Kayak Fishing is a great way to target a large variety of fresh and saltwater fish. They are extremely versatile and can be used to fish in many different bodies of water.
The sport is rapidly growing in popularity, with Kayakers now fishing on rivers, lakes, dams, estuaries, and offshore.
Fortunately for us, the guys manufacturing premium fish finders have taken notice. There are now various quality units available today, some have specially designed a fish finder for Kayaks.
In my opinion, Fish Finders that are mounted on Kayaks, suffer more abuse than Fish Finders mounted to any other type of fishing vessel.
They are so low to the water when compared to those mounted on ski boats or larger fishing vessels, and are constantly exposed to the elements.
Even worse if you happen to fish offshore, as you usually punch through waves on the launch, with constant exposure to saltwater and spray.
Also, there’s always a chance of being knocked off when beaching and having your Kayak being washed onto the shore, particularly in large swells.
For this reason, you must choose a Fish Finder that has been made by a well-known and reputable manufacturer.
These manufacturers use premium components and the latest research and development. This ensures an enhanced fishing experience for satisfied and life-long customers.
Let us take a look at some of the best options available and figure out which is the best Fish Finder for a Kayak.
Can you put a Fish Finder on a Kayak?
You most certainly can. The design, quality, and durability of modern Fish Finders are so good, that Kayakers have jumped on board to significantly increase their fishing chances.
The Kayaking sport and Fish Finder market have increased dramatically, to such an extent that newer Kayak models even come standard with a Fish Finder of your choice.
If you have a Kayak that isn’t equipped with a Fish Finder or you are looking to purchase a previously owned kayak without a Fish Finder, don’t despair. There are numerous ways of attaching a Fish Finder to your trusty Kayak.
How do you put a Fish Finder on a Kayak?
When installing a Fish Finder to your Kayak, there are three main parts to focus on.
- Where and how to mount the Main Head Unit
- Where to fit the Transducer
- Where to store the Power Source for the Fish Finder
1.There are numerous Kayak models which are equipped with dedicated removable Fish Finder/sonar pods. This design offers a complete mounting solution for the Main Head Unit.
For the Kayaks that don’t have this feature, thankfully all Fish Finders are equipped with some type of mount.
The key is to find a flat spot on the deck that is within easy reach, the side of the foot-well and the center console are popular locations.
If the supplied mount is not to your liking, there are numerous universal after-market and model-specific mounts available. I like the slide-track mount, this allows for easy installation and removal of the Fish Finder.
I prefer mounts that feature the traditional ball and socket system, they allow you to get the perfect viewing angle with extensive angle adjustment.
2. Installing a Transducer to your Kayak is slightly more complex. The transducer emits sonar pulses through the water column and collects the information when the signal returns.
There are numerous ways to install a transducer and can vary depending on the model of Kayak. Some Kayaks feature a molded-in recess beneath the hull. This recess is specially designed to house a Transducer.
If your Kayak isn’t equipped with a recess, there are universal after-market Transducer mounting available.
A good example is the Lowrance Scupper mount, which allows the transducer to be fitted to a scupper hole on a Kayak. Although this mount is designed for Lowrance transducers, it is compatible with numerous other brands.
Transducer Arms can also be used to mount Transducers on a Kayak. The Transducer is mounted to arms that extend over the side, this Arm Mount is attached via slide track or deck mount.
It features a soft alloy arm that can easily be manipulated, to fit the shape of your Kayak for more organized fishing. A transducer that has been Arm-Mounted will offer full water contact for clear readings.
Unfortunately, this can cause additional drag when paddling or pedaling.
A Transducer can shoot sonar through composite and plastic materials with minimal loss of reading clarity, this means that the Transducer can be fitted inside the hull.
Unfortunately, this will not function correctly with more complex side-scan Transducers but is ideal for down scan and standard sonar.
You will need to bond your Transducer to your Kayak by encasing it in a strong holding adhesive. Flexible adhesives are your best bet and will move with the Kayak, as it bends and flexes.
It is imperative that there are no bubbles trapped within the adhesive casing, any type of air bubbles will affect the sonar readings.
Allow the adhesive sufficient time to cure, at least 48 hours.
Once the Transducer is installed and secure, it is vital to ensure that the cabling is sufficiently protected against water and the elements. There are some fantastic waterproofing options to take care of this.
A great example is the Scanstrut Cable Seal, this will ensure the entire length of your cable is water-resistant, from the Main Unit Head to the hull.
3. When installing your power source, it must be kept in a dry hatch or dry area of the Kayak. It is recommended that you position it in the center to ensure a maximum center of gravity.
