7 Best Kayak Fish Finders for New and Experienced Anglers

Last Updated on December 19, 2022

We independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here.

A smart man once told me, “play smarter, not harder, stupid.” While I felt pretty insulted at first, I realized that he was right, and being stubborn about fish finders wasn’t helping my fishing. 

Choosing a kayak fish finder is a bit more challenging than picking one for a bass boat because you don’t have as much space, and mounting it can be difficult as well. Based on hours of research and decades of experience, I’ve managed to put together this complete guide to the best fish finders for kayaks. 

After reading this, you will gain the following: 

  • A complete understanding of the best kayak fish finders
  • The ability to choose a fish finder based on fishing technique and style
  • A thorough understanding of buying factors that go into making a purchase

If you’re in a hurry, my top pick is the Garmin ECHOMap UHD because you can get it in a compact 7″ or 9″ screen without giving up advanced features like the option for Livescope.

Comparison Table – The Best Kayak Fish Finders on the Market

ImageProductRatingPrice
Best Overall
Garmin ECHOMAP UHD

Garmin ECHOMAP UHD

Type: ClearVu, SideVu, and CHIRP
Brand: Garmin
Display: 9" touchscreen with keyed assist
GPS?: Yes

9.8
CLICK FOR BEST PRICE
Best Kayak GPS
Lowrance Hook Reveal

Lowrance Hook Reveal

Type: Tripleshot (Downscan, Sidescan, and CHIRP)
Brand: Lowrance
Display: SolarMAX Display
GPS?: Yes

9.3
CLICK FOR BEST PRICE
Best Value
Garmin Striker 4

Garmin Striker 4

Type: ClearVu Scanning Sonar
Brand: Garmin
Display: LCD
GPS?: Yes

9
CLICK FOR BEST PRICE
Best Castable Fish Finder
Garmin Striker Cast

Garmin Striker Cast

Type: traditional 2D sonar and ice-fishing flasher mode
Brand: Garmin
Display: Smartphone or Tablet
GPS?: Yes

8.9
CLICK FOR BEST PRICE
Best Kayak Depth Finder
Humminbird Helix 7

Humminbird Helix 7

Type: MEGA Down Imaging, Dual Spectrum CHIRP
Brand: Humminbird
Display: Vivid 7" Display
GPS?: Yes

8.4
CLICK FOR BEST PRICE
Best Portable For Kayak
Venterior Portable Fish Finder

Venterior Portable Fish Finder

Type: Wireless Castable Down Imaging
Brand: Venterior
Display: LCD
GPS?: No

7.8
CHECK CURRENT PRICE
Best Canoe Fish Finder
Vexilar SP200

Vexilar SP200

Type: Wifi Sonar Fish Finder
Brand: Vexilar
Display: iOS and Android App
GPS?: Yes

7.7
CHECK CURRENT PRICE

Yourbassguy.com writer Wesley breaks down the pros and cons of 3 of the best kayak fish finders in this Youtube Video!

In-Depth Reviews of the Our Favorite Fish Finders for Kayaks

Garmin ECHOMAP UHD

Garmin Echomap UHD

BEST OVERALL

Specs

  • Type: ClearVu, SideVu, and CHIRP
  • Brand: Garmin
  • Display: 9″ touchscreen with keyed assist
  • GPS?: Yes

Pros

  • Sharing capabilities with other ECHOMAP units
  • It comes with a quick-release bail mount
  • Supports Panoptix

Cons

  • Overly complicated
  • Customer support leaves room to be desired.
  • The description is fuzzy and makes purchasing confusing.

Why We Chose It

Garmin is one of the premier names in fishing electronics, and we trust their brand. However, what sets this fish finder apart is that it supports Panoptix.

So you, the kayak angler, can see exactly what’s beneath your kayak, and that’s why I’ve rated this the best overall kayak fish finder.

The ECHOMAP UHD electronics have a quick-release bail mount. I believe this is the best option for kayaks because you will need to remove the unit while transporting your kayak. So I’m overjoyed Garmin offers this option.

