I had no idea buying a fish finder could be so overwhelming until I started shopping for one myself. I thought I could just go to the store and pick one up and it would tell me where the fish were. It seems like it should be that simple, right?
Boy, was I wrong! The type of water like fresh water, salt water, or ice, and the type of boat you float all make a huge difference. Not only that, but you can get fish finders with just as many gadgets and doodads as your smartphone. Take a look.
- Our Top Pick
- Product Reviews
- Buying Guide
- Final Thoughts
Our Top Pick
It doesn’t get much better than the Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro. With more features than any other product on our list, it’s the clear choice for any serious angler who wants the best data and most functionality at his fingertips. It includes GPS, Wi-Fi, a full-color display, and so much more.
Now that you have a better understanding of the options, we can dive into some kayak fish finder reviews and talk about some of the best products on the market. These products range in price, functionality, and features so you have an opportunity to see what’s available and determine which is best for you.
If you’re looking for a great display with vibrant color and high-quality hardware, look no further than the Lowrance Hook 4x. You can clearly see the 4-inch color display in all outdoor conditions and all light levels. For detailed images of everything below the surface, it comes with DownScan Imaging and CHIRP sonar.
You can choose which display view you like the best or switch easily between a variety of options including traditional, split-screen, or zoom. With the ability to monitor three sets of data at once, you get a comprehensive picture of your location, so you can make better decisions more quickly.
Set up is easy and the menu is intuitive, so you’ll waste no time getting acclimated to your new tool. Install it quickly and get right back to fishing. Knowing how to use the system makes it easy for you to get what you need out of it. Not to mention, it includes noise canceling capability and will adjust the display for you based on this technology to help reduce screen clutter.
While the Lowrance Hook 4x doesn’t have GPS technology, that’s about the only thing it doesn’t have. It’s a powerful tool with a beautiful display that allows you to get the most out of your equipment at a great price point.
The HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder is an ideal option that allows you to choose which version will work best for you. You can choose one of the black and white display options at a slightly lower price point, or you can choose the color VirtuView display.
The Fishtrax 1C has a flasher mode that makes it great for ice fishing, vertical jigging, or kayaking with live bait. The VirtuView display is more expensive than the black and white versions, but it’s still reasonable enough for most anglers.
The transducer easily mounts on the side of your boat but you can also use the included float to toss it out with your line or tow it behind you. This added flexibility gives you plenty of versatility and options.
The VirtuView display uses dual-frequency to give you a clear image of what’s underwater and also comes with a zoom function, allowing you to get a better look at more detail. The audible alarms for fish and bottom-depth help you keep an eye on what’s happening underwater without looking at the screen.
Garmin is the leader in GPS technology for many different devices, and fish finders are no exception. The Garmin Striker 4DV is small, but the technology packed into this tiny device is bigger than most.
It’s easy to take on the move and mount anywhere in your boat. The 3.5-inch display features full color, clear images, and visibility in all weather. The functions are intuitive, and the keypad makes it easy to control, navigate, and switch views.
Accessing data has never been easier, and with some of the best built-in GPS available, you can keep track of your favorite fishing locations and return later. The Striker 4DV has a CHIRP transducer and Garmin’s DownVu sonar.
The Striker 4DV also has a built-in flasher function so you can use it for jigging in deep water, allowing you an unparalleled view of your lure and everything under the water. Use the included transom and trolling motor mounting hardware for secure installation.
When it comes to easy portability, the Lucky fish finder is as good as it gets. Don’t empty your pockets when you can get a durable, well-made fish finder that does what you need it to do in an uncomplicated way.
The portable Lucky fish finder is versatile and easy to use. You can mount the transducer on a pole, the side of your boat, or use the float to toss it in the water. It comes with a 25-foot cable, making it easy for you to put it where it’s most convenient for you.
With fish school alarms as well as images up to 328 feet of depth, you’ll be sure not to miss much. Even though Lucky isn’t a well-known fish finder brand on the market, they offer an affordable device and a one-year warranty for your peace of mind.
The display provides bottom contour data to help you identify grass, gravel, or sand. It also has a backlight and five sensitivity options for additional customization. It’s not the fanciest option on our list, but it gets the job done.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get much better, in walks the Raymarine Dragonfly 4 Pro. This fish finder is the best of the best, with built-in GPS, Wi-Fi, a flasher, a huge full-color display, and tilt-swivel mount.
This fish finder is the most expensive on our list, but well worth the price for the expansive features and capabilities that you won’t find in other units. It is equipped with DownVision sonar and CHIRP technology to provide you with the clearest images imaginable.
The transducer comes equipped with a temperature sensor, so you can do a better job of predicting fish behavior, enhancing your fishing experience and enabling you to find the best fishing spots on the lake.
The ball and socket mount gives you enhanced tilt and swivel motion and a 4.3-inch color display provides the most vibrant images. No matter where on your kayak you mount the Dragonfly 4 Pro, you’ll be able to see it.
With Wi-Fi capabilities, the Dragonfly 4 Pro can send data directly to your smartphone or tablet. Even if you’re not where you can see the display, you’ll be able to view the same data at your fingertips on the other side of the boat.
A microSD card makes it easy to transfer your data from your fish finder to another or upload the information on your computer at home for reference later. Use the GPS for location mapping or speed data.
