It can be difficult or downright impossible to mount a traditional fish finder on a kayak or small boat. Oftentimes there is no practical way to mount the transducer or the display screen. The good news is that there are portable fish finders developed specifically for use in kayaks and other small watercraft.
Portable fish finders have numerous benefits, especially for certain kinds of fishing. Below, we’ve broken down each of the factors that you should consider when shopping for a portable fish finder. We’ve also reviewed four of the best portable fish finders in 2016.
- 1 5 Things to Consider
- 2 Top 4 Portable Fish Finders For Kayaks
- 3 Bonus: How to Mount a Fish Finder on a Kayak
- 4 Conclusion
Benefits of Portable Fish Finders
Portable fish finders are perfect for the fisherman who needs mobility and wants options in his angling. You can throw them in your tackle box and cast off a dock, kayak, riverbank, bass boat, or anything else you can think of and with technology advancing as it is, you won’t have to sacrifice much functionality for portability.
Portable fish finders are:
- Ideal for Small Boat Fisherman
- Perfect for Fisherman Who Switch Between Fishing from a Boat and Fishing from Land
- Highly Maneuverable
- Usually Less Expensive than Mounted Devices
5 Things to Consider
Fish finders are comprised of multiple components that work in harmony. Fish finders vary greatly in their technical specifications and capabilities, and knowing how to compare each feature will allow you to make a more well-informed choice when buying a fish finder for a kayak.
1. Transducer Capabilities & Settings: The transducer sections of the best portable fish finders are just as powerful as those of many standard fish finders. Mounting a transducer can be a hassle on regular boats and even more frustrating on kayaks, so many fishermen use portable fish finders for convenience and they don’t really lose any of their tracking capabilities
2. Power Source: Regular fish finders can be wired to your boat’s electrical system to provide you with power whenever the boat’s battery is on. Some models can be disconnected relatively easily and connected to external power sources. If you use a portable fish finder, the display screen will come with a charger. Transducers for portable fish finders work with an internal battery that comes with a charger, or they use AA or AAA batteries. Be aware of the battery life of your fish finder to avoid unnecessary down time during fishing trips.
3. Display Screen: Most new fish finders come with full-color screens. This allows the use to see schools of fish, individuals, depth and other conditions more clearly. The minimum resolution you want for a fish finder is 240 x 160. These numbers represent that number of pixels on your screen. The higher the pixel count, the more detailed your images will be. You also need to pay attention to the screen’s size and weight. The most popular portable fish finders never weigh more than a few ounces and the display screens are usually 2.5” to 4” in size (they are almost always less than 6” for mobility and convenience purposes). Fish finders like the Deeper Smart Fish Finder allow you to use your smart phone or tablet as a display screen and many anglers find this convenient as they are already accustomed to using those devices on a regular basis.
4. Design: Fish finders should be durable and guaranteed against water damage. They should be easy to program and use. The screens should be user-friendly and the transducer should fit snugly into place without getting in the way of other boat components.
When it comes to portable fish finders, design is even more important because the equipment needs to be truly mobile. If a fish finder comes in a huge case then it isn’t truly portable. The best portable fish finders can be held in the palm of one’s hand, and the transducers are often no larger than a bob.
Additionally, many portable fish finders were designed with tablet and smart phone users in mind. Depending on the model you choose you may be able to download an app that controls your fish finder and tracks the data it obtains.
5. GPS Technology: Modern fish finders are often equipped with GPS technology. This is convenient because you don’t have to purchase a navigational tool separately. Angling is much easier when your fish finder has GPS capabilities because you can save fishing hot spots and routes that you’d like to take or avoid. Portable fish finders that are GPS-equipped may be slightly more expensive than those without this technology, but in the minds of most fishermen it’s an easy decision to opt for the more advanced device.
Top 4 Portable Fish Finders For Kayaks
1. Deeper Smart Fish Finder
The Deeper Smarter Fish Finder is the standard amongst these devices insofar as what you can expect to receive from a portable fish finder. The device itself is highly maneuverable, which will likely be important to you as a small boat fisherman.
It’s easy to cast this device out and then follow it to wherever the fish are hitting. The Deeper Smarter has all the key things you should be looking for in a portable fish finder.
This is one of the most well rounded portable fish finders on the market.
2. FishHunter PRO Wireless Portable Fish Finder
The Fish Hunter Pro markets itself as “the worlds fastest wireless portable fish finder.”
Like the Deeper Smarter Fish Finder, this device is castable and dependent upon an app on a phone or tablet to view the sonar readings, however unlike the Deeper Smarter the Fish Hunter Pro uses a WiFi rather than a Bluetooth connection.
The Device is a bit tricky to set up initially, but after a little experimentation I discovered that in order to get a strong connection the finder needs to be IN the water. Don’t try and connect it first and then cast it. After I got it connected I didn’t find any issues with the connection dropping out.
