Fishing has been an integral part of human civilization for many thousands of years. Since ancient times and even before that when the first humans appeared, hunting for food was the only way to survive. While land animals were plentiful and hunting was common, people soon realized that the water is even better in some ways.
Fishing grew and changed with us as a species and in modern times it is still very much relevant. Once a survival skill and means to feed the family and trade the rest, not much has changed in modern times.
There is however the sports and recreational side to fishing. It is usually the case that a survival skill or even a combat skill becomes outdated, either completely or to an extent, only to become a hobby and a form of recreation. The same happened to fishing, in every sense of the way.
It is particularly true when fishing and kayaks are mixed because it gives the angler a more optimal way to catch fish by getting closer to them. For this and many other reasons, a kayak is now the fisherman’s best friend. However, there is another thing that contemporary anglers swear by.
Technology in Kayak Fishing
As is the case with most (if not all) other areas of life, both recreational and otherwise, novelty technology has found its way into fishing. Moreover, kayak fishing is particularly convenient for gadgetry use as there are not many different things that make it easier and more interesting to go fishing.
For example, GPS systems are used to help fishermen navigate to and locate specific fishing spots. They can also be used to track the movement of fish and to record data about the fishing trip. Overall, similar to other GPS uses outside of fishing, it is all about ease and convenience.
Weather forecasting tools, such as handheld weather radios and smartphone apps, can help fishermen stay informed about the current and forecasted weather conditions, which can be important for safety and success when fishing. Staying ahead of the storms is the only way to safely navigate around them, even through them.
Although the good old, traditional reel is the preferred choice, something more exists today, something better and more modern. Electric reels are powered by batteries or a motor and are used to help fishermen bring in their catch more easily. They can be especially helpful for fishermen who are targeting larger or more powerful fish.
Finally, automatic hook setters are devices that are attached to the fishing line and can automatically set the hook when a fish bites. They can be especially useful for inexperienced fishermen or for those who are targeting fast-moving or hard-to-catch fish.
But this is not everything, nor are any of these the most popular devices that contemporary anglers use as mounts and gadgets on their kayaks. No, the most popular thing on that front is the fish finder. Just like it sounds, it helps the fishermen locate fish. In the following sections, we discuss it in greater detail.
What Are Fish Finders?
Fish finders are electronic devices that use sonar technology to locate and identify schools of fish in the water. They work by emitting pulses of sound waves called “pings” which travel through the water and bounce off objects, including fish, rocks, and the bottom of the body of water. The device then receives the returning echoes of the ping and uses them to create a visual display of what is in the water below the boat.
Fish finders typically have a display screen that shows a detailed image of the underwater environment, including the location and size of any fish that is detected. Some fish finders also have the ability to display other information, such as the depth of the water, the temperature of the water, and the structure of the bottom. You can think of it as a sort of radar that displays where fish are located.
These gadgets can easily be mounted on just about any boat, including a kayak. They can be powered by batteries or by the boat’s electrical system and are often used in combination with a GPS system to help fishermen locate specific fishing spots. The most serious of anglers are fully equipped and make no mistake, fish finders are a crucial part of their go-to equipment.
Although they seem like very highly specialized items reserved for veterans and experts, fish finders are actually valuable for both recreational and professional fishermen. As they can help increase the chances of success by showing the location and movement of fish in real-time, it matters not who you are or how often you go fishing. They are also useful for navigating in unfamiliar or shallow waters and for avoiding underwater obstacles. It is safe to say that you will probably benefit from one, too.
In order to buy the right one for your needs, you must know more about them. This section of the guide acts as a guide and will tell you all you need to know about what matters most when choosing the right fish finder for you.
There are different types of devices to choose from, each with different applications and features. Therefore, they are meant for different situations, fishing tactics, etc. The basic model is referred to as the standalone fish finder. It is a self-contained unit that mounts on kayaks. It has a display and a transducer. These are good for fishermen who want to keep it simple and affordable.
Combination units typically refer to finders that are also GPS devices. They combine a fish finder application with a GPS, showing both the map of the environment and the underwater area. Navigating your boat while locating fish at the same time is obviously more important to experienced anglers, which is why they are the most frequent customers.
Networked finders are connected to various networks and/or other fish finders in the area. They can also connect to boat sensors. Their display shows image information based on data from multiple transducers, not just their own. For the most comprehensive view of the underwater environment and seeing everything way ahead of time due to their networking capabilities, these are the best choice for competitions, and for the most devoted anglers.
