Quick Summary: Top 10 - Best Kayak Fish Finders This Year
"487m depth in freshwater and a 228m depth in shallow water, great features"
"Great screen and design with clean interface make this one of our favorites"
"The most precise fish finder with a great frequency and a depth of 600ft"
What is a fish finder?
There are a lot of things you need to know, and depending on how you’re going to use it, the conditions you’ll be fishing in, some are more important for you than others. In no particular order, here are the key things to watch out for, when you’re looking at a kayak fish finder.
Side Imaging vs. Down Imaging
There are plenty of models that only show you what’s directly below your kayak. This is known as Down Imaging. Others also scan the side, which gives you readings of the terrain features, along the shoreline, which is known as Side Imaging. The Down Imaging transducers use a cone, with the apex being at the point of origin (more on the cones and angles below). Fish finders that make use of Side Imaging are best for fishing close to the bank. If you’re going anywhere deep, you’ll most likely be far from the coast, and Side Imaging is of absolutely no use for you.
Power is pretty much the basic metric as far as fish finders go. It is very simple, a higher wattage, or higher power finder, will display readings much faster than one with low wattage. Higher power finders often have higher prices, which are something not everyone can afford, and certainly not everyone needs.
The transducer is what actually emits ultrasonic waves, and what reads them once they reflect in order to display results, it makes sense to pay attention to this part of the fish finder. In most cases, you will find transform mount transducers when you buy the fish finder, and they’re incredibly easy to install.
One important consideration is the cone angle, since a wider cone results in a wider area coverage. However, with a wider angle, deeper waters will result in reduced sensitivity; so again, it all depends on the conditions. If you’re using an in-hull or thru-hull transducer, metal hulls and fiberglass go best with plastic housing. Wood and fiberglass hulls are best suited with bronze housing, while aluminum and steel hulls go best with stainless steel housings. These are all things you need to take into consideration when shopping.
Depth, Temperature and Speed Sensors
Even if you’re a professional fisherman, reading your fish finder can be tough. So, before you spend your money, you should learn how to decipher the different icons on the screen. No matter what the cost of your fish finder, you are the one that will be responsible for reading the screen, and if you can’t do that, then the device isn't worth buying.
You can either go for dual, single or multiple frequencies. For example, dual frequency transducers usually have both 20 and 60 degree cones. The usual array of frequencies that most common transducers have is 50, 83, 192 and 200 kHz. The basic rule of thumb is that lower frequencies work better in deeper water, while higher frequencies, such as 192 or 200 kHz are better suited for shallow waters.
As with any other display, the resolution here is measured in pixels. Having a higher number of pixels gives you a sharper image, and more details. There’s also more real estate on the screen, which, depending on the specific model, may allow you to fit more information on it. Any decent fish finder will have a resolution higher than 240x160, and some of the better ones go up to 640x640, which is plenty for such a screen.
The mounting space on your kayak will most likely dictate the format of the fish finder. What you should know is that the kayak should have enough room to hold a screen large enough to show all the details you need, as well as the cables and a 12V battery. If you have a small kayak, a 3.5” – 4” screen is enough, and if you have a larger kayak, you could go for a 5” screen as well since you’ll be able to fit it in with ease.
Since you’ll be in the outdoors, having a rugged fish finder that is both water and dust resistant can be a very good thing. It is nature we’re talking about after all, and you never know what might happen while you’re out in the water. Fish finders aren’t always cheap, so you might want to have it protected.
Being out and about in the water, you often can’t really afford to struggle with frustrating and complicated installation processes. Investing in a finder that is easy to install makes sure you spend less time on installing it, and more on catching fish. Most finders are not built for kayaks and you have it invest in some after market kit for mounting them, there are a few options out there but a lot of us are handy since having a fishing kayak necessitates some improvisation. We will be expanding this section soon with some options for installation stay tuned.
Price range and manufacturer
Last but not least, you should always have a set budget before you go shopping, and see how many of the necessaries you can tick off without going over it. Fish finders range from fairly cheap ones, to some more expensive ones, so make sure you find one that fits your needs.
Top 5 Brands
When you’re shopping around you will find that there are a few brands that are constantly front and center, from the cheaper models to their more expensive ones. These reputable brands are arguably the best options for anyone as far as reliability and precision goes, and you will see that most, if not all, provide a range of products for anyone’s budget. They’re all brands you can’t go wrong with, it’s only a matter of choosing which model from their respective lineups fits the bill. Here is a list of the most reputable.
Garmin is a name that most people, if not all, have heard somewhere. They are a pioneer in the navigation game, and you will find their units in a number of vehicles. They also have a lineup of finders as well. There are things such as the cheap, entry level Garmin Echo 100, and there are more expensive devices, such as the Striker series, which gives you both a finder and a navigation unit. Garmin are a very reputable brand, and even though their products often come at a premium price, if you can afford it, you really can’t go wrong with them.
Lowrance is another reputable name in the finder industry. They have been around for a while, and they offer products for everyone, from recreational anglers looking to up their game, to professionals that need a tool for their job.
A brand that has been around for ages, and they have constantly been trying to push the industry forward. They have an extensive range of devices, from their ICE series that’s specially made for fishing in extremely cold conditions, through the PirahnaMAX series for smaller vessels, all the way to the HELIX lineup which comes with many advanced features. You pretty much have a fish finder for any purpose, and within any price range, you just have to choose one.
Raymarine, a part of FLIR systems, is a manufacturer which makes both recreational, as well as light commercial-targeted products. They have a range of products, from GPS chartplotters, to digital finders, self-steering gear etc. As far as fish finders go, they’re most famous for the Dragonfly series, which offer sonars with advanced features, and let you spend more time catching fish instead of looking for them.
Marcum is a brand that is driven by military-grade engineering. They make some of the best ice sonar systems in the world. They have a range that goes for everyone, from beginning anglers to professional tournament anglers – everyone will be able to find one for them.
Wrapping things up
When you’re looking at a fish finder, there are plenty of things that you should know, and making a decision can be difficult. However, there are a few basic rules of thumb that you should follow, and which will help you not to make a mistake. First of all, you should always know the exact application that you’ll be using your finder for. Shallow water or deep water? Close to the shoreline, or further away? There are different finders for different uses, and it’s easy to make a mistake.