Best Kayak Fish Finders: Real Reviews

Kayak fish finders are a great invention. Although the market for fish finders is still dominated by large screens, companies such as Humminbird, Garmin, and Lowrance offer smaller models that are perfect for paddlers.

Although 7-inch screens still get the most media attention, in reality, they are just too large. It won’t be possible to place it in a kayak that doesn’t interfere with side-arm casting or paddling.

We are avid kayak anglers and can help you choose the best kayak fish finder. Below are reviews of our favorite kayak fish finders, along with a buying guide that is tailored to your specific needs.

A quick look at the top kayak fish finders today:

  • Humminbird PIRANHAMAX 4 DI
  • Garmin Striker 4 Kayak Anglers Without a 12v Battery: Best Fish Finder
  • Humminbird Helix 5 GPS CHIRP DI GPS G2 Kayak Anglers Who Want Down Imaging: Best Fish Finder
  • Lowrance HOOK2 5 Side Imaging: Best Fish Finder for Kayak Anglers
  • Garmin STRIKER Vivid 5cv with GT20-TM Transducer Find the Best Big Screen Kayak Fish Finder for Your Budget

The Best Kayak Fish Finders – Reviewed

Humminbird PIRANHAMAX 4 DI

Humminbird 410160-1 PIRANHAMAX 4 DI (Down Imaging) Fish Finder, Black

Display Size: 4.3

Resolution: 272 X 480

Frequencies: 200/455 kHz

Side scanning:

Down Imaging: Yes. 320

Maximum Depth: 320 ft (20) 455 kHz, 600 ft (20) 200 kHz

Transducer Angle: 28deg and 16deg at -10dB

Target Separation: 2.5″

GPS No

Maps

Advertising copy is promoting larger screens each year and top contenders now have 10-inch diagonals. However, experienced kayak anglers know that what works well for a bass boat doesn’t work on a 12′ ‘yak.

Humminbird knows this well and has designed a slim, mobile-sized, vertically-oriented fish finder that can be mounted on most kayaks’ center consoles. The Piranhamax 4 DI may not be as powerful as the Helix series, but it is a highly capable fishfinder that offers outstanding down imaging.

The excellent XNT9 DI T transducer is used at the business end of the Piranhamax 4 DI. It can operate dual-frequency sonar at 200 kHz and 455 kHz. While it isn’t revolutionary technology, it does the job well.

You can also use it to create impressive down imaging. This is more than just a marketing gimmick.

Although not as advanced as the Helix 5, the Piranhamax screen can make blobs look stumpy.

This is a unique feature that apples-to-apples rivals can’t match. If you are looking for a small and inexpensive fish finder, this is a great choice.

The Piranhamax makes it easy to separate target species with ease.

What’s the problem?

Side-scanning sonar (CHIRP), GPS, and maps. The otherwise competent Piranhamax cannot help you with waypoints or course charting or GPS marking.

Kayak anglers searching for fish finders are complaining that they don’t want the hassle of installing a 12v battery. It’s something I understand. However, it is a concern when space and maximum capacities are limited.

The Humminbird uses a small 12v battery that measures only 5.94″x 2.56″,x 3.94″, and weighs in at a slim 4.8 pounds. It is easy to locate a spot and won’t cause any damage to your ‘yak like a regular 12v battery.

This fish finder runs on a small, lightweight 12v system.

The Humminbird Piranhamax 4 Di is an affordable, simple-to-use fish finder that’s great for kayak fishing.

Pros

  • Amazing price
  • Kayaks need a large screen.
  • Good target separation and easy-to-read screen
  • Amazing down imaging
  • A small 12v system powers the device.

Cons

  • No CHIRP
  • There is no side-scanning
  • No GPS
  • There are no maps

Garmin Striker 4

Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5' GPS Fishfinder with Chirp Traditional Transducer

Display Size: 3.5″

Resolution: 320 X 480

Frequencies: CHIRP 50/77/200 kHz

Side scanning:

Maximum Depth: 1,600 feet freshwater, 750 feet saltwater

Transducer Angle

Target Separation:

GPS: Yes

Maps

Striker’s standard fish-finding screen is simple to read.

