The rise in popularity of kayaks in the angling world was originally thought to be a traditional movement, similar to hunters who put down their guns and picked up recurve bows. However, similar to archery hunting, technology in today’s modern world is hard to repress. The introduction of the basic compound platform has led to countless innovations, and it’s incredibly tongue-in-cheek to classify today’s archery society as primitive-weapon hunters. So it goes with most modern paddling anglers.

An impromptu Facebook survey asking what kind of sonar/depth finder anglers have mounted on their plastic boats and a few words about the kind of power plant running it resulted in some interesting responses.

At the bottom of the technology chart were human instinct, a 6-foot paddle and a lead weight on a rope, revealing that the spirit of traditional fishing methodology is still alive and well — at least according to the internet.

At the upper end of the chart were some state-of-the-art sonar/GPS units that would make any powerboat angler envious. Fishermen are using the latest and greatest units from Lowrance, Garmin, and Humminbird, including HD units with built-in GPS, down-imaging, and side-imaging capabilities. A common thread was that most units are either 5- or 7-inch models. This makes sense, because the angler is physically located closer to the screen on a kayak than in a powerboat and space is at a premium. 

Placement of the transducer is another consideration for paddling anglers. Sit-on-top models with scupper holes provide ideal locations for mounting the transducer without drilling additional holes. Another popular option is to mount the transducer on a retractable arm that when deployed will extend just below the bottom of the hull to allow for clear signal reading, especially with the side-imaging units.

If you think about it, using deep-water fishing electronics as a guide is still deep-water fishing, whether you are standing on the deck of a boat or sitting in a kayak. Advanced kayak anglers often choose to mount the transducer on the side of the hull they cast on and keep track of their bait as it is presented within the transducer cone. Mark the structure, mark the fish, drop the bait down and watch it all unfold on the screen. 

The trend among many kayak manufacturers is to include tracks for mounting accessories. An all-in-one platform that incorporates a mount for the unit and a base to attach the retractable transducer arm is very convenient, especially if the system must be removed while transporting or storing the boat. However, watch your budget on those items, as the individual components can damage your bank account at $25 and $50 a pop.  

In a typical trailered, powerboat scenario, electronics, lights, even a stereo can be powered by a 12-volt, deep-cycle with an average weight of about 50 pounds. The battery is frequently charged by the alternator on the motor. None of this scenario works for a kayak. So ditch the lights and stereo — or find alternate power supplies — and concentrate on a small, lightweight, rechargeable 12-volt battery that will provide the required amperage for today’s electronics units: somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 to 800 mA. 

Without getting into a technical discussion about amps-per-hour-x-work load, suffice to say that a 12-volt battery system capable of running a median power-consuming unit would range somewhere between a lawn tractor battery at 225 cold-cranking amps to a rechargeable, sealed lead-acid battery. Primary differences are that the lawn tractor battery isn’t designed to be re-charged, can cause nasty acid situations if it tips over, and weighs around 10 pounds.

The state-of-the-art lead-acid battery is the valve-regulated type (sometimes called “sealed” or maintenance-free), which fixes the acid electrolyte in a gel or in an absorptive fiberglass mat. The advantage of this SLA design is that the battery needs no water additions, can be operated in any position and can be used in close proximity to people and sensitive equipment.  

From the survey, the most-popular angler choice was a SLA 8ah battery, which will run a high powered unit for 10 to 12 hours. Depending on where you purchase each, the SLA costs about the same as a lawn tractor battery, is smaller in dimension and weighs about half. 

A few words about wiring a kayak are in order, since there is the transducer cable from the unit to the transducer and the battery cable from the battery to the unit to consider. Fortunately, most modern kayaks provide enough storage that a small SLA battery can be tucked away and wires can be run through the interior of the craft to leave the deck and fishing areas free of potential snags and tangles with hooks and fishing line. Even if the unit is removed when not in use, quick connects on the wiring cables will not require the paddler to re-rout the wiring and it can be left in place with clips or zip ties, even when the boat is in storage.

All things considered, a day of sight-fishing the shoreline from a simple paddle boat might be more relaxing, but the advances in technology make it hard to sleep at night not knowing what’s lurking beneath the boat the next time you hit the water.