Before you can start installing your fish finder for your boat, you are going to need something to guide you on how to do it, and that is why we have created this publication.
If you have a good tutorial and someone who can help you, installing a fish finder can be a faster and simpler project that will take about 45 minutes. From our point of view, it took us a little over 4 hours with two people because we had to solve everything alone without any guidance and no support where to find answers. It’s nothing new that the instructions were useless for installation on a pontoon-type boat – they were just based on a more traditional boat. In this post, we will focus on the installation of a pontoon boat, since it is our experience, but it can be applied to other types of boats.
Before you start: select an ideal fish finder for you
But before you do anything about any aspect of the process, make sure you have your fish finder and transducer handy. Some fish finders will not come with the transducer, so you should check the package and make sure you have both parts first and foremost.
Also, you can read about this article: How To Choose Best Tides For Fishing
Step 1: Choose your transducer location
The transducer is the sensor that enters the water that can collect the data and send it to the monitor. Practically, all pontoon rail owners place the transducer on the bottom of the bracket on the back of one of the pontoons.
The cable from the transducer to the monitor may only be long enough to exit one of the pontoons. For most pontoons that have the captain’s chair on the starboard (right) side of the boat, you will want to place the transducer on the right side so less cable is needed. Also, placing the transducer too close to a live well pump (if you have a live well on your pontoon) can cause signal interference.
You can buy extension cables if you are going to need a little more time, but most fish finders come with a 19 ‘or 20’ (5.7 meters) cable, which is barely enough for an average pontoon boat. In my 22 ‘installation, I had about 2’ (0.6 meters) to spare.
Although it is quite easy to get an extension cable and place the transducer on the pontoon in front of the captain’s console, I would not recommend it. This requires much more time to install, and the greater the distance from the cable, the more likely you will not have enough signal strength to send the data, and the more likely you will have electrical interference issues.
Step 2: determine the location of the monitor
This part can be somewhat complex. Some consoles have ample space for a fish search monitor, and some do not. In the case of our G3 Sun Catcher, it does not. We stood and talked for quite some time before finding a solid location for the fish finder monitor to mount without covering the dash and be seen.
Part of the problem we could find was that I had selected a 7 ″ (18 cm) screen for my fish finder. While we love the way it looks, it would have been a lot easier to mount the screen if it had only come with a standard 5 ”(13cm) screen.
Once you’ve found where the monitor will go, lower yourself to the ground and slide down under the console to ensure that none of the gauges or other cables interfere with the cable routing or mounting of the fish finder.
While you’re there, also look at where the manufacturer has passed the cables through the boat. Usually, you will find that the cables go into a large hole in the cover and back towards the motor. This is where you will run your cables. Check one more time to make sure the transducer cable is long enough to run from the back of the pontoon through the boat and console.
Step 3: go buy everything you need
Fishfinder kits come with all the materials needed to install on a traditional V-hull boat, but they won’t have all the materials you’ll need to install on a pontoon boat I promise. Go shopping and get your supplies first so you can do the rest of the installation hassle-free.
Don’t worry, this won’t hurt your pocket nearly as bad as buying your fishfinder.
For my installation, I needed the following materials. It is very possible that you need the same things. Warning: MAKE SURE all metal parts you buy are stainless steel! Just because it’s silver doesn’t mean it’s not stainless, and if it’s not stainless, it’s going to rust.
- Six 1/4 “(.6 mm) bolts that are 1.25” (3 cm) long.
- Six nuts that fit the six bolts above
- 6 rubber washers
- 20 ‘(5.7 meters) of electrical cover (plastic conduit). That’s the long coiled plastic tubing that goes around the cables to protect them. For me, I used 3/4 ″ but should only have gotten the 1/4 ″ because it would have been easier to run the cables through the boat. The conduit only needs to be large enough to wrap around the transducer cable.
- Six metal washers.
- A small silicone tube (optional)
- Rubber grommet to allow cables to pass through the console (optional)
Step 4: mount the transducer
This shouldn’t be too difficult. I just got a regular 1/4 “(.6mm) bit and drilled through the bracket at two points. Next, plug the transducer bracket that came with your fish finder through those two holes and secure it with a bolt and nut. You probably want to throw in a washer as well unless your bolt has a large head.
Put the fish finder transducer cable in an electrical conduit to protect it. Then I run it over the side of the boat to the captain’s console.
