Boat Rigging Part 4: Electronics Wiring

Running wires and creating connections yourself will help you isolate a problem down the road if one arises.

Fishing electronics have come a long way in the last few years. Current models have touch screen technology, radar options, satellite weather and resemble small TV sets as much as anything. While this technology and convenience offer highly valuable information for every angler, in order to take advantage of it you need to have them rigged properly.

A battle seems to rage between electronics and boat manufacturers on which is the most effective way to rig each unit. For years, I have run my electronic cables directly to the battery because I find it easier to diagnosis a problem if one occurs. If you choose to connect your electronics from a “hot wire” that is pre-installed at your console, there is greater opportunity for things to get complicated. That’s not to mention the graphs might not work if a short occurs. In short, it’s far easier to isolate a problem if there are fewer connections.

For this reason, most electronics manufacturers prefer their units to be connected directly to the cranking battery and fused as close to the battery as possible. A few simple steps make this possible—even if you aren’t an electrician. Never fear and call me Sparky!

Select an extension material – Most supplied power cables are not much longer than 6 feet, requiring an extension. I prefer 16 gauge tinned copper for its reduced corrosion, and its large enough to not experience a voltage drop over the normal wire distances from bow to stern. Use a rigging wire to snake the extension through the gunnel. This will help keep expensive wire usage at a minimum.

Connections – Use appropriately sized heat-shrink butt splices to attach the supplied power cable to the extension with both a positive and negative wire. Putting a small amount of dialectic grease in before you make the crimp helps keep moisture out and creates a better connection surface.

Next, use a paint stripper or small torch to melt the heat-shrink tubing. Be careful, both paint strippers and pocket torches like to melt carpet. I prefer to put electrical tape around both wires to help them feed through the boat easier. Plus, it adds a level of protection against moisture.

Once this connection is made you can pull the wires to their desired position and leave a little extra before cutting the extension. On the positive wire add in a small watertight fuse holder that will accommodate a 3-amp cartridge style fuse. A small amount of dialectic grease in this is also recommended. Then make a connection with a ring-style heat shrink connection that will attach directly to the main cranking battery on both the positive and negative studs.

If you have a bunch of electronic devices rigged in your boat, you may want to consider putting in a small fuse box, which keep from having a stack of connections on the battery.

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Capt. Ross Robertson

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