Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time fiddling around with fish finders and chartplotters – they’re a critical part of my guiding and overall success as a kayak fisherman. In recent years I’ve been fortunate enough to join the Lowrance Prostaff Team and become an authorized dealer, which has given me even greater access to knowledge and equipment.
In this blog I want to talk about the Lowrance Elite Series of fish finders and chartplotters. These products have been around for ages, and us kayak fishermen know them for being rugged, good quality, and above all reasonably priced. I’d even go out on a limb and claim that they’re the most popular fish finders on the New Zealand market. Now as there are a few sizes of them, and as the technology is still evolving, I just wanted to bring you up to speed on what’s available and why I’d recommend it. Just as an extra note before I start, many people don't realise that the Lowrance products are designed and tested here in NZ...I've seen them doing it. I think it's great to know that they are designed by Kiwi's for our conditions. Just sayin.
RRP $199 or $249
Transducer - 83/200kHz ($199) or 455/800kHz ($249)
Chartplotter option – nill
Screen size – 3.5inch (89mm)
This little unit is relatively new on the market and is rapidly finding favour with us kayak fishermen. Being both small and cheep it’s a great option for entry level kayakers who just want something to do the job – finding fish arches and reading the depth when softbaiting. The price is also very attractive for us budget conscious fishermen, and as one of my customers pointed out “if I break it I’ll just buy a new one at that price!”
Tim’s Tip: consider this unit if you are purchasing a small kayak that has limited space e.g. the Viking Espri Angler.
RRP $249 (fish finder only)
Chartplotter option $549 w. Navionics charts
Screen size – 4.3inch (109mm)
The Elite-4 has been the kayaking fishing standard ever since it first came out and it would easily be my biggest seller. It’s a small unit that packs a lot of technology in, and now that it comes standard with CHIRP, it’s got even better in my opinion. The 4 inch screen is about as small as I’d personally like to go, and while it has the option of running two or even three split screens at one time, I think it’s best suited to operating on it’s own as either a chartplotter or a fish finder i.e. navigate to your favourite spot with the chartplotter and once you’re there switch over to the fish finder mode.
When searching for fish, the Elite-4 has the option of running different sounder frequencies. The average kayak fisherman will just leave it in one and learn to read that, but I’d highly recommend playing around and getting to know the different options – the High CHIRP option is great in shallow water!
Tim’s Tip: the chartplotter option is highly desirable in my opinion. Yes it doubles the price, but I wouldn’t want to be without my favourite spots these days, so for the sake of a few extra bucks I can guarantee that I’m fishing in a location that I know holds fish. Combined with the Navionics charts, you’ve now got technology that takes you from “hoping for the best”; to “I’m a hunter”.
RRP $649 (fish finder only)
Chartplotter option $949 w. Navionics charts
Screen size – 5inch (127mm)
The Elite-5 is the first of the real big-boy fish finders, and incidentally it was the first one that I ever owned. With a 5 inch screen I believe it’s probably the smallest size that I’d want to go if I was running split-screens e.g. a fish finder and chartplotter at the same time. For me this is a reality on all of my fishing trips as I like to navigate straight to my favourite spot, but keep an eye out for fish life/structure as I paddle along – this is often how I discover new spots!
Tim’s Tip: this unit is perfect if you’re wanting something to upgrade from a cheaper/smaller fish finder, to something with all the bells and whistles. It’s a natural progression for people who’ve previously had an Elite-3 or 4, but don’t have the room on their kayak to go up to the bigger Elite-7 e.g. on a Vikign Profish 400.
RRP $999 (fish finder only)
Chartplotter option $1399 w. Navionics charts
Screen size – 7inch (178mm)
The Elite-7 has to be my favourite fish finder of all time. I’ve had three of them over the years, and while I’ve since upgraded to the HDS-7 TOUCH, I still have a soft spot for it. Why…because it works!
The 7-inch screen is about as big as I’d ever want to go on a kayak due to the width, weight, and power requirements. I found it amazing while I was guiding because it just gave so more of an overall picture, which allowed me to really dial in on the fish for the customers. I normally ran it with three screens – the chartplotter, High CHIRP, and 200kHz. The 200kHz frequency is very basic in comparison to the CHIRP, but I just really like it because of its simplicity and the extra knowledge it gave me when reading fish sign.
Tim’s Tip: if you’re purchasing one of the bigger fishing kayaks and like your toys, then the Elite-7 CHIRP is the one for you. Passing boaties and all of your friends will be jealous, and the added size will dramatically increase your ability to find and catch fish. I also think the chartplotter option is amazing value…considering it was up around 2K a few years ago!
Lowrance Elite-9 CHIRP
RRP $1749 (fish finder only)
Chartplotter option $2099 w. Navionics charts
Screen size – 9inch (229mm)
The Elite-9 is a unit that I’ve not personally had much to do with, as I don’t think it’s really suitable for fishing kayaks due to its size. However I just thought I’d make a quick mention of it because there’s bound to be someone who “wants the biggest”.
To put it simply, this thing is huge. It runs the exact same technology as all of the other Elite series fish finders, with the only difference being the screen size. About the only reason why I’d recommend this unit for a kayak is if you’re blind as a bat and can’t seen any of the other screens.
ConclusionsI hope the above info helps you out when you're looking to purchase your next fish finder. I'd like to point out that I haven't really discussed any of the technology in these units e.g. what CHIRP actually is, so I'll do that in a future post as it's a big topic on it's own. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you want some more info or advice.
Paddle Hard, Tim.