If your entire fishing experience is based on luck and prayers, especially when kayak fishing, it’s time to invest in a high-quality fishfinder. As the name suggests, these tiny instruments are used to pinpoint the location of fish by detecting sound energy pulses such as sonar.
It’s quite easy to find an effective fishfinder, but finding an inexpensive yet effective unit can be a challenging task. Today, we’ll be revealing our top picks for the best, cost-effective fishfinders on the market today that will make your kayak-fishing experience a lot more enjoyable.
Garmin Striker 4
The Garmin Striker 4 is arguably the most popular fishfinder on the market at the moment. It’s a budget-friendly device that’s easy to install and that can function with equal effectiveness in both deep and shallow waters. The Striker is rich in premium features that you can only find in pricier models. It also features a high-resolution display for a clear image of the fish in your vicinity.
The Striker 4 features an intuitive design that makes it easy for users to get around its functions. The design is also pretty lightweight and portable, so it won’t cause much of a hassle when you use it on smaller kayaks and boats. Since anglers tend to wear gloves when fishing, Garmin has made sure that the keypads on their unit are prominent enough for users to use with ease.
Performance-wise, the device offers a Power RMS that allows it to scan gaping depths in fresh and saltwater alike while providing you with an accurate, high-resolution display of fish. The unit boasts five different modes: Traditional, Flasher, Split Frequency, Waypoint Map, and Waypoints Map and the Sonar Screen. Each mode serves a different purpose that can help you catch fish.
As far as the display, the unit’s screen displays a wide range of useful information. For example, you can find out whether you’re trolling at the right speed or not using this device. The Striker 4 utilizes a touchscreen for ease of use, but it also offers a few dedicated buttons to make it easy for you to navigate the device. Further, the unit houses a 12V, 7mA, long-lasting battery.
The Garmin Striker 4 is capable of delivering a 200-kHz reading, which results in a significantly sharp image. However, you can also set the unit to deliver 77-kHz readings if you’re looking for a duller image. Technically, you can achieve a larger scanning area with a duller image than an extremely-detailed one. It’s up to you to determine which reading works best for you.
The strongest selling-point that the Garmin Striker 4 boasts is that it comes with a CHIRP Sonar Transducer, which sends out frequency sweeps across your vicinity and analyzes the results to deliver a high level of clarity. Overall, the Garmin Striker 4 is a portable heavy-hitter that features everything you may need from a fishfinder. A highly recommended device.
- Highly affordable and ideal for kayak fishing
- Effective in both shallow and profound waters
- Equipped with a high-resolution screen display
- Offers a straightforward installation process
- Features built-in GPS and CHIRP technology
- We would have loved to see a bigger screen
- The transducer wire clamps are a little flimsy
Humminbird HELIX 5
The Humminbird HELIX 5 boasts an array of convenient, high-tech features at a very affordable price tag, making it one of the top contenders on our list today. The construction of this device is very sleek and has to be one of the most durable in this price range. The unit is designed to give accurate readings in a variety of weather conditions, whether harsh or mild.
The HELIX 5 boasts 400 watts of power, allowing you to pinpoint the perfect spot for fishing right away. Further, the resolution of the imagery is significantly high that it allows you to see clearly in both low and bright light conditions. Furthermore, coupling the dual-beam feature which we’re going to discuss momentarily with the unit’s high wattage allows it to uncover lurking fish easily.
We absolutely love the landscape viewing feature that the HELIX 5 offers. It makes finding fish a breezy task. Moreover, if you compare the landscape display mode with regular display found in other products on the market, you’ll find that it’s much easier to read. In addition, we’re big fans of the relatively large, 5-inch screen because it provides wider imagery of what’s underneath.
The DualBeam Plus Sonar technology integrated two sonar beams. One of the beams is narrow and is produced in a conical shape, which serves as a way to observe what’s beneath your boat and it’s extremely efficient when it comes to imaging bottoms and structures. The wider beam is used to scan larger vicinities in a relatively shorter amount of time than the narrower beam.
