Kayak Fish Finders

Kayak Fish Finders | How to Meet Your Needs Without Breaking the Bank

Featured Image Credit: Scott Beutjer

It is very easy to be intimidated standing at a counter filled with boat and kayak fish finders. All of the brands, sizes, features, buttons… the images rolling across the screens. If you are lucky, there will be a guy behind the counter who knows about them all and can help you through the process of selecting the one for you. If you are not as fortunate, there will be some guy there who is trying to sell you a certain unit to increase his personal profit; regardless of your needs.

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I can still remember my first purchase over 30 years ago. I bought a Hummingbird unit that showed the fish in red; not because it was what I needed; but it was really cool! When I left that unit on top of my truck and drove off one day, I learned that the red leaked out of the resulting crack, and I was left with a fish finder that would perform the tasks of a cheaper unit… and was still more than I used in the local creeks. 

What I used – depth to keep from hitting the bottom, and temperature … well back then… to be honest, temperature was extra information too.  

I never looked for fish on humps or ledges; I fished in creeks out of a jon boat with a trolling motor and two rods and needed to keep from snapping the shaft of my trolling motor. So let’s consider several things before you end up with red “stuff” (not sure what it was) leaking across the screen of a unit that is over kill.

Kayak Fish Finders: Consider Your Fishing Style

Fishing in skinny water, small shallow streams and creeks, you most likely don’t need kayak fish finders to find the fish. The fish relate to pools or structure that is very visible, and most likely, you can touch the bottom; or even stand in it without getting your shorts wet. If you would like a unit for the pools or to know the water temperature, one of the most basic units on the market will be more than adequate.

 If you choose to go with kayak fish finders, consider how you will mount the transducer to keep it safe. Some kayaks come equipped with locations to mount the unit and transducer, some will not; you may need something like a YakAttak Transducer Arm to keep it from being damaged; allowing you to pull it up in certain areas.

Once you move out of the creeks to the secondary points, the main lake or looking for humps and ledges, you may need to see structure on these spots and how fish relate to that structure. Your lower priced units will still function, showing you fish, but the structure shown on the units will be hard to recognize. If you know the area, that may be ok, but if you are fishing tournaments it becomes important to eliminate water on new lakes. 

Being able to know a tree from a brush pile or trash can be critical. This is where the mid-range units begin to provide more value. I had a $100 finder that served me well for a long time, but once I got serious about using the electronics to cover water more effectively, I moved to a finder with down imaging and side scan. The Lowrance Elite TI ($300-$600) quickly enhanced my fishing experience because I no longer had to decide if it was cover, floating junk, or a school of baitfish under me; I could see it.

Kayak Fish Finders: Screen Size Does Matter

I made two steps in this range. I first bought a TI with a 5 inch screen, then moved to a 7 inch version of the same unit. Twenty years ago, the 5 would have been awesome; today, I cannot really see the screen; unfortunately, until you get it on the kayak and in the water, you cannot tell how easy it will be to see. I considered moving up to even larger units because you get a wider screen and an enhanced processor, but the price point didn’t provide the value in my opinion. You get the same views on bigger screens, but unless you are connecting to multiple devices onboard a fiberglass boat to monitor them all, the five hundred to a one-thousand dollar difference for the larger units just was not worth it to me.  

Three months ago, I talked with Clint Henderson who won the FLW/KBF event in Arkansas and he showed me a screenshot of the fish he was crushing for three days. It came from a Hummingbird Helix. Several weeks later, I was shown another from the unit. Three weeks ago, I told my sponsor (my wife) about it. I showed her the level of detail that it provides, how fish look like fish; not dots.

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Now, I am about to install this unit on my kayak because the reality is that if you are fishing tournaments, and venture away from the backs of creeks and the shore, you need every advantage you can get… well, that is how I told it to justify my anniversary gift. 

I have most likely just picked up more than I need, but the images you get once you reach this range of fish finders are impressive. Just make sure you are ready before you move to these higher end units.  Again, if you are in the backs of creeks all day or fish once in a while; think about it before you go to buy one.

Kayak Fish Finders: Mount Options

Regardless of the unit you want, keep in mind that not all kayaks are the same. Consider where you will mount the unit and the transducer. Hobie makes Ram ball mounts that attach to the H-rail, Ram Mounts has options that work with YakAttak Gear Trac or Mighty Mount and some kayak brands have fish finder install kits that are made specifically for them.  

You might need a transducer arm on some kayaks, or some of the products from Berley Pro to keep the transducer safe.

Look at what other anglers have done with their kayaks before you choose a finder. As with any other gear you attach, the solutions are only limited by your creativity, but a quick search will provide you with solutions for every need.  

Kayak Fish Finders: Battery Options

Then there are battery choices to be made… and that is not as simple as it sounds. When considering your kayak fish finders, you better consider the power it will consume because a twelve-inch screen with side scan and all the coolest new features will draw a lot more power than a basic unit. Research the amp draw for your unit, then choose.  

To determine which battery works best, you can use this information from Techwalla.com; Amp-hours are calculated by multiplying the number of amps (A) a battery provides by the discharge time in hours (h). So, if a battery provides 10 amps of current for 10 hours, it is a 10 amps × 10 hours = 100 Ah battery… or you can do what most of us do and get the biggest Ah battery we can afford. 

I know guys who use batteries designed for deer cameras, full size deep cycle batteries, motorcycle batteries; but personally, I run a Bioenno Power lithium battery. Initially I chose an SLA (sealed lead acid) battery, but it just wasn’t providing enough life. The lithium batteries are lighter, efficient, and slightly more expensive; but worth the extra money. Bioenno and Dakota Lithium are two of the favorites among the tournament anglers. 

You notice that I didn’t mention all of the brands on the market.

I only talked about those that I have used, not because I think they are the best, but they were the best for me at the moment. I also didn’t get into all of the technical aspects of each fish finder, or the new viewing capabilities of some units on the market. That was intentional. It is more important that you really understand where and how you are going to use the equipment. Like I said, you may get the guy who will try to sell you the latest 12 to 16-inch monitor for your 12 foot kayak… but unless you plan for it to double as a sail, you will most likely not need the other features that come with it… and your kayak will most likely just not have the room.

This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

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Mike Cheatham


May 2016, sat in my first kayak. October 2016, skunked in my first tournament. Spring of 2017, placed 11th in the KBF Open and have chased the addiction since. Fishing is the one place my mind gets quiet, the place I have always found peace. To do it competitively with a great bunch of folks is just a bonus. To have an opportunity to combine my love for fishing with writing...I feel like I have finally found a place in this world! I do have the support of a wonderful woman who understands my need to be on the water; she supports my dreams fully....life is truly good.

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