May 12, 2021
By Ross Robertson
It can be hard to tell an angler anything. We tend to be a bit hard-headed if we are being honest. If there is one area that most anglers freely admit where they need help, it’s usually electronics. In all reality, these units are boat computers, and their capabilities update or change as much as your favorite tablet or mobile phone. Instead of getting even more frustrated and falling behind in the times, make an asserted effort to learn simple tips that will instantly help your electronics game.
One of the mistakes most often made is improperly positioning their transducer on the back of the boat. Each boat has a sweet spot, but just like a race car, the setup is likely to be different depending on what you are looking to do. As a walleye angler, I primarily rely on skimmer transducers (outside of the boat) because they get a more direct or true reading not having to shoot through fiberglass to get the signal out. In reality, that’s only just the initial advantage.
The height and angle of a skimmer is very important. Unlike a shoot-through (internally glued into the bottom of the rig), it can be adjusted with plenty of mounting options. It is important to understand that the angle of the transducer needs to be flat—or level—in order to get the best readings and most accurate depth returns. The key, however, is to have it flat while the boat is on plane. This means that the transducer needs to be slightly angled up in the rear to compensate for the bow being higher in the water than it is on the trailer. This is when customization begins to apply.
Many anglers find a sweet spot to mark fish or bait while running at about 25 to 30 mph. At that speed on many boats the bow will be much higher than it is while running full throttle. This angle requires a transducer to be angled upwards towards the rear of the transducer when mounted so that it is actually flat while running.
The same importance should be applied the height. Mount a transducer too low and it will have too much drag in the water causing disturbance resulting in a poor picture, or even the transducer being ripped off the boat. Mount it too high and it will be out of the water or shooting through air bubbles for a poor to nonexistent picture. A little trial and error is required to get it right. The big thing to keep in mind is incremental adjustments, little changes equate to big results.
Things to know and consider before mounting the transducer
-Will this transducer hit my trailer bunks or shallow water anchor?
-Avoid mounting directly on a chine or rivet line where extra air bubbles will distort the picture
-Avoid mounting near drains or other fittings that will cause distortion
-Even in the perfect location, incremental adjustments to the angle and height will be required
-A call to the boat’s manufacturer can save drilling a lot of experimental holes in your boat
-A transducer board reduces the number of holes you out in your boat and allows for you to move your transducer until the perfect setup is acquired
Having the transducer in the right spot is the biggest hurdle, but you also need to fight disturbance inside the boat as well. Today’s graphs are pulling a lot more power than they used to. In most cases, at least 12-gauge wire is required as an extension from the manufacturer’s power cable. For the best results, run it directly to a clean power source or a distribution panel. Wire gauge that is too light will cause the graphs to cut out, lock up and battle interference. Monitoring it with an amperage-drop calculator will help create an understanding of wire size and how it changes based on the distance the power travels.
Having a clean power source in many boats may mean having a separate battery altogether. Units in the past typically pulled less than one amp, whereas today’s large screen, high-power-imagery units can pull as much as six amps. Having a separate battery for just your electronics will ensure that you have enough power to get through the day. It’s also the easiest way to eliminate ghost interference from other boat accessories such as trolling motors, jack plates and radios.
You can install a transducer in less than an hour, but proper forethought is required to ensure that very important piece of equipment is functioning at top level. Proper power and proper wiring may also get you out of a jam by keeping the GPS working in a bad situation. Don’t get intimidated by electronics. Today’s manufacturers and countless outlets on the web can assist in properly installing and operating modern-day electronics.
Capt. Ross Robertson