A successful journalist and news reporter in the past, George is now focused on freelance work to be able to dedicate more time to the most important things in his life: family, friends, his dogs, and fishing.
John is an avid traveler, hiker, and RVer. Moreover, it seems like he knows everything when it comes to fishing and hunting: his father started sharing all the tips and tricks he knew when John was a kid. No wonder we trust his opinion every time a new article is being created.
Last updated: May 30, 2021
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If you enjoy kayak fishing, then there is a use of technology that can make your trips out on the water far more fruitful. Finding the best kayak fish finder can help you to track down fish far more easily and gain a better understanding of the water below through technology. Though some models of fish finder tend to be aimed at trolling boats and larger vessels, you can find plenty of fish finders aimed at small kayaks.
Canoe or kayak fish finders don’t have to have all the advanced features – they just have to be able to help the angler to be more successful on their fishing trips. When evaluating kayak fish finders and making reviews for this guide, we’ve judged them on a number of different features and criteria. How you interact with the screen is important, and the screen size and interface have been considered. The scanning depth, type of sonar used by the finder and the inclusion (or exclusion) of GPS have all been considered. Also, we’ve looked at the dimensions and ease of mounting the fish finder. The compact and lightweight Lowrance HOOK2 5 came out on top of our list, and is our editor’s choice.
Our team has spent weeks on the research for this list, and the information is presented as a simple overview table as well as a collection of reviews and a buying guide, helping you to understand the key features and functionality which can help you to make sure you make the correct choice for kayak fishing.
The Lowrance Hook2 5 deserves its place as our top rated fish finder for canoes and kayaks. It is packed with some really impressive features. Not least of all, the fact that this is upgradeable and updateable via an SD card slot, which you can use to import maps.
Obviously, this means the product also makes use of a GPS system, which is a big bonus for kayak users and something not all the top small fish finders can offer. The model comes with a set of inland maps (4,000 lakes) already installed and included in the fish finder.
The TripleShot transducer is excellent and allows you to look straight down (DownScan) or SideScan, which can look up to 300’ either side. CHIRP sonar, arguably the most reliable sonar available in these consumer fish finders, is included.
On top of all these great features, it can easily be mounted on a vessel with limited space. Plus, the interface is very easy and the screen size is about right for a small depth finder.
The maximum scanning depth of 500 feet is fine for most kayak fishing needs, though if you are on very deep waters it might not quite reach the bottom. Also, keep in mind the fact that this can generate its own maps while you ride and fish.
What do we love it for?
Reliable CHIRP sonar technology
Comes with 4,000 GPS maps included
Both DownScan and SideScan technology
Has an SD card slot for adding more data such as maps
What were we disappointed with?
Doesn’t work as deep as some other models (500ft)
Screen may be a little small for some users preferences
This product makes the list as the best portable fish finder for a kayak. It has a different design to a lot of the products on the list, and doesn’t work in quite the same way.
The Deeper PRO Smart Portable Sonar is designed to be cast, and uses your phone or other device in order to feed information back to you.
The dual beam sonar is decent, and certainly works well for smaller bodies of water, though it is fair to say that 260 feet of depth isn’t the best, and if you plan to fish in deep waters you may want another option.
There are some very smart features. The information is fed back to the phone via a Wi-Fi signal generated by the fish finder itself, so you don’t need to be on a network.
The data it feeds back includes location, fish size and depth and even the structure and vegetation within the water. It is also resistant to very low temperatures (starting from around -4°F) and therefore suited to ice fishing.
You can use this fish finder in both saltwater and freshwater, and it is compatible with operating systems from Apple and Android. It includes access to Lakebook, which is an app where you can analyze your fish, plan trips and save fishing maps from previous trips.
Though not the best for those who won’t have access to their phone, or don’t want to stick to 260ft depths, this is a reliable and high-tech fish finder for most kayak fishers.
What are our favorite features?
Save your data to Lakebook and access other peoples’ maps too
Cast up to 330 feet away
Easy to use the app included, which is compatible with multiple devices
Garmin is a name you may well have heard for their GPS systems before, and whether you’ve used these in cars or boats, you will probably have guessed that our budget pick, the Garmin Striker Plus 4Cv, has a GPS system included. This is just one of the many plus points of this tiny, but effective fish finder.
As well as being an excellent price, this is an extremely rugged piece of kit. It has an IPX7 rating for water resistance, meaning it can cope with being splashed in water.
The CHIRP system is a top sonar product, and you’ll struggle to find it elsewhere under $200. This is one of the best options for a cheap fish finder for kayaks.
The ChearVu scanning sonar works in conjunction with CHIRP for an overall picture of what’s under the water.
