What is a Fish Finder?
This is the first thing to establish, what even is a fish finder, and how does it work? The clue is in the name, and the product is designed to show a fisherman where they’re likely to have success. The instrument detects tiny sound reflections and represent this on a screen, where whoever is fishing can see where there is movement, and potentially a lot of fish. The tech is not dissimilar to sonar. This can be integrated with a GPS system for instance, to provide the most help possible when out on a boat or kayak.
Some of these instruments aren’t the smallest, but as with most tech, they’re getting smaller, and some are compact enough to take out on boats and even kayaks without any issue at all, and some are even compatible with smartphones and tablets. More on that later.
What Makes the Best Fish Finders?
What are some of the features we’re going to be looking for in our reviews? Some of these products are vastly different, and the features of course depend on what you are looking to spend as well as the brand making the product. If you’re buying a fish finder for the first time, knowing what attributes make it a positive purchase can be the biggest challenge, so we’ve listed some things we’re going to be looking out for in our kayak fishfinder reviews.
Display – The display is how you’re going to interact with the instrument, and how you can read and know what is happening, and as such it has to be easy to use. As well as that, you need to consider the fact that while you are out and about, the weather is subject to change, and glare can become an issue on some screens, so finding one which takes steps to avoid this can help.
GPS Chart Plotting – This is a key feature, and wow, it can certainly make your life a lot easier, charting out where you have had success and mapping your fishing journeys, sometimes even having external SD card slots for more storage space.
3D Imaging – Some fish finders can map out what is going on below and even give an accurate 3D image of the water and what you may be dealing with below, this can make it easy to read and give you even more success.
Mounting – This can be key when it comes to a fish finder for kayaks or smaller sized boats. Having somewhere to mount it and an easy way to do so is an option, and that means you’re going to need something that is simple to mount and read on the go. Of course, this is optional and you don’t have to have it mounted on anything if you don’t want.
Depth Range – Some of these products will stay accurate up to 100m, some 200m, it depends on which model you opt for. If you’re just in a small lake and don’t need something to read over 100m then you may not need a huge depth range, but if you want to go out on the sea for instance or fish in deep waters, then the higher depth range, the better.
Controls and Intuitiveness – As with any sort of electronic gadget, it is important that it is easy to control. If you’re going out on the water, or are already out fishing, you don’t want something that is going to be difficult to control and work out. Clear instructions and intuitively designed controls are a massive plus point.
Transducer/Sensor – The Sensor is the part that will tell you where there are fish to find. This is pretty complex technology, but it is easy to use. Some sensors are better than others, some are more hard wearing, and some are easier to cast off into the water. This is something we’ve looked at in our reviews of fish finders for kayaking.
Battery – A few variations with the battery, not only how long the battery will last, but which type of batteries it takes, and whether your fish finder can be ‘charged’ or whether it takes AA or AAA batteries.
Hawkeye FishTrax Fish Finders – The utmost in portability.
If you want something super portable, even pocket size, then you can opt for a Hawkeye FishTrax model. There are a few different versions, some have a display that is just icons and looks a little bit like an old school video game. The others have clearer displays with sonar being shown either in black and white or color. They’re not even the most expensive models out there and they have a lot of features, especially when you consider they fit in a large pocket!
The Best Hawkeye Fish Finders for Kayaks
HawkEye FT1PXC Fishtrax Fish Finder with HD Color Virtuview Display
My recommendation if you’re looking for a Hawkeye Model is the FT1PXC, probably the top portable fish finder in terms of being pocket sized. Its duel frequency sonar and display which shows the depth of the fish can be extremely helpful, and it is easy to use both in terms of transducer and the buttons on the surface.
The transducer can work for kayaks of course, but even shore fishing and ice fishing work just fine. It has an adjustable sensitivity so you can get the right kinds of readings for the water you’re fishing in.
