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How to Install a Fishfinder on a Kayak

Fishing from a kayak brings many advantages over traditional boats. Kayaks are small, highly maneuverable, and can float in even the shallowest waters. Additionally, folding kayaks can be broken down and carried by hand or even in a backpack, enabling fishermen to easily travel overland in pursuit of the best fishing spot. However, kayaks are not known for being able to accommodate a lot of extras. The limited onboard space, not to mention the single hull and proximity to the water, mean that attaching any accessories is somewhere between difficult and impossible. However, that doesn’t mean that a fisherman will have to give up on using a fishfinder to enhance his fishing experience, only that he will need to choose a fishfinder suitable for the job.

Mounting a fishfinder permanently, or even semi-permanently, on a kayak is difficult at best. While some of the most recent kayaks do include a mounting point, most do not. Additionally, most fishfinders require an external power source, usually a 12V battery – something that doesn’t exist on a kayak. Therefore, before even considering the installation of a fishfinder, it is important to find one that is suitable for mounting on a kayak.


A number of fishfinders on the market today are perfect for kayaks and other small, human-powered watercraft. Such fishfinders are completely waterproof and designed to withstand the bumps and scrapes they will likely encounter on the water. With self-contained batteries and over-the-side or free-floating transcoders, many fishfinders require little to no installation. Even those with semi-permanent installation may require little more than drilling a few holes and driving in a few screws. This makes installing them (and removing them afterward) very easy.

For such installations, it is important to ensure that the kayak will not be harmed. Some kayaks, especially folding kayaks, are subject to ripping, tearing or otherwise having structural damage if holes are drilled. Additionally, fabric covered kayaks don’t really have any good place to mount a stationary object, even if it will be removed when the kayak is not in use. Therefore, a fishfinder with a solid mounting point should only be used on a kayak that is designed for it, ideally one where the engineers who designed it put a place for accessories to be mounted.

Be certain to follow the instructions provided both manufacturers to ensure that you are drilling in the correct place. Use a template before drilling the holes for the hard mount, and be sure that no hard pieces of metal or plastic extend inside the kayak without being covered, as this can result in your pants or legs being cut while you are kayaking. Also make sure that you can easily remove the mount when it is not in use, to prevent it being broken off in storage. If this will not be a problem, it may be wise to use an adhesive to permanently secure the mount, since this eliminates the need to drill holes.

Fortunately, there are many alternatives to these hard mounts. Many units now have suction cups for easy mounting and removal, although this is less than optimal in cold conditions or when traveling over rough water where the device may break loose at an inopportune moment. As such, when chosing such a mount, it is important to consider whether or not the device will break free, and if so, whether or not it can be attached by some means to keep it from going overboard.

One big advantage that kayaks have over traditional boats when it comes to fishfinders is their extremely thin hull. The thin hull eliminates the need to install a transcoder beneath the boat. Instead it can simply be mounted securely inside the boat, and permitted to emit and receive soundwaves through the hull. This is particularly true in the case of collapsing kayaks and fabric kayaks. Alternatively, many transcoders can simply be placed overboard and permitted to run as you fish, and due to the slow-moving nature of kayaks when compared with motored craft, it is even possible to continue using these devices when the kayak is in motion.

Advances in technology have eliminated the need for a mounted unit entirely. Multiple companies now produce fishfinders designed to float independently outside the boat, usually on a line, and then communicate wirelessly to a cell phone or other handset in the boat. While this does necessitate a waterproof case should you choose to use your phone as the receiver, it means that the only “installation” is remembering to tie it to your boat so it doesn’t float away. While these transceivers do tend to have lower resolutions than high-powered, permanently mounted units, they offer more than enough for kayakers who need to see what is beneath them in terms of aquatic wildlife.

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