Garmin’s quickdraw mapping software is included and has storage space for up to 2 million acres!
The GPS allows you to mark waypoints and see things such as the speed and boating routes.
The screen is really small, which is fine for mounting, and great for most kayak and canoe fishers, but some will could this a little frustrating to deal with.
Why is it special?
Includes CHIRP sonar
Quickdraw software and GPS mapping included
Works to an amazing depth
What are the flaws?
Screen may be too small to see, especially if your sight isn’t great
The Vexilar SP200 T-Box Smartphone Fish Finder is an extremely smart piece of equipment. It takes your existing smartphone and effectively turns it into a fish finder. You mount it on your boat and it connects with your phone to give you an interface you can control and effectively see the data.
You don’t need to be connected to Wi-Fi for this to work as it generates its own Wi-Fi signal. However, you will need a 12-volt power supply to keep this fish finder running.
It can work with iPhone or Android devices and provides a lot of the same features as some of the more expensive fish finders on the market.
The app to use it is free, and comes with an audible alarm when fish are discovered, a depth indicator, battery indicator, water temperature measure and more.
It ships ready to mount, so you can quickly get this up and running on your kayak. It also has a two-year warranty for the protection of your purchase. Though not perfect for everyone, those who love to use their smartphone when fishing can get a lot out of this fish finder.
What are its best features?
Lightweight and easily fits inside a kayak
The app works very reliably and the fish finder generates its own signal to connect to your device
What could be improved?
Requires a 12-volt power supply
Designed to be permanently mounted, so you can’t really move this between kayaks easily
Obviously, needs a device such as an iPhone to run, and it can quickly drain the battery
Humminbird is a brand which manufactures quite a few different fish finder models, and this is a great option if you are looking for affordable functionality, and aren’t too worried about GPS.
The Humminbird 410160-1 PIRANHAMAX 4.3 DI is very durable, and built to last even if mounted on your kayak. It has an IP7 waterproof rating so can cope with the elements, and a very rugged design.
The sonar is Dual Beam, which most agree is not quite as good as CHIRP, but still gets the job done. Also, this works up to 600 feet deep which is significantly higher than some of the other options such as the smartphone and portable fish finders on the list.
A fish alarm and ID system helps you to work out when you are near the sort of fish you’ve been looking for, and this fish finder can also map out structure and contours.
The mount makes this a great kayak sonar option. It allows you to quickly swivel it and tilt to see the action!
Why is it special?
Comes with Fish Alarm and ID system for identification
Excellent mount which can swivel and tilt to your preference
Works up to 600ft
Waterproof and has a very rugged design
What are the flaws?
No GPS option included
Interface not as easy to use as some competing options
This is the Lucky Fish Finder FF718LiC, a castable option from China which is different to any of the other fish finders on the list. Whereas the other casting options use phones or other devices to feed information, this has its own display which connects wirelessly to the float, which can be cast out just like when you are fishing.
The Chinese brand is not as well known in the US, and this is a pretty affordable option compared to some of the other choices.
The sonar coverage is decent and you can select narrow to wide beam options depending on the type of fish you are searching for.
If you connect the device to its float via cable then the depth it can achieve is up to 328 feet, wirelessly it can achieve around 140 feet, which is fine for some needs, but not perfect for large bodies of water.
This fish finder can be used when on a boat or kayak, but equally can be used on the shore. It is even suitable for ice fishing and can withstand low temperatures.
The display and interface are pretty good, and you can choose from three different color options.
The device relies on you to recharge it, but one single charge can give 10 hours of battery life. This is great for one trip, but if you are going on a whole camping weekend, make sure you have a way to portably charge it.
Why are we impressed?
No need to be paired with other devices such as phones
Can work wired or wirelessly
What negatives must you be aware of?
Interface is not as sleek and understandable as some of the other options
No GPS option for use
Not quite as ruggedly designed and constructed as some other fish finders
A fish finder isn’t exactly the sort of purchase you’re likely to make all the time, so it can be hard to know exactly what to look for. If you are going for a kayak fish finder, then it can be an even more specific set of criteria to look out for. In this section of the guide, we’re aiming to help with that. Our buying guide is to make it easier to find a fishfinder for a kayak which fits your angling needs and can help with your fishing trip.
What makes a great kayak fish finder
There are certain features which make a fish finder good in general. For instance, it needs to be reliable, work to a certain depth and be simple to understand and use. These features are universal. For a kayak fish finder, there are some other things to look out for.
