- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 15, 2004

(Another article in a series about helpful fishing and hunting equipment.)

It’s just a boat until an electronic fishfinder is installed. Then it can be a fishing machine.

“Any boat can be a fishing boat, but it has to be rigged properly for the tough conditions of angling,” says Kenyon Hill, a successful, nationally ranked bass tournament pro who uses Bottom Line sonar units on his boats.

These marvels are often referred to as fishfinders because they actually do find fish. They display a signal on the machine’s screen that says a fish is within the conical range of the unit’s transducer. But these beauties can also serve in other capacities whether the price is $150 or $1,500.

In my case, the machine’s first function is to determine the water depth. Nothing is more important than knowing that. It not only will keep me from running aground, it will tell me if I’m in favorable water for gamefish. That’s why I call them depth finders.

The unit that is mounted on my boat tells me the depth, shows fish and underwater obstacles, submerged marine grasses, rocks or tree branches, boat speed, water temperature and time of day.

Meanwhile, Hill tells prospective buyers of depth/fish locators, “The new breed of fishfinders is easy to install yet has the technology that would make a World War II submarine hunter proud.”

Hill, who rigs his own boats, has installed dozens of fishfinders for friends. “It’s easy,” he says. “I’m the least mechanically inclined guy you’ll ever meet, but I’ve installed them on everything from pontoon boats to yachts. If I can do it, anyone can.”

Hill follows a few simple steps to get the job done and says it generally takes about 30 minutes from opening the box to going fishing.

Here is how Hill installed a Bottom Line Tournament 320 MAX on the front deck of his bass boat:

“Any location will work provided there is enough room in back of the unit for the power and transducer cables when tilting the locator for the best viewing angle,” he said. Four holes in the base of the display bracket allow for stainless steel wood screws or through-bolt mounting. “Remember, the mount must be secure enough to handle the roughest ride.”

Like most fishfinders, the 320 MAX runs on a 12-volt battery system and requires about a one-quarter amp during use.

“For the best results I like to attach the power cable directly to the battery,” Hill said. “Connect the red power cord to the positive terminal on the battery, the black wire to the negative battery terminal.”

Connecting a fish locator to the same circuit with other devices like tachometers, marine radios or trim switches can cause electrical interference. To protect both the cable and the display unit, an in-line 1-amp fast-blow fuse (available at automotive stores) in series with the red wire at the battery is recommended.

Once that’s done, the unit is installed, and now all that remains is the mounting of a transducer that comes with each unit. In the case of mounting the depth locator/fishfinder on the front deck of the boat, with the transducer attached to the trolling motor that is part of any bass boat, Hill says to get a size 64 hose clamp and a half-dozen plastic cable ties.

Position the transducer on the trolling motor and feed the hose clamp through the transducer mounting slots and around the motor, then tighten just enough to hold the transducer in place. Adjust the transducer position so that it faces straight down, then tighten the hose clamps enough to prevent movement. Route the cable up the trolling motor shaft and secure with cable ties.

“Keep the cable clear of any area where it might be cut or frayed,” Hill said. He adds to be sure to secure the transducer wire with enough ties so there’s no chance of the cable being loose and touching the propeller.

To reduce interference, route the cable away from other wiring or electronic equipment. Do not coil the cable to take up slack. Instead, use a figure eight, which is less prone to noise and interference.

“That’s it,” Hill said. “Your boat’s front deck is now equipped with a fishfinder.”

Need more information? Visit bottomlinefishfinders.com for additional news on fishfinder technology.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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