Best Inexpensive Fish Finders For Kayaks

Last Updated: November 25th, 2019

Fishing from a kayak is not as easy as from a boat and sometimes it can feel like a bit of a handicap. You can’t get to where you want to be as fast, or the weather may roll in and see you hit the shore while those out in a boat continue fishing. Just because you’re in a kayak, doesn’t mean that you don’t take your fishing seriously and you’ll still want to do all you can to make your time on the water more efficient and effective. You might not be able to compete with a boat in terms of horsepower or seaworthiness but you sure can compete with their technology.

Having a fish finder changes the game. Being able to see depths, underwater structure, speed and mark good fishing spots will have a huge effect on your success. Let’s be honest, without a fish finder, you’re fishing blind but with one, you’ll learn your waters better than ever before. Getting the right fish finder for a kayak is not that simple and they can differ from models made for boats. Luckily for you, I have put together this buying guide of the best inexpensive fish finders for kayaks, so you can find the best one for you.

OUR TOP PICKS

Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5' GPS Fishfinder with Chirp Traditional Transducer
Garmin Striker 4DV
  • Easy to use
  • Gps included
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HOOK2 Fish Finder with TripleShot Transducer and GPS Plotter
Lowrance HOOK2 4X
  • Easy to use
  • Good detail
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HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder with HD Color Virtuview Display, Black/Red, 2' H x 1.6' W Screen Size
HawkEye Fishtrax 1C
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to install
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LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder
  • Accurate depth
  • Good value
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Humminbird 410050-1 Fishin' Buddy MAX Fishfinder
Humminbird Buddy MAX Fishfinder
  • Easy to use
  • Easy install
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Raymarine Dragonfly Fishfinder Sonar GPS without Charts
Raymarine Dragonfly Fishfinder
  • Amazing detail
  • Clear screen
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Deeper Chirp Smart Sonar Castable and Portable WiFi Fish Finder for Kayaks and Boats and on Shore Ice Fishing Wireless Fishfinder
Deeper Chirp Smart Sonar
  • Accurate
  • Easy to use
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Vexilar SP200 T-Box Smartphone Fish Finder, Black
Vexilar SP200 T-Box Smartphone Fish Finder
  • Simple unit
  • East to use
See On Amazon →


Garmin Striker 4DV

Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5' GPS Fishfinder with Chirp Traditional Transducer

This is a very portable and powerful fishfinder. For its small size, it is packed with features and simple to install in your kayak. It comes with a 3.5-inch color display that put’s out crystal clear images that you can easily see no matter the weather. Those days full or glare often make for hard viewing but not with this model. The controls are a keypad and have been made with you in mind. You can intuitively navigate between screens and get to your data quickly.

The model comes with a built-in GPS so you can mark the awesome fishing spots you find and get back to them quickly later without having to fiddle around with bearings like you might have font in the past.

For such a small model, it has some amazing sonar features. It uses a CHIRP transducer that gives you quick imaging and Garmins DownVu which gives you great detail of the bottom. It’ll pick up anything that might be lurking under the surface.

It’s made with a built-in flasher function that enables you to see your lure, the fish and the bottom at the same time. This is very useful if you’re jigging in deep water.

The unit comes with a transom/trolling motor mounting but its screen/keypad is not water-resistant and you’ll need to be careful with it. Also, you’ll need a power source onboard for it to work.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Gps included
  • Accurate
  • Easy to install
  • Good value
  • Clear screen

Cons

  • Needs a power source
  • Screen/keyboard not water-resistant
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Lowrance HOOK2 4X

HOOK2 Fish Finder with TripleShot Transducer and GPS Plotter

This is a top-quality fish finder that is perfect for use when fishing from a kayak. It comes with a 4-inch color display that is clear, easy to see from all angles and is still easily visible in all weather conditions.

It comes with CHIRP and DownScan sonars builtin that give you highly detailed images of the world below. It’ll pick up all the fish, structure, cover and contour changes you might float over.

One of my favorite things about this unit is the options for display views it makes available. You have the option to split-screen, zoom, use traditional views and you can check out three different data points at a time. Pretty awesome for such a portable unit.

The system is easy to set up and navigate around, so instead of fiddling with technology so you can keep your line in the water.

The Hook 4x includes Lowrance’s Advanced Singal Processing technology that automatically adjusts display parameters for you, again saving you some time which is better-spent fishing.

The unit does come with alarm systems, but the shallow water alarm has been known to fail on some units. There is no GPS included which is a little sad, you’ll have to find another way to mark your fishing spots to find them again the next day.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Good detail
  • Clear picture
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • Alarms don't make a noise
  • No GPS
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HawkEye Fishtrax 1C

HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder with HD Color Virtuview Display, Black/Red, 2' H x 1.6' W Screen Size

This fish finder comes in the 3 different models, two of which include different black and white displays, but we are not going to mess around with them, we’re going straight to the color option, featuring a high-def VituView display. If you fancy spending a little less on the black and white display models, not one will think less of you. The color option is still very well priced though.