The ECHOMAP UHD is a touchscreen fishfinder with a keyed assist. Keyed assist is a fancy way of saying it has a touchscreen and buttons. So if your hands are wet and cold, you can still use the buttons (when the touchscreen is being difficult).

The biggest frustration is setting up the UHD and the customer service.

Setting it up is a little robust and will probably require an hour or two on YouTube to figure out how to get everything correctly configured.

You can try their customer service, but it’s not always dependable for quickly fixing problems with Garmin fish finders.

This Garmin kayak fish finder is excellent (once you get it set up), but I wish their customer service was a little more helpful after you’ve spent money on their product.

To learn more about these, I break down every single model in my Garmin ECHOMAP UHD review.

Garmin Striker 4

Garmin Striker 4

BEST VALUE

Specs

  • Type: ClearVu Scanning Sonar
  • Brand: Garmin
  • Display: LCD
  • GPS?: Yes

FEATURED SPECS

  • This high-frequency 3.5” fish finder comes with a color display and keypad controls, which makes it easy to navigate and friendly for people who might not understand tech as much. It also features a rechargeable battery.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Garmin’s CHIRP transducer technology helps the fish finder update faster as you’re moving through the water, so you miss less fish.

BUYING ADVICE

  • While this option might be affordable “as-is,” there are a few upgrades that I recommend, such as a mounting arm and protective cover.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Great down images
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Requires upgrades

This Garmin fish finder for a kayak contains a lot of positives, but as with anything that comes at a budget price, there are issues as well. The standout flaw is the fact that you’ll need to buy the mounting arm and protective cover to keep this one safe. 

The upside is that the CHIRP sonar helps find fish faster, you get GPS mapping technology, and the keypad interface is much easier to use than a touchscreen when your fingers are wet or dirty.

If you’d like to learn more about the best budget kayak fish finder, give my complete Garmin Striker 4 review a read.

Lowrance Hook Reveal

Lowrance Hook Reveal

BEST KAYAK GPS

Specs

  • Type: Tripleshot (Downscan, Sidescan, and CHIRP)
  • Brand: Lowrance
  • Display: SolarMAX Display
  • GPS?: Yes

Pros

  • Max depth of 1000ft
  • FishREVEAL technology
  • Three screen size options
  • Include charting and C-map upgrades with Genesis Live

Cons

  • Poor tech support
  • Complicated features/ not user friendly
  • Description is misleading

Why We Chose It

The Lowrance Hook Reveal has many features (such as Genesis Live) that you see offered in more expensive fish finders, but you don’t typically see them in this price range.

The feature that stands out the most is Genesis Live, which allows you to map the depth contours of your current location if they are not preloaded into your unit. This is great for the small bodies of water that we kayak anglers love to fish.

Another excellent feature for kayak anglers is the Tripleshot Transducer. It keeps things simple by only requiring one transducer for three different types of sonar.

That’s why it’s one of the best side imaging fish finders for a kayak on the market!

Gone are the days of multiple transducers to get a good idea of what is below you, thank goodness!

My biggest frustration came from the product page and description because they are a little miss leading, so be certain you are buying the unit described in the description when you’re purchasing.

Otherwise, you might think you’re buying one unit when in reality, you’re purchasing a unit with entirely different features.

For a more in-depth review on this model, read my Lowrance Hook Reveal review!

Garmin Striker Cast

Garmin Striker Cast

BEST CASTABLE FISH FINDER

Specs

  • Type: traditional 2D sonar and ice-fishing flasher mode
  • Brand: Garmin
  • Display: Smartphone or Tablet
  • GPS?: Yes

Pros

  • Price
  • You can cast it exactly where you want it
  • Budget-friendly
  • Good for fresh and saltwater and ice fishing
  • Works up to 200′ away

Cons

  • Casting it might spook fish.
  • You will run your phone battery down using it
  • Only 2D sonar or ice-fishing flasher mode

Why We Chose It

The Garmin Striker Cast is highly portable because it has no wires. It’s a great asset to kayak anglers who don’t need the latest sonar technology to catch fish.

