Installing a Fish Finder on a Pontoon Boat

I spent two hours browsing the internet for a decent guide on how to install my fish finder on my pontoon boat. I figured I’d spare you some time by telling you what I discovered.

Installing a fish detector may be a quick and straightforward 45-minute effort if you have a decent guide and someone to assist you. It took nearly 4 hours for me and two other individuals since we had to figure it out on our own without any kind of guide to show us how. The instructions were completely worthless for putting on a pontoon boat–they only addressed traditional boat installation.

Before You Get Started: Choose a Fish Finder That Is Right for You

I published some helpful hints for picking a fish detector, as well as the one I ultimately chose, here. But, before you begin, double-check that you have your fish finder and transducer on hand. Some fish finders may not include the transducer, so double-check your shipment to ensure you get both.

Step 1: Determine the location of your transducer

The transducer is a sensor that is submerged in water and captures data before sending it to the monitor. Almost every pontoon boat owner mounts the transducer to the bottom of one of the pontoons’ brackets.

It’s possible that the cable from the transducer to the monitor is only long enough to run off one of the pontoons. Most pontoon boats have the captain’s chair on the starboard (right) side of the boat, hence the transducer should be on the right side to save on cord. When positioning the transducer, keep in mind that it is ideal to keep it away from electrical interference caused by being too close to another wire. Additionally, positioning the transducer too close to a livewell pump (if your pontoon boat has one) will create signal interference.

If you need a longer line, you can buy extension cords, although most fish finders come with a 19′ or 20′ chord (5.7 meters), which is just enough for a pontoon boat. I had roughly 2′ (0.6 meters) of extra space on my 22′ installation.

Although getting an extension cable and mounting the transducer on the pontoon opposite the captain’s console is simple, I would not suggest it. This takes a lot longer to set up, and the longer the connection, the more likely you will not have adequate signal strength to relay the data, as well as electrical interference issues.

Step 2: Choose a location for the monitor

This is a hard part. Some consoles have enough room for a fish finder display, while others lack it. My G3 Sun Catcher, on the other hand, does not. We discussed for approximately 15 minutes before deciding on a good spot for the fish finder monitor to be mounted without blocking the view of the dash.

One of the issues I discovered was that I had chosen a fish finder with a 7′′ (18cm) screen. While I like the larger size and how it finished out, mounting the screen would have been much easier if I had just gotten a conventional 5′′ (13cm) screen.

Once you’ve determined where the monitor will go, get down on the ground and scoot up under the console to ensure that no gauges or other cables will obstruct the cord run or the fish finder’s attachment.

While you’re down there, check to see where the cords were ran through the boat by the manufacturer. The lines usually go through a huge hole in the deck and back toward the engine. This is where your cables will be routed. Check once more that the transducer cable will be long enough to extend from the rear of the pontoon through the boat and to the console.

Step 3: Make a purchase

Fish finder kits include everything you’ll need to install them in a classic V-hull boat, but they won’t include everything you’ll need to put them on a pontoon boat–trust me on this. Go shopping for your materials first so that the remainder of the installation goes smoothly.

Don’t worry, this won’t hurt your pocket book nearly as bad as your fish finder purchase.

The following supplies were required for my installation. It’s possible that you’ll require the same items. Warning: Before you buy any metal parts, make sure they’re all stainless steel! Just because something is silver doesn’t mean it’s not stainless, and if it isn’t, it WILL rust!

  • Six 1.25′′ (3cm) long 1/4′′ (.6mm) bolts.
  • Six nuts that go on top of the six bolts
  • 6 washers of rubber
  • Electrical shroud 20′ (5.7 meters) (plastic conduit). That’s the protective long coiled plastic tubing that goes around cables. I used 3/4′′ for mine, but I should have just used 1/4′′ since it would have been simpler to get the wires through the boat. It’s just necessary for the conduit to be large enough to loop around the transducer wire.
  • Metal washers (six)
  • 2 power connectors that fit the fuse box connections on your pontoon boat. OR, if you don’t do anything electrical and don’t have a fuse box under your console, you’ll need roughly 20′ (5.7 meters) of positive and negative electrical wire (red and black).
  • A tiny silicone tube (optional)
  • Cord grommet made of rubber for going through the console (optional)

Step 4: Mount the Transducer

This shouldn’t be too difficult. I just used an ordinary 1/4′′ (.6mm) drill bit to drill two holes into the bracket. Then, using a bolt and nut, fasten the transducer mount that comes with your fish finder into those two holes. Unless your bolt has a big head, you’ll usually want to add a washer as well.

