Wiring your Catfish Boat for night fishing

Discussion in 'Catfishing Library' started by dademoss, Sep 1, 2005.

  1. dademoss

    dademoss Member

    [font=Verdana,Arial,Helvetica]Wiring your boat for Night Fishing

    Unless you are lucky enough to have the money for a fully equipped boat, you will need to add lights to a base model if you want to go catting after sunset

    There are a couple ways to go about it; one is with “clamp on” lights. These don’t require any explanation or much work, but have the shortcomings of possibly vibrating loose, and needing spare batteries.

    I opted for a hardwired permanent approach, since I carry a trolling motor battery any way; why not put it to work. Since I am starting with a bare bones boat, I will need wiring, switches, and a box to act as the switch panel.

    Remember, if you have never wired things before, you may be better off with clamp on lights, or having your boat wired professionally, a 12 volt battery stores a tremendous amount of energy and can be extremely dangerous.

    I will wire for an electric horn, bilge pump and running and anchor lights, along with an outlet for the trolling motor.

    Switch box will be mounted in the back of the boat, easy to reach from the steering seat. Your location may vary; it’s all what is most comfortable for you.

    Parts Required
    3 switches
    1 horn button
    1 horn
    1 Bilge pump and hardware
    14 gauge wire
    Calculated gauge wire for run from battery to box
    40 amp auto-reset circuit breaker
    Bow light
    Stern light
    Project box- I went to Radio Shack and picked one up, use any convenient source.
    Soldering iron and solder
    Crimp connectors

    Calculating the battery to box gauge: To determine the gauge for the wire used to run to the switch panel, we need to do some adding. The wire gauge is calculated by amps and distance. Since I will put an outlet for a trolling motor in mine, I need to allow for that load. The “rule of thumb” for trolling motor load is 0.8 amps per pound of thrust.
    Using that figure, the calculated amps will be 24 for the trolling motor. The lights, horn and pump will add about 4 amps to that, for a total load of 28 amps.

    The table below will let us determine the wire gauge. This table can be used for running cables from the battery to a bow mount trolling motor also.


    I have a 16 foot run, 28 amp load, 10 or 8 gauge wire should work, it’s right on the edge. I will choose 8 gauge, rather have a little more capacity than I need, we all know how things go awry on occasion.

    Now the fun begins, wiring the panel. I used 3 switches and a horn button from the automotive section at Wal-mart. Pick a spot for the switches and drill holes in the front plate of the project box, and then mount the switches.

    Next, I used a flat copper strip to act as a bus bar across the positive sides of the switches, soldering the bar to the switch terminals. The switch bus will be connected to the + cable coming from the battery. The other side of the switch will go to the item being powered, light or pump. For the wire from the switch panel to the lights and pump, I use the low voltage landscape wire, and route it neatly out of the way, or through a PVC pipe located under the floorboards or along the side.


    The switches I used light up in the on position, so they have a ground terminal. I’ll use that for the ground bus, done similar to the positive connection, except I will use a screw and nut to connect all the ground wire connections to the bus.

    Mount the horn button of your choice to the front of the panel and run the wires inside through a drilled hole behind the button.

    The wires from the battery connect to the switches through a pair of electrical screw connectors, a hole is drilled in the back of the box, countersunk, and a flat head screw and nut is used to mount the screw connector.

    Those screws and nuts will also connect the terminals to the pair of switch mounted bus bars, crimp connections and a short run of wire from each terminal to the bus bar.

    The trolling motor outlet was next, drill a hole the proper size in the side of the box and mount the outlet according to the directions supplied. The wire used will be 8 gauge here too, a very short run from the outlet to the screw terminal. Pay attention to the + and -, you need to make sure they match on the male and female connectors or your motor will run backwards.


    [/font][font=Verdana,Arial,Helvetica]As you make the connections to the switches with your longer than needed wires that run to the items being powered, label the wires, that will make it easy to check the functioning of the switches later, when we do the final test. [/font]
    I do all of my switch box work in the workshop, leaving lots of wire available for the run to the light or pump, that way, I don’t have to try to do the wiring while the box is mounted in the boat, my workshop is a lot more comfortable. After the box is completed, it’s an easy matter to make the boat connections. It's a good idea to to hook the box up to a small battery and check that everything works like it's supposed to using a test light or meter before you get out to the boat and mount the box.

    The labels are printed on "clear" address labels, then peeled off the sheet and placed on the front of the panel. If you need white labels for your panel, you can print an "inverse" image on your printer, that will make the background black, and you can use white paint to fill in the letters on the back side of the label.

    Mounting the lights will depend on what kind you get and where you want to mount them, drilling the right size hole in the right spot is the only hard part.

    Same principle with the bilge pump, it all depends on the set up of your particular boat. Once again, make sure the polarity of the wiring is correct and the pump works properly.

    My battery is mounted in the front of the boat, and the switch box will be in the back. I have installed a raised floor, so there is enough room underneath for a pvc pipe “conduit” for the wires up to the front light and back from the battery. I used a ¾ inch pipe and ran it under the seats and floor, then pushed the wires through. I taped the light wire to the heavy 8 gauge and pushed em all through.

    Now, decide on where the wires will run to the lights, horn and pump, and mount them. Solder and seal the box wires to the light and pump and horn.

    Up at the battery end, I use clamp on auto cables for the battery connection, and use a pair of heavy duty crimp connectors for the auto-reset fuse in the + cable.

    Not that the battery is hooked up, check everything and make sure it works. The only problem I have encountered with a project like this is a bad crimp connection or bad solder joint, so look for those.

    Now that everything works, pump spits out water, horn blows, lights light and trolling motor rotation is correct, its time for the fun part, CATFISHIN!