Garmin, like Humminbird, is aware that big screens can be selling points for big boats but not on small ‘yaks.

The Striker 4 has a 3.5-inch screen, which is a bit smaller than its Humminbird counterpart. The Prinhamax 4 DI’s outstanding down imaging is not available.

It might be the best fish finder. You might be wondering why?

One word: CHIRP.

The Striker 4’s heart is a powerful CHIRP-capable transmitter, which broadcasts on frequencies between 50 and 200 kHz. This provides excellent depth and range as well as fish identification. Simply put, CHIRP does a better job of distinguishing fish from the background.

Garmin chose not to reveal the transducer that the Striker 4 is paired up with. We can’t give you details like target separation and beam angles. We can tell you that the Striker 4 works great, is simple to use, and offers excellent GPS features such as waypoints and marking.

That’s an impressive amount of functionality, in my opinion.

Garmin’s Garmin unit comes with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery.

No bulky, heavy 12v system is required!

This is a huge selling point for kayak anglers and helps to tilt the balance in favor of Garmin Striker 4.

Pros

  • Amazing price
  • Kayaks need a large screen.
  • Image quality is important
  • CHIRP sonar
  • GPS
  • No 12v battery system!

Cons

  • There is no side-scanning or down imaging
  • There are no maps

Humminbird Helix 5 CHIP DI GPS G2

Display Size: 5 inches diagonal

Resolution: 800 x 480

Frequency: 3/200 (75–155/130–250 kHz), 50%/200 (28–75/130–250 kHz), High (1130–250 kHz), Low (228-75/130–250 kHz), Medium (75–155 kHz), MED (75–155 kHz),

Side scanning:

Down Imaging: Yes

Maximum Depth: 600 feet (2,500 feet with optional transducers).

Transducer Angle: 16deg, 28deg, 45deg, 75deg @ 10dB

Target Separation:

GPS: Yes

Yes, maps

Some reviews recommend kayak electronics with diagonal screens of 7- or 9-inch. I’m left wondering where and how these reviewers mounted their fish finders.

Anything larger than 5 inches will cause problems unless you are operating a paddle-driven kayak on open water and casting under low-hanging branches or bushes is an issue.

Humminbird Helix 5CHIRP DI GPSG2 is a great choice. This fishing machine is a marvel, powered by CHIRP sonar, and packed with amazing features. It may be the best choice for anglers who can carry the fish finder’s larger dimensions in their ‘yak.

This Helix offers everything: maps, GPS, and down imaging

Imaging is superb thanks to CHIRP sonar, and an impressive, easily-read screen. The fish really stand out against the background. Although Humminbird doesn’t report this unit’s target separation in practice, it is apparently quite small.

This makes it easy for fish to distinguish between bait balls and fish.

Clear mode reduces background clutter and makes it easier to identify fish.

The Helix 5 also features industry-leading down imaging, which provides incredible detail. This will allow you to identify individual branches and distinguish brush piles for aquatic vegetation. You can also get to the bottom of the earth like you are there.

This device also has GPS and maps, making it a fully-featured option for kayakers.

The Humminbird 9AH BK – 9 Amp Hour Battery kit, which is just 3.2x3x12 inches in size and weighs the 6.14 lbs., can deliver power. Most kayaks have enough space to accommodate this.

Humminbird’s 9AHBK is small and light.

The Helix has many features so it’s important to read the manual before you get on the water. Once you have mastered the Helix fish finder, it is hard to imagine a better choice for kayak anglers.

Pros

  • Large screen that can hold one kayak
  • CHIRP sonar
  • Amazing, industry-leading down imaging
  • High resolution and excellent image quality
  • Maps
  • GPS
  • The system is powered by a 12v, small and lightweight power supply

Cons

  • It is difficult to understand menus and features

Lowrance HOOK2 5

Lowrance HOOK2 5 - 5-inch Fish Finder with TripleShot Transducer and US Inland Lake Maps Installed ...

Display Size: 5 inches diagonal

Resolution: 800 x 480

Frequency: CHIRP, but exact frequencies aren’t specified

Side scanning: SideVu

Down Imaging; Yes, DownVu

Maximum Depth:?

