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Thread: fish finder recommendation

  1. #1

    Post fish finder recommendation

    I am looking for a fish finder for my new kayak and am hoping for some recommendations. I have not used a fish finder before. I primarily fly fish in bay and its tributaries for rockfish, trout etc. but also plan on freshwater bass fishing.

    I have a few questions: Is 5' a good size for kayaks? I understand sun glare is an issue - are there units that are better or can this be solved with a screen? Is it worth paying the extra money and getting the GPS, 3D and map capability? Do the units come with transducers or is that an extra purchase and if its extra then what kind do you get and what is the best mounting? Do you recommend using skimmer transducers?

    Any help would be great!


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Arlington, VA


    I have a 5 inch size Humminbird on my Old Town Predator and liked it fine, but am actually in the market now for a second one for my Hobie. I'm going to downsize to a 4 inch Lowrance model (because the Hobie is Lowrance ready). I found that the extra real estate just didn't buy me all that much. What I am going to do though is make sure I get one with maps and chart tracking like my Humminbird has. Its good to mark the spots where you get fish and then your able to come back to those locations. Also, I like being able to see everywhere I have been and the chart tracking leaves a line behind on your map where you have gone. If your going in new waters and travel a good distance its always nice to be able to follow your tracks back home....that usually isn't a factor, but the one time it comes in handy, you'll be glad you have it. If you have to make a trade, trade down screen size and get the GPS, maps and tracking capability. My two cents.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Collegeville, PA


    I've been pretty happy with my lowrance hook 4 on my revo. I feel like the 5" is too wide on my skinny boat and i'd be somehow hitting it with my leg all the time while pedaling. I definitely recommend the mapping if you jig or fish bottom structure. Makes it very easy to stay on a piece. Also greatly helps with night fishing.
    Hobie Revo 13 carribean blue

    My YouTube Channel

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Annapolis, MD.


    Yes, definitely get mapping. Got caught once on the Severn when a sudden fog cloud covered the area. Couldn’t see 10ft, used the mapping screen to find my way back to launch. As mention also, great for marking spots were fish were caught from one season to the next.

    Native Slayer Propel 10
    Native Ultimate 12

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2011


    Here are a few thoughts:

    Size of Unit

    1) Adding an inch to the screen size makes things more readable. I am an older guy with weakening eyesight. I would not want a screen smaller than 5". Other guys with sharper visual acuity may prefer a smaller screen.

    2) I often leave my unit in split-screen mode, with GPS on one half and sonar on the other half. The larger screen size makes each of these more visible.

    3) A 5" or 7" screen will cost more than a comparable 4" screen. You can evaluate the incremental cost to go up in size.

    4) On certain kayaks, having a larger screen may interfere with your paddling, pedaling, or mounting rod holders (remember that rod butts may extend beyond the bottom of the rod holder and into the cockpit area). Make sure that you have a spot on your kayak to mount the unit where you can easily reach it to work the buttons and also that it is not in the way of other things on the kayak.

    5) I cannot verify this, but suspect that a larger screen will draw more power than a smaller screen. You can easily overcome this by using a larger battery. But if space or weight is a concern, a smaller battery may be desirable.

    GPS or Not

    1) When comparing a FF to a combo FF/GPS, I recommend getting the GPS functionality. The GPS gives you additional information that can help with fishing success. Generally the incremental cost is not much.

    2) GPS gives speed over ground -- important for trolling. It also provides fun information like an odometer function to keep track of your distances.

    3) You can set your GPS to show your trails/tracks. If you are trolling and get a bite in a particular area, you can circle back through the same area again. On trolling trips, my GPS screen often looks like a bunch of spaghetti from all the back and forth passes through target areas. You can also set waypoints to show where you found fish. This is particularly helpful when you are fishing in a new location.

    4) Most units with GPS come with some basic mapping information already installed. You can purchase aftermarket cards that improve the details on the mapping screen. You don't need to buy the card up front unless you are getting a great deal on it. You may find that your needs are met adequately by the built-in mapping features. If not, buy the card later.

    Other Features

    1) For most kayak fishing, having standard sonar is adequate. Many of the units also offer down scan. Some anglers prefer this view to the standard sonar. I have never owned a unit with down scan and cannot offer personal opinion.

    2) Some of the upper end units offer side scan capability. Alan Battista (Yak Fish) has been showing some remarkably clear side-scan images from his unit. Keep in mind that those unit are much more expensive and often are larger.

