There are few better ways to spend a day out on the water than by casting lines from your kayak. However, successfully reeling in the day’s catch requires having the right gear on hand to do the job. For kayak anglers, that means having a quality kayak fish finder at the ready to help you locate your next catch.
Fish finders are decidedly complex pieces of gear, so finding the right one for your needs isn’t easy. So we’ve researched and reviewed the best fish finders for kayaks on the market.
Our Top Picks
If you’re in a hurry, here are our top picks. Or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
- Best Overall: Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 73sv
- Best Value: Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual-Beam
- Best Budget: Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder
- Best Castable: Deeper CHIRP Castable and Portable Fish Finder
- Best Imaging: Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP Fish Finder
Best Overall: Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 73sv
Display Size: 7” | Beam: Dual-Beam | GPS: Yes
The best overall kayak fish finder in our review, the Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 73sv is a premium device that’s suitable for dedicated kayak anglers.
You get both Garmin’s ECHOMAP chart plotter and a GT56 Transducer bundled into one great package with this device. This provides you with both cutting-edge maps and a highly versatile sonar system to help you navigate and catch fish simultaneously.
The ECHOMAP chartplotter on this device comes preloaded with Lake Vü inland maps and Navionics data. It also allows you to create personalized fishing maps with its on-screen drawing capabilities. Better yet, the ECHOMAP UHD 73sv can connect with a wide range of networks, including AIS, VHF, and ACTIVECAPTAIN, for added functionality in remote waters.
Meanwhile, the GT56 Transducer features Garmin’s CHIRP traditional sonar as well as its UHD ClearVü and SideVü dual-beam scanning sonars. This provides you with three scanning systems and improved performance in deeper water.
As a bonus, the ECHOMAP supports a wide range of high-contrast vivid color palettes on-screen. This makes it easier for you to identify different targets and underwater structures as you paddle.
The downside to the Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 73sv is that it’s pretty darn expensive, and it’s quite large, thanks to its 7” display. But if you want the very best gear possible, it’s hard to imagine a more functional fish finder than this one.
Best Value: Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual-Beam
Display Size: 4.3” | Beam: Dual-Beam | GPS: Yes
Offering a mix of value and functionality, the Garmin Striker Plus 4 with Dual-Beam is a go-to choice for anglers that want performance without a massive price tag.
The Striker Plus 4 is a compact fish finder and GPS-enabled unit that’s ideal for use on kayaks where deck space is at a premium. It has a sunlight-readable 4.3” display where you can quickly access the built-in GPS to mark waypoints as you paddle.
Each Striker Plus 4 also supports Quickdraw Contours so that you can create custom maps on the water. The device can even store up to 2 million acres worth of data with detail as specific as 1’ contours to help you make the most of your kayaking adventures.
As far as the Striker Plus 4’s fish finding capabilities go, this device comes with a dual-beam transducer with CHIRP technology. This technology provides increased clarity on the device’s imagery, regardless of if you’re in shallow or deep water.
Garmin also crafted this fish finder to support its Fish Symbol ID technology. With this system, you can get detailed information about the depth of fish targets in your area to help you adjust your fishing strategy. Alternatively, you can turn off Fish Symbol ID and view the device’s actual sonar echo display instead.
Although the Striker Plus 4 is an affordable option for kayak anglers, it does have some drawbacks. Its lack of SideVü and ClearVü sonar limits its precision on the water. Furthermore, this device’s small screen can be tricky to navigate if you’re used to larger devices. However, if getting good value for your money is important, the Striker Plus 4 is a sure bet.
Best Budget: Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder
Display Size: 2.6” | Beam: Single-Beam | GPS: No
The Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder is a no-frills device for kayak anglers that want to hit the water without breaking the bank.
This compact device comes with a simplified 2.6” display and a handheld-sized construction that easily fits in your tackle box when not in use. It even has an optional strap that lets you wear the device around your neck for added convenience while you paddle.
When it comes time to search for fish, you can toss the sonar sensor and its rubber float into the water. The sonar sensor comes with 25 feet of cable so that you can get a good idea of the fish populations in the water right around your kayak. This sensor has a single beam with a 45-degree angle, providing decent functionality in coastal environments.
For added performance, the Ventilator VT-FF001 lets you adjust the sensitivity of its sonar. For example, you can set the device’s sensitivity to high if you’re interested in both small and large fish. Or, you can set it to low if you only want the sonar to identify larger fish targets.
The Venterior VT-FF001 is a nifty budget-friendly fish finder. However, do remember that it has limited functionality in more remote waters. This is because the device doesn’t include GPS technology. It also has some accuracy limitations due to its lack of CHIRP and dual-beam technology. But for an affordable fish finder for occasional use, it’s an excellent choice.
