If you’re starting to lose your patience fishing from your kayak without anything by the way of a bite, perhaps it’s time to start making technology work for you. Assuming you have your kayak and rod sorted out, one of the very first investments to make your pursuit easier should be a portable fish finder.
We’ll walk you through some basics to help you track down the best fish finder, and we’ll start off by taking a peek at how different fishing styles call for different kinds of fish finders.
If you want a bit more information about how fish finders work and sonar technology, then read this post. To clarify, a fish finder is not necessarily a GPS, although you can get GPS combo fish finders and this may be a good option for you. You can actually get dedicated waterproof GPS devices for your yak too.
Different Fishing Styles: Sea, Shallow Water, Structures
Before anything else, determine where you’ll take your kayak to fish. The right fish finder in one situation may not be ideal for another.
Sea: For sea fishermen, it’s worth investing in the very best depth finder you can afford. Both GPS and sonar are invaluable when you’re traveling the open seas.
Shallow Water: If you enjoy slowly cruising along the shoreline in shallow waters, a small fish finder combination should suffice. It’s senseless paying for GPS if you won’t use it.
Fishing around Structures: If you prefer more ambitious fishing zipping around reefs and rocks, you should roll with a GPS finder so you can laser in on the precise spot. It also pays to look for a unit packing DI sonar so you are aware of any rocks or other foreign objects likely to cause you problems.
Size Matters – Where Will You Mount It?
As the old cliché goes, size really does matter when you’re on the trail of the best fish finder. Think carefully about how much space you’ve got on your kayak to accommodate a fish finder so you don’t end up with an expensive hunk of metal unfit for purpose. Don’t forget to make provision for your rods, bait and the rest of your equipment when planning placement.
The ideal mounting spot for your fish finder is out in front of you for obvious reasons. Make sure it’s within easy reach but out of the way of the paddles. Here’s a handy video if you prefer visual learning. It explains how to install a fish finder on your kayak without straining yourself even if you’ve never done it before.
- Find a flat surface inside the kayak suitable for your transducer. Use some glass paper to roughen up the surface slightly. Clean the area thoroughly.
- Grab some marine goop and apply thinly to the base of the install pad.
- Line the install pad up and press down until it’s firmly fixed. Let this dry out before proceeding.
- Fit the transducer and leave for a couple of hours.
- Remove the bottom part of the fish finder base. Avoiding curved surfaces, drill a pilot hole, and then fix the mounting strips to the kayak. Use washers at the back for a more solid connection.
- Attach your fish finder head unit, making certain the mount is compatible. Tighten everything up nicely.
- Reassemble the fish finder and its base.
- Drill some holes for the transducer wires using a paddle bit. Use a grommet for these cables.
- Run the wires through and connect power to the unit. Make sure your batteries are ready to roll.
- Take care of excess wire. Bundle it up and stash it inside the kayak.
- Plug the wire into the back of the fish finder and you’re ready to fire things up and hit the water!
Transducer – Some Kayaks Have Mountings for the Transducer Built In
Before we give you the lowdown on a selection of the very best small fish finders up for grabs, a quick note for anyone less than practically minded: look for a kayak with ready-made transducer mountings if the above procedure seems a little out of your reach.
Now we’ll get down to business with a snapshot of some superb fish finders to enhance any trip on the lake.
Which Model Is The Best Fish Finder?
Rather than reviewing every model of fish finder under the sun and confusing you even more, we’ve curated five of the very best brands with something for everyone – see if one of these is the best fish finder for you.
Raymarine Dragonfly Sonar Fish Finder
Although Raymarine’s Dragonfly is by no means a small fish finder, what you lose on bulk, you’ll gain with truly impressive features and functionality. The LED comes backlit in full color and it’s effectively weatherproofed. The 4-incher works well on a kayak, but you can opt for a larger model with a 5-inch or 7-inch screen.
The combined CHIRP sonar and CHIRP DownVision serve up incredibly accurate and detailed imaging. If you fish in deeper waters, this model is good down as far as 600 feet.
The Raymarine Dragonfly also acts a smartphone fish finder if you make use of the intuitive Wi-Fish app available on iOS and Android. You can even share pictures of your prize catch on your preferred social media channel. For a rock-solid and hard-hitting fish finder from a brand you can trust, look no further than the Raymarine Dragonfly.
Garmin Striker 4 Fish Finder
Garmin dominate the car GPS market, and the Striker 4 fish finder continues this tradition of excellence out on the water. As you’d expect from Garmin, GPS is spot-on and you’ll be able to safely navigate your route avoiding all nasty obstacles.
Diminutive and compact, the Garmin Striker’s 3 ½-inch color display boasts a CHIRP sonar and a slick transducer. If you’ve got more ambitious needs, the Garmin Striker 4 is designed so you can set up a pair of units working in tandem. If you have a more restrictive budget but you don’t want to lose out on performance, the Garmin Striker 4 is an absolute must.
Lowrance Hook Fish Finder
Lowrance manages to produce a user-friendly fish finder that boasts exceptional performance while looking great as well. The interface is a breeze to navigate and the 4-inch screen is crisp and colored, so you can keep a close watch on proceedings without straining your eyes.
Coming with both an 83/200 kHz and a 455/800 kHz transducer, you’ll enjoy ultra-clear images down to an extreme 1000 feet. GPS comes with pre-installed maps so you’re good to go straight out the box. Advanced Signal Processing automates fish finding so you spend less time tweaking your Lowrance device and more on the job at hand.
Humminbird Helix 5 Series Fish Finder
This CHIRP G2 Series from Humminbird has a 5-inch screen with 800 x 480 pixels, so everything pops off the display in full color. CHIRP sonar pings efficiently across a range of frequencies, so you’ll get clearer returns while finding it much easier to separate out fish from other debris.
GPS helps you navigate around, and there’s a microSD slot if you need more storage. For a pocket-friendly fish finder that won’t bankrupt you, check out the Humminbird and you’ll never look back.
Deeper Pro+ Smart Sonar
Rounding out our best fish finders is an innovative wireless fish finder that works on all platforms, so whatever brand your smart phone is, you’re in safe hands. The dedicated app gives you a fishing diary and log to help you get organized, and there are plenty of maps.
Battery life is one of the significant downsides at less than 6 hours. Think about whether this will be enough for your fishing needs.
The unique design allows you to tie up your fish finder with some line and then cast it into the water for a detailed breakdown of the area beneath. For a tech-driven fish finder that makes full use of the very best technology has to offer, the Deeper Pro+ is an interesting take on fish finders that’s becoming increasingly popular.
Final Word – Choosing Your Top Fish Finder
Hopefully you’ve now got a good idea of what would make the most suitable fish finder for your trips out on the kayak. Drop us a line if you have any queries or feedback and we’ll do our best to help out.
crappie caught fishing from a boat on a freshwater lake