top fish finders for kayaks

2021 Guide: Best Fish Finders for Kayaks

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Fishing from a kayak doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of modern marine electronics. The kayak fishing experience can be enhanced greatly with a good fish finder, while still staying true to the benefits of small craft fishing. Benefits such as affordability, exercise, the excitement of close quarters fishing, and the fact that kayaks can be launched from and fished in just about any kind of water.

Once you have your new fishing kayak, it’s time to start outfitting it into an efficient fishing machine. One of the very first additions to your kayak will be a good fish finder. Choosing the best fish finder for kayak fishing requires some different considerations from that of a boat.  Read on to see our guidelines and recommendations for the best fish finders for kayaks.

Quick Overview: 5 Best Kayak Fish Finders

We’ve put together a table of the top 7-inch units to help you easily compare the features and capabilities. Most of these units are packed full of the same sonar and GPS features as their bigger siblings.

We like 7-inch screens as the sweet spot for kayaking and fishing. They are small enough to not be obtrusive while on the water and big enough to easily see and operate from a seated position.

If you have a bigger kayak and can carry a bigger battery, by all means, we would say go up to the 9-inch version of the same series. If you don’t need all the features and just want a basic locator, you can slide down into a 5-inch model.

Model:
Editor's Choice
Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 73sv with GT56UHD-TM Transducer, 7"" Keyed-Assist Touchscreen Chartplotter with...
Best Imaging
Humminbird, Helix 7, CHIRP MSI GPS G3N
Garmin Striker Vivid 7sv, Easy-to-Use 7-inch Color Fishfinder and Sonar Transducer, Vivid Scanning...
Lowrance HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot - 7-inch Fish Finder with TripleShot Transducer, Preloaded C-MAP...
Raymarine Element 7 HV with HV-100 Transducer and Navionics+ US and Canada Charts, Black
Display:
7.0″ (800×480)
7.0″ (800×480)
7.0″ (800×480)
7.0″ (800×480)
7" (800x480)
Sonar:
CHIRP 2D/CV/SV
CHIRP 2D/SI/DI
CHIRP 2D/CV/SV
CHIRP 2D/DS/SS
CHIRP 2D/DV/SV
MEGA Imaging:
Live Mapping:
Editor's Choice
Model:
Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 73sv with GT56UHD-TM Transducer, 7"" Keyed-Assist Touchscreen Chartplotter with...
Display:
7.0″ (800×480)
Sonar:
CHIRP 2D/CV/SV
MEGA Imaging:
Live Mapping:
View on:
Compare at:
Best Imaging
Model:
Humminbird, Helix 7, CHIRP MSI GPS G3N
Display:
7.0″ (800×480)
Sonar:
CHIRP 2D/SI/DI
MEGA Imaging:
Live Mapping:
View on:
Compare at:
Model:
Garmin Striker Vivid 7sv, Easy-to-Use 7-inch Color Fishfinder and Sonar Transducer, Vivid Scanning...
Display:
7.0″ (800×480)
Sonar:
CHIRP 2D/CV/SV
MEGA Imaging:
Live Mapping:
View on:
Compare at:
Model:
Lowrance HOOK Reveal 7 TripleShot - 7-inch Fish Finder with TripleShot Transducer, Preloaded C-MAP...
Display:
7.0″ (800×480)
Sonar:
CHIRP 2D/DS/SS
MEGA Imaging:
Live Mapping:
View on:
Compare at:
Model:
Raymarine Element 7 HV with HV-100 Transducer and Navionics+ US and Canada Charts, Black
Display:
7" (800x480)
Sonar:
CHIRP 2D/DV/SV
MEGA Imaging:
Live Mapping:
View on:
Compare at:

*Last updated 2021-05-06 at 11:29 / Product Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


1. Garmin Echomap UHD 73sv

The Echomap UHD 73sv is a kayak angler’s best friend. This unit is a big step up from the Strier. It is a 7-inch touchscreen fish finder, with built-in Wi-Fi. This is basically unheard of until now.

In addition to the amazing screen, it boasts megahertz SideVu and ClearVu imaging sonar with CHIRP thanks to the new GT56UHD-TM “Ultra HD” transducer.

In a nutshell, the UHD 73sv is a full-featured fish finder that is compact enough to fit in your kayak. And if you don’t really want to spend the money to get SideVu, there are other great units in the Garmin Echomap family like the 63cv and 73cv.

  • The 7-inch touchscreen and CHIRP, ClearVu, SideVu, built-in maps, and Quick Draw, make this unit a kayak angler’s dream.
  • Compatible with Livescope if you ever want to add it to your kayak.
  • Screen: 7″ (800 x 480)
  • Sonar: GT56UHD-TM supporting High-Wide CHIRP, and ClearVu/SideVu in 455/800/1000 kHz center frequencies.
  • Maps: LakeVü g3 – 18,000 preloaded maps with 1-foot contour lines. QuickDraw live mapping.

If you aren’t convinced yet, the Echomap UHD 73sv also comes pre-loaded with LakeVu maps that cover over 17,000 bodies of water. There is also a microSD card slot that you can use a Navionics card for mapping. I can’t overstate how important it is to have contour maps for fishing, so if you can swing the extra cost to upgrade from the STRIKER Vivid 7sv, I would do it for the mapping alone.


2. Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MSI GPS G3

If you don’t care about a touch screen, and just want great Side and Down imaging, plus the option to add a Lakemaster chip for maps, the Helix 7 MSI GPS G3 is an awesome alternative to our top pick.

The sonar is excellent on this unit, featuring the new Dual Spectrum CHIRP 2D sonar, which is a fancy way of saying this unit has a “real CHIRP” element. The MEGA SI is a fantastic feature for a unit of this size and price. The MEGA DI is interpolated from the side beams, so not as crisp as the MEGA+ versions (putting it at a disadvantage to the Echomap UHD transducer).

  • Nearly all the same functionality as the UHD 73sv, but with a lower MSRP.
  • Award winning MEGA Side and Down imaging, plus High-Wide CHIRP sonar.
  • Screen: 7″ (800 x 480)
  • Sonar: XNT 9 HW MSI 150 T with Dual Spectrum CHIRP, MEGA SI, and MEGA DI
  • Maps: Basemap included, 1 MicroSD slot for Lakemaster chip, and AutoChart Live.

The Helix 7 features a bright 7” 800×480 pixel screen, making the MEGA Side and Down imaging pop with detail. It’s not a touch like the Garmin, but you can save some nice money by not needing it. The Helix 7 G3 does not have buttons for saving your favorite views, but is easy to hide the views you don’t use leaving only a few to cycle through.

Overall the Helix 7 MSI G3 is a very capable unit, recommended for any kayak angler who wants the benefit of side and down looking imaging, and high definition contour maps.



3. Lowrance Hook Reveal 7 TripleShot

The Hook series has been revamped this year, now called the Hook Reveal series, replacing the HOOK2. The name Reveal refers to the Fish Reveal view that overlays CHIRP sonar data from the water column over the structure view from DownScan. The idea is to get the best of both worlds, fish arches from 2D sonar, and detailed bottom images from DownScan.

The units still go by the odd names of SplitShot and Triple Shot. SplitShot is the Sonar plus DownScan model, and TripleShot adds Side Scan to the mix. The pricing on these units is extremely aggressive. The 7-inch models are a nice chunk of change cheaper than comparable Garmin and Humminbird units.

  • Great price and full of features, including Down and Side Scan, plus excellent mapping (4,000 lakes included).
  • Unique Fish Reveal function, plus new mapping ability with Genesis Live.
  • Screen: 7″ (800 x 480)
  • Sonar: TripleShot Skimmer transducer (no published frequencies).
  • Maps: C-Map US Inland included, MicroSD slot for C-Map Contour+ and Navionics. Genesis Live mapping built-in.

The 7″ is an ideal size for a serious fishing kayak. The Hook Reveal 7 fish finder has an 800×480 pixel screen with a compact base, making it ideal for kayak fishing where space is limited. The Hook Reveal 7 TripleShot has regular 2D sonar, DownScan, and SideScan imaging, plus CHIRP in medium and high-frequency ranges, making this unit one of the most versatile kayak fisher finders available to fishermen today.


4. Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP MDI GPS G3

The Helix CHIRP G2 series from Humminbird is an excellent place to start. The Helix 5 has a kick ass screen, measuring 5″, packed with 800×480 pixels. There is a Helix 5 version that could be a good match for almost anyone. Check out the Helix 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2, or Helix 5 CHIRP Sonar GPS G2.

  • Best cheap Down Imaging fish finder for kayaks, now with MEGA.
  • Compatible with high-def Lakemaster map cards (sold separately).
  • Screen: 7″ (800 x 480)
  • Sonar: XNT 9 HW MDI 75 T with Dual Spectrum CHIRP and MEGA DI
  • Maps: Basemap included, 1 MicroSD slot for Lakemaster chip, and AutoChart Live.

We think the 5″ screen is the perfect balance of size and screen visibility for fishing out of a kayak. New with the G2 series is CHIRP sonar. CHIRP pings over a range of frequencies, which provide clearer sonar returns, and can help separate fish from other clutter on the screen.


5. Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv

This new 7″color combo unit is an excellent choice as well, with excellent screen visibility to pair with the detailed images of the ClearVu imaging sonar. Like the Helix 7, the screen is super bright and packed with 800×480 pixels for an excellent picture. The Striker Vivid 7cv has a nice small gimbal bracket that is simple to adjust, and small enough to fit on the hull of a kayak.

Garmin has upgraded to the Vivid series, replacing the PLUS units. As far as we can tell, the only difference is they have the ability to display more colors giving the sonar returns a more “Vivid” contrasting look. The transducer for the Striker 7cv is still the GT20-TM.

  • Great GPS and ClearVu imaging fish finder, you can save some money if you don’t need any chart plotting or lake contours.
  • Screen: 7″ (800 x 480)
  • Sonar: GT20-TM transducer with traditional 77/200 kHz dual beam, and CHIRP ClearVu 455/800 kHz.
  • Maps: No maps included, but has QuickDraw live mapping to chart your own contours.