Another remarkable feature that this device has is Humminbird’s very own SwitchFire Sonar. It grants you full control over how the sonar data displayed on the screen looks. This technology is available in two modes: Clear mode and Max mode. The former is used to remove noise/clutter, while the latter provides superb details that allow you to observe individual fish.
Last but not least, the unit features Down Imaging which you can use to stay alert of structures and hard surfaces in the water underneath your kayak so that you don’t run into any and run the risk of damaging your kayak. All in all, the Humminbird HELIX 5 is a formidable opponent that has a lot to offer without putting a serious dent in your wallet.
- An LED back-lit device with high image quality
- Features down-imaging for structure scanning
- Allows you to scan larger areas very quickly
- It can provide a detailed display of the bottom
- SwitchFire technology allows for customization
- The package doesn’t include a screen cover
- It takes time to learn how to operate this unit
HawkEye Fishtrax 1C
The HawkEye Fishtrax 1C is yet another extremely popular fishfinder that features VitruView HD color display that helps map out the vicinity you’re fishing in beautifully and in a way that can be easily read. Different depths are displayed using different colors on the unit’s screen. The colors are easily viewed whether in low or bright light conditions so that you never lose track of fish.
The Fishtrax 1C utilizes dual-frequency technology to provide accurate readings in both shallow and deep water by picking up on the movements of fish. Basically, it sends out and receives an array of signals to and from the transducer in order to come up with these accurate readings. It’s effective to the point that it’s able to pick up on movements that are far from the boat.
The unit also features the unique Ice-Mode that you can use to tune the display to your liking. It allows you to customize the screen’s display with the aid of the digital flasher. You can utilize the unit to find the ideal fishing spot in open or closed water, making it a great choice for ice fishing. A fish finder that has a customization feature is simply a winner in our eyes.
Another feature that the Fishtrax 1C boasts is the Depth Identifier. As the name suggests, you’re able to find out the depth of water you’re in by using this function. Not only that, but it also offers you the position of the fish in your area. It’s crucial to know the depth of the water if you’re trying to find the ideal fishing spot. You can find the reading displayed brightly on the screen.
The Hawkeye Fishtrax 1C comes with a very versatile mount that’s highly portable, which offers no limit to where you can take it with you, allowing you to explore new fishing places. All you’re required to do is mount the fishfinder directly onto your boat and just let it do its job while you sit there waiting for directions towards the spot with that has the most lucrative catch.
No product is perfect, though. The Fishtrax 1C does suffer from a few setbacks. For starters, the temperature and depth readings that it offers are occasionally a bit off. Further, a longer battery life would have been more convenient. Lastly, it may take you some time trying to figure out how to set up the transducer. Apart from those points, the Hawkeye Fishtrax 1C is a great fish finder.
- One of the easiest units to mount on a kayak
- It’s portable enough to take almost anywhere
- A perfect fishfinder when it comes to ice fishing
- Sturdy design that can handle serious knocks
- The unit’s display can be easily customized
- We would have liked a longer-lasting battery
- Can’t read depths that are beyond 120 feet
Vexilar SP200 T-Box
If you’re a tech-savvy fisherman that wants something a little bit more flashy, the Vexilar SP200 is your best bet. This is a compact unit that’s designed to connect to your smartphone. Basically, it’s a transducer that has wireless connectivity. It’s compatible with iOS and Android devices. It’s controlled via an app which indicates the depth and temperature of the water, along with sonar.
However, there’s one major gripe when it comes to using this device, which is that it requires to be hooked into a 12V battery in order to be powered up. Without a power supply, the unit won’t work. The display on the phone will remain intact, but it won’t be up to date since the transducer isn’t receiving any power. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk details.
One of the best things about having a device such as the Vexilar SP200 is that there’s no limit to how big the screen can be. You can literally hook it to any tablet or smartphone you got. Offering accurate information regarding the location of fish, you’ll be able to get a lucrative catch easily. It can also be transferred and used anywhere, thanks to the transducer being relatively small.
In terms of display, you’re only limited by the size of the screen on your smartphone. The bigger it is, the better the visual and image quality you get. And the great thing about this unit is that you’re no in need of any bulky equipment. Simply connect the transducer to a power source and utilize the app on your phone to start tracking fish. It couldn’t be any simpler.
