Just because you make your way around the lake in a little fishing kayak or canoe doesn’t mean you are looking for tiny fish. You take your sport seriously, and you put on your game face each time you hit the water.
Why would you go through all the effort to haul and launch your yak otherwise?
The 7 Top Fish Finders for Kayaks of 2020: Outdoor Empire Reviews
These are our top recommendations for fish finders for kayaks in 2020:
*Looking for a specific feature? Check out our quick-reference chart below:
|Display Type||HVGA color||16-bit color TFT||WQVGA|
|Display Size||1.9'' x 2.9''||4.3 in||4.3 in|
|Display Resolution||480 x 320 pixels||480 x 272 pixels||480 x 272 pixels|
|Transmit Power||300 W (RMS)||500W RMS||500 W RMS|
4,000 W Peak to Peak
|Maximum Depth||1,750 ft freshwater, 830 ft saltwater||2,500 ft||600 ft both sonar and DownVision|
|Cost||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
1. Garmin Striker 4DV
The Garmin Striker 4DV is a small, yet powerful fish finder, which is packed with helpful features and easy to transport and mount on your kayak. The Striker 4DV has a 3.5-inch, full-color display, which yields very crisp images that are easy to see in any weather conditions, and it is equipped with intuitive, keypad-style controls, which make it easy to navigate between screens and access the data you need.
The Striker 4DV comes with a built-in GPS that’ll allow you to mark your favorite fishing holes, so you can find them again later. But perhaps the most impressive features of the Striker 4DV are the sonar technologies built into the unit.
The Striker 4DV utilizes a CHIRP-enabled transducer, which will allow you to quickly find the fish, as well as Gamin’s proprietary DownVu scanning sonar technology, which provides unparalleled detail of the world beneath the surface.
Additionally, for those who like to jig in deep water, the Striker 4DV comes with a built-in flasher function to make it easy to see the bottom, your lure and the fish at the same time.
- Transducer utilizes CHIRP and ClearVu technologies to provide detailed images
- Intuitive keypad makes it easy to navigate between screens and adjust parameters
- Built-in flasher is great for vertical jigging
- Comes with transom and trolling motor mounting hardware
- GPS functionality allows you to mark waypoints
2. Lowrance Hook 4x
The Lowrance Hook 4x is a high-quality fish finder that is ideally suited for anglers who fish from a kayak. It features a 4-inch display with eye-popping color, which is easy to see from all angles and in all weather conditions, and it comes equipped with both CHIRP sonar technology and Lowrance’s DownScan Imaging capabilities, which provide incredibly detailed images of fish, structure and cover.
One of the most impressive things about the Hook 4x is its collection of display views. You can quickly and easily switch between split-screen, zoom and traditional views, and you can even monitor three different data sets at a time.
The menu system is also intuitive and easy to use, which means you’ll spend more time fishing and less time messing with your electronics.
Additionally, the Hook 4x comes with Lowrance’s patented Advanced Signal Processing, which automatically adjusts several display parameters for you. The Hook 4x lacks a GPS circuit, but that’s a small price to pay for such an otherwise-powerful fish finder.
- Transducer utilizes CHIRP and DownScan imaging technologies
- Eight pre-loaded display views
- High-quality screen that is easy to see in all weather conditions
- Advanced Signal Processing automatically adjusts the sonar’s performance
- Nosie suppression technology creates clear images
3. Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro
One of the best kayak-ready fish finders on the market, the Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro is a great choice for anglers who want to take their fishing to new levels. The Dragonfly 4 Pro is more expensive than many of the other options detailed here, but it provides a number of capabilities and functions that entry-level units rarely possess.
The Dragonfly 4 Pro comes with a built-in GPS circuit, and it utilizes CHIRP and DownVision sonar to produce the best images possible.
Additionally, a temperature sensor is included in the transducer so that you can better predict the fish’s movements, and a ball-and-socket tilt-swivel mount to make it easy to adjust the 4.3-inch, full color display as you move around the kayak.
The push-button interface is easy to use, and the unit is WIFI ready, so that you can beam data straight to your smartphone or tablet. Finally, the Dragonfly 4 Pro comes with a microSD card slot, to make it easy to upload or download data.
- 72-channel GPS circuit provides location and speed data
- Provides both CHIRP and DownVision imaging
- WIFI read
- Includes microSD card slot for easy data transfer
- Automatic sonar optimization leaves you free to concentrate on fishing
4. HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder
The HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder comes in three different versions, including two that feature different types of black-and-white displays, but we’re going to focus on the best option of the three, which comes with high-definition, color VirtuView display.
This model costs more than either of the other options, but it is still a very affordably priced fish finder, which most anglers should be able to fit into their budget.
But one of the neatest features the Fishtrax 1C comes with is a dedicated flasher mode. This is not only great for ice fishing, but it’ll work well when you are vertically jigging or using live baits from your kayak.
You can mount the included transducer on the side of your kayak, or you can tow it behind your kayak, thanks to the included float.
- A dual-frequency unit, the Fisthtrax 1C provides clear and detailed images of the underwater world.
- It provides a zoom function so you can see subtle details
- It comes with audible fish and bottom-depth alarms.
5. Lucky Portable Fishing Sonar
The Lucky Portable Fishing Sonar proves that you don’t have to spend a fortune to add a high-quality fish finder to your kayak.