    3) There are several options for mounting transducers. I prefer a simple shoot-through-the hull approach where I mount the transducer inside the hull using Duct Seal putty. It gives great readings for standard sonar. There may be a reduction in quality of down scan images when using that mounting method. If you do have side scan, you would need to choose some other way to mount your transducer.

    4) You mention a sun screen. Some units have their screens designed to show up better in the sun. You can also buy or make aftermarket sun shields. I have never worried about that myself. I can deal with glare on my screen by holding my hand out and throwing a shadow on the screen for a few seconds while I look at the screen.
    John Veil
    Native Watercraft Manta Ray 11 and Slayer Propel 10
    Member - Pro Staff team for Native Watercraft

    Author - "Fishing in the Comfort Zone" - light tackle fishing techniques for kayaks and small boats

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2012


    Keep in mind though you can usually find last years model of a larger screen screen fish finder for a significant discount. I would check the clearance items on them between now and spring. Bass Pro usually does their clearance in the late winter to early spring. That's when I got a good deal on my fish finder.

    If you can fit it I would get a 5" model, because typically I run it in split screen with one half of the screen a on the normal fish finder and the other the Plotter. GPS plotting is nice to have especially if you plan on trolling. Being able to see your speed and channel edges helps allot. If your fishing allot of creeks and small lakes and ponds the plotter may not be needed, but is still nice to mark way points for submerged structure or other areas of interest.
    Last edited by mi327; 11-29-2017 at 10:57 AM.

    2015 Hidden Oak Slayer Propel 10

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    Pasadena, MD



    I am definitely in the minority here but I would advise you to strongly consider what your expectations are in having a fish finder. I had a very nice one for several years with excellent features and I found I didn't like it. To me it was extra gear to carry, an extra thing to deal with at the launch and simply added weight with the battery. I definitely see their value in motor boats where you cover lots of distance in potentially unfamiliar water. The GPS features and sonar can be helpful then.

    But in my kayak, I rarely travel far and I am usually in shallow, familiar waters. I know generally what's under my hull from experience and when I don't I'm in shallow enough water to simply look down or to speculate. You can often determine the contours of the bottom by the visible shoreline nearby. You can see riprap, downed wood and other structure. But of course if you're going to fish in open Bay waters you may want instantaneous feedback if your study of nautical charts or land contours does not help.

    I would also add that I have fished with three kayak fishing guides in big water and I will add a fourth to the list this January. None of them use fish finders. At first I was surprised but then but then I realized they relied on visible signs and their intimate knowledge of the waters they fish...similar to what I do in my home waters.

    Clearly it depends on your fishing style. For me, I don't want or need the electronics. It cost me roughly $400 to $500 to find that out. My suggestion therefore is to think hard about how you intend to fish, exactly what you expect the fish finder to do for you and to determine if it will really be worth the investment.

    Good luck.

    Slate Hobie Revolution 13
    Hidden Oak Native Ultimate 12
    Red Native Ultimate 14.5

    Author: The Simple Joys of Kayak Fishing (Tips and Tales From an Old Guy in His Plastic Boat)
    Available on and via PM

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Arlington, VA


    But it's nice to have something to blame when you get skunked. "That damn fish finder didn't find a single fish for me to catch!"

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2016


    similarly, like any 'tech' gear, buy the best that you can afford, or make a plan to set aside X dollars, and then decide how much of that is dedicated to the FF and how much (if you find an FF deal) can go towards other gear
    First Lady: Hobie Ivory Dune ProAngler 14 Lowrance Elite 7 ti TotalScan

    Backup Babe (Girlfriends Ride): Carribean Blue Hobie Outback Lowrance Elite 5 HDI w/ Pumpkin Spice Latte holder

    Learning the Ropes & Living the Dream

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Southern Maryland- Charles County


    I have had several- presently have a Hummingbird 798 ci DSI SI...especially like it when the fog rolls in and the GPS gets you back to the launch...the side imaging shallow water feature is really cool...but it really takes some use to figure out what you are seeing on the screen and it really isn’t “user friendly”...requires lots of tweaking to get it to do what it is capable of, but once you understand the menus, settings and optimize it for the conditions of the!
    "Lady Luck" 2016 Red Hibiscus Outback
    "Wet Dream" 2011 yellow Ocean Prowler 13

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