by John Neporadny Jr.
The best location for placing large screen electronics is along the gunnel next to the driver’s console.
If you are as mechanically disabled as I am, your best bet for installing your newly purchased electronics is to take the units to your favorite marine dealer.
Electronics on the front deck should be located in a spot offering an unobstructed view.
However if you have some basic handyman skills then installing your own units will save you some bucks and allow you to place the wiring and units exactly in preferred locations. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (to install electronics),” says Jim Edlund, a Humminbird spokesman who installs all the units on his boat. “Anybody with just a little bit of mechanical aptitude can do it.”
Edlund believes it is easier to solve problems later if you install the units yourself or at least watch the installer do it. “Whenever it is possible it is a good idea to actually look over the shoulder of the installer,” he says. “If you rig the boat yourself, you can troubleshoot the unit easier when it goes down.”
All units come with an owner’s manual that provides instructions on how to install the various electronics. There are also several videos on You Tube showing how to install and operate electronics. Installation and operating tips for Humminbird units are available by going to You Tube and subscribing to the Humminbird TV channel, according to Bill Carson, Humminbird field marketing manager.
The positioning of the units on the front deck or the console is usually a matter of personal preference. Some boat manufacturers have space on the front deck to flush mount smaller units, which gives you more space on the front deck. If the flush mount option is unavailable, then you should place the unit a good distance from the trolling motor and its steering cable so you will have a clear view of the unit.
Garmin spokesman Weston Owen notes most crappie tournament anglers prefer placing their smaller 8-inch units on the front deck and the larger 10- to 12-inch units on the driver’s console. Some of the larger units can be flush mounted on the console, but the largest side imaging units usually have to be mounted on the gunnel next to the console.
Smaller electronics can be installed with the original mounting brackets, but larger units require RAM Mounts to eliminate vibration during rough rides. Lowrance Product Manager Lucas Steward recommends using RAM Mounts with 2 1/4-inch ball mounts for units with 9- to 12-inch screens. Edlund suggests Humminbird 700, 800 and 900 series units can be flush mounted into the console, but the 1100 series has to be placed on the gunnel with a 2 ¼-inch ball mount RAM Mount. You can also place a 900 unit on the gunnel with a 2 1/4-inch ball mount. More information about RAM Mounts is available at their website.
There are a few pitfalls to avoid when wiring electronics on your boat. Humminbird’s Carson warns that you should avoid running transducer cables in the same wire chase as the trolling motor to prevent possible interference. He suggests you should also never wire your unit into a switch attached to a motor such as a livewell aerator, which could cause some feedback and lead to interference.
Mounting the transducer is probably the trickiest step in the installation process of your units. Mounting the front transducer to the trolling motor is a simple process but the installation of the rear transducer requires more time and attention to details. Edlund suggests dedicating a whole day to this phase of the installation process to make sure you take your time and do it right.
Location, location, location. That is the key to mounting your rear transducer. On fiberglass boats, Edlund advices placing the sonar transducer puck inside the bottom of the boat in an area that will have an unobstructed path to ping the bottom and provide a clear reading. The sonar transducer mounted inside the hull of your fiberglass boat allows you to use your sonar while running at high speeds.
When installing a sonar puck inside your fiberglass boat, make sure to use a good sealer. I remember when the digital bottom readout stopped working on my Humminbird 797, a Humminbird expert determined that my sonar transducer inside my Ranger bass boat had popped loose. He determined that the installer had not used the right adhesive on my sonar puck which caused it to break loose during some rough rides. Bill Carson suggests mounting the puck with a fiberglass resin rather than glue, which tends to contain more bubbles.
Sonar transducers for aluminum boats have to be mounted outside the boat since the sonar waves are unable to penetrate aluminum. Side imaging transducers also have to be mounted on the outside of the boat whether it’s a fiberglass or aluminum model.
Carson recommends finding a protected spot on the boat’s stern to mount the transducer. “You want to look up under the boat and make sure there are no rivets or a livewell intake or something that is going to create back-and-forth turbulence and cause the transducer to lose the bottom or not have as good of a signal as possible at low speeds when you are using the side imaging and the down imaging,” he said. The Humminbird expert suggests mounting the transducer at the lowest point of the boat’s stern.
Since the outboard motor can cause some interference with your electronics, Edlund advises placing your transducer as far away as possible from the engine. Carson notes you can position the transducer puck closer to the engine if your outboard is mounted on a jackplate. However on boats with smaller engines mounted straight to the transom it is best to place the transducer farther from the motor.
Once properly positioned and installed, your electronics will give you underwater details and mapping to find crappie every time you are on the water. Now you just need to figure out a way to catch those fish you see on the screen.