The Lucky Portable Fishing sonar is quite flexible, and it can be used in several different ways to suit your circumstances.
For example, you can attach the transducer to the side of your kayak, you can let it ride on the surface with the included float, or you can attach it to a pole.
And, the included 25-foot transducer cable means you can keep the display mounted where it is most convenient.
The Lucky Portable Fishing Sonar images to depths of 328 feet, and it includes both fish and fish school alarms, so you won’t miss any opportunities.
And although Lucky isn’t the best-known brand around, they do back the fish finder with a 12-month warranty, so you’ve got nothing to lose by giving it a try.
- It provides water depth and bottom contour information, so you can tell whether you’re floating over grass, sand or gravel.
- It features a backlight function and five different sensitivity options.
6. Humminbird Fishin’ Buddy MAX Fishfinder
The Humminbird Fishin’ Buddy MAX Fishfinder provides all of the quality for which Humminbird has become famous, but it does so in a kayak-friendly package.
Equipped with a portable clamp that holds both the display unit at one end of a 24- to 40-inch telescoping pole and a transducer at the other, you’ll find mounting the Fishin’ Buddy MAX Fishfinder to your kayak is quick and easy.
You won’t have to connect any wires – simply clamp the unit to your boat and start looking for fish.
The Fishin’ Buddy MAX Fishfinder comes with a very nice 3.5-inch, full-color screen.
It also boasts better sonar technology than many of its competitors, as it not only utilizes dual-beam sonar but down-imaging scanning sonar technology as well. It will image clearly down to 600 feet.
- It provides temperature data.
- The unit is powered by eight AA batteries.
- It features a simple and intuitive interface which you should be able to figure out quickly.
7. Humminbird Helix 5
Today’s anglers expect more from their fish finder than a grainy black-and-white image that might be a fish, a rock or even the muddy bottom. Humminbird delivers more with the Helix 5 Series: More detail, more features and more screen space.
The Helix 5 Series includes three different levels: the Helix 5 SI GPS, Helix 5 DI and Helix 5 Sonar GPS. All three units include a 5-inch landscape screen that can be viewed in split-screen mode, sonar, a depth finder, gimbal mounting, and GPS-mapping capability.
The Helix 5 DI adds down imaging, while the Helix 5 SI GPS includes a dual-beam transducer, side imaging, and down imaging. Optional upgrades include a high-definition transducer, soft carrying case and a 12-volt rechargeable power unit.
- Superior graphics on a large, high-definition display
- Landscape screen allows for readable side-by-side imaging
- Standard features that are usually only found on more powerful, full-sized units
- Mapping software is not included and must be added via SD card
- Mounting bracket not included
The Helix 5 finally gives kayak anglers a truly portable unit that is not only sized right but offers the features and quality they have been looking for. Add this to your outfit and your yak will be a fishing machine.
Humminbird Helix 5 is also available at:
What You Need
But to compete with the guys and gals cruising around in bigger boats and catching one fish after another, you need access to the same tools and information they have at their fingertips.
You can’t afford to be a technological handicap – you need a fish finder so you can see the same things that they are seeing.
However, kayakers require different things from their depth finders than anglers piloting larger crafts. The best fish finder for a 19-foot bass boat may not be the greatest model for your 9-foot-long kayak.
Guide Questions When Choosing A Kayak Fish Finder
Ask yourself the following questions to guide your search for the suitable depth finder for your kayak or canoe.
How deep do you fish?
If you chase deep-water fish, you’ll want a down-imaging sonar to get the best view beneath you.
However, if you spend most of your time chasing bass and bluegills in shallow streams and ponds, a side-imaging unit is the better option. This way, you can see more available, fish-able water than what’s below your boat.
How far do you travel?
If your adventures take you far from home or simply far from the shore, you should probably purchase a fish finder with a built-in GPS.
These types of combo units often cost slightly more than scanners that do not have an integrated GPS circuit, but you’ll need the capabilities that the GPS offers.
Additionally, because space is typically at a premium on kayaks, you’ll be better served by a single combo-unit; compared to purchasing separate units that need space for mounting both.
How much room do you have?
If your space is extremely limited, you may want to opt for one of the newer portable sonar units which feature a float-style transducer that transmits a read-out directly to your smartphone.
Just simply toss the sensor in the water (after attaching it to a fishing line or some other tether to keep it close) and start seeing the structure, cover and fish on your phone.
These units require you to download a proprietary application on your phone, which are generally free of charge.
How will you connect the transducer to your kayak?
You can mount the transducer for different fish finders in a variety of ways.
1. Some can be attached to the trolling motor.
2. Others must be stuck directly to the bottom of the transom.
3. Many modern kayaks feature scupper holes, which allow you to pass the transducer through the hull for proper mounting. However, old kayaks rarely have these features so you have to purchase a depth finder that works with your kayak.
What is your power source?
Most fish finders are designed to be connected to a 12-volt marine battery in a waterproof box.
However, because space is a concern for most kayakers, there is rarely enough room for a large battery. In such cases, it is recommended to select a portable battery-powered fish finder that can transmit data to your smartphone.
Ultimately, you need to consider your fishing style and needs to determine the top fish finder for your kayak. Fortunately for modern kayak-paddling anglers, most fish finders available in the market function much better than those from years ago.
You can’t go wrong with any of the scanner produced by the major manufacturers. They are all designed to be competitive while sharing some similar features and capabilities.