The display is crisp and clear, no matter the weather and it’s water-resistant too. In fact, if you grease the battery compartment, the whole thing becomes waterproof. But that is up to you, I’m not recommending it.

One of the top features of this fish finder is the dedicated flasher mode. This is great for vertical jigging and live-baiting, especially if you’re ice fishing or in your kayak.

The transducer is easy to install and can be mounted on the side of your kayak or towed behind with the included float. You can also connect it to a broom handle and point it in any direction.

The sonar runs on a dual-frequency and gives you very clear imaging of the bottom but it can be a bit hit or miss on accuracy when it comes to fish. It comes with a zoom function and alarms but unfortunately no GPS or mounting bracket. It does chew battery and you’ll need to replace them every trip.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Easy to install
  • Clear display
  • Good value
  • Waterproof - if you grease the Battery compartment door
  • The transducer can be pointed in any direction

Cons

  • Hit or miss on accuracy
  • Batteries need replacing every trip
  • No mounting bracket
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LUCKY Handheld Fish Finder

This is one of the best value fish finders out there but you do sacrifice features and accuracy as the price comes down in this world.

The setup from this unit is flexible and allows you to set up your transducer on the side of the kayak, towed behind or on a pole so you can point and shoot in any direction. It comes with a 25ft transducer cable, so you’ll have some range to put it pretty much anywhere on your kayak.

The display is in color but shows minimal detail. It can read up to 328 feet and if you’re just wanting to know the depth, this is a good choice but if you want the detail and bottom structure, then maybe spend a little more.

The unit comes with fish and fish school alarms but is not so accurate at pinpointing fish but it is accurate when it comes to depth.

The unit is not waterproof and doesn’t come with GPS.

Pros

  • Accurate depth
  • Good value
  • Easy to use
  • Easy setup
  • Provides bottom material info

Cons

  • Doesn't see fish accurately
  • Not waterproof
  • No GPS
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Humminbird Buddy MAX Fishfinder

Humminbird 410050-1 Fishin' Buddy MAX Fishfinder

Humminbird are known for their quality when it comes to fish finders and this little Buddy MAX is no different. It holds the Humminbird name high and its made for a kayak.

It comes with a portable clamp that holds the display unit at one end of a 24-40 inch telescopic pole and the transducer at the other. This means its preinstalled, all you have got to do is mount it onto your kayak and off you go. There are no wires to connect, nothing to fiddle with. Just clamp it on and you’re set. be sure to order one with the poles and be careful if you’re using it at speed as it could pop off. Make sure you attach a float and safety line to it.

It comes with a 3-5 inch color display that is crisp and shows you what you need. It is very easy to use, switch between screens and see the data that you need.

The sonar uses better technology than most of its competitors as it operates dual-beam as well as down imaging scanning. This means it will show a clear image up to 600ft deep. It also reads the temperature, so you’ll be able to start seeing if fish are biting more or less depending on temperature.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Easy install
  • Great display
  • Accurate
  • Batteries last a long time

Cons

  • A bit expensive
  • May not come with the handle
  • The unit can pop out at speed
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Raymarine Dragonfly Fishfinder

Raymarine Dragonfly Fishfinder Sonar GPS without Charts

This is the most expensive kayak fish finder in the review but it’s also the best. Raymarine has always made good gear and this one will take your kayak fishing to another level. With the extra price, you’re getting a lot more features that you won’t find models with a lower price.

The Dragonfly comes with a built-in GPS that lets you plot and save your course as well as mark spots when you need to. The screen is crystal clear, in color, easy to see in all conditions and gives you the sharpest of images with a lot of detail thanks to the sonar.

The unit uses CHIRP and DownVision sonar to collect the most amount of data possible and translate it back to the crisp display. The sonar optimizes itself, so you don’t have to fiddle around and can concentrate on catching fish.  It includes a temperature sensor so you can see how fish are behaving depending on the water temperature.

Pros

  • Amazing detail
  • Clear screen
  • Easy to use & set up
  • Gps included
  • Very accurate

Cons

  • Expensive
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Deeper Chirp Smart Sonar

Deeper Chirp Smart Sonar Castable and Portable WiFi Fish Finder for Kayaks and Boats and on Shore Ice Fishing Wireless Fishfinder

This is a setup in technology from your normal mounted fish finder. The Deeper Smart Sonar Pro+ utilizes your smartphone or tablet as the screen and connects the light, portable, transducer through wifi or Bluetooth. It connects to all platforms, so don’t worry if you don’t have an iPhone or Android.

This ‘tennis ball’ transducer floats in fresh and saltwater while giving you a detailed image of what’s going on underwater on your phone. You can simply tow the unit behind your kayak or cast it out and retrieve it slowly back in. This will give you images of the whole area between you and the end of your line and what sets it apart from other fishfinders.

This kind of data tells you how far to cast, what depth and what structures are in a 360-degree direction around your kayak.  It also comes with a fishing log, diary, and maps. It plugs into your GPS, so you can mark spots and know where you are too.

