The Electronic Angler/ part five "Installing a fish finder on your kayak"

Part Five "Installing a Fish Finder on your kayak"

Installing electronics on your kayak can be intimidating for the first timer. In the fifth installment of this series I want to discuss some of the ins and outs of performing  this task yourself and some of the considerations to keep in mind when doing this install.

Does size or cost really matter:
This will be debated till the end of time, Here I will just give you my opinion. For most kayaks and Anglers it is not nearly as much about the size of the screen as it is about having a useful, accurate tool that you can depend on to give you information to catch more fish. Lets face it, technology has come light years in just a couple of years. You can now get a color, high resolution screen, broadband sonar with GPS/Chart plotter for the same amount of money that a sorry grey scale unit with poor resolution with no other features would have cost you five years ago. People were using those inferior units and successfully catching fish back then. Do I need to be able to see if a fish has an "I love mom" tattoo above his right fin to catch him? It really is about learning to interpret what you are seeing. One thing I will submit here is if you are regularly fishing unfamiliar waters or fish big water a unit with GPS is an incredible tool. Other than that you really do not need an electronics array like a modern battleship, we're hunting fish not enemy submarines.

When installing a fish finder or combo unit on your yak you need to be sure of the location. What I mean by this is when sitting in your seat; can you reach, see and adjust comfortably? Some kayaks are limited in locations that a unit may be mounted and if you have to lean too much to adjust, you may find yourself upside down one day. Also if you have a combo unit with GPS/ Chart Plotter You will be switching screens more and playing with the many more features that your unit can do. At the same time you want to make sure that the placement of your unit will not interfere with a full paddle stroke.

On pedal driven kayaks I prefer to install on the Gunnel within easy reach. This is accomplished by using factory installed rails or aftermarket rails on the gunnel. The Lowrance Elite series are awesome in this aspect as you are able to replace the factory mount completely with a Ram replacement the attaches directly to your track. Others may be mounted on a board that attaches to the track with track hardware.

On paddle kayaks you can use the dash board method (personally I don't like this one because it clutters my cockpit and creates more snag issues), or you can mount on center hatch for those kayaks with Pod type access to your hull between your legs, however once again you have a cluttered cockpit again, making it hard for you to get in and out of your yak because you have to swing your leg over your unit not to mention hard to re enter your yak in deep water self rescue.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea, make sure that the location and method that you chose to use allows easy access, doesn't clutter your cockpit and cause difficulty when fishing.

Transducer deployment:
This is another area where there is some differing opinions as to the best place and method to mount your transducer.
Scupper hole mount: Personally I do not like the scupper hole mount, with the exception of the Lowrance/ Hobie system; The transducer is covered and above the line of the hull. Some kayaks are molded with a scupper hole that is designed to hold a certain Manufacturers unit. Whether that be Lowrance, Hummingbird or Raymarine, the size and method of securing my transducer to the scupper hole may be limited if I wanted to use a unit other than the kayak was designed to take.
Shoot through hull mounting: This method is best if you are just using a traditional sonar. This method requires that you glue your transducer on the inside of your hull and the signal is transmitted through your hull. I prefer this method as it allows me to have a nice clean install with minimal wire and clutter in my cockpit. Where this becomes a problem is when you use a Down scan or image unit as the signal is degraded in these type of units when shooting through the hull and will work better with the transducer in the water. Side scan also needs to be in the water.
Transducer deployment arm: This method uses a mechanical arm to hang your transducer over the side of your kayak into the water. A ram ball and clamp arm can also be fashioned to hang your transducer off the gunnel or stern of your kayak. However always be sure that you are not drilling holes below the water line.

Passing wires through hull:
To install your transducer in the hull and or place your battery inside your hull you will need to pass your wires from the outside into the inside of your kayak. No reasonable kayaker would want an open hole in their kayak that will allow water to enter the kayaks hull. So any pass through of wires must be sealed. There are plenty of decent wire seals on the market that will allow you to pass your wires through your hull and seal them up. You will just have to get over your fear of drilling 1 inch holes in your kayak. The alternative is having about six feet of transducer cable and a battery in your cockpit.

Most people have been using a 12 volt Sealed Lead Acid battery that is commonly used as an alarm system battery back up. Today They have AGM batteries which cost a little more and don't really have any more life or do not save on weight either. I get asked all the time about what size battery to use and this is just a general guide line. For the regular color four inch screen I always recommend a 8 to 10 amp hour battery. If you step up to a 5" or 7" screen it will draw more power. I would opt for the 10 to 12 amp hour battery. If you are also running lights or other accessories then I would opt for a 12 to 14 amp hour battery. You can pick up these at any batteries plus bulbs store.

My Dad always said to "measure ten times and cut once, No matter how many times you cut that board it will still be too short" That's  kind of the idea here, to be darn sure where and how you want to attach and deploy your electronics to your kayak before you actually do it. Sit in it, paddle it and simulate all conditions before actually drilling your first hole.

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