the hole or through a scupper hole. Make sure your fish finder is capable of mounting the transducer where you prefer it to be before you buy.


More Buying Considerations for Kayak Fish Finders

Now that you have your questions and answers, you are better equipped to choose the ideal fish finder for your kayak. However, there are other considerations to take in before you make that final decision.

Kayak Mounting Type

With three major types of mounting options, you have a choice to make right off the bat. Will you mount the finder on a fixed mount in the kayak? Perhaps you prefer a handheld model or a portable device that you can hold on to or place in your lap. You can even choose the wireless models that are castable so you can pinpoint exactly where you need to be. The choice is yours, but it is an important one.

Power Source

On a boat, the power source isn’t much of an issue. However, on a kayak, you probably don't lug around a 12-volt battery to power a 1 amp fish finder. If you do, there are wiring kits available. For self-powered (internal battery), you need to know what type of battery it requires, or if there is a way to recharge it on the go (such as with a USB power bank).

Transducer

Transducers work in various ways by sending out different types of angled signals. Cone angles are ideal for deeper waters or rougher terrain under the water. The beam angle is for shallow or more pinpoint options. However, you shouldn’t have to choose if you can avoid it. Look for a model that uses the dual beam style.

Display Screen

The display is essential, and full color is the norm now. How about size and resolution, though? Obviously, the larger the screen, the better you can see it, but it may be difficult to stow or mount. Higher resolutions and screens with backlights are better suited for full sun viewing as well. Make sure you can see the screen when you are on the water!

CHIRP vs. Traditional Sonar

Traditional sonar works, that is why it is still offered. However, CHIRP, while more expensive, uses longer pulses. A technology developed by the US Navy, CHIRP is ideal for a broader range and deeper water penetration. I will cover CHIRP in more detail further below.

Performance Features

Various brands of fish finders will try to lure you in (pun intended) with different features and options. Most of these will come at an additional cost. While many of them are essential, there might be some you can do without and save a bit of money.

The most common features to look for are navigation aids, or SD storage and mapping abilities. You may also be interested in the viewing angles of the screen, as well as its visibility performance. It is also important to look at the scanning abilities, mounting options, and portability.

Price & Warranty

Finally, the price of the unit will be a deciding factor. You will want to get the most value for your dollar, but you also don’t want to go over budget just to have the most expensive model you can find. The warranty will play a role in the value as well. A longer warranty period or a warranty that covers more accidental damage or wear and tear is better than a cheap model that only protects against manufacturing defects.


10 Best Kayak Fish Finders Reviewed

1. Garmin Striker 4

Our Top Pick

Screen Size

3.5 Inches

Resolution

480x320 pixels

Max Depth

1,600 feet freshwater, 750 feet saltwater

Mounting Options

Omnidirectional mounting bracket

Battery Life

12v 7amp source required

If you are a fan of Garmin and want the best Garmin fish finder for your kayak, this is it. Our top pick is the Garmin Striker 4. It isn’t the most feature-filled Garmin finder on the market, but it does offer you enough to label itself the greatest value for the money.

With this compact 3.6-inch screen (also available in 5 and 7-inch models), you can see the contours and schools with ease. The transducer is the real hero here. Using CHIRP technology and Garmin's deep water technology, you can get detailed views up to 1,600 feet.

Of course, with most Garmin devices, upgrades are available, and the Striker 4 is no different. The upgrade here is the high-performance CHIRP sonar, which offers even better clarity and floor/bottom details.

As it stands, this device is out of the box, one of the best fish finder deals you will find. Reliable, durable, and easy to use, it will not only track fish but your boat as well. You can get water depth, boat or kayak speed, and even set waypoints.

If you find a hot spot, mark it to return to later, and the device will remember your settings. When it comes to mounting, the transducer allows for keep offset, which shouldn’t be a problem in a kayak. You can also use the omnidirectional mounting bracket for the best angle needed for paddling or casting.

You will need to supply a 12 volt 7 amp battery, though most will connect it to a trolling motor battery or carry a small 7 amp power supply with them. Just be aware that a battery is not included in the purchase.

Pros
  • Extremely deep reach in all water types
  • Compact for all kayaks
  • Full-color screen with great detail
  • 2-year warranty without professional install
Cons
  • Battery not included with purchase

2. Humminbird 410210-1 HELIX 5

Best Humminbird Fish Finder For Kayak

Screen Size

5 Inches

Resolution

800x480 pixels

Max Depth

1500 feet

Mounting Options

Transom

Battery Life

12-volt power supply required

Humminbird brings you the Helix 5 series of fish finders, and the 410210-1 is the best Humminbird fish finder for your kayak. While the 5-inch wide screen has an ultra-clear display, smaller kayaks may find the gimbal mount a little awkward without a dedicated mount.