Step 5: Remove the Siding and Thread the Wire

Although removing the pontoon boat siding may appear to be a daunting task, it is actually rather simple and only requires approximately ten screws. If you don’t have someone holding the opposite end of the siding while removing it, the other end will flop down and bend the metal.

Make sure you don’t loose any screws along the way. Simply place each screw on the deck above you to ensure that you know exactly where each one goes.

You can see where the manufacturer snaked the cords by removing the paneling from the side of the console all the way back to the back of the pontoon. This is normally seen on the starboard (right) side of the boat, running parallel to the edge. This makes installation a breeze.

Put the plastic conduit shroud around the transducer wire and fish it through all the way up to the console after you have a clear passage to insert the wire inside the siding.

Although using plastic conduit is probably not required, I believe it is well worth a short trip to Home Depot. Over the following ten years, as your boat bounces about and vibrates, the rope can rub against the sharp metal spurs and edges on the underside of the boat, easily sawing through the cable. In a few years, a 20-minute trip to the hardware or car parts store will likely save you a four-hour work.

Step 6: Mount the Monitor on the Console

This is when things start to get a little worrisome. You’ll have to dig your way through your console. Place the monitor bracket that came with your fish finder exactly where you want it on the console. Now choose three or four of the pre-drilled holes where you’ll insert bolts. With a pencil, mark the locations.

Drill the holes now. Remember that fiberglass chips quickly, so don’t push too hard, and you’ll probably want to start with a little bit and work your way up until the hole is large enough to accommodate your bolt.

Rubber washers should be placed between the fiberglass and the mount. The rubber washers safeguard your console from being scraped by the fish finder mount and prevent rattling.

Slide the bolts through the holes in the bracket and onto the dash. Place the bolt’s good side up (the head of the bolt). Now go beneath the console and fasten each bolt with a big metal washer and the nut. The washers disperse the weight so that pulling on the fish finder does not shred the nut through the fiberglass.

While it’s not strictly necessary, a glob of silicone on the holes in the console may be useful. Because the bolt, bracket, and fish finder will block off rain and splashed water, I suspect water will get through, but a little silicone won’t hurt.

Finally, drill a hole beneath the bracket for your transducer cord and power cord to pass through. Make sure the hole is big enough for the transducer cord’s connection to fit through. You could wish to cover this hole with a rubber grommet to make it seem attractive.

Step 7: Tie Into the Power

Manufacturers of fish finders do something amusing with them. The electrical line from the power source to the fish finder is generally just around 5′ (1.5 meters) long. Nonetheless, they normally urge you to connect the electricity to the battery, which is usually located near the engine in the back of the boat. Clearly, that isn’t long enough.

There is, however, a superior installation option that does not require you to send a wire all the way back to the battery and provides additional protection.

Option 1: Use the fuse box

Simply connect to the fuse box under the console for electricity. You’ll need the power connection plugs listed in the shopping list to achieve this. Find a plug that fits the plugs that have been hooked into your fuse box under your console. After that, just connect to the auxiliary power outlets.

On my boat, I discovered a fuse box with three auxiliary power fuses and empty connectors going from the box that had been placed by the factory. It was really simple to tap into as a result of this. If you’re not so lucky, you’ll either need some electrical assistance from someone who knows what they’re doing, or you may go with option 2.

I simply acquired a matching male connection, crimped it on the electrical positive and negative line from my fish finder, and connected it in with the empty accessory jacks from the fuse box. Done!

Option 2: Go to the Battery

If you don’t have a fuse box with an empty slot or don’t know how to figure out the electrical up front, you’ll most likely need to acquire a 20-foot piece of positive electrical wire and a 20-foot length of negative electrical cable. If you’re using wire for a maritime purpose, be sure it’s a strong gauge wire.

Simply return the cables from the front console to the boat in the same manner that you returned the fish finder cord. Connect the wires to the battery by tying them together. Negatives are black, whereas positives are red. You can touch the battery’s contacts, but don’t touch the positive and negative terminals at the same time.

If you choose option one or two, use extreme caution when dealing with your boat’s electrical and other systems. Take it to someone who does if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Step 8: Reassemble the boat and go fishing!

That concludes our discussion. You’ll be ready to fish once you’ve connected everything in. Don’t be shocked if your fish finder takes a few minutes to collect GPS the first time you use it. The acquisition of subsequent usage is generally significantly faster.

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