I admit it might seem a little gimmicky; however, the portable depth finder for a kayak concept is pretty cool and helps save a lot of space by using your smartphone or tablet as the screen.

The GPS model is great if you want to mark waypoints indicating fish or underwater structures. If you don’t need the GPS feature, purchase the less expensive portable fish finder for a kayak to save a little money.

The rechargeable battery lasts up to 10 hours, but to save battery, the Striker Cast automatically powers on while floating and powers off once you pick it up out of the water. Garmin is always coming up with innovative ways to improve its products!

Side note: I think using the Striker Cast is another fun way to introduce kids to fishing and teach them how to read sonar as well.

If you’re interested in learning more about the best portable fish finder for a kayak, the Striker Cast, I wrote an entire review here!

The biggest downfalls are that you will need to cast further than where you think the fish are and reel it to the spot to avoid spooking the fish you are trying to catch, and it uses your phone, so you will need to bring along a way to keep your phone charged.

Despite its downfalls, Garmin definitely made the best castable fish finder on the market.

Humminbird Helix 7

Humminbird Helix 7

BEST KAYAK DEPTH FINDER

Specs

  • Type: MEGA Down Imaging, Dual Spectrum CHIRP
  • Brand: Humminbird
  • Display: Vivid 7″ Display
  • GPS?: Yes

Pros

  • Side imaging, down imaging, GPS, and Navionics
  • Assorted transducer options
  • Great customer service

Cons

  • Price
  • Only one MicroSD card slot

Why We Chose It

Humminbird updated the Helix 5 in a big way with the Helix 7. For example, the U.S. Autochart Live helps you create real-time maps of where you are fishing so you can know the depth of where you’re currently fishing and the depth of where you’ve recently been.

This feature alone is why we rated this the best kayak depth finder.

The built-in base maps give you a headstart when trying out a new fishing hole for the first time. I love that once you are at a new location, you can easily dial in your sonar with a push of a button to fit your needs for that day.

Another reason to purchase the Helix 7 is that Humminbird is a well-known brand in the fishing industry, and its customer service is top-notch, so if you have any problems, don’t hesitate to give them a call.

If you aren’t sure if this is right for you, give my Humminbird Helix 7 review a read which goes far more in-depth.

Venterior Portable Fish Finder

Venterior Portable Fish Finder

BEST PORTABLE FOR KAYAK

Specs

  • Type: Wireless Castable Down Imaging
  • Brand: Venterior
  • Display: LCD
  • GPS?: No

FEATURED SPECS

  • This is an LCD display wireless and castable fish finder that you can use to detect fish away from the boat.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • For a portable kayak fish finder, this offers a lot of indicators, including fish depth, water depth, temperature, bottom contour, and depth range.

BUYING ADVICE

  • The sensor floats, so I would recommend casting it near where you’re thinking of fishing. It has a range of 262 feet and a 105-degree angle, so you don’t want to cast it right where you’re fishing.

Pros

  • A great number of indicators
  • Affordable
  • Compact and portable
  • Long-range

Cons

  • No method for mounting
  • The battery takes a long time to charge

These castable fish finders are great if you’re trolling the water trying to learn about what’s going on beneath the surface. This one contains a color screen with a bunch of different indicators, which is nice for a finder in this price range. 

Overall, this is a solid choice. Some people have issues with how long the battery takes to charge, and I also think you’ll have a hard time reading the screen in bright sunlight.

Vexilar SP200

Vexilar SP200

BEST CANOE FISH FINDER

Specs

  • Type: Wifi Sonar Fish Finder
  • Brand: Vexilar
  • Display: iOS and Android App
  • GPS?: Yes

FEATURED SPECS

  • Comes with automatic ranging technology that doesn’t require you to update or refresh as you’re trolling the water.