The transducer fits easily on the transom, and with over 20 feet of cable, you won't have to worry about getting the image to the screen. With a dual beam CHIRP sonar you can see details below the boat like never before.

The deep water angler will love the 1,500-foot depth range and wide sweep no matter how fast you paddle. The built-in maps are also a great way to get to your favorite water and start fishing. However, if you prefer to make your own honey holes, you can use the AutoChart feature to build your own maps.

Best of all, the Helix 5 series is compatible with LakeMaster, with the compatible upgrade. It does cost a little bit more, but for those of you with a lot of fishing spots, it will be the best purchase you can make.

The warranty is only 1-year, which is half of the other Helix 5 models (larger-screened versions have a 2-year warranty) though there have been few reports of the Helix 5 needing a warranty claim that wasn't within the time frame.

Pros
  • SD slot for navigation and settings storage
  • High resolution screen
  • Dual beam CHIRP sonar
  • Build your own maps (AutoChart Live)
Cons
  • 1-year warranty
  • Standard mount may be awkward on smaller kayaks

3. Humminbird 409620-1 Helix 5 DI

Best For Deep Water Fishing

Screen Size

5 Inches

Resolution

800x480 pixels

Max Depth

1600 feet

Mounting Options

Transom, Trolling motor, hull

Battery Life

12 volt 7 amp power supply needed

The second Humminbird Helix 5 is the DI model. This is the best Humminbird for deep water fishing. The dual CHIRP beams offer you a wide angle and narrow beam fro accuracy and vision. The 5-inch screen is backlit so you can view it in any light, even direct sunlight. What’s better is that the screen uses a gimbal mount so you can position it where you need it best. However, on smaller kayaks without a built-in mount, you may find it difficult to place.

The transom mount transducer may need additional housing for the kayaks, but there is one available. It also offers better protection against the waves and movement under the water. Because it is the 5-inch screen Helix, the warranty is only 1-year long.

However, the smaller screen is ideal for kayaks and will stay out of your way when casting, paddling, or positioning. The best features here are the deep 1,600-foot ability of the CHIRP system for deep water fishing at its best. You can also purchase local maps, area maps, or maps all over the world to update wherever you want to fish.

If you prefer using the AutoChart program, you can create your own, detailed maps of your favorite spots. The downside to this DI model is that a lot is going on behind the screen. New users will find that the learning curve is a bit high and may not use all of the available features.

Pros
  • SD slot for maps and settings
  • High resolution screen is any-light viewable
  • Double beam CHIRP sonar
  • Temperature sensor included
Cons
  • 1-year warranty only
  • Interface isn’t user-friendly

4. Humminbird 410950-1 HELIX 7 MSI

Top Of The Range

Screen Size

7 Inches

Resolution

800x480 pixels

Max Depth

125 feet

Mounting Options

Transom, Trolling motor, hull

Battery Life

12 volt 7 amp required power supply

The next Humminbird on our list is the Helix 7 MSI. This 7-inch screen offers you details not found anywhere else. With the dual bream CHIRP sonar, you can select from wide angle or narrow angle for better range or better clarity.

Thanks to the Humminbird Low Q technology, water depth, lure results, temperature, and landmarks are all charted and viewable with the push of a button. No waiting or lagging either. This truly is the top of the range when it comes to fish finders. The one downside for kayakers is that the 7-inch screen might be too large when casting from a sitting position. It has reported to get in the way of foot paddling kayaks, as well.

The larger screen in the Helix series means it also gets the full 2-year warranty. While it is doubtful you will ever need to make a claim, the opportunity is there, whether you spend a single season on the water or prefer to go year-round and dig holes in the ice. Mounting on your yak is simple, and even if you have never done it before, the entire system can be mounted installed and powered on in less than a couple of hours.

Pros
  • 2-year warranty
  • 3-way 125-foot viewing area
  • Humminbird Baseman built-in
Cons
  • May be too large for some kayaks

5. Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar

Best Castable Fish Finder For Kayak

Screen Size

N/A

Resolution

N/A

Max Depth

260 feet

Mounting Options

N/A

Battery Life

1 year

When you need to know what's on the bottom of that lake and don’t want to lug around or mount a fish finder, the Deeper PRO+ castable is the perfect solution. This little baseball sized sonar will cast up to 330 feet and detect shelves, holes, and contours up to 260 feet deep.