Technology-wise, the Vexilar SP200 features dual-beam technology of 200 kHz, allowing you to see clearly what’s going on underwater. The great thing about the beam technology on this unit is that it’s capable of reaching 240 feet below the water’s surface, meaning that the fish in your area have nowhere to hide. It also allows you to watch your lure while it slumps into the water.
Surprisingly enough, the reason why this unit is so popular has less to do with its features and more to do with how portable it is. The Vexilar SP200 comes with a neoprene arm-band for the phone, which is highly convenient because it spares you the hassle of mounting the device with every use. All things considered, the Vexilar is a remarkable device designed for ease of use.
- It’s equipped with built-in dual-beam technology
- Wireless connection to smartphones and tablets
- The scanning depth reaches down to 240 feet
- There’s no limit to how big your screen can be
- Allows you to watch the lure sinking into the water
- The unit may experience data lag from time to time
- Users reported connectivity issues with iOS devices
Deeper PRO+ Smart Sonar
If you’re seeking an extremely lightweight and portable unit that features wireless connectivity, the Pro+ is the perfect fish hunter. It’s quite different from traditional fish-finding devices as it spares you from the hassle of wires, mounts, transducers, and holes in your boat. It boasts an incredible wireless range of 330 feet, which is around 100.5 meters.
With the aid of wireless connectivity, you can connect this fishfinder to your tablet or smartphone via an app. The app is available for both Android and iOS devices. The app provides a range of information that’s extremely beneficial for your fishing expedition. It will let you know things such as the depth and temperature of the water, and the distance between you and fish in your vicinity.
Compact In Size
One of the best things about the Deeper Pro+ is that it’s extremely compact. It weighs only 3.5 ounces and it has a 2.5-inches diameter. Such compactness allows you to take the device with you anywhere you go. But don’t let the small design fool you, this unit is extremely rugged and can hold its own against serious impact, courtesy of its ABS construction.
The Pro+ is a feature-rich device. One of its prominent functions is the Real-Time Bathymetric mapping, which allows you to create your own highly-detailed maps of the places you’re fishing at. This is, of course, besides the fact that you can view lake maps from your phone. The device will send images to your tablet or smartphone so that you can observe the world underneath.
The innovation doesn’t stop here, the Pro+ is connected to a cloud-based data platform called Lakebook where all bathymetric maps created by the user are hosted. Using this function, you can easily view maps of previous fishing trips. Another thing that Lakebook can do is export the data it hosts in raw format, meaning that you can integrate the data into other platforms.
Last but not least, the Pro+ is able to run continuously for up to 5 hours after a single charging session. This may sound impressive when you compare it to other models on the market, but when you compare with previous Deeper models that can run up to 6 or even 7 hours, you start to realize that Deeper products are in a league of their own.
- Lightweight and compact design that’s extremely rugged
- Features wireless connectivity with an impressive range
- Connected to Lakebook data platform for bathymetric maps
- The unit is capable of covering large areas very quickly
- Features an in-built GPS and offshore-ready sonar depth
- Mediocre battery life compared to other Deeper products
- The unit doesn’t feature a night fishing protection cover
The VT-FF001 from Venterior is the most affordable unit on this list, but that doesn’t mean that it falls short in terms of effectiveness, not at all. This portable easy-to-use, highly portable unit has a wide range of features. It’s pretty much suitable for all kinds of fishing, not just kayak fishing. It can be used for boat fishing, ice fishing, and pier or shore fishing.
The Venterior VT-FF001 features a fish alarm that helps alert you when the fish you’re trying to catch is near your vicinity. It’s basically a clearly-audible alarm that you can turn on and off. Fish isn’t the only thing that this device can display, it fills you in on the position of weeds, rocks, and even sand. As a result, you get a better understanding of the location you’re fishing at.
You’d expect that such an affordable device would be a little off when it comes to how accurate its readings are, but surprisingly enough, this device is able to provide accurate depth readings. However, if you want to get the most use out of the VT-FF001, you’ll have to invest in a larger sonar cable because the one included with this unit is only 25 feet long.
