Boat electronics basics for a hunter

BigBadJohn

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Jan 16, 2020
Messages
49
Its a rainy slow day and my mind is on the water. My hope is someone can give me some clarity on boating/fishing electronics and what's needed vs what's not. Its come time to update my boat's setup and there are simply too many options out there...the irony is not lost on me that researching hunting gear can be an endless rabbit hole as well :rolleyes:

I dont want to invest a ton into an old boat when hunting is always first and foremost with a antelope gun build in the works. I do however want to get a serviceable setup for filling freezers with fillets off NTX lakes since Ive found difficulty doing so without newer tech.

TLDR: Old boat needs complete electronics upgrade, don't need the best of the best, but would like a decent graph, troller and batteries for around 2,000 if possible. Basically, if you had to outfit an old bass boat from scratch on a budget how do you do it?

My current setup is a 1974 17' bow drive red/white Newman... barn queen in immaculate condition with a 80hp 2 stroke Merc. Its an awesome (looking and running) boat, however it has exactly 0 electronics. Currently has a paper graph (not kidding) and a trolling motor that belongs in a museum. I've fished this boat for almost 20 years and has worked well on known waters where electronics were never that important. But I now live near better and deeper water and want to upgrade in a big way. Buying a new boat doesn't interest me. Boat works well for fishing coves & marsh but with these upgrades im looking to troll more deep water.

Based on my research I think I need to look into the following....Id be very grateful for input & recommendations.

  1. Bow mount troller in the 85# range. Ive been trolling deep(er) lately and the museum piece of a trolling motor I have is underpowered and drains battery. Not sure the thrust rating, but its a one speed.... wide open & slow. I dont care to have wifi integration or anything like that... but what is important is having variable speed and ability to 'lock' the motor on a heading if possible. Id like to have the ability to set a strait line heading and then tend rods. When I search for this feature all I come up with is 'spot-lock' and 'i-pilot'. Can someone please clarify the modern motors have this ability without investing 2500+ into a bluetooth enabled motor? All very confusing.
  2. Batteries are another issue. Based on what I know so far ... I should probably be looking at a 24V setup for a new trolling motor and a separate battery for cranking & running the graph. What models...no idea. I grew up on a farm and i've always used tractor batteries for the trolling motor (those big suckers on old 4840's you know what I mean) and a standard car battery running the starter & lights.
  3. Graph/Nav/Sonar ? Etc... I do know I need navigation of some sort, so GPS is a must. Ideally one unit would have everything needed. Side imaging seems to be important in crappie circles ... but I dont know. There is a ton of different models in the 500-750-1000 range and the jargon is ridiculous. If I was to throw a dart at the prevalent brands id probably go with garmin but comparing these things is basically impossible for me. Will a lower end unit be sufficient.. no idea. What is livescope and do I need it!?.... Hopefully not, we're on a budget here. If you have a reasonable recommendation or anecdote on these things it would be appreciated. Some of the older units seem pretty high-tech to me and for $500-800 you can get a good unit... not opposed to blowing the budget here on something better but is it necessary?
  4. Other non material stuff - I want to get new switch panels anyway (for vain reasons) so my thought is to just run everything (lights, Nav, bilge, livewell, etc.) through a single fuse block in the console and reduce the number of connections on my battery coming from all areas of the boat. Other than that down the line electronic ignition would be nice, fuel mixing upgrade potentially. If anyone has experience with these that would be welcome as well. Revamping my live well, replacing homebuilt PVC rod-holders, onboard charging system & running LED's under the gunnels are other eventual wish list items. As with boats it never ends... 20 years in and hopefully tackling most of the big ticket items soon.
Overall the boat is nice... it just has no electronics. Rather than pulling the plug by the dam on a really fun boat... I would like to bring it into the 21st century with a couple upgrades. If anyone has ideas or personal stories about retrofitting old boats with modern gear they are welcome! If nothing else putting this to paper has helped a little in itself... and passed some time on a rather dreary NTX day.