On top of being easily handheld, this product is easy to mount on the front of a kayak too or anywhere in a small boat, making it a superb option. The reviews you’ll find elsewhere online are extremely favorable, and the cost of the FT1PXC isn’t extortionate. That said, if you are looking for a cheaper option and are willing to sacrifice on the display, it does have a little brother or sister that is perfect for the job, and an icon display fish finder can be found for under $100.
Garmin STRIKER 4 fishfinder
Garmin is a name you are probably familiar with, and they’re a massive electronics and GPS brand who you may know from their sat navs and dash cams. They are more widely recognized for their car products, but they’ve entered the market for fishfinders with the Striker 4, and as you’ll see in this review, they’ve done a very good job of creating a real competitor.
As you might expect, the built in GPS feature on this is among the most exciting things about it, and it can even tell you the speed you’re going and help you ensure you’re going the right speed for trolling.
The waypoint map is a great way to mark out different points on the map to help your fishing pursuits. The high frequency sonar is easy to see and the display on the fish finder is very easy to use. The controls are super simple and there are dedicated buttons for each control, meaning you won’t get mixed up or end up fiddling around when out on the water when you could be fishing!
The Chirp sonar which is built in sends a different range of frequencies which provides a larger amount of info to build a picture of what is going on down in the water. This is one of the cheapest models of Fish Finder Garmin offer, but it still has some very good features, making it top value for money. It has a bigger sibling, the STRIKER 4dv, which offers more power in the transducer and can work at larger depths, it is sort of an ‘elite’ model of the striker, and as such costs a little more money, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it, and if you’re looking for the best of the best, this could be an option.
iBobber Wireless Bluetooth Smart Fish Finder
It is very little surprise that there is a fish finder available for the iPhone and for android, and it can avoid the need to add another device to take out and about. You can use these types of device via bluetooth and on the iPhone and Android, and they’re controlled by apps, which link up to the transducer and provide the info straight to your phone. iBobber isn’t the only model that uses this type of tech, but it is possibly the best known and best selling, hence our review of the iBobber Wireless bluetooth smart fish finder.
The plus side of all this is that we know how to use our phones, and putting another app on them and using it to control our fish finder is very simple, and the apps work very well in terms of display and ease. It does however add some challenges and difficulties to the process. Some of these smart phones have notoriously low battery life, and can be drained very quickly, not ideal for a long day out fishing. The app does have some cool features including being able to share data and take photos and mark things on the map for future reference.
The iBobber is effective do a depth of 135′ and has a pretty effective sonar. The ‘bobber’ itself has a light to indicate when the battery is getting low, and the battery itself is easy to recharge. The patented sonar technology is something the company are really proud of. It also comes with a digital scale and fishing multi tool to increase your abilities to fish effectively, whether you’re going ice fishing, out on the kayak (as mentioned in the rest of this article) or you just want to fish on the shore.
The product isn’t as well reviewed as some of the other best fishfinders on the market, however it makes an excellent gift and many have reported that this really adds to their fishing trips and helps them to find more fish, as is of course the ultimate goal! It is a relatively cheap option in comparison to a lot of the other products, and it is very simple to install and get up and running. Of course it depends a little on the smart phone or device you’re going to pair it with, and if your technology is ancient it may not work as well (or at all if the OS is dated). It is great to not have to take another whole device out and about with you, being able to do it all with just the phone and transducer is a real plus point. There are many competitors to the iBobber cropping up, and some of them offer similar, excellent features, though this is perhaps the best selling, and has been available for years now, hence it being the model that has made our list.
Whether you opt for something that you can link to a smart device, or a standalone fish finder, there are pros and cons to either choice, but ultimately for the very best features, and for those who are serious about their fishing, a good quality fish finder that doesn’t require a smartphone may well be the best option, whereas for the more ‘casual’ fisherman, something to use via an app is perfect.
The models we’ve listed above all fit the bill in terms of being great for use on a fishing kayak. Space is at a premium, and a fishfinder the size of a briefcase isn’t an option. These are all easily portable and other than the iBobber, they can be easily mounted and used on the water. Finding something compact and reliable is made a lot easier by the excellent brands such as Garmin and Hawkeye.