Many anglers want to add a fish finder, navigation light, deck lights, GPS, phone charger, trolling motor and more to their fishing kayaks. The only question, how to power it all? Battery too small and you’ll run out of juice before you run out of daylight. Battery too big and you’ll run out of paddling energy before you run out of daylight. Electrical connections exposed to saltwater and grime are asking for trouble. We turned to the pros for their advice on the best battery setup for your fishing kayak.
How to Mount a Battery on Your Kayak
Wiring Your Kayak for Accessories
Jacob Scott knows plenty about kayak fishing and electronics. As a Feelfree pro staff, he represents the Moken on the water. As a product specialist for Lowrance, he has pimped out his kayak with all the bells and whistles. “I have a few more electronics than most people,” he admits with a laugh. That includes a HDS Gen3 fish finder and GPS combo, sonar hub, satellite XM radio and weather, and a marine radio. All of it runs on a 7Ah sealed lead acid battery. The “Ah” stands for amp-hour, or how long the battery will last with one amp per hour draw on a single charge. “That should run the unit all day,” he promises, adding that turning the screen brightness down can have significant savings on battery power.
After some trial and error, Scott settled on closed cell foam to seat the battery. He cuts the foam to fit the battery and glues the foam to the bottom of the kayak. “Try to center the battery so it doesn’t affect the boat’s trim,” he adds.
To make connections, Scott heads to the auto parts store. “I use waterproof blade connectors and two-wire housings for connections,” he explains. Scott’s biggest challenge is wire management. “Loose wires will get caught on everything,” he laughs. To solve the problem he uses wire ties and pad eyes. “I’m not afraid to drill into the kayak,” he insists. He uses stainless steel hardware and all openings are sealed with silicone.
Wiring Your Kayak For a Motor
As kayaks get bigger, many anglers are tempted to add a propeller. Powering an electric motor will draw too much juice for a small sealed lead acid battery. NuCanoe pro, Romel Labrador uses an AGM deep cycle 50Ah battery that he stores in the front hatch of his Pursuit. “I don’t run the electric trolling motor at full speed all day and I supplement by paddling lightly to reduce draw on battery,” he explains. For connections, he chose Trac trolling motor wires and connectors. He adds silicone tape to all connections to further seal wires.
Romel insists on fuses on all lines and recommends a DC inline power analyzer. “I know exactly how much power I’m using,” he says, “and I can monitor the charge.”
To power his electronics, he uses a second battery. “I keep a 9Ah sealed lead acid battery in a YakAttack CellBlok for my fish finder and GPS.”
Batteries are heavy, so the trick is to use a large enough battery to power electronics without adding too much weight to your kayak. Some guys are rigging AA batteries to power their electronics. Scott says, “This system is light and compact, but it only provides minimum power.” He prefers the reliability and power of a sealed lead acid battery. For Romel, running out of power is not an option. “I’d be stranded without my batteries.”
Battery-Powered Kayak Accessories
A full complement of electronic gadgets make fishing safer, more comfortable and fishier. The magic of engineering has produced powerful accessories in a pint-sized package. You can listen to tunes, talk with buddies, even signal for rescue, all from the palm of your hand.
Pass the hours between bites, or shorten a long paddle, by listening to your favorite tunes. A small, rechargeable, waterproof Bluetooth speaker is better than ear buds because you can still hear ambient noise, like boats approaching or fish jumping. Throw the wireless speaker in the crate or a cup holder and keep the smartphone in a drybag. Some speakers even allow you to take calls.
A handheld, very-high-frequency (VHF) radio is a safety essential on any kayak. Unlike CB or two-way communicators, VHF signals carry farther and work better over water. Keep a VHF radio on your life jacket. Just push a button to communicate with rescuers, monitor weather conditions and share updates with your friends. Waterproof, indestructible and reliable, a VHF beats a cell phone in an emergency. The best models float.
Add another level of safety with a personal locator beacon (PLB). In an emergency, trigger the PLB and your GPS location is transmitted to rescue services. Clip the PLB to your PFD and rest assured, help is on the way. Best models include a strobe light.
A handheld global positioning system (GPS) is a powerful tool for safety, paddling and fishing. Monitoring speed and staying on course makes it easier to cover miles between fishing holes.
Hit “man overboard” when you get a bite, then return to the same spot. Strap the unit to the cockpit console or use an adjustable base to keep the GPS close enough to reach and read. Cut down devices with a fish finder-GPS combo.
Photo and Video Accessories
Capture your trophy catch on digital video and it lasts forever. Small, light, powerful and tough, action cameras produce high-quality images and video in any environment.
Gear tracks are great for mounting camera bases and booms. Slide the camera on the track to capture the perfect angle then quickly remove at the end of the day. To film the fishing and the fishermen, mount one camera on a boom in the tankwell and another on the fore deck. Be sure to use a solid mount and keep the camera out of the way, most action cameras don’t float.
Visibility and Lighting
The U.S. Coast Guard requires paddlers to carry a white light after dark. Most night anglers mount a white navigation light to a three-foot pole and attach it to the tankwell or gear crate. Safety lights are bright enough to be seen for miles without flooding the kayak with light and reducing night vision. A motorized kayak needs red and green directional lights along with the white navigation light. Always carry a rescue beacon in your life jacket.
LED lamps and light strips are easy to install anywhere on a kayak. To attach the light strip, use two-sided tape, lock-nuts or self-tapping screws. Drill a hole and run the wire through the kayak hull to the battery. Seal all holes with marine sealant.
Headlamps are ubiquitous with outdoors activities. Even if you fish during the day, don’t leave the launch without it. After dark, a headlamp has one hundred uses, so be sure it is high-quality, waterproof, light and easy to control. The best models have a low-power mode to save battery life. A red lamp does not affect night vision and a flashing strobe is an international distress signal. LEDs draw less power and produce bright, white light. With so much riding on the headlamp, it’s a good idea to carry a spare.
A lithium-ion battery in a waterproof case supplies power for fish finder and other kayak accessories. | Feature photo: Courtesy of YakGear