Firstly, you should be able to mount the fish finder. This is especially true if you’re not using a portable or castable option. Mounting should make it simple and easy to see the display and control the fish finder when out on the water. For instance, the Humminbird 410160-1 PIRANHAMAX 4.3 DI has a mount which twists and swivels, making it easy to use. The option to cast may also come in handy, and this means you can stay stationary on your kayak while casting the fish finder to see what is out there. Castable fish finders can often link to your phone or other device.
Features to consider when choosing a fish finder for a kayak or canoe
The following features we deemed vital when reviewing the best fish finders. We’ve explained why each of these features is so important if you’re looking to buy a fish finder for use in your canoe or kayak.
Maximum scanning depth
This feature is pretty self-explanatory. The sonar technology used will be able to work down to a certain depth, and then it will stop functioning and not be able to map out any deeper. In general, a product which has the ability to scan deeper is better, but you likely won’t have a need to scan thousands of feet if you’re fishing in a kayak. It is a case of matching up where you plan to fish with the scanning depth.
For instance, if you are headed to a very deep lake, you might want the Garmin Striker Plus 4Cv which has a maximum depth of up to 1750 feet, perfect for using in these larger bodies of water. Many of the castable options have depths of 200-300 feet, but this is fine for smaller bodies of water.
GPS functionality allows you to save maps, download maps and navigate based on previous trips. A well as offering data on where you might want to head to for more fruitful fishing trips, having a GPS means that you can see landmarks, depths and other useful data that is collected. You can store this data and use it in the future. Some of the options which have GPS come with up to 4,000 maps already included, these can be added to via an SD card. The editor’s choice, the Lowrance HOOK2 5, has 4,000 lakes around the US already installed.
Display and screen size
The fish finder isn’t much use if you can’t see what is going on. You should think about your eyesight. Many of the options are about the size of a phone screen. Think about the sort of size you will need when you are looking at your fish finder out on the water.
In your kayak, everything will probably be pretty close together, so you don’t need a huge screen, but it does need to be big enough that at a glance you can see what’s going on.
Dimensions and weight
Naturally, it stands to reason that you don’t want anything too huge and bulky for a kayak. Consider the dimensions and the weight of the product if you plan to take it out on the water with you. You’ll probably have quite limited space.
The battery life is going to be very important to the fish finder. If you’re using a product which is a standalone fish finder, then you should be looking for battery life which is long enough for your fishing trips. Also, useful features such as battery warning lights when you are running low can help.
Even smaller and more portable fish finders often require an external power supply, and few models feature rechargeable li-ion batteries. So for some units, you will have to remember to keep a 12-volt battery box in your kayak.
Battery isn’t as much of an issue with the fish finders which link up to your smartphone. However, you do need to think about the battery life of your device in these scenarios. The app you will need to use to make the most of your fish finder could also be another thing that saps the energy of the phone.
It is pretty obvious why the waterproof rating is so important. Obviously, the transducer which sends and receives the sonar signals is going to be 100% waterproof, but the handheld part of the device needs to be waterproof too, for full protection. Even the best kayakers can fall foul of waves or splashes on the water, and it is important to have some protection. This is another benefit regular fish finders can have over smartphone fish finders, as these can rely on the waterproof capabilities of the device.
There are a number of additional features which can make your fish finder even more of an attractive proposition. For example, the option to expand the maps and data with an SD card, or to download more data from the manufacturer as they create updates.
Naturally, some of these fish finders have apps which work on your smartphone and access to networks of maps that have been generated by other users. The connection via smartphone often takes place with a Wi-Fi signal which has been generated by the fish finder.
The main thing is to ensure you can see the fish finder where you mount it. You should have it towards the front of the kayak rather than mounting somewhere you need to turn to see the screen. Also, being able to reach to make adjustments is beneficial. Most people mount their fish finder on the side of their strong hand to make it easy to control.
This depends on your needs. If you have a castable model, it can map areas further away from where you are sitting in your kayak, but these often don’t have the same depth as traditional fish finders. Castable options also allow shore fishing.
This depends on where you will be fishing. The higher the depth, the better, but it may not always be necessary to have a lot of depth. Small lakes may not be that deep, and the fish you are looking for may be closer the surface.
The Lowrance HOOK2 5 is our top-rated product on the list at 9.9/10. We love the GPS functionality, build quality and the fact this product is so easy to interact with. Also, the reliable CHIRP sonar is brilliant.
Next on the list is the reliable and well-made Deeper PRO Smart Portable Sonar which can link to your phone and is suitable for kayak fishing and shore fishing. It is rated 9.7/10.
Finally, our third choice for best kayak fish finder is the Garmin Striker Plus 4Cv at 9.5/10. It has great depth capability, and is amazing value.