As fish finder technology improves, you have a lot more things to consider before buying. The sonar used in fish finders gives you a better look at what’s in the water, which is at the heart of why you need a fish finder. However, there’s a whole lot more to it these days.
Conventional Fish Finders
A conventional fish finder uses sonar to collect information about what’s going on under the water and then it displays what it finds on a screen. It helps the angler by telling him more about the water and how to find the fish.
These units usually detect depth, temperature, and major structures like plants, sunken boats, and other objects. However, the amount of detail provided will vary significantly based on many factors. One of these would be the best fish finder for kayak, canoe, or boat.
A basic fish finder will display crude, undetailed images while a high-end fish finder will show what look like photographs as it interprets the information it gathers via sonar. This rich detail can make it so much easier to read, but more complicated to set up or use.
Flashers take a more simplistic approach to the information they find beneath the water, displaying the depth of the body of water, the depth of any fish it finds directly below you, and the depth of your lure.
While the information you receive isn’t as detailed as some other modern fish finders, the simplicity is a welcome relief to some of the more complex or overwhelming devices you might find on the market.
Flashers are great for ice anglers and also work well for the outdoorsman who likes deep water vertical jigging. While it’s probably not the best kayak fish finder, some conventional fish finders have a flasher function included, so you have it if you need it.
Flashers are portable, so they’re easy to move with you, which is part of the reason they’re great for ice anglers. You don’t have to mount them to your boat and leave them. You can have it with you as you navigate the frozen surface.
Many conventional fish finders also feature GPS technology. These are fantastic tools for any angler because they have all of the same features you might need on a fish finder with information about your GPS location.
The best fish finder for a kayak, and indeed the best fish finder for any vessel, is one with GPS, because it adds so much to the experience. You can record exact locations of high fish activity for a return later, you can track your route, and measure your speed.
With advanced information about your location, you can plot charts and use fish finders to help navigate. Most mid-tier fish finders now include GPS capability, so it’s much more accessible than it used to be.
Castable Fish Finders
Castable fish finders are exactly what they sound like. You can attach them to the end of your line and cast them into the water. They use sonar beneath the water to collect information and then send that information back to your handheld display or your smartphone.
These types of fish finders are popular because you don’t have to mount them to anything. If you use your smartphone or tablet, you don’t have an extra piece of equipment taking up room on a boat that’s already small, like a kayak or a canoe. They’re also more affordable than other types of fish finders because they don’t come with the extra equipment. View our top choices for this type here.
Your fish finder can collect more information than any other fish finder on the market, but if it can’t display it in a way that’s easy for you to read or understand, it’s useless. Make sure the fish finder you purchase meets your expectations when it comes to a high-quality display screen.
While some basic models don’t have all of the complicated gizmos, that’s ok, as long as you know what you’re getting. Even a fish finder that transmits to your smartphone is a convenient tool as long as the app on your smartphone gives you the information you need.
Some displays are black and white, and others provide full-color images with high resolution. Screen size will also contribute to your viewing experience. Large screens are easy to view but take up more room. If you want to mount your fish finder and be able to see it at the other end of the boat, a large screen is ideal. However, if you need to conserve space, get a smaller screen.
Customization ability is a personal preference. Some fish finders will let you change the way information is displayed, fine tune the settings, or update the display colors. It can help you maximize the contrast, making it easier to see in bright sun or at night.
Every fish finder is different. Some mount, some transmit data to your smartphone, and some are portable. The installation varies based on the type of fish finder you buy, so this is another personal preference. Whichever type of fish finder will work best for you is the type you should get.
However, if you buy a fish finder that needs to be mounted, make sure you get one with clear installation instructions, making it easy for you to set it up and get started. This is especially important if you rent boats rather than using your own. A fish finder that’s easy to mount will make it much easier for you to use it each time you rent a boat.
Our recommended fish finder installs incredibly easily and quickly. Check out this demo.
Water Temperature Probes
Water temperature can affect fish activity and behavior, so this can be a useful feature for all anglers. A temperature probe can lead you to areas of ideal temperatures for angling and let you know when the temperature is less than ideal, so you can move on.
We’ve already discussed the importance of GPS, but did you know you can also get fish finders with custom map-making technology? If you fish in large, well-navigated waters, you most likely can find maps and navigational charts that will help you while you’re fishing. However, small rivers, creeks, and ponds are less likely to have this information already.
If you get a fish finder with this kind of technology in it, you can make your own maps for future use or upload them to the database for others to download. Unless your spot is top secret or on private property. Then you probably don’t want to share.
If you and a buddy regularly alternate going out on each other’s boats on Saturday mornings, you may find it easier to simply remove your storage device and pop it into his fish finder instead of transporting the whole unit.
Fish finders equipped with SD card readers let you move your collected data from one fish finder to another. You can also upload that information to your personal computer at home or any other device with an SD card reader.
No matter how you like to spend your time out on the water, there’s a fish finder for you. Each product we reviewed stood up to the rigors of angling in several different environments. If you want something simple that doesn’t cost a fortune but gets the job done, a portable solution may be the best option for you.
If you like the most advanced technology and the most comprehensive data, try something that comes with a variety of features, a large display, and a versatile mount. Additional features like a microSD card, GPS, Wi-Fi, easy controls, split-screen, or zoom only add to your experience.