The last two types are down imaging and side imaging finders. Respectively, they have special transducers that send high-frequency sonar signals either straight down, or cone-shaped and to the sides. Both of these give a more detailed image of the environment and are typically used when the angler is fishing for a particular fish. If you need to know what lies deep below, or to the sides, at all times, these are the best fit for you.
Top Fish Finder for Anglers / Our Picks
Now that you have a more extensive knowledge of fish finders, why you may need them, and what types exist on the market, it is high time we talked about the best ones available right now. All of these are perfect for kayak use and will surely make your paddling and fish-catching sessions more enjoyable.
1. Lowrance HOOK Reveal 5X SplitShot
For the best overall choice and the fish finder that many kayak anglers swear by, make sure to check out this one by the trusty Lowrance brand. Designed with kayak fishermen in mind, it has a 5” screen that is entirely waterproof and easy to use. The buttons are large and pleasant to push, and the entire system is straightforward to use. The screen also has a coating that makes it visible even in strong, direct light.
The Hook Reveal 5 has CHIRP and DownScan signals and its transducer fits in a scupper. Sonar adjusts its settings based on the conditions of the bottom and the water for a very capable and trusty device that will make your net full. The mounting is fast and easy, done in minutes, and stays on firmly until you want it off. There is GPS as well and the device allows waypoint markings. Speed and distance are easy to read off, too. All in all, a gadget to surely make you a more confident and capable kayak angler.
2. Garmin ECHOMAP UHDCV
As mentioned earlier, fish finders that double as quality GPS systems are always a great find. Well, Garmin’s ECHOMAP is exactly what you need, a complete two-in-one tool that is the complete package. Saving space on a kayak dashboard is important, so why waste it with two gadgets when this single one does the trick? This device gives you accurate fish locations as well as detailed navigation charts. Everything is easy to read on the touch screen and anti-glare display. The buttons are there too in case of wet or muddy fingertips.
Speaking of the screen, it is 7” and therefore bigger than average. This size allows clear split screens that read well. Apart from a traditional transducer, it also has a CHORP sonar. What they feed to the vivid screen is clearly visible, almost three-dimensional imagery. The navigation charts are updated frequently too and the maps can be edited with custom info. There is even an accompanying smartphone app. The only downside? It is quite a hit on the old pocket.
3. Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MEGA Side Imaging GPS
We have had down-facing fish finders up until now, so here is an example of what an MSI (MEGA Side Imaging) fish finder should be like. If you want detailed information about what goes on to the sides of your kayak, this is it right here. It uses strong sonar signals, the best ones around, to create imagery of the surroundings where the fish are easily distinguishable from the rest. Singular fish and different species are easily told apart on the clear, 7” TFT display. It gives readings of 125 feet on either side, but also 125 feet down as it does have MEGA Down Imaging too.
This device is special because it has a Dual Spectrum CHIRP since two sonar signals come out at once for a more detailed return, and therefore a better and more accurate reading on the display. A basic navigation map is there, as is a bathymetric chart. Speed monitoring is of course present as well. The finder comes with all the usual stuff in the box, including all the mounting hardware, and a power cable.
4. Deeper Chirp Castable Portable Fish Finder
Here is something you rarely see, perhaps something you do not see anywhere else. This genius design favors portability and ease of use, perhaps a little bit of increased fun element as well. The premise is simple: take the golf-ball size transducer, attach it to some fishing line, and cast it into the water from your kayak. The ball has WiFi so it sends images to a smart device, on which you download an app. If you want to be unique, this is absolutely the right solution for you.
Basically, you do not have an actual display fish finder but rather a small gadget that feeds everything to your smartphone. The WiFi signal is good at distances of under 330 feet, which is also the depth at which the transducer reaches with its readings. Since it is a smartphone display that gives the angler the information, everything is clean, easily readable, detailed, and very convenient. The Deeper brand also allows sharing of images and information on their network, meaning anglers can exchange their data.
5. HawkEye Fishtrax 1C
Last but not least, here is a simple, basic, yet appealing, and colorful little fish finder that goes for a minimalistic approach. Compact and handheld, it is small with only a 2.75” display. It has a push-button operation and an LED backlight on the glare-free display, but no touchscreen. This little gadget gives accurate readings from depths of up to 240 feet. The sonar sensor mounts to the kayak easily and either floats alongside or behind.
Apart from FishArc and FishID indication, the finder also gives landscapes in high-definition imagery that help with navigation around hazards. False sonar readings are programmed to be at an absolute minimum. A very fun thing it allows is audible alarm settings that alert when fish is detected under the kayak. It is reliable, can be mounted, and very affordable as well.