SLH have been installing fish finders onto kayaks ever since installing fish finders onto kayaks became a thing and we've learned a thing or two along the way. Read on for a summary of everything you need to know about installing a fish finder to your kayak: power supplies and mounting equipment, installation methods and optional accessories
Choosing a Fish Finder for your kayak
Advice we constantly give our customers - especially beginners - is that 'less is more'. This kayak fishing truism is especially relevant when it comes to fish finders. Kayaks are relatively small vessels and deck room and weight carrying capacity is limited, therefore not only will a smaller unit add less weight and bulk it also means you'll get away with smaller lighter mount and power supply. Obviously not all fishing kayaks are equal and larger models like Pro Angler and Outback will support larger units comfortably, but most users are better off leaning towards a smaller and lighter unit. Fortunately fish finder technology has come a long way in recent years and even the smaller less expensive models offer great features and reliability and are well suited to most kayak fishing applications.
Because we specialize in Hobie kayaks and because most Hobie kayak models are supplied with Lowrance-Ready transducer scuppers we generally advocate Lowrance fish finder units, simply because they are generally the easiest to install. The most popular models we sell currently are the Lowrance Hook2 4x and Hook2 5x units. They are inexpensive, great quality, compact and don't require a lot of power to run all day long. Users who really want down-scan functionality will need the Hook2 5x, but for sure the Hook2 4 is the best bang-for-buck sounder Lowrance have ever made for kayaks.
Lowrance Hook2 4x
Lowrance Hook2 5x
Fish Finder Mounting Systems
Most fish finder units do come with a mounting system, although they don't usually work where people like to install them onto kayaks, which is where 3rd party mounting brackets can come in handy. There are various types available with the most popular options for kayak anglers being RAM and Railblaza systems. In the majority of cases we mount sounder units to kayaks using the time-proven RAM mounts, but Railblaza have released some new mounting systems recently that are worth considering to. RAM's simple ball-and-socket system is reliable, modular, versatile and offers almost unlimited mounting options onto rails, tracks and flat surfaces. There are two sizes commonly used; 1 inch (most commonly used for smaller units) and 1.5 inch (most commonly used for larger units) with various fitting options available in both sizes. Railblaza uses a clever starport mounting system that also has many base mounting options available.
Deck Mounted Bases
Depending on where you plan to mount your fish finder you will need select an appropriate base for the socket arm to attach to. Many kayak anglers will choose a deck mount base (the least expensive option), such as the RAM 1" diamond base ball or RAM 1.5" squared base ball that is bolted to the deck. Popular Railblaza base deck mount options include the Railblaza HD Starport, Round Starport and Sideport.
Track Mounted Bases
Kayaks that feature a built in track are better off to use a track mounted base, as these don't have to be permanently attached and offer the ability to move the position of the unit. Options from RAM and Railblaza include:
Hobie H-Rail Bases
Hobie Pro Angler and Outback models come with factory fitted H-Rails, but it is not uncommon for owners of other kayaks to bolt on H-Rail kits to their yak. There are RAM and Railblaza H-Rail options available:
Socket and Adapter
Once you've determined which base mount will best suit your installation needs you can then choose a socket and adapter to suit. Obviously if you are using a RAM base you'll want to look at the options from RAM. If you're more of a Railblaza kind of guy there are a few options there to.
Small Lowrance Hook 2 RAM Mount (1 inch socket)
Large Lowrance Hook 2 Series Mount (1.5" socket)
RAM Universal Electronics Mount (for larger units)
Railblaza R-Lock Universal Sounder Mount (Larger units)
Fish Finder Power Supply
While there are still yak anglers out there using small lead acid batteries to power their fish finder units, we are huge advocates for FPV Lithium Kayak Fishing Batteries as a power source (due to their light weight, compact size, suitability for use in kayaks and value for money) and offer 7 and 17AH options. These are supplied with a charger and pigtail which will suit most installation scenarios, but long pigtails are available as an optional extra (for instances where the battery is being mounted in the rear hatsh) as well as a double pigtail for instances where extra devices such as safety lights or Power Poles are also being used.