This will drastically reduce drag and save loads of energy, especially on marathon paddles. Although the power source is in a dry hatch, it is recommended that you double seal it with a waterproof container.
Is a Fish Finder worth it on a Kayak?
There are still some anglers under the misconception that it’s not possible to utilize a Fish Finder when fishing from a Kayak. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and Fish Finders are helping Kayakers get big fish more often.
They are so effective that once you get one, you will find it unimaginable to fish without it. A dog is a Man’s best friend but a Fish Finder is a Kayakers best friend.
Below are a few reasons as to why you need a Fish Finder on your Kayak:
Accurately Displays Temperature
Apart from actually sticking a thermometer into the water, this is the only accurate way to determine the water temperature. There are numerous apps available that predict the weather and water temperature, but they are just predictions and forecasts.
It allows you to detect underwater currents and natural features like spring-fed creeks.
Most species of fish are significantly more active in warmer water, being able to find the warmer areas will certainly increase your hook-up rate.
Exposes the Underwater Habitat
Knowing and understanding the underwater habitat is crucial to successful fishing.
A Fish Finder will allow you to identify in which water column the fish are holding, enabling you to target them effectively.
Certain species of fish are territorial and inhabit reefs or large structures. Knowing the size of the structure below will allow you to target numerous salt and freshwater species.
Allows you to identify feeding fish holes and channels.
Knowing what is beneath you will help you determine how quickly you should be paddling and how deep your lures should be swimming.
Most Fish Finders are equipped with mapping technology, this will allow you to map and visualize certain fishing spots for further research.
Depending on what species you are targeting, knowing where structure, reef, old shipwrecks, and even fallen trees are, could be the most helpful feature of a Fish Finder on a Kayak.
Helps you find Bait
This is one of the best features for me, as I tend to fish with live bait most of the time.
If you know what the target species is eating, then catching them will be significantly easier. Find the bait and you will find the fish.
Paddling around for an hour or two trying to find bait can be extremely frustrating. A Fish Finder allows you to see exactly where the bait is at, offering more time to target and catch large fish.
If you can position yourself near large schools of baitfish, there is a great chance you might get stuck into a large predator.
Allows you to Navigate and mark your spot
This is another great feature of Fish Finders. Once your fishing spots have been marked, you can then plot a course.
You can return to a fishing spot in the future as the GPS tracks your course and leaves a trail programmed into your device.
Best Fish Finders for Kayaks
There are four fish finders for kayaks that we would consider to be the best:
- Garmin Echomap UHD 73sv
- Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MSI GPS G3
- Garmin Echomap Plus 43cv
- Helix 5 CHIRP Sonar GPS G2
Garmin Echomap UHD 73sv
The Garmin Echomap UHD 73sv is a wonderful Fish Finder with loads of interesting features. It offers an impressive 7-inch touch screen with built-in Wi-Fi.
The unit is vastly more advanced than the Garmin Striker. It is equipped with the latest GTUHD-TM “Ultra HD” transducer, which enables Chirp, megahertz ClearVu and megahertz SideVu Imaging Sonar.
If you are on a limited budget or simply don’t want to spend too much money, you could always lose the SideVu. The Garmin Echomap 63cv and Echomap 73cv are both capable units at an affordable price.
The Garmin Echomap UHD 73sv is a complete and full-featured Fish Finder. The slim and compact design allows for easy mounting to your Kayak.
The Garmin Echomap UHD 73sv features:
- An impressive 7-inch (800×480) Touchscreen
- Livescope compatibility
- Built-in Maps
- LakeVu g3 which offers 18000 preloaded maps with one-foot contours
- Quick Draw Live Mapping
- High-Wide CHIRP
- ClearVu and SideVu Imaging Sonar
- A GT56UHD-TM transducer
- MicroSD Slot
- Navionics Capabilities
Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MSI GPS G3
Humminbird is notorious for quality and innovation, particularly concerning modern Fish Finders. I think this is a perfect Fish Finder for Intermediate anglers and anglers that might find themselves on a slight budget.
This fantastic Fishfinder is a great alternative to some of the premium models currently available.
The Humminbird Helix & Chirp MSI GPS G3 features:
- Maps – Includes 1 x microSD Slot for AutoChart live, Lakemaster Chip and includes Basemap
- XNT 9 HW MSI 150 T with MEGA DI, MEGA SI, and Dual Spectrum CHIRP
- High-Wide CHIRP sonar with Award-winning MEGA Side and Down imaging
- A bright seven-inch screen (500×480 pixels)
- Lakemaster Capability
There are a few small disadvantages to this Fish Finder. It isn’t offered with a touch screen option (not the end of the world), and the image is not as crisp as the MEGA+ versions you might find on a Garmin Echomap.
