One of the most revolutionary electronic gadgets to hit kayak fishing, and almost equals the smartphone in ingenuity is the fish finder. What started decades ago as expensive technology exclusively reserved for the commercial fishery vessels has slowly found its niche in sports fishing in 2017 (and rarely will a serious angler embark on a fishing trip without one).
The electronics on our kayaks have become more connected to our personal devices, and we’ve recorded better performance, enormous banks of information, and greater usability every time we go fishing.
If you’re one of the few fishermen who hasn’t upgraded to the latest fish finder, you’ll be amazed by how technology that used to be the preserve of marine scientists and expensive fishing vessels has been transformed and made incredibly affordable to even the most casual anglers.
If you’re looking to buy a kayak fish finder, you will do well to remember that the finder’s display size is the most important thing to consider. Since most Kayaks are narrow, anything larger than 5 to 6 inches will look cumbersome aboard your kayak and get in your way. And bulky finders will be too heavy to move about and may be a problem getting properly installed.
Quick Picks: Best Kayak Fish Finders
Why put a fish finder on a kayak?
The primary function of a fish finder is to locate fish underwater by detecting pulses of reflected sound energy. A modern fish finder shows measurements of sonar sound signals on a graphical display, allowing the fisherman to interpret and follow the path leading to concentrated schools of fish.
Modern fish finders are used by both commercial fishermen and marine sportsmen, and there are many available on the market today for all budgets. But basically they all do the same thing: point out where the fish are underwater.
And all have two parts: A display and a transducer. The display can be mounted at any spot on the kayak, while the transducer is mounted on the side or bottom of the boat.
A good finder allows you to know for certain how deep the waters are, including the structure and depth of the bottom (hence wiping away guess work). It can also help you locate the bait if you fail to find it on the surface. And most importantly, a good fish finder offers dual screen options of water column depths.
How to choose a fish finder
There is a proliferation of fish finders in the market today, but the biggest problem is getting the right one that will work well and make your excursion a success. This buyer’s guide will assist you to figure out some of the most important things that you need to know when choosing the best fish finder.
When you embark on a fishing trip in your kayak, you need a finder that will brightly illuminate the readings on display. And this cannot be achieved if it has limited power. You need to buy a one with high wattage. This will make the unit display the readings faster.
If you choose a unit with low wattage, the text will come slowly and the prime catch will have disappeared from the scene. An experienced angler will tell you that you need high wattage for deep sea fishing and low wattage for shallow fishing.
A transducer is probably the most important element in a fish finder. It’s the unit that sends and emits the sonar signal to the water. Many come with transform mount transducers which are very easy to install.
3. Screen resolution
The screen resolution is measured by pixels. You need to buy a display with a high number of pixels since it will help you see more details.
Consider the screen resolution, the size of the screen, as this will give you a bright display. A good screen resolution should not be less than 240(v) x 160(v) pixels. You may also obtain higher resolutions of 640 x 640 pixels.
4. Cone angle and frequency
Cone angle, or beam width, refers to the direction of the sonar beam as it leaves the transducer and is transmitted to the water. It determines the marine areas that your transducer can cover. A wide cone angle means a greater area coverage and is best for fishing shallow to medium water depths.
A transducer frequency determines the accuracy with which the fish finder detects the bottom of the water. There are low and high frequencies. For instance, 50 kHz is a low frequency while 200 kHz is high.
Many fish finders have dual frequency transducers with the 50/200 kHz combination being the most common. A low sounder signal that reads up to 500-inches in fresh water may lose half of its penetrating power in saltwater, so select low frequencies for salt water.
5. Kayak mounting space
Do you have enough mounting space on your kayak? It should have sufficient space to hold a 12 Volt battery, a medium sized screen enough to display the details and cable rods. You can choose a 6-inch screen if your kayak is large, but for fishermen with small yaks, a 3-4-inch screen size would be ideal.
If you target fishing on the coast or unfamiliar waters, buy a GPS-equipped fish finder. They’re extremely useful since they help you record your course to enable you to navigate a return trip easily.
7. Underneath imaging and side imaging
A few fish finders come with transducers that only highlight the water area beneath your kayak (down imaging), while other makes have transducers that scan the sideways and also straight down to enable you to monitor the terrain features along the shoreline.
A sonar system is used underwater for range finding and detection. It emits a sound signal, or pulse of sound into the water. When the sound is sent out, it hits a target and bounces off the target and returns an “echo” to the transducer. This echo helps measure the range of the object.
Are you fishing in shallow or deep waters?
It’s worth noting that transducers that send out smaller frequencies reach out in the water much more deeply that those that send high frequencies. If you prefer to fish in lakes, then you should buy a low-frequency transducer fish finder.
High frequency-emitting transducers penetrate water slightly less deeply, but they display much better details on the screen and therefore are best suited for shallow waters. If you’re going to fish rivers, shallow lakes, and ponds, then you should buy a high-frequency model.
But if you’ll be alternating between deep and shallow waters, then you’d do good to check out electronic fish finders emitting multiple sonar frequencies. Although slightly pricey, they don’t confine you to a single fishing zone.
Many serious anglers own multi-frequency fish finders. Modern ones are so sophisticated that they use technology (CHIRP) that enable the screen to show the terrain beneath your kayak in stunning images as well as identifying any targets that may block your kayak path and terrain beneath it.