For most users the 7AH model will be sufficient. It will power most modestly sized sounder units for a full days fishing session. For anyone trying to get a whole weekends fishing from a single charge and or using larger units and or multiple devices should invest in the 17AH version.
There are several options for storing batteries into kayaks and two options we use for FPV Lithium batteries. The BerleyPro Batterang system (pictured above) is a great option if you intend to store the battery into the rear hatch of your Hobie kayak.
Alternatively, our Trem clip system is ideal if you want to mount the battery to the sail mast receiver tube in the bow of your kayak. Both options work really well
If you're still using one of the 8 / 9AH lead acid batteries and need a means of storing it into an 8" Twist & Stow hatch, Hobie have you covered with the 12v battery holder
Thru-Hull Wiring Kits
Hobie's thru-hull wiring kits are typically used for passing power and transducer wires through the hull. They include rubber grommets with various pass-thru hull patterns that will accommodate the vast majority of installation requirements. While these kits are commonly used with Hobie fishing kayaks they are also used by many users on various other brands of kayaks as well. There are two types available. The standard thru-hull wiring kit contains two single cord thru-hull plugs and the 3-way wiring kit is supplied with a single 3-way thru-hull plug, which makes it easier to pass through multiple wires with a single plug.
Berleypro Transducer Covers
Berleypro also make some protective covers for larger transducers and these are compatible with the Lowrance Ready system (replacing the standard transducer cover plate to accommodate the larger transducer units. We stock several types, the most popular of which work with Lowrance Totalscan and Tripleshot units. Hobie would suggest that these aren't required if you have a Hobie kayak with a Guardian Transducer mounting system (2019+ Outback and Pro Angler models).
Internally Mounted Transducers
If you don't have a transducer scupper on your kayak then you're probably going to have to install the transducer internally. This is a fairly common approach and it does work out OK if done well. This typically involves glueing in a foam pad for the transducer (we recommend Marine Goop for this) and then glueing the transducer into the foam pad, also using Marine Goop (as opposed to silicon or Selley's All-Clear). Goop binds better than silicon but unlike Selley's All-clear, won't make it impossible to uninstall the transducer if you have to.
Rudder Mounted Tranducer
Hobie's 'Rudder Ready' Transducer installation kit allows you to mount a transducer to the twist & stow rudder as used on most Hobie kayak models. It's a convenient alternative method of mounting a transducer for users who really want an externally fitted transducer
Popular Accessories for Kayak Fish Finders
We've covered all the essentials above, but there are also some optional accessories that are popular for use with kayak anglers. Most notably are the BerleyPro Fish Finder visors. We stock visors for a variety of units, including the aforementioned Lowrance Hook 2 models
Cost of installing Fish Finders onto Kayaks
To be completely honest, installing a fish finder onto a kayak isn't usually terribly challenging to do (this is especially true of Hobie kayaks with transducer scuppers) and many people are happy to take it on themselves. It's more time consuming than it is challenging. If you've got the inclination to DIY, more power to you, and we've got your back on everything you need to get it done. Hopefully some of the information above can help take some of the guess work out of it for you, and consulting the Youtube oracles is likely to be helpful as well. But if you'd rather not try and figure it all out yourself SLH can get it done, and get it done good!
We're especially handy at fitting fish finders into Hobie kayaks and thanks to Hobie's Lowrance-Ready and Guardian Transducer Scupper systems, we get great results every time. We take various approaches to installations and some people are surprised to learn it's not really a simple plug and play affair and that there is a few pieces to the puzzle. There's no single silver-bullet solution that suits every scenario. The kayak model and sounder type we are working with can dictate how we go about it, as well as the transducer type and battery mounting options available. Fortunately there's more than one way to skin a cat so we haven't yet met a kayak we couldn't install a fish finder onto.
If you've read this far you now know there are so many variables when it comes to fitting a fish finder into a kayak that we really need to know what we are working with before providing an accurate quote for installing a fish finder. It all depends on the kayak in question and which sounder, power supply, mounts and install method is being employed. Complete installations of fish finders including the sounder unit, mounts, power supply and miscellaneous hardware used in the install process start at around $540 (Hook 2-4x & 7AH FPV Battery).