This is because the MEGA DI is interpolated from the side beams.
I do, however, like the fact that the MSRP is lower than the UHD 73sv, but with all the same functionality.
Garmin Echomap Plus 43cv
The Garmin Echomap Plus 43cv is a competent Fish Finder and a great alternative to the Lowrance model which is in the same category.
The Garmin Echomap Plus 43cv features:
- ClearVu sonar imaging
- A compact and slim design. This sleek design allows the Fish Finder to be neatly mounted on the center pod by your feet, or professionally mounted on the gunnel of your kayak
- A quality 4.3-inch WQVGA screen
- Built-in Lake Charts
Except for built-in Lake Charts, this Fish Finder is very similar to the Striker 4.
Helix 5 CHIRP Sonar GPS G2
The Helix 5 CHIRP Sonar GPS G2 is another fantastic Fish Finder from Humminbird. What’s different about this awesome Fish Finder is that it uses a landscape orientation. This can be useful when fishing from a Kayak.
The Helix 5 CHIRP Sonar GPS G2 features:
- CHIRP Dual Beam Sonar and offers a Power Output RMS of 500W and a Power Draw of 615 mA.
- Precision Internal GPS Chart Plotting
- Built-in Anima-Cartography
- 5-Inch Bright Colour Display. This is one of the biggest displays in its class.
- MicroSD Card Slot. This allows for the saving of waypoints and optional maps.
- Side and down view imaging with high contour maps.
Power Source For Kayak Fish Finder
For obvious reasons, the power source of your Fish Finder is vital, these power units need to be constantly operating at peak performance to ensure a successful fishing trip.
Most Fish Finders are equipped with a 12-24V DC power supply. The Fish Finder and the Battery are connected by the main switchboard.
It is advisable to install an additional manual switch on the power cable, this will enable you to turn the Fish Finder on or off quickly.
To avoid malfunction, the Fish Finder should always be switched off before cutting the power supply.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the capacity of your battery, this information should be displayed on the packaging.
The capacity of a battery is predetermined, capacity can be described as the amount of charge the battery can deliver at a specific voltage (Ampere Hour).
Smaller batteries offer significantly less operational time, therefore you can only keep your Fish Finder on for a limited time.
Most reputable Fish Finder manufacturers offer a decent battery when selling their units. If you are a weekend warrior or fish every other weekend, these batteries could offer a few years of service.
If you have a full-blown addiction and find yourself constantly surveying weather reports for your next fix, you may need to upgrade to a more efficient battery.
Most products are considered wear and tear items and don’t/won’t last forever, batteries are no different.
Fortunately for us, manufacturers are producing highly efficient batteries for Kayakers. In a nutshell, these premium 12V Batteries are designed to keep your Fish Finder on for longer periods, with an extended lifespan.
Let’s have a look at one of the best batteries for your Fish Finder:
12 Volt Rechargeable Lithium Battery – 12 V 10 Ah – LiFEPO4
Dakota Lithium Batteries are known for quality and durability. These guys are so focused on offering exceptional products that each battery is offered with an 11-Year Warranty.
In recommended conditions, the liFePO4 Battery delivers 2000+ cycles. When compared to a typical Lead Acid Battery life span of 500 cycles, the Dakota Lithium Battery offers significantly lower pay peruse.
The Dakota 12V 10Ah – LiFePO4 features:
- Battery Management System (BMS) – This innovative technology high and low voltage cut-off, controls cell balancing, temperature protection, and short-circuiting. This technology allows for a longer life with increased performance.
- Versatility – This quality battery is ideal for Fish Finders, solar lighting, camping, and ice fishing. It can operate at -20 degrees F and is the perfect upgrade for any deep-cycle battery.
- Exceptional Charging Speed – The Dakota Lithium Battery charges 5 x faster than traditional Lead Acid batteries.
- Light-Weight Design – This battery weighs around half the weight of a traditional Lead-Acid battery.
There are numerous quality Fish Finders available for Kayakers. They are robust and durable and can be considered a serious game changer for all Kayak fisherman.
Kayaker anglers are consistently getting more and larger fish than ever before. Fish Finders can be mounted to your Kayak with relative ease is definitely worth the money and trouble.
In my opinion, the best Fish Finder for a Kayak is the Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MSI GPS G3.
It doesn’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles, but you get so much bang for your buck. This Fish Finder is ideal for all types of angles and Kayaks and will offer many years of stress-free Kayak fishing.