Get ready for plenty of new friends as everyone will gather around to find out what you have and how it works. How it works is simply genius. Cast the WiFi-enabled ball out and reel it in slowly. As you reel it in, the sonar does its thing, transmitting the findings to the mobile app.

You don't need data, and the ball produces its own WiFi signal. Just upload the images and look at the results. You can even save and export your findings, too. The screen size and resolution will depend on your mobile device since that is where everything is viewed. It will connect to any Android or iOS device, including smartphones and tablets.

The internal battery lasts for a year or so, depending on how much you use it. On daily use, you will need to recharge it after about 4 hours. However, unless you are constantly moving and having to rescan your surroundings, a single cast or two will work just fine.

Pros
  • Deep penetration for bathymetric mapping
  • Simple to cast and reel
  • Reads to over 250 feet deep
  • 1-year warranty doesn’t cover damage.
Cons
  • May lose WiFi regularly
  • Misidentifies debris as fish

6. LUCKY

Best Cheap Kayak Fish Finder

Screen Size

2 Inches

Resolution

240x240 pixels

Max Depth

328 feet

Mounting Options

Float, Ice, Hull, Pole

Battery Life

Up to 8 hours

If you want a small device to help you locate the fish, and you don't want to spend an arm and leg on a heavy-duty fish finder, the Lucky Fish Finder is for you. This is the best budget fish finder for kayaks and ice fishing, hands down.

While it will take a little bit to get used to, once you have the hang of the readouts, it will surprise everyone. The small transducer needs to be at least 3 inches underwater but will read up to 328 feet and catches small fish, large fish contours shelves, and schools with ease.

The display screen is relatively small, only 2-inches, but is designed to fit comfortably around your neck, with the included strap. Be careful, though. If you prefer to hold the unit or place it in a cup holder, it is not waterproof.

The device comes loaded in metric measurements, but with a 3-second press of the power button, it will swap to feet, if that makes you more comfortable. You can float the transducer or mount it to your kayak hull; the mounting bracket is included. It also has a 25-foot cable so you don't need to worry about coming up short. The downside is that it runs on four AA batteries that aren't included. You will also want to bring spares along with you.

Even with the battery saver option enabled, you will only get about 5 or 6 hours before the batteries need to be replaced. Many users find it helpful to use rechargeable batteries and have two sets with them for a day on the lake.

Pros
  • Simple to use and understand
  • Switches between standard and metric
  • Ideal for kayak and ice fishing
Cons
  • Handheld unit is not waterproof
  • 1-year warranty only

7. HawkEye Fishtrax 1C

Best Fish Finder For Kayak Bass Fishing

Screen Size

2.5 Inches

Resolution

240x240 pixels

Max Depth

240 feet

Mounting Options

Hull, trolling motor, float

Battery Life

Up to 8 hours

If you are a bass angler and love being on your kayak, the HawkEye FishTrax 1C is the model for you. This is the best fish finder for kayak bass fishing as it offers user-definable settings. There are two other models (1 and 1x), but neither offers the customization the 1C brings.

With a 200mHz sensitivity, you can select the transducer scale for a more comprehensive or narrower beam and find that pesky hiding spot the bass love to swim to. Like the Lucky brand mentioned above, the HawkEye can float or be mounted on the hull.

For the yak fisherman, though, the HawkEye offers a lot of accessories, including various mounting options. These include suction cup mounts, bolted mounts, pole mounts, and even cup holder mounts. The choice is yours, and they all work pretty well.

The HawkEye also works well for ice fishing, but it has a more difficult time than the Lucky brand above at identifying fish under the ice. The transducer needs to be a bit more submerged than some like for it to work properly. However, this isn’t much of an issue on a kayak.

The 2-year warranty covers most attributes of the fish finder. However, for the warranty to go into effect, you must register the device on the company website within 15 days of purchase. If you wait longer than this, the warranty will be void. Keep this in mind if you are purchasing as a gift for a holiday or birthday.

