Electronics for Aluminum Boats –Part 2 Placement, Installation and Transducer Protection
The two basic reasons anglers give for choosing an aluminum boat are durability and cost savings. Those same notions should apply to choosing and installing electronics. Once you have gone through the tedious task of finding the perfect electronics for your style of fishing the next important task is installation.
Sam Heaton, saltwater field promotion manager for Johnson Outdoors, breaks the topic of electronics installation into four main categories. “Anglers need to consider monitor placement, transducer installation, transducer protection and overall security of their units.”
Screen placement and size is a personal choice that compliments the way you use your electronics. In most cases the monitor is placed in the dash, on the dash or off to the side on a gimbal mount. It should be easily seen from a driving position to make navigation as easy as possible. These positions also make for efficient use of side and down imaging while cruising and looking for suspended crappie. The size of the unit should be a large as fits your budget.
If you fish in tight places mount your monitor accordingly. “I advise anglers to mount their electronics on an aluminum boat inside the gunnels,” says Heaton. “You don’t want a lot of stuff sticking out over the edge. Some of these aluminum boats give access to fishing areas not normally accessible to fiberglass boats. I don’t recommend letting it stick out over the gunnels where it could be knocked off or damaged.”
Heaton also recognizes that aluminum boats transfer a little more noise than the fiberglass boats. “I am talking about vibrations and noises that occur where something is fastened to the boat,” explains Heaton. “My solution is to insulate my electronics with a piece of gasket material. It needs to be something rubbery. That simple step stops a lot of the vibration, a lot of that noise transfer.”
The most significant decision after purchasing electronics is where to mount the transducer. “One of the most important things I see with aluminum boats and electronics is the transducer placement,” instructs Heaton.
Monitor size and placement is a personal choice that should compliment the way you fish. The monitor on this aluminum boat is placed up front with the transducer on the trolling motor.
“On an aluminum boat you can’t shoot thru the hull and there is no dedicated area for the transducer. So what you do is put the transducer on the transom. Transom placement gets you away from as much turbulence as you can.”
Dr. Jason Halfen agrees. Halfen owns and operates The Technological Angler (www.thetechnologicalangler.com) where he uses his expertise to advise anglers on use and installation of their onboard technology.
The transducer on this G3 aluminum boat is installed using a Transducer Shield Saver Spring Back Mount. Photo TJ Stallings
“It is important to ensure smooth delivery of water to the face of the transducer under all operating conditions and speeds,” advises Halfen. “On an aluminum boat, it’s best to install the transducer on the transom in an area that avoids anything that can disrupt the smooth flow of water that transducers require.”
“Installation is easiest on a boat with a welded hull,” continues Halfen. “It can be a challenge on a riveted hull. You must find an area with the smallest number of rivets in front of the transducer installation area. Additionally, it’s important to avoid areas with ribs or strakes on the hull, in front of where the transducer will go. Remember, the goal is a smooth flow of water that washes over the transducer when the boat is underway.”
Transducer alignment is another important part of installation. “Most anglers do a good job of rigging their transducer level to the ground when the boat is on the trailer,” observes Halfen. “However, since many aluminum boats are lighter than their fiberglass counterparts, many tend to list by a few degrees when the boat is in the water. That small list can dramatically impact transducer performance, especially with a Side Imaging transducer.”
Halfen has a simple solution. “I recommend that aluminum boat owners level their transducers to the waterline or ‘scum line’ that likely exists across their transom. That waterline will demonstrate the long-term list tendencies of their boat, based on load and ride characteristics. If the transducer is made level to that waterline, it is more likely to meet the angler’s performance expectations.”
A large monitor is a big advantage. This one includes a quick release bracket that allows the monitor to be removed easily to prevent theft when the boat is unattended.
A final tip on installation is to never ground to the boat and always install a fuse to protect the electronics. Ground wires should hook to the battery or a common grounding block if available. “Bad connections can starve the unit for power,” explains Heaton. “When that happens you will get erratic readings. It will show interference, it will lose signal. It may do a lot of undesirable things.”
Transducer Protection and Performance
Since the transducer and its placement are the most important factors in good working electronics every effort should be taken to protect the transducer. There are new products on the market to do just that while improving performance.
A variety of products are available from Transducer Shield and Saver (http://www.transducershieldandsaver.com). Their construction of high strength aluminum safeguards transducers from impact damage and won’t interfere with the transducer signal.
These innovative products are the brainchild of Scap Cicero. “Manufacturers have included mounting hardware with their products from the start,” says Cicero. “What they haven’t done is improve them. That is my passion. I want the electronics to be protected and perform better because of my inventions.”
One of the most popular products is Cicero’s Spring Back Bracket. As the name implies it will return the transducer to its original position after being lifted by a submerged object. It uses a double tension spring to immediately return the transducer once force is released.
Other Transducer Shield and Saver products can be combined with the spring back model to add side protection as well. To angler’s benefit, all the products are designed for easy do-it-yourself installation.
Being a fisherman himself steered Cicero to design products that would enhance angler experiences on the water. Since many crappie anglers mount a transducer on their trolling motor, so the display can be up front where they are spider rigging, he designed a product for them. His design reduces debris collection while keeping the transducer positioned correctly on the motor. The sleek hydrodynamic design cuts through the water and improves trolling motor performance while giving the best sonar signal possible.
Traditional thinking identifies the transom as the logical location for a transducer. Cicero, however, noticing that many of today’s boats have jack plates installed, found a better way. He developed products to mount directly to the jack plates. Jack plate installation gives a turbulence free mount and eliminates the need to drill holes in the boat while still protecting the transducer.
Many aluminum boats do not have the option of mounting the electronics in the console, making them prone to theft. Heaton recommends mounting with a pop off bracket. “I suggest that anglers use a quick release bracket. You can just pop the unit out of the bracket and store the head in a safe place. You don’t want to leave much on the boat for a thief to steal.”
Another option is to use a ram mount or a BalZout mount. Heaton says you want something that allows for quick removal from the boat.”
“On aluminum boats the transducer is normally mounted on the back of the boat. That means every thing you see is history. The brush, the ledge, and the fish that you see on the monitor is all going to be behind you. Even though the image is history, those fish you see are in your future because of properly installed modern electronics.”