If you read this I wish you the best through the rest of hunting (and I guess fishing...) season!

Thanks....BadJohn

EDIT: condensed for (some) clarity. Also, will upload pics of the boat next time it leaves the barn.
 
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rclouse79

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Dec 10, 2019
Messages
640
I am super impressed with my garmin striker 4 for $100. If I hold a tiny jig motionless it shows up as a straight line. Start jigging and it looks like a heart rate monitor. Feels like cheating when ice fishing. When you see a big fat line coming closer to your jig line you know you are about to get bit.
 

Bailer

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Joined
Feb 21, 2017
Messages
138
i updated the graphs on my mid-90’s Triton last year. The 7” Humminbird Mega with side scan was the best bang for the buck IMO. The ds and si imaging is fantastic. I like the 2d picture a little better on my Dad’s HDS 9”. The lowrance touch screen is also more user friendly than mine, but quite a bit more money. I’m sure the big live scope types are all a huge step up, more than I’d want to spend on a boat I use a few times per year though.
 
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BigBadJohn

BigBadJohn

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Joined
Jan 16, 2020
Messages
49
I am super impressed with my garmin striker 4 for $100. If I hold a tiny jig motionless it shows up as a straight line. Start jigging and it looks like a heart rate monitor. Feels like cheating when ice fishing. When you see a big fat line coming closer to your jig line you know you are about to get bit.
Nice! I bet it is a game changer on the ice
 
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BigBadJohn

BigBadJohn

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Jan 16, 2020
Messages
49
i updated the graphs on my mid-90’s Triton last year. The 7” Humminbird Mega with side scan was the best bang for the buck IMO. The ds and si imaging is fantastic. I like the 2d picture a little better on my Dad’s HDS 9”. The lowrance touch screen is also more user friendly than mine, but quite a bit more money. I’m sure the big live scope types are all a huge step up, more than I’d want to spend on a boat I use a few times per year though.
Much appreciated this is very helpful!
 
Joined
Sep 19, 2020
Messages
93
I’m a Lowrance fan and for what it sounds like your after I’d look at the hook series. I’d love to get the Garmin with live scope but for the couple tournaments a month I fish I can’t justify the added cost. (Rather buy a nightforce 😉) I still use my 5 yr old graphs and I can still find my brushpiles and catch suspended fish so works good enough for me.

I’ve run minn Kota and motorguide and I’m a bigger fan of the minn Kota had a few rough experiences with the motorguide. I personally have the fortrex-step below ultrex- and it does not have any steering lock capabilities I am aware of. It does have a constant on feature you could use if you were on a straight heading but for any track features you will need to bump up to the ultrex. And I agree you will want the 24v system I run the 36v on a 21ft boat(112thrust) and it’ll last me about 2 days on moderate use.


Odyssey extreme batteries are the best I’ve found without going crazy expensive. 3 yr warranty I believe

Onboard chargers- I have the NOCO Genius just replaced it last year got 5 years out of it my boat mechanic is high on the prosports but my boat doesn’t have the room for one so I went back with the noco
 
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BigBadJohn

BigBadJohn

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Joined
Jan 16, 2020
Messages
49
I’m a Lowrance fan and for what it sounds like your after I’d look at the hook series. I’d love to get the Garmin with live scope but for the couple tournaments a month I fish I can’t justify the added cost. (Rather buy a nightforce 😉) I still use my 5 yr old graphs and I can still find my brushpiles and catch suspended fish so works good enough for me.

I’ve run minn Kota and motorguide and I’m a bigger fan of the minn Kota had a few rough experiences with the motorguide. I personally have the fortrex-step below ultrex- and it does not have any steering lock capabilities I am aware of. It does have a constant on feature you could use if you were on a straight heading but for any track features you will need to bump up to the ultrex. And I agree you will want the 24v system I run the 36v on a 21ft boat(112thrust) and it’ll last me about 2 days on moderate use.