Best Castable: Deeper Pro Plus 2 Chirp Castable and Portable Fish Finder
Display Size: N/A | Beam: Dual-Beam | GPS: Yes
One of the most versatile and functional castable fish finders on the market, the Deeper Pro Plus 2 CHIRP Castable and Portable Fish Finder is a popular choice for kayak anglers.
Unlike most other models in our review, the Deeper CHIRP doesn’t come with its own display. Instead, this device connects to your smartphone and uses the Fish Deeper app to provide GPS functionality, mapping, and crystal-clear fish-finding imagery.
To use the Deeper CHIRP, you simply need to connect the transducer to your smartphone using its built-in WiFi connection. Once your devices are paired, you can toss the durable ABS plastic-protected transducer into the water and watch in real-time as the transducer scans the water.
This device uses CHIRP sonar technology. The beams on the Deeper CHIRP have three different settings that range from 47° to 7° so that you can identify targets with precision at depths of up to 330 ft. It also comes with a target separation ability of 0.4”, so it can pinpoint fish with surprising accuracy.
Although the Deeper CHIRP is one of the most high-powered castable fish finders on the market, its lack of a built-in display system and the relatively high price tag can be frustrating for some paddlers.
Despite this, the Deeper CHIRP offers powerful fish finding technology in a compact package. This makes it an excellent choice for paddlers that want the flexibility and versatility of a castable fish finder.
Best Imaging: Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP Fish Finder
Display Size: 7” | Beam: Dual-Beam | GPS: Yes
If crystal-clear and powerful imaging is what you seek, the Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP Fish Finder might just be what you need.
This fish finder comes with a large 7” HD display to help you clearly see its charts and real-time sonar as you paddle. It also lets you access several split-screen views so you can navigate and fish, all at the same time.
With the Humminbird HELIX 7, you get access to built-in Humminbird Basemaps and AutoChart Live for improved mapping. This device is also Navionics compatible, and it can be upgraded to Humminbird’s LakeMaster charts for precision navigation on the water.
When it comes to identifying fish, the HELIX 7 is no slouch. It uses dual-spectrum CHIRP with wide and narrow beams for maximum versatility as you paddle. The device also has SwitchFire Sonar which lets you flip between two display modes with ease. Doing so lets you account for varying water depths, water temperatures, and turbulence levels for enhanced imagery.
The HELIX 7 is also Bluetooth compatible. This means that your fish finder can be programmed to display notifications from your smartphone automatically. Doing so helps you keep your phone in your pocket and your hands on your fishing rods so you can focus on reeling in your next catch.
As with most high-powered fish finders, the Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP doesn’t come cheap. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t offer side-scanning functionality, which you can find on many similarly priced models. But if you’re okay with paying a premium for performance, this is one tough fish finder to beat.
Kayak Fish Finder Buying Guide
Fish finders are complex pieces of equipment. As a result, you must know what you’re looking for as you shop so you can get the right fish finder for your needs. Up next, we’ll discuss some of the most important features you should take into account before buying a new kayak fish finder.
- Kayak Fish Finder Sonar Technology
- Portable vs. Fixed-Mounted Fish Finders
- Display Size & Quality
- GPS & Maps Functionality
Kayak Fish Finder Sonar Technology
Although there are dozens of fish finders on the market, all of the available models can be categorized into one of three different types of devices based on their sonar technology. Each kayak fish finder type offers various advantages and disadvantages that you ought to know about before buying. These include:
- Down Scanning – Aptly named, down scanning fish finders are designed to scan the waters below your kayak. Also called DownVü, ClearVü, or down imaging, down scanning devices use a single transducer to search for targets (a.k.a. fish) in the waters below you. This makes them ideal for use in deep water, even when you’re moving at a relatively rapid clip. The downside is that these devices usually have lower image resolution, and they can’t provide information about fish to either side of your kayak.
- Side Scanning – Side scanning fish finders use two beams to scan the waters on either side of your kayak. Also called SideVü or side imaging, these devices are preferred for use in shallow creeks and bays where fish are likely to hang out near the water’s surface. The drawback to side-scanning technology is that it can’t provide information about the water under your kayak. They also tend to be more expensive, and they don’t work well when you’re moving at relatively fast speeds.
- CHIRP – CHIRP, or compressed high-intensity radar pulse, is a type of sonar that uses multiple frequencies to scan the water around you. Most CHIRP sonars allow you to scan the water at different frequencies. This will enable you to use a wide beam to search for fish in shallow water or a narrow beam to get more detail on individual fish targets. As a general rule, CHIRP is more expensive than traditional down or side-scanning sonar. But when performance is a priority, CHIRP is usually the way to go.
