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Over the past decade, the introduction of kayaks to the fishing industry has caught on like wildfire. With their versatility and inexpensive price, kayaks are the new canoe. As with any sport, technology in kayak fishing is on the rise. Let’s look at the 5 best fish finders for your kayak! 

Fish Finders

Chart plotters, sounders, graphs, fish finders, call them what you like. These tools have become absolutely necessary in the world of angling and even pleasure boating. The technology has given users the ability to see what is beneath the water in an amazing way.

Features like CHIRP sonar, which means compressed high-intensity radar pulse, is a new technology that sends out larger sonar waves in rapid succession to give more detailed readings than traditional 2D sonar. Graphs do come with some negatives such as added weight and batteries. The positives far outweigh the faults in this regard. 

With a large 7” screen, this unit is the perfect size for kayak anglers. It has Wifi and a color display with a touch screen and traditional buttons for operation with wet fingers.

In addition to the great display, it boasts megahertz SideVu and Clearvu imaging with sonar and CHIRP which come from the new GT56UHD-™ “Ultra HD” Transducer. This transducer is compatible with Garmin Livescope if you ever wanted to add that to your kayak.

This fish finder also comes preloaded with the Garmin Lakevu maps which cover 17,000 bodies of water. There is an additional capability of using Navionics in the form of an SD card slot for mapping as well. This contour mapping capability allows anglers to navigate based on map coordinates, but also allows them to see what structures and features lay under the surface. This is a must-have feature for kayak anglers.

pros
  • Large Screen
  • Best Mapping
  • Touch Screen + Buttons
cons
  • High Cost
  • Large Mounting Bracket 

A great alternative to our top pick, the runner-up has tons of valuable features. The unit does not have a touch screen, but it does have awesome side and down imaging capabilities. The Helix 7 MSI GPS G3 also has the option to add the Lakemaster SD chip for even more mapping power.

The sonar on this unit is excellent. The Dual Spectrum CHIRP 2D sonar gives kayak anglers benefits that only larger vessels have had in the past. 

The MEGA SI (side imaging) is a fantastic feature on a unit this inexpensive. The MEGA DI (down imaging) is interpolated with the side beams making it less crisp than the MEGA + versions. This is a disadvantage when compared to the ECHOMAP UHD transducer. For kayak anglers, this unit is more than sufficient when all said and done, especially for the price point.

pros
  • Large Screen
  • Additional Mapping Capabilities
  • High resolution
cons
  • No Touch Screen
  • Large Mounting Bracket 

The days of a tried and true HOOK 2 have come and gone. This new series labeled the “reveal series”, has replaced the old units. The upgrades do not stop at the branding, however. A new name comes from the fish reveal view. This view overlays CHIRP sonar data from the water column over the top of the structure view of down imaging. The idea is to get the best of both worlds with this view. 

Having a 7” display keeps this unit in the same class as our top two pics. It does have a much better price point than the other units though. Referred to by the same old names of Splitshot and Trippleshot, these units come in 2 different versions. The Splitshot is the combination of sonar plus DownScan. The Trippleshot adds SideScan to the mix. 

One of the best features of this unit in terms of kayak angling is the mount size and base. The Reveal 7 Trippleshot has the same size display and features as our other units, but the mounting point is much smaller. This feature is perfect for a kayak application where space is so limited.

pros
  • Upgraded Technology
  • Compact package
  • Additional Mapping
cons
  • No Wifi
  • Low Resolution

Best Small Screen – Hummingbird Helix 5 CHIRP G2

For a smaller screen unit, you can not beat the Helix 5 CHIRP G2. This unit has a great display and packs a ton of awesome features that you would find on larger or more expensive units. The 5” display looks great and has a high resolution due to its 800×480 pixel count.

The 5” fish finder is great for a kayak angler because it does not take up too much real estate in an already limited environment. A display this size with a base map in addition to an SD slot is an extremely capable package. The SD slot makes adding Lakemaster or Auto Chart Live possible, which Gives the Helix 5 CHIRP G2 major advantages over competitively priced fish finders. 

An advanced CHIRP Sonar provides the angler with the ability to differentiate between fish and other clutter within the water column. As a kayak angler, this feature makes deciding where to fish much more efficient.

pros
  • Compact Design
  • CHIRP
  • Great Transducer
cons
  • Small Display
  • Low Quality Base Map

 

Best Non-Mapping – Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv

Last, but certainly not least, the Garmin Striker vivid 7cv makes the list as the revamped PLUS unit. It has an upgraded 7-inch screen with higher resolution pixels that take the same images produced by the GT20-TM a bit more “Vivid”. While it does not have any side imaging or contour mapping capabilities, it is only half the price of our top pick. 

No mapping capabilities may seem like a disadvantage for this unit, but for river systems and small lakes, this unit is perfect. Kayak fishing is mostly done on inland waterways where a map may not be as necessary as it would be on larger vessels. 

The gimbal mount on the Vivid 7cv makes it very easy to mount and position. This version is another one that is optimized for kayaks in the amount of space it takes to mount. 

Do not let the lack of mapping steer you away from considering this amazing fish finder.

pros
  • Great Price
  • Large Display
  • Great For Rivers 
cons
  • No Mapping
  • Older Transducer 

Benefits of a Fish Finder

The ability to see what lies under the water is a game-changer for anglers. Being able to find the depth and structure that fish live and feed near makes fishing more efficient. The ability to cache locations and points of interest makes adventuring a mapping exercise with this modern technology.

Associated Negatives

The addition of a fish finder to your kayak comes with the addition of weight and responsibility. The unit needs to work on a battery and be hard-wired to a transducer which is affixed to the boat hull. The batteries in a marine environment are always a liability. The additional weight of the battery is also a negative aspect for obvious reasons. Having a protrusion on the bottom of your once puncture-proof kayak with the transducer necessitates caution while fishing shallow water.

Additional Costs

Like any form of technology, the ability to upgrade or build onto the fish finder is always available. Not counting the additional costs of a battery and charging setup, there will be add ons to the unit you will want to consider. The GPS mapping installed at the factory on fish finders is general at best. To customize maps for your favorite fishery, you will want to invest in an upgraded GPS chip. It only makes sense for you to purchase some additional electronics like lights and phone chargers once you have already installed an onboard power system for the fish finder.

Conclusion

Fish finders are a great addition to any boat. They provide users with useful knowledge and make fishing more efficient. Efficiency is key when operating a manually powered craft. While there are plenty of fish finder options on the market, we believe that this article has shown you the best versions to add to your kayak.

John Zahra
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