Pros
  • 2-year warranty
  • 3-settings for kayak anglers
  • Multiple accessories available
Cons
  • Not reliable in shallow water
  • Registration required for warranty

8. Garmin Striker 4cv

Best Under $200

Screen Size

4.3 Inches

Resolution

480x320 pixels

Max Depth

1,750 ft freshwater & 830 ft saltwater

Mounting Options

Transom, Trolling motor

Battery Life

12-volt power supply required

Garmin makes the list once again with the Striker 4cv model. This is the best fish finder under $200, and pound for pound is a match for our top pick, the Garmin Striker. It has a deeper reading potential and comes with the Garmin DownVu.

You can select between SideVu or traditional sonar as well. The 4cv has a multi-positional transducer that is easily mounted on the hull or trolling motor of your boat or kayak. With the handheld unit, you can mount in many positions, in a cup holder, or use the mounting bracket on the inside of the yak.

Unlike our top pick, the 4cv model offers many more features, and the price makes it a great value. However, this is designed for avid fishers, and novices with fish finders may find the learning curve too high.

When you get the hang of how it reads and what you are looking at, though, you won't miss a single fish, and you can track schools for miles. The addition of the ActiveCaptain allows you to program various settings for different users and create a guest account so a friend can use it without losing your maps or markers. If you are an avid or professional angler, the Garmin Striker 4cv is a steal of a deal at the listing price, and the supply won't last long.

Pros
  • Stores 2 million acres of data
  • ActiveCaptain allows multiple users
  • Sync data and remember maps and markers forever.
Cons
  • 1-year warranty is a little low for the device.
  • Not user-friendly

9. Lowrance HOOK2

Best Lowrance Fish Finder For Kayak Fishing

Screen Size

7 Inches

Resolution

800x600pixels

Max Depth

300 feet

Mounting Options

Hull, transom, trolling motor

Battery Life

12 volt dedicated power supply required

The best Lowrance fish finder for kayak fishing is the Hook2 model. When shopping for this model, you must be wary of the Hook2 X models. The X models are older generations and have been discontinued, though they are still being sold as “GPS only” devices.

The Hook 2 uses a 3-in-1 transducer that is named Tripleshoot. This gives you a wide angle, side-view and down view at the same time. Allowing you to track and follow schools, get a better view of the entire surroundings, or fix down on a single high definition spot.

The bright display is 7 inches and can be viewed in any lighting conditions, even direct sunlight. You won't miss a thing from any angle. However, for kayaks, the 7 inches may be a bit too large. Where mounting is concerned, you may find that it is difficult to mount on a yak.

The transducer is relatively large and probably won't fit on a trolling motor; this leaves you with the transom or hull mount, which can impede your rudder if you decide to move to a new spot. However, with careful planning and some patience, you can find the ideal spot for the mount. Hobie kayaks, though, have an ideal mounting spot, which makes this the best Lowrance fish finder for Hobie yaks. Otherwise, you just need time and patience to get it just right.

Pros
  • Simple to use interface
  • High resolution screen
  • Tripleshot 3-in-1 transducer
Cons
  • User manual is in the device
  • 1-year warranty is lower than standard

10. Humminbird 410230-1 HELIX 5 SI

Best Side Imaging Fish Finder For Kayak

Screen Size

5 Inches

Resolution

800x480 pixels

Max Depth

1600 feet

Mounting Options

Transom, Trolling motor, hull

Battery Life

12 volt 7 amp power supply needed

For those that prefer the ultra-detailed side viewfinders, the Humminbird Helix 5 SI is the model for you. Easily the best side imaging fish finder for kayaks, the SI model has everything you need and nothing you don’t.

The built-in GPS allows you to navigate over 10,000 lakes and rivers in the internal US as well as more than 100,000 miles of US coastlines. It doesn’t matter if you are in a lake, pond river or ocean, the SI has you covered.

The side view angles cover up to 300 feet and will show you details like never before. You also get wireless communications, CHIPR digital, side and down viewing, Dual Beam plus, AutoChart Live, and SwitchFire. AutoChart Live allows you to make your own maps, details and plot your honey holes and save them for later. With SwitchFire, you can tone down the details or increase them with the touch of a button. 

This is ideal for heavy feedback areas where you just want to get to the fish and leave the contours and debris alone. The 1-year Humminbird warranty is still pretty light for this class of finder. With the quality and durability of the brand, you probably won't need to make a warranty claim beyond this period anyway.

Pros
  • Humminbird Basemap included
  • Wireless communications
  • Dual beam CHIRP sonar
Cons
  • 1-year warranty

How Kayak Fish Finders Work & Why People Use Them

Fish finders use sonar signals in bursts and waves to get a visual of the world under the boat. As the signals bounce back, a picture is mapped of what is going on under there.

