Back in the day rigging a walleye fishing boat used to take me a few hours and a few bucks in wire, electrical connectors and basic hand tools. Today the “wiring” scene on a typical fishing boat is anything but simple.
My 2018 Starcraft STX 2050 is equipped with a Lowrance Carbon 12 inch, 9 inch and 7 inch sonar/GPS unit, MotorGuide Gateway system, a VHF radio, a Fish Hawk depth/temperature/speed probe, electric Cisco downriggers, a Pinpoint guided MotorGuide electric motor, Evinrude ICON digital gauge package, an electric start Evinrude kicker motor and a digital throttle control on that kicker motor. Collectively the amp draw on my cranking battery(s) is substantial and we’re talking about a lot of power leads and connections that must be made to fire up all this “electronic stuff”.
The logical place to start understanding how to wire all these electronic fishing gadgets is to first understand the amp draw needed to run this stuff. I rig my boats with not one, but two 850 cold cranking amp marine batteries wired in parallel so that the voltage remains at 12 volt, but the available amps is doubled. It’s easy to accomplish this by simply wiring a jumper wire from the negative to the negative terminal of both batteries and also a second jumper wire from the positive to the positive terminal of both batteries. Rigged in this manner I have the “power” to run not only all the electronic gear mentioned above, but also to power up livewell pumps, bilge pumps, recirculation systems, wash down pumps, navigation lights and even the 12 volt jack that allows me to charge my cell phone on the water!
In addition, I’ve rigged three 31 group deep cycle batteries to power up the 36 volt electric motor. These batteries are supported with a built-in waterproof 15 amp charging system. Nothing else is wired to the electric motor batteries except the electric motor, charging system and the gauges that allow me to monitor how much juice each battery contains.
In my humble opinion no matter how big or small your boat might be, the only logical choice for batteries is the “go big or go home” theory. You’re never going to fret over having too much battery juice, but not having enough will literally ruin your day!!
I also feel strongly that the best value in boat batteries are ordinary lead acid type models. Jell batteries are far more expensive and the only real benefit is they take a charge more quickly than lead acid batteries. In the end, both are going to have a limited lifespan and will need replacing about the same time. The point is, why pay more for battery technology that makes only a minor difference in day to day use.
Depending on how much you fish, a good set of boat batteries should last about three years. Anything more is a gift from the battery Gods.
All of the electronic gear outlined here is wired directly to the power source and includes an appropriate sized in-line fuse. Also every lead is clearly marked as to what it powers, which makes a huge difference when trouble shooting issues.
Dedicating power leads to electronics makes it easy to see what power lead is powering what device. If that device won’t power up, nine times out of 10 the fuse has blown and can be easily traced and replaced. If the unit still won’t power up, the problem is with either the battery itself or the terminal connections.
I never, never, never recommend wiring a piece of electronics to one of the power or accessory switches on a fishing boat. Usually these switches are controlled by inexpensive fuse blocks that are routinely a pain to locate and reset as needed. Also the press fit electrical connectors used on most marine switches are notorious for rattling loose and creating problems at the worst possible times.
One of the best ways to rig power cords in a fishing boat is to start with double insulated wire like the kind typically used to replace power cords on power tools. Using double insulated wire virtually eliminates any issues with shorts caused when a wire coating wears thin or cracks. Using double insulated wire also helps to reduce interference issues caused by routing various power leads in a limited space.
Double insulated wire is also easier to snake through the bowels of a fishing boat and produces a clean and professional rigging job.
DOUBLE CHECKING CONNECTIONS
Hooking up electronics is essentially a matter of just using electrical connectors to match up the positive and negative leads. If a problem is going to occur it is almost always associated with the electrical connector.
Butt style connectors are fine, but after crimping them tug firmly on the wire ends to be sure the connection is solid. Next take a little electrical tape and tape every single connection to prevent oxygen and moisture from getting to the wire and creating corrosion.
The final steps in wiring all these fishing accessories is to test everything to be sure it is working properly before stowing the wires. Once it is confirmed that all the electrical accessories are working, the final step is to wrap up extra wire and using electrical tape or wire ties, secure them neatly. Now that the electrical wires are properly stowed, replace any observation covers or hatches removed during the wiring process.
Wiring a multi-species fishing boat is a lot of work, but the end result is a fishing boat that will provide trouble free service day in and day out.