EchoMap Plus 43cv, MFG# 010-01885-05, with 4.3" color LCD, internal GPS and US LakeVU g3 maps.
Sonar: 500 Watts, 50/77/83/200 KHz, CHIRP L/M/H, 260/455/800 KHz ClearVu down-imaging. Includes GT20 transducer.
The HawkEye F33P is an excellent option for beginners. You might not know the brand, but this specific product is made incredibly well. There are a few things that might push away any experienced anglers, most notably the simplicity of use, but that is also exactly what attracts the beginners. It is very inexpensive, and made to give you readings of weeds, structure and fish, in up to 30m of depth. When you take into consideration just how small the entire thing is, this is actually quite impressive.
There’s a screen that functions somewhat differently when put next to other, more advanced fish finders. Other fish finders usually draw an image for you, and you then have to work out what everything is. The HawkEye F33P instead gives you indicators, which are basically little symbols, and they all show either structure, fish or weeds. The guesswork is done for you, which is a good thing for beginners, but this is a setting that you can’t disable, and advanced users might be bothered with it. The SONAR sensitivity can be selected at any of the four settings, but that would be about it as far as customization goes.
This interesting transducer gives you few options. You can troll it if you’re in a boat, or you can throw it in the water and float it. You can also mount it with a suction cup, or even mount it on a long rod, and get readings that are highly targeted in the direction of your choosing.
There is one potential downside for many users, though, and that is the fact that you can’t gauge what size a fish is. Other fish finders give you an estimate of how big a fish is with the kind of SONAR reading it gives you, but with the HawkEye you could be looking at anything from a small trout, to a gigantic salmon, and you won’t know until you see it with your naked eye.
The bottom line for this fish finder would be that anyone who wants a cheap and simple tool to get the basics done, can get it and forget it. However, if you’re an advanced user, you might want to look elsewhere.
What is a fish finder?
Fish finders are something that anyone who wants to go fishing in a kayak, or any other vessel for that matter, should have as their first secondary tool. They’re very useful, and you will find that they help a lot to predict fish movement. But, what is a fish finder anyways? It is basically an electronic device to help you find fish. It makes use of a transducer, which transmits ultrasonic waves and displays whatever it runs into on a monitor.
The ultrasonic waves go at an (almost) constant speed of 1500 meters per second, and when they strike an object under the water, for example fish or the sea bottom, one part of the sound goes back towards the source. By calculating the time it took the wave to hit the object and go back to the transducer, the distance of the object is calculated. This is then displayed on a different level of gray scaling, if it’s a monochrome fish finder, or in one of the 16 colors, if it’s a color sounder. Or, if you want it bluntly, it gives you a graphic representation of whatever is underneath your kayak, or other vessel, thus helping you identify fish. There are plenty of reasons why you’d want one, aside from the obvious, and here are only a few of the more important ones:
- You get a precise image of both the depth and structure of the bottom of the body of water, which lets you be sure and eliminate any guess work in finding that perfect spot
- When it gets dark or windy you cant properly gauge where to cast
- Finding structure, and the flat areas, is incredibly easy
Kayak fish finders have become a common sight, and anglers will tell you that they all benefit from such devices. However choosing one finder that works well while fitting your specifications and budget is difficult. Therefore, below you will find information on things you should know about fish finders, how to choose one, as well as a couple of very popular choices among anglers throughout the world. If you don’t find one that fits, don’t be afraid, you still have plenty of options, but be sure to read through first, it might save you a lot of the guesswork.
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.
You only need a high power finder if you’re going to fish in deeper waters. For shallow water fishing, even low wattage fish finders will display results fast enough for you to be able to make use of them. It all depends on how much you can afford to spend, and the conditions you’ll be fishing in. it doesn’t really make sense buying an expensive, high power finder if you’re only going to be fishing in shallow waters.
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.
So, how does a fish finder work? The sonar waves, which are emitted from the transducers bounce over the fish and return. This helps the transducer read the distance, rate and speed at which the wave travels. The transducers then convert these signals in the form of bars and arches for you to find the depth of a fish.
To find your catch, you will need to know the depth of the fish, the temperature of the water and the environment where the fish is. Most, if not all modern day fish finders are equipped with a depth sensor on the transducer, which allows you to know the depth of water under your vessel. Generally, on the top-left area of the screen, you will see the depth displayed. The depth depicted in meters is mostly accurate and depends on the model of your fish finder and its features.
In addition to this, you can also see the water temperature on your screen just below the depth reading. This is helpful if you want to target certain species of fish and know their habitats. For example, some fish prefer warm water, while others thrive in cold water. If you can read these two features, you will find it easier to find specific types of fish.
The third type of useful sensor found on your fish finder screen is the speed sensor. This is almost like a speedometer for your kayak, meaning, it shows how fast you’re moving. If you know the precise angles and the required speed for navigation, you will become a pro. Although these features seem small, they are significant.
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.
GPS is somewhat of an optional thing, but if you need it, you could always get a fish finder that comes with it, instead of having two separate devices. This depends on whether you need it and/or want one, so it’s up to you.
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.
If you have a higher budget, you can also afford to go for reputable manufacturers such as Raymarine, Garmin or Humminbird.
When all is said and done, choosing a finder should be as easy as seeing which conditions you’ll be fishing in, and then choosing one accordingly. If you’re going for shallow waters, for example, a low power finder with a wide cone and high frequency transducer is great.
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.
Their HOOK series is a range of fish finders that start cheap and then offer more advanced features towards the higher end. If you want a finder/chartplotter combo, you might want to look at their HDS or Elite lines – they offer navigation features as well, and they’re made very well. It is another brand that’s pretty hard to go wrong with.
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.
However, here in this guide you have a detailed description of everything you need to be looking at, in order to choose exactly what you need. There are also ten of the best possible finders that you will find on the market today, and they’re all hard to go wrong with. Which one is your favorite?
Our Pick Again
The Garmin Striker 4 is an affordable, excellent, sonar unit for your kayak. It’s relatively new and has some of the best features we have seen