EXTRA FEATURES

  • Features an alarm function that alerts you when you’ve reached an ideal fishing location. This is a popular choice for small-scale fishing charters.

BUYING ADVICE

  • The biggest caveat for this is that you need a 12-volt battery supply to get this to work. So, you’ll need to purchase an external battery for your canoe or kayak.

Pros

  • Portable
  • Comes with mounting arm for phone/tablet
  • Automatic ranging

Cons

  • Requires external power supply

Let me be clear on this – you need a 12-volt power supply to power this using the 25-foot cord it comes with. If you’re fishing from a canoe, you won’t have that supply as you would with a bass boat or something similar. Other than that, installation is simple, and it offers depth tracking, GPS waypoints, and fish arcs from your smart device.

How to Choose the Best Kayak Fish Finder

How to Choose the Best Kayak Fish Finder

You’re in the market for the best fish finder for kayaks, great, so how do you choose?

What criteria should you keep in mind and you’re shopping around?

Many of these options are similar, with only a few minor factors that separate them. On the other hand, some are completely different.

Here are some of the factors I would keep in mind as you shop for a kayak fishing fish finder. 

Display 

Technology has moved us forward from the old greyscale displays, so most have a color LCD display at this point. Full color will offer a better picture, but does it really improve how you see the fish? Not really. If you can save a few bucks and go with black and white, go for it. 

That applies to basic sonar technology. If you have a standard down or side imaging fish finder, you’ll want a color display because you’ll get a better idea of the structure and location of the fish based on that structure. This will help you “feel around” as you cast and retrieve. 

Method of Imaging 

The types of imaging is probably the most important factor to most of you. I’m talking about what type of fish finder you have and how it translates sonar into images. You have three primary choices: 

  • Down-imaging
  • Side-imaging
  • CHIRP sonar

Down imaging is when the sonar funnel shoots straight down from the transducer, offering you an image of what’s happening directly beneath the kayak. 

Side imaging will send sonar rays horizontally away from the transducer, which helps you pick up on upcoming changes in structure as well as fish, so you don’t need to be as close to anticipate it. 

CHIRP sonar is also referred to as FishID or FishARC technology. These are all essentially the same thing. With this, the transducer sends out sonar bursts every so often, which results in an image rather than a real-time live picture. 

Some fish finders offer all three of these, while others have combinations of the three. Down-imaging and CHIRP are more common and more affordable than side-imaging. 

Depth

By depth, I’m referring to the maximum depth range of the fish finder. This will be important to those of you who are fishing deeper waters in your kayak. Maybe it’s a large river or even a deep inshore canal. Regardless, you’ll need a fish finder with some range. 

Keep in mind that even though the manufacturer states it’s accurate up to 250 feet, the closer you get to that maximum, the less accurate it’ll be. 

I personally recommend taking 50-100 feet off of whatever they say, and that’s the actual range. If your choice has a variable cone, you can customize how the transducer sends the sonar by shortening or widening the cone. 

By shortening the cone, you increase max depth but reduce the range you can send sonar horizontally from the kayak. I won’t get too technical on you but, just make sure you keep in mind where you fish and how deep the water typically is. 

Screen Size

What good is a fish finder if you can’t see it? I reviewed some screens that are 3.5” and others that are 7”, how do you choose? Since we’re focusing on portability and compact design, maybe you’ll want to meet somewhere in the middle? 

You don’t want a fish finder that’s so bulky that it gets in the way when it needs to fit inside a fishing backpack or carrying bag. But, on the flip side, you need to be able to read it properly without having too much strain on your eyes. 

I think all the fish finders for kayaks reviewed above have a large enough screen for most people. 

Extra Features

Fish Finders Features

Features are good, right? Some features you’ll want to look for are GPS mapping, pre-loaded lakes, Bluetooth compatibility, mounting devices, castable transducers, and more. There are tons of different features to look for, so don’t be afraid to spend some time reading and searching. 