The drawbacks are that it’s a little expensive and the battery life is only 5.5hrs.

Pros

  • Accurate
  • Easy to use
  • Portable
  • Connects to phones GPS
  • Easy to connect
  • Quality data
  • Range of models

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Low battery life
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Vexilar SP200 T-Box Smartphone Fish Finder

Vexilar SP200 T-Box Smartphone Fish Finder, Black

The transducer on this unit acts similarly to the one mentioned above. It creates its own Wifi hotspot so you can connect your smartphone or tablet to it, to make it a fish finder. This does drain your tablet/phone battery to be prepared for this, either take a power bank or use a dedicated tablet for it.

The transducer comes with pre-drilled holes for easy installation on to your kayak and the wi-fi hotspot means it’ll work anywhere in the world. It comes with an app that is simple to use and also plugs into Navionics which is very useful.

The best thing about this unit is its portability. It’s so easy to take anywhere and simply connect to your phone for an instant view of the bottom. The sonar beams to 240 feet and is quite accurate. It has a water temperature indicator, depth indicator, fish alarms, and the detail is pretty good too.

The connection can drop out some times which gets annoying and it can be hard to set the gain right.

Pros

  • Simple unit
  • East to use
  • Easy to setup
  • Good value
  • Accurate on depth
  • Connects to Navionics

Cons

  • The connection can drop out
  • Hard to get the gain right
  • Drains phone battery
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What To Look For

These are the things you need to consider before you buy a kayak fish finder. Read this simple guide and you’ll be a bit more in the know about which model will be best for you.

What depth?

The depth you fish it will dictate what kind of sonar you need. If you like to fish in deep water then you’ll want a down-imaging sonar. This focusses the energy of the sonar straight down to give you better detail at deeper depths.

If you’re likely to be looking for fish in shallow water, like bass or trout in shallow lakes and rivers, then side-imaging is the one for you. Side imaging sends out sonar in an arc to pick up a wider area so you can see more of what’s below but it’s only accurate in shallow waters.

Are you going on adventures?

If you like fishing in the middle of nowhere and going on solid adventures then you’ll probably want a GPS with your fishfinder. If you’re close to home but fishing on a big piece of water or at sea, you’ll probably want one too.  These combo units are usually more expensive but it’s well worth the investment and better than having two separate units. When fishing on a kayak, you don’t have the most space and mounting two units instead of one is never the best idea.

Is Space An Issue?

If you are in a small kayak with nowhere to mount a display, then maybe one of the new high-tech portable fish finders that connect to your phone is best for you. The transducer simply floats behind the kayak and you don’t have to mount it anywhere either and you have all the info ‘beamed’ to your phone over Bluetooth or Wifi.

Some of these units connect to Navionics and your phone’s GPS to double up as a combo unit. They usually come with a manufacturer’s app to connect through and show enough details for you fish effectively.

How To Install The Transducer

Transducers can be mounted to your kayak in a range of ways. Some can be towed behind, some clip on to the trolling motor, others need to be stuck on the transom, some come on a pole that you clip to the side of your kayak, and if you have a modern kayak with a scupper hole, you can put the transducer in there.

Make sure you buy the right kind of transducer for your kayak so it works on day one and there is no need to fiddle around or return anything.

What’s Your Power Source?

Think about your power source. A lot of fish finders, even though they are made for kayaks, need a 12-volt marine battery in a waterproof box, just like they might on a boat. It’s a bit rude of the manufactures, right? But unfortunately, it is the case.

Space is always a concern on a kayak and if you don’t want to have a heavy battery on board, then you should opt for a one that uses AA batteries. You’ll have to change them out quite a lot.

Our Favorites

The most portable fish finder from the group is the Humminbird Fishin’ Buddy MAX. This little unit will retrofit to anything, gives great data, is simple to use and is rechargeable. It does everything you need it to, anywhere on any vessel. 

Humminbird 410050-1 Fishin' Buddy MAX Fishfinder
  • Display 3.5-INCH Color TFT
  • Dual Frequency Sonar

The best on a budget prize goes to the HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder. It does everything you’ll need a fish finder to do for a great price, and the non-color models go for under $70.

Sale
HawkEye Fishtrax 1C Fish Finder with HD Color Virtuview Display, Black/Red, 2" H x 1.6" W Screen Size
  • FishTrax intelligent sonar delivers precise fish finder readings up to 240 feet
  • VirtuView HD color display with LED Backlight produces a glare-free view for excellent readability

My favorite one is the Garmin Striker 4. It does everything you might need, including GPS for an amazing price, but you will need a 12v battery to run it. 

Sale
Garmin 010-01550-00 Striker 4 with Transducer, 3.5" GPS Fishfinder with Chirp Traditional Transducer
  • Clear Vu scanning Sonar shows you more of what is in the water around your boat; This high frequency sonar gives near photographic images with detailed representations of objects, structure and fish
  • The power of simple offers a keyed interface with dedicated buttons; The device is easy to use and easy to install; Available in 3.5, 5 and 7 inch display sizes; Water rating IPX7