Keep in mind that some kayak fish finders use multiple types of sonar technology. For example, the Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 73sv uses CHIRP, SideVü, and ClearVü technology to give you nearly unparalleled imagery of the waters around you.
This sort of high-powered fish finder comes at a premium, of course. But avid anglers might find that the extra cost is worth it for the increased precision of these devices.
Portable vs. Fixed-Mounted Fish Finders
Kayak fish finders can also be categorized as either portable or fixed-mounted devices.
Models, like the Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP Fish Finder, which are meant to be attached to the deck of your kayak, are fixed-mounted fish finders. Meanwhile, hand-held options, like the Venterior VT-FF001 Portable Fish Finder, or castable models, like the Deeper Pro Plus 2 CHIRP Castable and Portable Fish Finder, would be considered portable fish finders.
The primary advantage of fixed-mounted fish finders is that they often come with larger displays for ease of use. They usually also have CHIRP technology for improved imaging. The downside is that they are generally much more expensive, and they take up a lot of room on the deck of your kayak. These devices also have transducers that need to be mounted to your kayak.
Meanwhile, portable fish finders provide you with an exceptional amount of versatility on the water. These devices are designed to be cast into the water, giving you a quality view of the fish situation in a wide area around your boat. They also don’t need to be mounted onto your boat, which can be beneficial for those of us who aren’t keen on the idea of drilling into their kayak.
However, keep in mind that many portable fish finders have limited precision when it comes to scanning for fish. Many use solely down scanning sonar, which is nice but not as powerful as CHIRP. Of course, you can get CHIRP-enabled portable models, but these usually cost a pretty penny.
Display Size & Quality
The display of your fish finder is the one part of the device that you’ll have to continuously interact with on the water. So whether you’re simply looking at the sonar imagery on your device or you’re trying to navigate using its built-in chart plotter, the display of your fish finder is invariably an essential part of your kayaking experience.
When it comes to the display of kayak fish finders, the two key things to pay attention to are the size and quality of the screen itself.
As you can imagine, larger screens with HD resolution provide a much clearer viewing experience. This can make it easier to see and read the sonar charts of your fish finder, and it can make navigation a breeze. However, these high-quality screens come with high price tags, and they often take up a lot of space on the deck of your boat.
On the flip side, devices with smaller screens are usually substantially more affordable. But what you save in costs you lose in screen resolution. For short fishing adventures, this might not be an issue. But for longer trips or any situation where you also want to navigate with your fish finder, then a larger display might be worth the extra cost.
Also note that some fish finders are designed to connect with your smartphone or another Wi-Fi-enabled device. Unfortunately, these fish finders don’t have a built-in screen, so the quality of your display depends on the smartphone you have.
Many smartphones have amazingly high-quality displays, so this can be advantageous on the water. However, it does mean that you will need to have your smartphone out and in the open for much of your paddling day. Doing so can both drain your phone’s battery and expose it to harsh weather conditions, so this sort of setup isn’t ideal for everyone.
GPS & Maps Functionality
Although fish finders are primarily designed to help you find fish as you paddle, many also come with GPS and mapping functionality.
For people that stick to local waterways that they know well, GPS functionality might be an unnecessary added expense. But if you’re the type of paddler that likes to get out and explore new locales, built-in charts can be incredibly helpful.
As you shop for a GPS-enabled fish finder, keep in mind that not all devices will be pre-loaded with the charts you need for your area.
Before you buy, do your research to determine what charts are necessary for your preferred paddling location. Then, determine if these charts are available on the device you want to buy and, if not, whether there’s a way to get the charts you need at a reasonable price. Otherwise, you’ll be left with a fish finder and GPS device that won’t do you much good on the water.
Fish finders are must-have pieces of gear for any dedicated kayak angler. However, selecting just one fish finder for your paddling escapades isn’t easy because these devices come jam-packed with features and high-end technology.
Out of all of the devices in our review, it’s clear that one stood out among the pack: the Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 73sv.
Although this fish finder is one of the most expensive options available, it provides unparalleled performance. We particularly like that it has a quality 7” display as well as CHIRP, ClearVü, and SideVü sonar technology. Its GPS and charting capabilities are also second to none.
What’s most important, however, is that you get the right fish finder for your kayaking style. Whether that’s a budget-friendly compact model or a castable sonar kit, we hope this article helped you find the fish finder that’s best for you. See you on the water!