If you have no use for side imaging or contour maps, but just want great 2D and down looking imaging, this unit is half the price of our top pick, and should serve you well.


6. Lowrance Hook Reveal 5 SplitShot

Hook Reveal 5 SplitShot
  • FISHREVEAL: Fish are easier to find and easier to identify. FishReveal combines the target...
  • HIGH-DETAIL INLAND MAPS: Get high-detail maps of almost 4,000 US inland lakes. Create custom contour...
  • SPLITSHOT TRANSDUCER: Perfect for anglers who want the best views below the boat, SplitShot features...
  • AUTOTUNING SONAR: Spend more time fishing and less time reworking your sonar settings with HOOK...

This fish finder is the little brother of the Hook Reveal 7 SplitShot, with a slightly smaller screen but all the same GPS/Sonar combo features, making it a perfect size for a small fishing kayak.

You still have the 2D and CHIRP sonar, as well as the imaging views of the bottom with down scan and the new Fish, Reveal down scan overlay. The features and compact size make this unit an excellent fish finder for kayak fishing.


7. Garmin Echomap PLUS 43cv

Echomap PLUS 43cv
  • EchoMap+ 43cv, US LakeVu g3, GT20 Xdcr

This color Garmin fish finder is a good alternative to the Lowrance model. The Echomap Plus 43cv has ClearVu sonar imaging, which looks really great on the 4.3” WQVGA screen. This unit has a compact design that would sit nicely either on the gunnel of your kayak, or on the center pod near your feet.

The 43cv is very similar to the Striker 4, except it has the benefit of built in lake charts, which is well worth the additional cost in our experience. Fishing out on a kayak is challenging enough that having lake maps is a huge bonus.


8. Helix 5 CHIRP Sonar GPS G2

Helix 5 CHIRP Sonar GPS G2
  • 5-Inch Color WVGA Display
  • CHIRP Dual Beam PLUS Sonar. Power Output RMS : 500 Watts. Power Draw : 615 mA
  • Precision Internal GPS Chart plotting with built-in Anima cartography
  • Micro SD card slot for optional maps or for saving waypoints

If you want the biggest screen for your dollar, then the Helix 5 CHIRP Sonar G2 is the way to go. Unlike the others we’ve recommended, this fish finder uses a landscape orientation, which can be very handy on a kayak.

If you fish shallow, you will make a lot of low side arm casts and pitches to cover, so having a fish finder that doesn’t sit as high on your gunnels can be a benefit. New for this year is CHIRP sonar, which can help provide visual separation of fish from other returns.


Choosing the Perfect Fish Finder for Your Kayak

The first thing you should think about is how and where you like to fish, or where to plan to fish with your kayak. This will point you towards the best kayak fish finder suited for your style of fishing.

shallow kayak fishing
Hobie Kayak Championship

Structure Fishing

If you prefer fishing on offshore structures like weed lines, humps, and deeper reefs, then a nice cheap DI or SI GPS combo fish finder could suit you perfectly.  The GPS helps you stay over the structure you want to fish, and the DI sonar capabilities help you identify rocks, brush piles, and other objects you might want to cast to. If you like to fish larger lakes or even the ocean, you would be smart to consider getting a good fish finder GPS combo for your kayak.  Also, the last thing you want when fishing big water is to be disoriented far from land.

Shallow Fishing

Many kayak fishermen simply like to cruise the shoreline on smaller bodies of water, casting to shallow vegetation, laydowns, and docks. If you plan on doing most of your fishing on ponds, coves, and small rivers, then a small fish finder combo might suit you since you might not need the extra cost of a GPS to help you get around.s well as the imaging views of the bottom with down scan and down scan overlay. The features and compact size make this unit an excellent fish finder for kayak fishing.

How Much Mounting Space?

Next, think about how much space you have on your kayak for a fish finder.  You’ll need space for a RAM or Scotty fish finder mount, a small 12V battery, cables, and all your rods and tackle. You’ll also want your fish finder to have a screen that is big enough to see detail, yet compact enough to not constantly be in the way while you’re paddling and casting. Something with a 5″ screen would be ideal, but on smaller kayaks you may want to go down to the 4″ or even the 3.5″ size screens.

Transducer Compatibility

One final thing you might want to consider when choosing the depth finder for your kayak, is what brand you have.  In the last few year, kayak makers have teamed up with the fish finder manufacturers to make scupper holes that perfectly match the transducers to make their installation seamless and fast.

If you have an Old Town, Ocean, or Necky kayak you might want to favor Humminbird because they are all owned by Johnson Outdoors, and they exclusively design their scuppers for Humminbird transducers.  On the other hand Hobie and Wilderness Systems kayaks have made their boats Lowrance ready with similar mounting features on their kayaks.

Kayak Fishing Resources

Once you’ve picked out the best fish finder for your kayak, your fun is only beginning. Your next tasks will be to rig your fish finder onto your kayak, and this includes batteries, cables, transducers, and mounts.  There are lots of ways to do this yourself, and these guides can get you started.

Image Credit

*Last updated 2021-05-06 at 11:29 / Product Links & Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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