When fish move, the signal notes the difference and highlights these changes. Since the ocean (or lake, river, pond, etc.) floor doesn't move, the moving pieces are fish, debris, or other organisms.

  • Using a fish finder aids the fisherman in finding larger schools of fish.
  • You can see where the fish are enjoying the temperature of the water.
  • There is a high chance at reeling one into the kayak, and then another.
  • Know when the fish move to a new spot.
  • Watch where they go to eat, hide, or rest.

Fish Finder Pricing Guide

In a world of you get what you pay for, fish finders tend to follow suit. The more you spend, the more you will get, though this doesn't always make a better fish finder. Added features may enhance the difference between a cheap and mid-range finder. A bigger screen, or more universal mount, for example, might raise the price but does nothing for the actual functionality of the device.

When you compare the cheap vs. expensive fish finders, though, the real value comes out. Expensive finders are more reliable. They use both cone and beam signals, have adjustable screens, and other features you may find beneficial and require.


Installing a Fish Finder on a Kayak

Mounting your fish finder will require two parts, at least. The transducer needs access to the water (or under it) in order to send and receive the sonar signals. Many anglers mount these on or near the rudder or trolling motor.

Then you have the screen mount. Many kayaks partner with various brands to make their mounts easier to use or to ensure their scupper holes are large enough to accommodate the mounting poles. Other kayaks have dedicated holders for both the screen and transducer. There are universal mounting kits available, too, if your kayak isn't designed for fishing without some upgrades.


How to Use a Kayak Fish Finder

Using your fish finder will depend on which type of readings you are using. Down angle will show you the bottom of the lake, and fish will appear as squiggly lines between the surface line and the bottom line. On a side view, you won't see squiggly lines. A side view beam is more adept at showing you the contours and features in better detail, but fish will stand out, once you adjust your settings and colors.

To get a better idea of these settings and what to look for, check out this video from boats.com.


Comparing CHIRP to Traditional Sonar

Compared to CHIRP sonar technology, traditional sonar is lack-luster. Traditional sonar works, of course, and it always will. However, it uses a narrow beam and isn't as clear or accurate. CHIRP (Compressed High-Intensity Radar Pulse), on the other hand, uses a near photographic quality that can outline details a lot better.

Garmin uses two styles, called ClearVu and SideVu. The ClearVu CHIRP looks beneath your boat at a wide angle with high clarity. SideVu, on the other hand, looks at both sides of the boat. Depending on if you are casting away from the boat or beneath it, the difference will matter.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal screen size for a kayak fish finder?

Screen size is a matter of preference. However, you will want a screen large enough to see in any light and from most angles. You also want the screen to be small enough to not get in the way of your casting, paddling, or knees. For kayak fishing, it is recommended to use a 4 to 5-inch screen.

Are all fish finders waterproof and weatherproof?

No. Fish finders are designed to withstand some splashing or a little rain, making them weatherproof, but not many are also designed to withstand being submerged, or waterproof. Make sure you understand the difference and know which, if either, your model is.

Is it possible to make a homemade fish finder mounting system?

If you want to save some money, you may consider a DIY kayak fish finder mount. There are many plans available online, and some are even "ready-made" or upcycled. Depending on the size of your screen, for example, a cellphone mount for a tripod could make an inexpensive DIY kayak mount.

Are there any other necessary accessories to use with my fish finder?

There aren't many accessories needed for standard fish finders. Some brands will have their own line of various attachments, quick-release mounts, or extra-length wiring, but none of them are necessary. As long as you can mount the transducer, and view the screen, you don’t need much else, unless you just want it.

What’s the best battery for a kayak fish finder?

Most batteries will be 12 volt, 7 amp, and require some storage space. One of the best options is the SLA 12 volt 9 amp, which will fit and run almost every type and brand of fish finder out there.

Where can I find good, inexpensive fish finders for kayaks?

You will find a host of inexpensive and reliable fish finders at any sporting goods store, pro shop, or sporting goods department in your local retail outlet. Amazon, though, has a wider range, with cheaper options from overstock and last year’s models that are still new in box.


Conclusion

Finding the ideal fish finder is more difficult than using it to find the fish. However, this article should give you a good head start on choosing the right finder for you, your kayak, and specific needs.

If you are in doubt, I highly recommend that you check out the Garmin Striker 4, our top pick fort best kayak fish finder. It has everything you need in a compact design ideal for longer trips and higher accuracy.