Charge up your kayak with improved electronics

improved electronics
Upgrading your sonar game will reap dividends in both finding and catching fish this season.

Electronics, battery improvements are basic for paddlers

More than any other month, February is when it’s important to watch the weather and pick the right days to be on the water. Cold, windy or rainy days may not be the best to be on the water. But they are great to be in the shop, garage or fishing cave to work on rigging and upgrading your paddlecraft.

One of the areas that may need your attention is the sonar/electronics department. Don’t have one? You need to get one. Already have one? You need a better one.

As technology undergoes rapid changes, anglers need to keep up — or at least not fall so far behind. Several years ago, kayak anglers believed having a depth finder/sonar unit on a plastic boat was a luxury or even an oddity. But today’s improved electronics are game changers.

Advanced sonar

Other than keeping track of literally everything on the water, the biggest fishing advances in sonar have been real-time scanning to the left, right, down and even forward. One concerns for kayak anglers is where and how to mount the transducer to make these new, directional scanning sonars work properly on a kayak.

Another huge advance in technology when it comes to putting improved electronics on human-powered boats has been in powering the electronics. Typical, 12-volt, deep-cycle batteries take up too much space and severely overload a kayak.

These batteries fit

Fortunately, small, lightweight, rechargeable 12-volt batteries that provide the required amperage of today’s electronics are now available. 

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

Other battery types include nickel cadmium or lithium batteries. These are either seriously more expensive or less user friendly than SLAs.

Transducer Placement

When it became apparent to the sonar-and kayak-manufacturing communities that kayak anglers were becoming as serious about the use of sophisticated sonar units as powerboat anglers, they offered pre-manufactured accessories for rigging and mounting sonar units and transducers.

Before that, a lot of do-it-yourself projects were in order to install the transducer where it would have the required smooth flow of water just below the surface without interfering with the angler’s paddle stroke or scrubbing on the bottom in a shallow-water fishing situation.

Through-hull and scupper-hole mounting systems were first. Next, manufacturers made retractable arms that allowed the angler to move or raise the transducer to keep it from fouling or interfering.

Later, these same challenges surfaced when side-scanning technology required the transducer to be completely submerged and not through-hull mounted.

The latest in sonar reading ­— Garmin’s Livescope, Humminbird MEGA 360, and Lowrance Active Imaging are the top brands. Their improved electronics require the transducer to be mounted at least a few inches below the surface in order to read accurately. Some even have the ability to turn the transducer head left, right or in complete arcs in order to scan areas around the boat.

Although gear-track rails, mounting balls and quick release mounts make the process much easier, it looks like the D-I-Y warriors will be called back into action to attain the correct transducer placement. For those left scratching their heads, thank goodness for You Tube.

Best Bets


WHAT — Crappie

WHERE — Lake Waccamaw

HOW — Drift live minnows under corks around offshore structure.

LAUNCH — Lake Waccamaw State Park on the east side of the lake or NCWRC ramp onthe west bank.

INSIDER TIP  Lake Waccamaw can get bumpy because of the surrounding terrain, which is flat and wide-open. Launch from the side that offers the best protection on windy days.


WHAT — White perch

WHERE — Lake Wateree

HOW — Locate schools of baitfish using sonar or look for surface activity. Vertically jig a ½-ounce gold, white or silver jigging spoon at the level that you mark fish near the bait.

LAUNCH — Nine public ramps are available, along with countless dump-in sites for a kayak. Choose areas that grant close access to open water. See

 INSIDER TIP — Keep a topwater surface lure tied on a spare rod. White perch school early and late or any time baitfish become nervous and rise to the surface.

improved electronicsLowrance Hook-4x

The HOOK-4x combines the benefits of CHIRP Sonar and DownScan imaging technology. This offers a clear and complete view of the underwater environment beneath your boat. Featuring a 4-inch color display, the HOOK-4x is powered by high-performance sonar with enhanced sensitivity, excellent target separation and superior noise rejection. This helps anglers find baitfish and gamefish more easily.

The DownScan Overlay and DownScan Imaging provides a stunning view that separates fish targets from surrounding structure. Scroll back in sonar history to review covered areas and pinpoint spots. With chartplotter models, mark a waypoint with the press of a button.

Advanced Signal Processing reduces manual adjustments to automatically see fish, structure and bottom detail more clearly. An all-new Page Selector allows an easier-to-use menu system with quick access to all features using one-thumb operation.

Supported by Lowrance Advantage Service program and limited one-year warranty.

MSRP is $149

Available at

improved electronics

YakAttack Switchblade

The YakAttack SwitchBlade attaches to either your YakAttack CellBlok, deck mount or on a track system. The Blade minimizes gurgle and resistance, making the SwitchBlade the most-efficient transducer arm on the market. It holds your improved electronics with ease.

The arm folds up compactly. Anglers can cut the length of the customizable arm to fit nearly any kayak.

Unlike other transducer deployment arms, the new SwitchBlade focuses on speed and adjustability. It causes less water turbulence, resulting in a faster and less noisy over-the-side transducer mounting solution. Whether transducer arm is mounted on top of a CellBlok or on your kayak’s gunwale, the depth of the transducer is easily adjustable. This gives you the ability to get the transducer deep enough for your side-scan fish finder. It can be attached to a YakAttack GearTrac or most other kayak track systems.

MSRP is $50.00

Available at



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Phillip Gentry
About Phillip Gentry 769 Articles
Phillip Gentry of Greenville, S.C., is host of “Upstate Outdoors,” a weekly radio show that can be heard on Saturdays at noon on WORD 106.3 FM.

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