Each of the fish finders reviewed above contains unique features that you might not find in every product on Amazon. Take your time and always keep your fishing style in mind as you shop. 

Budget

Your budget should also be an important factor because fish finders vary greatly in price. There are some for less than $100, and there are some for more than $1,000. You need to have a budget in mind, but I also don’t recommend going for the cheapest option on the market. 

Overall, every one I reviewed above offers features that are appropriate for the price tag. You get what you pay for, so just be sure to factor in all of these buying considerations before pulling out your wallet. 

Transducer Compatibility and Space

Since you’re fishing from a kayak, space is important, and installation is even more important. Many fish finder manufacturers are teaming up with kayak builders to make their products more compatible. They realize that more and more people are fishing from kayaks, so space and portability are more of a factor than ever. 

Look for fish finders with compatible scupper holes, mounting devices, and reviews from people who are using them on kayaks. Companies like Lowrance, Garmin, and Humminbird, and Raymarine specialize in this. 

Waterproof

Having a waterproof fish finder for your kayak is important because you’re much closer to that water than you would be in a bass boat or other type of boat. There could be more splashing with paddling and ultimately, a higher chance of the fish finder getting wet. 

As you’re shopping around, make sure you’re looking for fish finders that are either waterproof, water-resistant, or come with a cover that you can use to protect them. Most will offer at least one of these. 

How to Choose the Best Fish Finder for Kayaks Based on Technique

The best fish finder based on fishing technique

Now I want to get a little more specific. In this section, I’m going to tell you which features you should look for based on what type of fishing you do. Where, how, and even when you fish will require you to think differently about what fish finder you should purchase. 

Deep Water 

This goes out to all my offshore kayak anglers and deep river trollers. If you’re fishing water deeper than 25 feet, you’ll want to read this section. 

Deep water anglers need a fish finder with accurate depth first and foremost. You’ll want to look towards some of the more premium fish finders that will offer depth trackers up to 250+ feet. Obviously, you’re not fishing at these depths, but the deeper, the better because it will provide more accuracy at shallow depth. 

GPS mapping is also an important feature for you because you’re likely covering a lot of water in a short period of time. It would be nice to be able to keep track of where you went so you can revisit those spots later on. 

Structure Fishing 

Structure anglers like to fish around docks, wood pilings, stumps, weeds, and humps. If this sounds like you, you’ll benefit from a triple-shot fish finder like the Lowrance HOOK2. This one is the perfect choice because it offers side imaging, which will allow you to get an accurate representation of the structure and the fish around it without having to get too close. 

Thankfully, when we’re kayak fishing, we have a bit more flexibility as to where we can go, but that doesn’t always mean we want to. It’s nice to see what’s coming up before we’re right on top of it, and this type of fish finder is the best choice for supplying that. 

GPS is nice too in the event that you stray far away from where you started. GPS technology will help you find your way back. 

Shallow 

If you’re fishing shallow waters, rivers, and creeks, going with a basic fish finder should get the job done. You can save a little money because you don’t need anything with crazy depths or GPS tracking since you’re not venturing too far from civilization. 

A castable fish finder is also an option in this case since you’re right on top of your fishing spot. Sometimes being able to stay put and cast the transducer out to your ideal location is better than having to go out there and spook the fish. 

Saltwater vs. Freshwater 

One last important consideration is to understand that not all fish finders will work in saltwater. Many of them will, but they also have different depth ranges and accuracy when you’re fishing saltwater. 

As you’re doing your research and reading up on some of the products reviewed in this guide, make sure you read on how saltwater impacts the accuracy and depth of the fish finder. 

Final Thoughts

You read the reviews, you read the buying guide, and now you see why I rated the Garmin ECHOMap UHD as the best kayak fishing finder.

Do you feel like you know a little more about fish finders than before?

I hope so. Choosing a depth finder for a kayak doesn’t have to be hard, but it’s an investment, so you want to make sure you choose the one that works best for you.

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