It’s not like you don’t already have lots to do while kayak fishing. From making sure you don’t have to fumble around for your gear to keeping your kayak under control, there’s a lot to think about. So do you really need a fish finder, let alone the best kayak fish finder you can afford?
Yes, you certainly do! If the fish aren’t biting where you’re fishing, a fish finder is the best tool for leading you to productive waters. It’s an investment in improving your angling knowledge.
Read on for our recommendations on the top 5 best kayak fish finders. You’ll also find some help for choosing the best kayak fish finder for your own angling preferences.
Our Top Picks
Garmin Striker 4
Best Premium Option
Lowrance HOOK2 Fish Finder
Best Budget Option
LUCKY Kayak Portable Fish Depth Finder
Lots of features at a very reasonable price is the very definition of the “best overall” product. And that’s precisely why the Garmin Striker 4 has earned our recommendation as the overall best kayak fish finder.
Equipped with high-frequency sonar, the Garmin Striker 4 provides detailed images of the underwater environment. And because it sweeps the water with a range of frequencies, it creates an uncannily accurate picture of where fish are located.
The Garmin Striker 4 can provide data from as far as 1,600 feet below the surface in freshwater and 750 feet down in saltwater. It’s available with a 3.5-inch, 5-inch or 7-inch screen, giving kayak anglers a choice of best fit for their vision preference.
The Garmin Striker 4 also is rugged, with a waterproof rating of IPX7 from the International Standard Organization. An IPX7 rating indicates that a designated device can be submerged for 30 minutes in up to 3 feet of water. That’s more than adequate to handle any water splashes or kayak mishaps.
- Simple installation and operation
- Screen is very easy to view
- Lots of features for the price
- Directions accompanying unit may be difficult for some purchasers to follow
- Connection hardware should be more durable
- Screen may be too small for some users
Best Premium Option
Lowrance has been in the marine electronics business for more than 60 years, and the HOOK2 Fish Finder shows the depth of that expertise. And because the HOOK2 can be easily installed, it was a shoo-in for our recommendation as the premium option for the best kayak fish finder.
Offering both side-scan and down-scan imaging, the HOOK2 can get and keep a kayak fisherman floating above great angling opportunities. Ready to use right out of the box, the HOOK2’s operating menus are easy to understand.
Kayak anglers have a lot to think about while out on the water, from careful casting to safe maneuvering. The HOOK2 frees kayak anglers from having to worry too much about their fish finder, allowing them to concentrate on finding and catching fish.
- Easy installation
- Great screen clarity
- Simple programming set-up
- Depth readings may sometimes be inaccurate
- Screen may be smaller than some users expect
- Instruction manual may be confusing for some users
Best Budget Option
For slightly more than $40, the LUCKY Kayak Portable Fish Depth Finder offers performance comparable to top-name fish finders. The LUCKY portable finder works in both clear and murky water, part of why it’s our choice as the best kayak fish finder for budget-conscious anglers.
For convenience, the LUCKY fish finder comes with a neck strap. That feature allows kayakers to focus their attention on casting and maneuvering without worrying about losing the fish finder.
And to be sure that the kayaker knows when fish are around, the LUCKY finder includes an alarm that signals when fish are passing by. You can also spend a lot of time in the water with the LUCKY fish finder. Fully charged, the battery in this fish finder provides four to five hours of operation.
- Great accuracy at low cost
- Excellent entry-level fish finder
- Easy set-up
- May be difficult to determine size of fish being located
- Battery life may not be as long as some users need
- May not register images below grass growing in water
For a portable fish finder, the Venterior Portable Rechargeable Fish Finder is packed with features. Able to show water temperature, bottom contours and fish size, the Venterior finder is clearly the best kayak fish finder among portable options.
Among its best features are the Venterior’s selectable display modes, which make its screen equally visible in daylight or at night. Plus, its depth range extends to more than 120 feet. And of course, its castable transducer makes it easy to use from a kayak, eliminating extraneous wiring.
Finally, the Venterior portable fish finder includes an audible alarm that sounds off when fish are located. If you prefer quiet fishing, the alarm can be silenced.
- Lots of customization options
- Works great even when kayak is moving
- Beeping fish indicator is a really handy feature
- Setup may be challenging for some purchasers
- Screen may be difficult to see in direct sunlight
- Water infiltration may be an issue
Castable fish finders, attached to your fishing line and linked to an app on your cellphone or other device, are a new frontier in fishing. Standing out as a best kayak fish finder for casting is the Deeper PRO sonar fish finder.
As our recommendation for the superior castable option among the best kayak fish finders, the Deeper PRO boasts a casting range of 330 feet. Once settled in the water, the Deeper PRO can read down as far as 260 feet.
Offering 15 scans per second, the Deeper PRO gives you a complete picture of your targeted fishing area. In addition to fish, the scans show vegetation in the water, along with bottom contours, all helpful information for the kayak angler.