Transducer Angle

Target Separation:

GPS: Yes

Yes, maps

Lowrance’s Hook2 kayak-friendly hook2 is a great value for money.

Hook2’s diagonal 5-inch screen is easy to read and offers lots of color and detail. I honestly have no complaints about this screen. While Hook2’s Humminbird competitor might be slightly better, it’s still almost as good as its counterpart.

Lowrance’s screen looks very good.

Electronics are where the high-end distinguishes itself. Lowrance is very specific about details. Even after extensive research, we could not find the frequency, transducer angler, or maximum depth information.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it prevents direct comparisons.

The real-world performance is excellent, however. Hook2’s Hook2’sCHIRP works well, giving you plenty of detail and allowing for the easy identification of crappie and ball of shad. The traditional fishfinder mode has been flawless. It works great and I have no complaints.

However, I find the Helix 5’s down imaging to be much worse than the Helix 5. The Hook2 does offer side-scanning, which the Helix lacks. However, it doesn’t give the same amazing detail as the Humminbird.

This low-cost Lowrance is an excellent choice for anglers who value this feature, which many do.

Any 12v 9ah lithium battery, like the other electronics on this list, can provide power. This gives kayak anglers an alternative to full-sized 12v systems.

This 12v battery is small in size at 5.9×3.7×3.7inches and weighs about 5lbs.

Pros

  • Large screen that can hold one kayak
  • CHIRP sonar
  • Good down imaging
  • Side imaging is a good idea
  • Maps
  • GPS
  • The system is powered by a 12v, small and lightweight power supply

Cons

  • Comparable to the Helix 5, down imaging is less problematic

Garmin STRIKER Vivid 5cv with GT20-TM Transducer

Display Size: 5 inches diagonal

Resolution: 800 x 480

Frequencies: Traditional 50/77/200 kHz and CHIRP, (mid and high).

Side scanning:

No Down Imaging

Maximum Depth:?

Transducer Angle

Target Separation:

GPS: Yes

Maps

Garmin’s Striker Vivid 5cv fish finder is powerful and suitable for large ‘yaks with more space or those that are powered by pedals. It is also quite affordable, being a lot cheaper than the other 5-inch options.

This Garmin is superb, don’t be misled.

The GT20-TM transducer, which offers both CHIRP and traditional options, is exceptional. It pulls fish out of the background quickly. The real-world target separation is excellent, and I have no complaints.

The screen is bright and clear and easy to read. It also has many color options that can be customized to your needs and eyes. I am impressed with what this screen offers, especially considering its price. Automatic gain correction replicates the Humminbird’s “Clear Mode”, providing sharp, clear images of fish and minimizing distracting clutter.

Garmin STRIKER VIvid is bright and colorful with lots of options for pallets.

The 5-inch model doesn’t have side or down imaging, but if you can live without them, you will be rewarded with excellent GPS plotting and self-created maps in 1-foot increments.

This is impressive, but Garmin does not offer in-built maps. It’s a nod towards the reality of pricing.

A fish finder battery such as the Dakota Lithium’s, measuring just 5.94×2.55×3.78 inches and weighing just 2lbs 12oz makes a powerful system for larger kayaks.

This powerful battery is less than 3 pounds in weight

Pros

  • Large screen that can hold one kayak
  • CHIRP sonar
  • Displays in cool colors
  • High resolution and excellent image quality
  • GPS
  • The system is powered by a 12v, small and lightweight power supply

Cons

  • The 5-inch screen does not support side or down imaging.

The Kayak Fish Finder Buyer’s Guide

Check Your Cockpit First

The first step in buying a fishfinder for your ‘yak, is to decide where to mount it. This is a critical decision that requires careful thought and experimentation.

Get a seat

Go out on a kayak for a paddle. Note where a fish finder might get in your way. You should be cautious. Try some strong strokes, stop your kayak abruptly, lay your paddle across the gunnels, and so forth. All the things you do in real life. What would you do if your paddle was to hit a fish finder?

Although pedal-driven kayaks offer greater mounting options for large screens, side-arm casting is still limited.

The minimum diagonal screen size for many newer fish finders is 7 inches. They are great for visibility but can make it difficult to fit into the cockpit. Although rail mounting is an option, it can get in the way when side-arm casting and paddling are taking place.