Step 5: peel off the liner and go through the wire
Removing the liner from the pontoon can be a bit scary, but it’s actually extremely easy and is usually only attached with about 10 screws. Just make sure when removing the liner you have someone holding the opposite end, otherwise, the other end may fall off and bend the aluminum.
Make sure you don’t lose screws as you go. Just place each screw on the deck above you so you know exactly where each screw goes.
With the liner removed from the side of the console to the rear of the pontoon, you will see where the manufacturer has wound the cables. This will generally be on the starboard (right) side of the boat that runs along the edge. That makes installation easier.
Once you have a clear path to run the cable inside the jacket, wrap the plastic conduit cover around the transducer cable and route it to the console.
It’s probably not essential to use the plastic conduit, but I certainly think it’s worth a quick trip to some remodel shop. With your boat bouncing and vibrating as you race for the next 10 years, the cable can rub against sharp metal spurs and the edges of the bottom of the boat and could easily cut the cable. A 20 minute trip to the hardware or auto parts store will likely save you a 4-hour job in a few years.
This is the bottom side of the captain’s console. The big white circle in the back of the speedometer indicator. The four bolts/nuts/washers you see are how the fish finder connects to the console.
Step 6: Install the monitor on the console
This part is scary. You will have to drill your console. Place the monitor stand that came with your fish finder on the console exactly where you want it to be. Now select 3 or 4 of the pre-drilled holes where you will pass the screws. Mark the spots with a pencil.
Now drill the holes. Remember that fiberglass chips are easy to use, so don’t push too hard, and you’ll probably want to use a little then progressively go to larger pieces until the hole fits your bolt.
Place rubber washers between fiberglass and bracket. The rubber grommets prevent rattle and also prevent the console from being scratched by the fish finder mount.
Place the bracket on the dash and slide the screws through the holes. Place the nice side of the bolt up (the head of the bolt). Now go under the console and place a large metal washer under each bolt and secure it with the nut. The washers help distribute the weight so that any pull on the fish finder does not tear the nut through the fiberglass.
While not necessary, you may want to just put a little bit of silicone into the holes on the console. I doubt the water will get through because the bolt, bracket, and fish finder will block rain and splashing water, but just to be safe, a little bit of silicone won’t hurt.
Finally, drill an additional hole behind the bracket to allow the transducer cable and power cable to pass through. Make sure the hole is large enough for the transducer cable connector to pass through. You may want to get a rubber grommet to cover this hole to keep it looking good.
At the top, the electrical connectors that I bought. Shown below is the fuse box under my captain’s console and where I connected the power. I had to get help with electricity because I have electronic problems.
Step 7: tie up all the power
Fishfinder manufacturers do something fun with fish finders. They usually only give you about 5 feet (1.5 meters) of electrical wire to go from the power source to the fish finder. However, they usually tell you to connect the power to the battery, which is usually in the back of the boat next to the engine. That is not enough.
Luckily, there is a better installation method that won’t require you to run a free wire back to the battery, and it will give you additional protection.
Option 1: use the fuse box
Just plug it into power in the fuse box under the console. To do this, you will need the power connector plugs mentioned in the shopping list. Look under your console and find a plug that will fit the plugs that have been tied to your fuse box. Then just plug it into the accessory sockets.
In my boat, I discovered that the factory had installed a fuse box with three accessory power fuses and that empty connectors were coming out of the box. This made it incredibly easy to take advantage of. If you’re not so lucky, you may need a little electrical help from someone who knows, or you can choose option 2.
With the empty accessory plugs sticking out of the fuse box, I simply purchased a matching male connector and hooked it onto the positive and negative electrical wire of my fish finder, and plugged it in. Clever!
Option 2: go to the battery
If you don’t have a fuse box with an empty slot, or you don’t know how to figure out electricity in advance, you will probably have to buy a 20 ‘long power cord for the positive, and another for the negative. Make sure you get a heavy gauge wire suitable for a marine application.
Simply connect the cables from the front console through the boat in the same way that you hung the fish finder cable. Tie the cables to the battery. Negative black, positive red. You can touch the battery contacts, but be sure not to touch the positives and negatives at the same time.
With option one or option two, be very careful when working with electrical and other aspects of your boat. If you don’t know what you are doing, take it to someone who does.