- Adjustable display provides lots of information
- Easy to connect transducer to fishing line
- Associated iPhone app works great
- GPS feature may not be exceptionally accurate
- Poor battery charging may be an issue
- May be too heavy for some users to cast
Best Fish Finders for Kayaks Buyer’s Guide
There are a number of different configurations among the best kayak fish finder options available on the market today. Each of them, though, will have a transducer, the electronic element that gathers data from the water and displays it on a screen.
Transducers can be mounted directly on your kayak or attached to your fishing line and cast out into the area where you’re planning to fish. In both cases, images gathered by the transducer are transmitted to a screen for viewing.
In the case of castable transducers, the image is transmitted wirelessly. It can be routed to your cellphone or other screen device via an associated computer application.
If you’re using a castable-transducer fish finder, your screen size will be dictated by the screen size of your cellphone or other device. Otherwise, fish finders are equipped with screens ranging from 4 inches to 12 inches, measured diagonally.
A 4-inch display can be difficult to decipher because details revealed by even the best kayak fish finder will be displayed in a narrow space. On the other hand, a 12-inch display screen will consume much more battery power, limiting the time it will be useful on the water.
A good compromise, balancing battery consumption with screen area, would be either a 7-inch screen or a 10-inch screen.
Most fish finders are, as you should expect, at least somewhat waterproof. And there is a standard by which you can know the waterproofing level of a particular fish finder. The International Electrotechnical Commission has set Ingress Protection (IPX) standards that are applied to items used in or near water.
The minimum acceptable IPX rating for a kayak fish finder is IPX7. Anything less means you’re not getting a good fish finder.
Side Scan vs Down Scan
As you look into purchasing a kayak fish finder, you’ll discover that they have two different ways of revealing what’s in the water. A side-scan fish finder produces data about what is underwater to the left and right of the kayak. A down-scan fish finder produces images of the bottom of the body of water.
Both side-scan and down-scan fish finders will show where fish are located. On a down-scan fish finder, fish will show up as white dots, while on a side-scan finder, fish will appear as arches. Some of the best kayak fish finder choices will offer both side-scan and down-scan images.
Down-scan fish finders are excellent for use in deep water, while side-scan fish finders provide great images in shallow water.
A third option in technologies for the best kayak fish finder is CHIRP, which stands for Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse. CHIRP-equipped fish finders use multiple frequencies and thus can offer high-speed imaging in deep water. CHIRP-equipped finders also offer crisp images of the water adjacent to your kayak.
Most of the best kayak fish finder options will come with installation hardware. However, you should be ready to adapt the hardware, and any installation instructions, to avoid drilling any holes.
With regard to your unit’s transducer, if it’s not a wireless model, you can simply let it dangle over the side of your kayak. But the better option is to mount it on your kayak.
One of the best options is to mount the transducer inside the hull. Access the hull through a hatch door or other opening, and choose a flat spot as a mounting location.
Next, clean the location with rubbing alcohol. Once it has dried, apply some marine adhesive to the spot and press the transducer into it. Be certain to press the transducer into the adhesive firmly enough to eliminate any air pockets. Air pockets will compromise the transducer’s ability to see into the water.
Best Fish Finders for Kayaks Frequently Asked Questions
After learning something about choosing the best kayak fish finder for your needs, you certainly will have other questions. Read on for some insights into using a kayak fish finder.
Where should a fish finder be mounted on a kayak?
When choosing a place to mount your kayak fish finder, choose the lowest place where you can still comfortably view the screen. Placing the fish finder low in your kayak keeps it out of the way when casting or when landing a fish. It also keeps the fish finder from interfering with paddling.
There are slip-on fish finder mounts available for kayaks, but a better choice is a clamp-style mount, which can be made more secure.
Are there any limitations to using a castable fish finder?
A castable fish finder is extraordinarily easy to use. Just cast it out into the water and wait for its images to show up on your cellphone or other screen device.
But castable fish finders do have some limitations. Primarily, to get the best results from a castable fish finder, you should use it only on calm days. Because it is placed directly atop the water, a castable fish finder is subject to ripples and waves, which can distort its images.
Castable fish finders are also a poor choice for trolling while fishing. Moving a castable finder at any speed faster than you can reel in your line produces unusable images. Additionally, if the wind is high while you’re fishing, it can blow your castable fish finder around, also resulting in poor images.
What is the best type of screen protector film for a kayak fish finder?
One of the things you should add immediately to your fish finder is a clear film protector for its screen. Many manufacturers have screen protectors made for their fish finders, and there also are generic screen protectors available.
When you choose a screen protector, select one made of anti-glare material. Anything less, and even the best kayak fish finder display, will be difficult to read.
Wrapping up the 5 Best Fish Finders for Kayak Anglers
Now that you’ve learned something about fish finders for kayak anglers, you’re ready to figure out what will work best for you. As a reminder, our recommendation for the overall best kayak fish finder is the Garmin Striker 4.
If you’d like to learn even more about fishing, Life in Minnesota has you covered. Check out our posts on everything from the best lures to use in Minnesota’s lakes to a complete guide to ice fishing in the state.