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Boat Rigging Tips

By Mark Romanack

A fishing boat is a big investment and to get the most
performance and enjoyment from that investment requires
taking a serious approach to boat rigging.
Boat rigging is serious business. No matter if you’re rigging a new boat or making upgrades to a boat that’s stood the test of time, now is not the time to get penny wise and dollar foolish. Dollars spent on quality marine accessories will stand the test of time and deliver dependable service for years to come.

The single most overlooked and abused part of a fishing boat are the batteries. Batteries are literally the life blood of any boat, powering not only the engine and electric motors, but also the VHF radio, sonar, GPS, auto-pilot, bilge pump, livewell pumps, wash down and recirculation pumps. That’s a lot for any battery to handle and keep a charge when it’s needed.

Let’s look at cranking batteries first. Marine dealers and most manufacturers of fishing boats tend to provide batteries that are marginal in terms of their cold cranking amps and the amp hours they provide. In defense of the dealers and manufacturers their goal is to keep the boat/motor/trailer price as modest as possible. Unfortunately, a marginal battery such as the OEM standard 600 CCA model used in most boats is going to create problems. This size battery will work fine the first few times the boat is used, but when the strain of livewell pumps, bilge pumps and other accessories kick in, you’re looking at a dead battery in no time.

I suggest rigging bass and walleye boats with at least a 1000 CCA starting battery and better yet, rig two 600 CCA batteries in parallel so that the amp hours is doubled, but the voltage remains the same. To rig two batteries in parallel you will need two short lengths of eight gauge wire with heavy duty brass terminal connectors on both ends. Attach the negative pole of one battery to the negative pole of the second battery. Next attach the positive pole of one battery to the positive pole of the second battery. Make sure both batteries are lashed down securely and put the rubber protector cups over the positive leads.

Deep cycle batteries take a pounding both literally and figuratively in a fishing boat. No matter what deep cycle battery you use, make absolutely sure they are securely strapped to the floor of the boat.

Deep cycle batteries are constantly being recharged, so be sure to mount your batteries where they can be easily accessed. Better yet, install an on-board charging system so you only have to plug in one outlet when charging deep cycle batteries.

Like cranking batteries, I favor large CCA models for deep cycle use. You’ll never regret purchasing a battery that’s big enough to get the job done easily. For boats equipped with a 24 volt electric trolling motor a minimum of two 27 group batteries are required. Upgrading this system to a pair of 31 group batteries will significantly increase the amp hours and the hours of operation provided between charging cycles. A 36 volt electric motor cries out for three 31 group deep cycle batteries. Using anything less will significantly reduce the hours an electric motor can work between charging cycles.

Kicker motors like the E-Tec 15H.O. pictured here are an
essential part of most walleye or multi-species boats.
Most walleye anglers prefer to use a small gasoline kicker motor for serious trolling chores.    Evinrude’s 15HO is without question one of the best designed big water kicker motors on the market. This two stroke outboard features a lower unit and transom bracket that are extra heavy duty, making this kicker ideal for the angler who spends a lot of time trolling on big water. 

A special reverse thrust prop allows the motor to achieve the slow speeds needed for fishing spinners, while easily achieving higher speeds for trolling crankbaits, spoons and other gear.  The high speed power tilt feature also makes it easy to raise and lower the engine. The 15 HO comes standard with a digital throttle control on the tiller handle that allows the engine RPM’s to be gradually increased or decreased to dial in precise trolling speeds.  For more information on the E-Tec 15 HO visit

Track mounted rod holders and accessories like these Cisco
Fishing Systems products shown here enable the author to
add or remove rod holders as dictated by the type of fishing
at hand.
Rod holders are a common item that anglers cut corners on. Big mistake. Rod holders are going to see a lot of use on just about any serious fishing boat.

Tube type holders made from stainless steel or aluminum are the toughest rod holder design and yes the most expensive. This kind of investment is made only once and provides years and years of maintenance free service.

Cisco Fishing Systems out of Cleveland, Ohio produces some of the finest rod holders on the market. CNC Machined from solid billets of aluminum, Cisco rod holders can be track mounted, rail mounted or mounted using a variety of base plate options making it possible to rig virtually any size or type of fishing boat. Cisco tracks come in various lengths and the beauty of track mounting is that different accessories like rod holders, downriggers, etc can be added or removed from the track as needed. For more information on rod holders visit

No other product in the fishing industry varies as widely in quality or function as fishing sonar. Frankly, many of the units sold as OEM standard equipment on boats aren’t capable of marking the floor let alone finding fish or structure in deep water.

The bad news is that good sonar units are expensive. The good news is that your dollar buys a lot more today than it did just a few years ago. Every year high quality units hit the market at a lower price point.

Lowrance Electronics leads the charge for higher resolution and more power in the sonar industry. Not surprisingly, these products are the ones you see most often on the boats of serious walleye anglers who live and die by the quality of their electronics.

Lowrance produces too many sonar units to list, but the best value in sonar these days comes in the form of units that combine sonar and GPS capability into one product. To view both functions at the same time, simply put the unit on split screen and enjoy sonar on one half of the screen while observing GPS on the other. The Lowrance HDS series of sonar units are top of the line. To save a little money consider the smaller sized units or the somewhat less expensive Elite series of sonar/GPS combos.

Sonar and GPS units function best when a direct power lead is run from the battery to the unit. Avoid plugging your sonar or GPS unit into the accessory switches provided on your boat. Wire the units direct and position an in-line fuse where it can be easily reached and changed if necessary.

Adding a stainless steel prop will improve the performance and fuel economy of just about any fishing boat. Aluminum props flex under torque causing the prop diameter and pitch to be compromised under power. Because stainless steel is a more rigid material, stainless props resist flexing under torque and deliver more bow lift and greater performance throughout the RPM range.

The maximum value of a stainless prop comes into play on larger boats that are pushing significant loads in the form of passengers, fuel and gear. Often these are the boats that suffer most from performance issues like a slow hole-shot or the inability to stay on plane at lower RPM levels. Porpoising is another performance problem that can often be corrected with the proper stainless steel prop.

All the manufacturers of outboards produce their own props, but often after market props are as good or even better at providing ideal performance and often these props cost a lot less than OEM options. Delaware Propeller out of Muncie, Indiana is a good source of after market prop brands and also a leader in prop repairs. For more information contact

The author takes great pride in his fishing boats and enjoys
seeing how a well rigged boat performs on the water.
There are lots of things you can rig onto a walleye boat to improve performance and fishing comfort, but the above listed items are the main items to be concerned with. Make sure your boat is equipped with quality batteries, marine electronics, rod holders and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying a wealth of fishing adventures to the fullest.