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March 26, 2013

Structural Support

Find the right electronics-mounting solution for your small boat

The thesaurus should list “trade-off” as a synonym for “boat.” If I’ve heard the phrase — “but what about … ?” — once, I’ve heard it enumerable times when discussing vessel features.


RAM Mounts offer lots of adjustability to owners of small boats, but less protection from theft and the elements.

Owners of small boats might be even more keenly aware of the trade-off syndrome: Since space ranks as a major consideration, everything becomes negotiable. When adding electronics to smaller vessels, anglers must consider the size of the display they’d like and balance that with where and how they might install the equipment.

Boats under 25 feet — including center-consoles, skiffs and even kayaks — feature smaller helms where gauges and electronics often compete for real estate. Installation options include:

• Flush mounting in the dash/console.
• Using a manufacturer-supplied bracket to install on a flat surface, such as the console top.
• Purchasing/installing a ball-and-socket mount such as a RAM Mount.
• Purchasing/installing a pod mount, such as those by Edson, Seaview, NavPod and others.

Pros and Cons

“The ‘pros’ for flush mounting are: It’s clean, and everything is hidden and protected (water can’t easily find open plug ends),” says Sean Edmunds, Southeast regional sales manager for Navico, which makes Lowrance and Simrad products. “The cons are that flush mounting limits your screen size to the size of your console, and you might deal with more glare because you can’t change the angle of the screen.”

For open boats without T-tops, that second caveat can be more than just a nuisance. Being able to read a display screen in bright sunlight means more-productive fishing and can impact safety.

Today’s hyperfunctional displays also come with larger and more-beautiful LCD screens. Dropping screen size can mean losing the ability to monitor multiple sounder and plotter feeds. However, some captains feel that’s a manageable trade‑off.

“I will sacrifice screen size over mounting electronics in the console,” says Capt. Sam Heaton, Humminbird field promotions manager. “Mounting the electronics in the dash gets them off the top of the console, and it’s the best anti-theft device you can have [because a flush-mount unit can’t easily be removed from the vessel].”