You might try a couple of casts

Once you have your paddle set up, fish. Pay attention to where your rod needs to be moved to cast under low-hanging vegetation, or to reach real distances. For most people, the best place to mount your fish finder is on the center console.

A 5-inch screen is the largest you can use in a kayak.

Cables and batteries

Once you have your spot chosen, you can think about where the cables will run for your transducer and/or battery. To prevent them from getting in the way, they should be secured with duct tape. Also, it is important to consider where the 12V batteries will be kept.

Frequencies

Fishfinders use sonar technology to locate fish. They rely on the same tech as submarines. Dual frequencies are used by less advanced sonars. The current state-of-the-art sonar, CHIRP (Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse), is the best.

  • The low frequency they penetrate water more effectively, which allows the fish finder “see” deeper into the water, but lack the fine detail necessary to locate schooling fish.
  • The high frequency they can carry more information. They can provide more detail and pinpoint fish but are not very good at getting through water. They can’t see deep or tell you the shape of the bottom, so they don’t know much. This is important information, especially when you are looking for cover or structures that will tell you where the fish hang out.
  • Dual frequencies wish finders can do both simultaneously, and most frequency combinations offer a combination of one low frequency and one high frequency.
  • The angle of the beam transducer Marketing might lead you to believe that marketing is more important than it actually is. Broader angles can see fish suspended in the water column better than narrower angles, while narrower angles can find fish closer to the bottom. The best angle for you will depend on the purpose of your fishing, but every model that we review should work for most people.
  • CHIRP is king –CHIRP technology is military-grade and uses longer pings across a wide frequency range. CHIRP systems provide better accuracy than dual frequency counterparts and more data to the fishfinder, increasing its performance.

Transducers

Mounting a transducer to your ‘yak is a crucial step in your system’s success.

  • Mounting the hull –This method has been used for years and is still a popular choice in kayak fishing. It can transmit and receive sonar pulses by placing a sponge on the bottom of your kayak. Transom mounting is something you might not like, but some people do. You can experiment with hull mounting to see how it affects your system’s function.
  • Transom mounting –The mount attaches an arm to your yak. The transducer will remain submerged in water at its bottom. However, this puts your transducer in a potentially dangerous spot. Running into a stump or rock will certainly cause damage.
  • Scupper mounting –Many kayaks have scuppers that can accept the most common transducers. You should look for fish finders that can fit your kayak. This is the best way to secure a transducer to your kayak. These are usually added accessories that you will need to purchase in addition to your fishfinder.

Maximum Depth

Every model we reviewed has a maximum depth fish finder. This is important if you fish in deeper waters.

Display Size

Sometimes more is not always better. You need to find the right balance between easy-to-see and difficult-to-miss using your paddle and rod. Although large screens are easier to read and more convenient to place out of harm’s reach, they can be difficult to position. Although small screens are difficult to read well, they can be hidden more easily.

Display Resolution

This indicates how detailed a fish finder screen can display. This is an important point to remember: A small screen with a high-resolution screen can be more easily read than one with a low-resolution screen.

GPS

For anglers, GPS and maps can be powerful tools. They allow them to set waypoints and locate the same honey holes repeatedly.

A fish finder can be used to map the structure and cover of an area, which allows you to return to areas where fish feed and school. This feature is not available on all fish finders, but it is a good option and worth considering, especially if your area includes large lakes or the coast. They are an excellent addition to GPS and can help you quickly find the best spots to fish.

Batteries

Let’s face it, finding room and capacity for traditional 12v batteries can be a nightmare.

You should instead use smaller 12v systems specifically designed for marine electronics to power your fishfinder. They are smaller and lighter than deep-cycle or starting options and provide multi-day performance without excess weight and size.

We list all the available battery options for each product. For those who don’t need a 12v system but still want to have the option, we also include the Garmin Striker 4.

Last Thoughts

Too many kayak electronic reviews don’t come directly from the experience of the user. While 7- to 10-inch screens are great on a center console or bass boat, they can be a pain when you have a paddle in your hands or need to cast under a branch.

We hope these reviews reflect our real-world experiences. If we can help you choose your next kayak fish finder, we would love to hear from you!

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Lewis
Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.