The unit’s system offers 5 different levels of sensitivity, meaning that you can dabble with it until you pinpoint the ideal setting that gives you the results you need. In addition, you can change its settings in order to gain more use out of your battery if you plan on spending a long-time fishing. It’s also worth mentioning that we’re huge fans of the remarkably sturdy built quality on this unit.
On the flip side, there have to be a few drawbacks to distinct this fairly affordable unit from costlier counterparts. The first drawback is that this unit runs on AAA batteries instead of a rechargeable system. This means that regular battery changes will need to take place every few months. This may not be convenient for some people, to which we recommend a unit with built-in batteries.
- The most affordable fish-finding device on this list
- An ideal unit for kayak fishing because of its portability
- One of the easiest units to set up and operate
- Features 5 different sensitivity levels for convenience
- Provides incredibly accurate depth reading for its price
- It runs on standard AAA batteries that require replacing
- It’s not accurate when it comes to estimating fish sizes
Things to Consider Before Buying a Fish Finder
Before heading out to buy a fish finder for kayak fishing, there are a number of factors that you’re going to need to keep into consideration if you want to ensure the best bang for your buck.
Portable or Permanent
Not to state the obvious, but permanent fishfinders will remain attached to your kayak, meaning that they’re likely going to be exposed to all sorts of elemental threats and weather conditions, in addition to being openly exposed to damage during transportation. Also, a permanent fishfinder may be prone to theft. If you’re not willing to run the risk, you should opt for a portable model.
Kayak fishing may be an inexpensive and exciting form of fishing, but it involved being too close to the water, which means that any electrical equipment aboard the kayak is in danger. Ensure that the device you’re going to buy has a durable frame that can hold its own in the environment of kayak fishing.
Obviously, a fish finder that has a large screen is going to be a lot easier to use and read details off than a model that has a smaller screen. If you’re a regular angler, you should be fine with an average screen size of 3-5 inches. However, if kayak fishing is more of tradition to you, you may need to get a fish finder that has a screen that’s larger than 5 inches to get a broader view.
Another thing that you need to consider when it comes to the unit’s display is that the resolution is good enough for the screen’s size. A unit with a small screen and high resolution will be a lot easier to read than a unit that has a large screen and poor resolution.
If you often fish in waters that are 100-150 feet deep, then pretty much all the above-mentioned fishfinders are going to meet your needs. However, if you tend to fish in waters that are deeper than that, then you definitely want to invest in a fish finder that has a larger maximum depth.
If you’re used to kayak fishing for long periods of time, you want to invest in a fish finder that has long-lasting battery life. Sadly, the majority of kayak-specific fishfinders require a fully-charged 12V, which isn’t very convenient if you don’t have available space in your kayak. However, if the system can run off a standard battery, this isn’t going to be a problem for you.
There are mainly 3 ways you can go about mounting the transducer: transom, scupper, or hull mounting. Transom mounting is basically when you attach an arm to your kayak in a way that allows the transducer to be submerged in the water at the bottom. This is arguably the riskiest mounting approach because it puts your transducer in danger of hitting a hard surface.
Scupper mounting is an appropriate mounting approach if your kayak features a scupper that’s capable of accommodating a transducer. If we were to choose, we’d say that this is the ultimate method of mounting a transducer. However, fishfinders that have scupper-mounted transducers tend to be the most expensive.
The final and oldest mounting approach that you can use is hull mounting. Basically, you need to cut a sponge that’s large enough to accommodate the transducer, and simply place it on the kayak’s hull. This may be an old approach but it’s highly effective to this day. If you’re not a fan of transom mounting or you think scupper mounting is a little costly, this is the way to go.
There you have it, 6 of the best inexpensive fish finders that are great for kayak fishing. All of the above-mentioned products are extremely effective and will get the job done beautifully. But if we were to pick a winner, we’d have to go with the Humminbird HELIX 5. The unit has everything right going for it, from the sleek design and large 5-inch screen to the customizable and detailed display.
Hopefully, the information we’ve provided today has helped you pick the ideal fish finder for your needs and budget. Let us know which one of the above-mentioned units you think is the best.