Odyssey extreme batteries are the best I’ve found without going crazy expensive. 3 yr warranty I believe

Onboard chargers- I have the NOCO Genius just replaced it last year got 5 years out of it my boat mechanic is high on the prosports but my boat doesn’t have the room for one so I went back with the noco
This is extremely helpful. Thank you for taking the time to put this together. The Odyssey batteries free up a little cash if I go that direction. Really appreciate the heads up.
 

slvrslngr

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Joined
Apr 27, 2012
Messages
686
Concerning the fish finder/GPS, I'd suggest going to a store that carries a bunch and play with the display models. They all operate differently and some are more user friendly than others. I did this a few years back end ended up liking the Raymarine Dragonfly the best.
 

Justinjs

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Joined
Oct 29, 2020
Messages
144
Location
Michigan
I’m a Lowrance fan and for what it sounds like your after I’d look at the hook series. I’d love to get the Garmin with live scope but for the couple tournaments a month I fish I can’t justify the added cost. (Rather buy a nightforce 😉) I still use my 5 yr old graphs and I can still find my brushpiles and catch suspended fish so works good enough for me.

I’ve run minn Kota and motorguide and I’m a bigger fan of the minn Kota had a few rough experiences with the motorguide. I personally have the fortrex-step below ultrex- and it does not have any steering lock capabilities I am aware of. It does have a constant on feature you could use if you were on a straight heading but for any track features you will need to bump up to the ultrex. And I agree you will want the 24v system I run the 36v on a 21ft boat(112thrust) and it’ll last me about 2 days on moderate use.


Odyssey extreme batteries are the best I’ve found without going crazy expensive. 3 yr warranty I believe

Onboard chargers- I have the NOCO Genius just replaced it last year got 5 years out of it my boat mechanic is high on the prosports but my boat doesn’t have the room for one so I went back with the noco
We've used the Hook series as well and they work really well, especially for the price.
 

Rich M

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Jun 14, 2017
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1,911
Location
Orlando
Hope this helps -

I have a Lund SSV-18 with the following - Rhodan 12 volt trolling motor (track plot and anchor/spot lock) on the bow, Garmin Striker 7 w gps and side scan. The hull is lighter than fiberglass boats - 450# vs 1,000#++, trying to keep it to the basics w 1 battery. Anyway - this is primarily a salt water rig.

Just got the Rhodan and am very excited to have it - we had to drift last year for red snapper season and folks with spot lock trollers would pull up on the structure we were fishing and own it. Then give me dirty looks cause I kept fishing the structure anyway. Instead of using my electronics, I used their boat as a buoy. LOL! Pull up within say 20 feet of them.

I'm really eyeballing the lithium 12 volt marine batteries - yes, they cost a lot but there are supposed to keep the energy output high so the trolling motor will stay at full power. They weigh about 1/2-2/3 the weight of a regular 12 volt battery. I think the 31 series is 30-35 pounds as compared to about 75 pounds for a regular version. And they are supposed to last 10 years. Dakota batteries has an 11 yr warranty... Still trying to digest the $$$-$$$$ cost.

So, I head 10-15-20 miles offshore to a coordinate and have the side scan on - in 100 ft of water, I'm getting about 40 or 50 ft off to each side and that's usually where the structure is first seen, then loop over and get on top of it, hit GPS save button for future use - I use both hand held and fish finder GPS units.

The 3 D fish finder aspect works great too - bridge pilings, rocks, etc. all show up in detail - when I was a kid all we had was a flasher. You don't really see fish on the side view - the view is so small. Say it reaches 50 ft to one side and you have a split screen up. That's 100 feet of view on 3.5 inches of the 7 inch screen (on mine). Manatees and dolphins and 100# tarpon (in good detail at times) are visible but a 12-36 inch fish isn't cause it is a speck. A mass of bait (and probably school of crappie) will show up as a cloud.