As with any new gadget, it takes some time to learn to use properly. I found this device to be pretty easy and intuitive all in all.
I found the connection to be much more reliable and, as the device claims, much faster than the Deeper Smarter’s Bluetooth connection.
It has a casting range of 150 feet, which I found to be more than enough particularly if you are in a small, maneuverable boat.
On a smooth lake this device will work like a charm, however, I found that if the wind picks up and the water gets rough the device’s functionality really suffers. On choppy waters the Fish Hunter Pro yielded many false positive results and I opted to pack it up and wait for a clearer day.
The depth finder on the device is very impressive though. Even on rough water I was able to get accurate depth readings and a clear picture of the topography on the bottom of my lake.
| Strong, Reliable Connection|
Accurate Depth Readings
| Inaccurate On Choppy Waters
Initial Set-up Issues
3. Signstek FF-003 Portable Fish Finder
This device comes with an LED frontlight display as opposed to the first two devices on the list. You won’t need to sync up to a phone or tablet. Everything you need to use this finder comes packed in the box. This makes the Signstek FF-003 incredibly easy to use. You don’t have to worry about any setup or connection issues. It’s ready to go right away.
This finder gives excellent depth and temperature readings and provided me with a very accurate depiction of bottom structure.
My biggest issue with the Signstek FF-003 is that the fish identification feature isn’t very trustworthy. I had to pretty much rely on the device’s raw data to locate fish, which isn’t a major issue as the raw data is very accurate, but it’s frustrating to not be able to use the Signstek’s fish ID feature.
If you’re a new angler with no knowledge of where fish are likely to be by looking at topography, bottom structure, depth and temperature this device won’t do you much good. Even with a lot of tinkering with settings I was never able to get the fish ID to work consistently.
Also, there are no real mounting options with this device. It comes with a neck strap, but if you were hoping to mount it to your boat you’re out of luck.
Overall, this unit is good for paddling around a lake and discovering the little nooks and crannies fish are likely to be hiding.
| Accurate Depth, Temperature and |
Bottom Structure Readings
Easily Readable Display
| Inaccurate Fish Finder
No Mounting Option
4. MadBite FX300 Fish Finder
The MadBite FX3000 is a stand-alone fish finder with a full color LCD front-lit display. This is a very well made device and seems to be designed with the small boat fisherman in mind.
This device takes a little time to set-up, but after a few glances at the manual and a half an hour or so of tinkering I was ready to hit the lake.
The MadBite is very feature rich, which is sometimes concerning as the more you pack into a device the more there is to malfunction. However, I am very impressed with this finder. It does everything it purports to do and it does it well. I got accurate depth, temperature, and bottom structure readings and the fish id works very well.
Some of the features this device has likely won’t get put to much use, but they can be handy and fun to fiddle around with.
The MadBite is water resistant and floats when dropped in the water. Which is nice if you are a clumsy fisherman like myself. The screen is bright enough to be easily read in even direct sunlight and the controls are simple and easy to use.
I found some issues with getting the transducer to charge. I had to mess with the port a bit to get the connection to be recognized, but without too much trouble I got it to take and hold a charge.
| Feature Rich|
Well Made and Dependable
Geared Towards Small Boat Fishermen
Water Resistant and Floats
| Some Charging Issues
Some Superfluous Features
Bonus: How to Mount a Fish Finder on a Kayak
There are a couple of different ways to mount a traditional fish finder in a kayak. If you have an access panel to the hull you can glue the transducer onto the hull and then run a wire to the display screen. This takes some work, though, and it isn’t very convenient to have to run a wire through the kayak. You could also run the wire through one of your scupper holes or use a scupper mount designed just this specific purpose.
You could mount a metal plate near the kayak’s rudder and attach the transducer to the plate. If you use this method make sure the transducer is higher than the rudder and the bottom of the kayak to avoid damage to the transducer. The problem with this method is that you have to run a wire over the top of your kayak, and could take some serious time and effort to install the metal plate and then the transducer.
The most convenient way to mount a fish finder is by using a portable transducer. These devices use suction cups and do a great job at staying firmly attached to the boat. Alternatively, you can attach your portable transducer to a fishing line and cast it into the water. These devices are wireless and battery-powered. You can have a handheld display screen at your fingertips and not have to do any drilling, gluing or wiring whatsoever. This is why portable fish finders are ideal for use in kayaks.
It’s clear that angling from a kayak or small boat has its own unique challenges. You can eliminate the fish finder issue by opting for a portable model. As you can see, there are many affordable models available that are reliable and easy to use. We hope that you’ve been able to glean some valuable knowledge from this article and that now you’re more comfortable with the idea of buying, mounting and using a portable fish finder. If you’ve had success with any of the best portable fish finders mentioned above, or if you have any questions or comments regarding the subject, we’d love to hear from you via the Comments section below.