So find the bottom structure and the trolling motor gets put into the water and the "anchor" or spot lock gets employed. So, on the Rhodan, it is like a 5 ft hold. This all takes 20 seconds as opposed to getting the drift figured and setting an anchor with rope. So we ran out and are now being held in place by trolling motor over structure and we drop the baits down.

If the fish aren't there or not biting, or stuff is showing on the side scan, then push a button on the trolling motor and it will jockey us around in 5 ft increments. We've got some reefs that hold good amounts of flounder but they stay right up next to the rocks - if your bait is say 6 ft off the rocks, there's no fish, closer and you catch limits. So - this trolling motor should be a life changer.

One cheat technique is to turn the troller on and use the big motor to run the route you want to save - say along a weedline or rocky point. Then every trip after that, you have it saved for the trolling motor to carry you along. Very cool!

Enough of my stuff - you want to buy electronics and get a trolling motor - get two that go together. From what I understand, you can get a humminbird to connect to the trolling motor and set coordinates on one and they transfer to the other. Seems really cool. You'd need to research this.

So - if I was gonna do this all over again. I'd go with a 9-inch or larger screen, side view is a must for me and heavily consider the fish finder that's compatible with the trolling motor. If you want to go w 2 batteries, you'll have an 80# class troller which should do a lot on a lake, even a big lake. I'm not too sold on the lithium batteries, but will probably end up with one before too long. Maybe they'll be more cost friendly next year?
 

Fatcamp

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May 31, 2017
Messages
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Sodak
You really have a lot of plans for your boat! I think everyone would be interested to know what you have already done during this time? I recently bought my friend's old boat. It looks not bad, but I'd like to upgrade it. Where do you think I should start?

Is it in reliable running condition?

Nothing worse than a boat that won't start.

Start your own thread when able and use Youtube for answers.
 
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Wapiti1

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Sep 18, 2017
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2,560
Location
Indiana
I like the humminbird units. I have the older version of the Helix 9 sidefinder. It's been a great unit. I had Garmin and Lawrance before this one. It's 4 years old now. I would never get a non-sidefinder unit again. Game changer for me. I also have the GPS on that unit which is invaluable in Lake Michigan. Any brand equivalent of this unit should be fine. They are all very good these days.

My boat has a Minn Kota 80 lb on it (20 foot deep V). It had a Motorguide 60 lb, but I kept breaking the mount bracket on it. Two of those and I sold it. I have the long cord on the Minn Kota so I can stand on the diving platform in back and run the motor. Like when my wife or a buddy are fishing with me and it's best that I drive. Get at least a 60 lb thrust motor. You'll burn up batteries running a smaller motor hard all the time.

The Humminbird and Minn Kota have an i-pilot link that will track gps and marine charts. It's sweet.

Two batteries for the trolling motor if you plan on long trips. I didn't go 24volt and don't see any issues. Two big deep cycle's will last me most of a week of solid fishing.

Jeremy
 
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BigBadJohn

BigBadJohn

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Jan 16, 2020
Messages
49
You really have a lot of plans for your boat! I think everyone would be interested to know what you have already done during this time? I recently bought my friend's old boat. It looks not bad, but I'd like to upgrade it. Where do you think I should start?
hey may! yes i need to do a formal update but i’ll hit a couple things real quick. first i cleaned the boat completely replaced registration numbers etc. next i took off the antique TM and installed a 70# minnkota magnuss (i think). i found this motor on CL for $250 and think i got a good deal for being nib. as for the electronics i still need to upgrade here, for 150$ i got a dual humminbird 998 si setup. it works great, but something newer someday will be nice. outside of that i put in three new battery’s with a 3 bank charger. the battery’s ran about $400 from NAPA and the charger was $160 off of ebay ( i think it’s a pro- something) that had really good reviews. The boat is completely re-wired and in the shop right now to replace tilt/trim hydraulics and tune up the motor. all in for ~2000 and have a pretty solid boat. i’ll update with pictures someday!

thanks!
 
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