Boat AccessoriesBoat MaintenanceFishing

Below the Waterline Part II

I was on a charter on the Dreamer and visiting with Capt Allyn Watson, the undisputed master at fishing Catalina seabass. The conversation inevitably turned to catching and keeping squid in our tanks and when we got to how much is enough he quipped in classic Watson form “Too much is never enough”.

Truer words were never spoken…if your bait system is up to the task. Yet so many of the boats I look at are woefully unprepared to even begin to come close to performing at peak capacity. So let’s take a closer look at a few of the common problems I see on a regular basis. And now with so much evidence pointing towards some measure of “El Nino” for the upcoming offshore season, having maximum bait capacity might become all the more important.

On many small skiffs, aluminum boats, inflatables and even bigger rigs doing double duty both fishing and family stuff, transom-mounted bait pumps perform admirably. The three sizes provide enough water for most applications and coupled with the ease of installation and the ability to easily remove them makes these units a viable alternative for many rigs. But, like any mechanical device, top performance is dependent on a proper installation.

For these pumps to do their best work the lower edge of the mounting bracket must be installed flush with the bottom of the boat and closer to the keel than the chine. If it’s not the pump will work fine if you’re sitting still or moving slowly but it will suck air as soon as you get up to speed. I have a transom display in my store to actually show our customers the correct orientation of the outlet, exactly how to mount the bracket and other hull design features to consider.

Our store display showing the proper way to install a transom mount bait pump.

This will work but whenever possible try to always have the outlet on the high side to minimize airlock issues.

Hose issues can (and will) cause you major grief. Many of the most common problems arise from the use of non-reinforced hose just to save some money but it’s being penny-wise and pound-foolish. The cheap dime store vinyl kinks easily, breaks down quickly in the sun and will make an insurance adjuster cranky if an accident occurs.

Even the better grade hose needs to be properly supported to avoid kinking. The pounding of fast boats along with the weight of the water in the hose will cause it to sag and restrict that all-important flow to the tank. Many of the calls we get about long fill times are traced to hose issues; too small, too long of a run or being kinked under the tank are all common problems.

Lots of issues here; a big high spot to trap air in the strainer, the mesh in the strainer is too small which clogs easily and the kink from an unsupported hose.

Improper tightening of hose clamps also causes problems. Whenever possible we always double-clamp the hoses used during installations. However some barbs and bilge pump outlets are only long enough to carefully position one clamp so make sure it’s in the right spot.

Note in the picture below how a clueless installer tightened the clamp on the hose…past the end of the outlet of this bilge pump.

Guess when it would have fallen off; at the dock during the day or way offshore at 2AM in miserable weather?

The next picture shows the hose sliding off the drain fitting on this tank. The clamp was way too large and bottomed out prior to being tight enough to hold the hose securely. This is just another example of more drama waiting to happen in the middle of the night.

This is how we like to do it. Heavy wall, reinforced hose fully installed on the fittings and then double clamped virtually guarantees years of trouble-free service.

There are many components to an effective bait system. But the pump is literally at the heart of the operation as it moves the life-giving water up to our precious baits in the tank. With interrupted or insufficient flow the bait rolls and we’re left with trying to figure out how to make the day chopping chunks.

Fortunately, today we have many worthy options when selecting a pump. On many of our installations we use the Rule Tournament Series in the three sizes of 500, 800 and 1100 gph. Those pumps have evolved over the years from marginal at best into reasonably dependable units that are waterproof, low amp draw and easy to install. Also they now offer the ability to easily swap out the motors. As they are very water-resistant the Rule pumps are perfect for many of our small boat installations where space is at a premium and moisture is a concern.

Lots of stuff and very little room to fit it all in.

When the size tank requires more water or our customer wants to upgrade we use the Cyclone pumps from Jabsco. The amp draw is higher (8-9) and they don’t tolerate wet locations but they are very well made with a stainless housing and impellor, pump a lot of water and are very quiet. If they are properly plumbed I can use them on tanks up to about 90 gallons. For tanks bigger than 100 gallons it starts to get a bit more complicated.

The Rule 3700 is a large 12vdc general purpose pump. The problem is that for many applications it is too big and must be restricted. They draw about 15 amps so battery capacity can be an issue but when the system requires some major volume they provide a viable solution. I’m just starting a large double tank installation on a 46 Hatteras and we’ll be installing two of the 3700’s; one to run on and one for a backup and all inter-connected with a manifold for effective water distribution.

This particular customer specified an all dc system. On most boats of this size and up we’re doing an ac/dc pump combination, using the 3700 and an appropriately sized ac pump. They range from 1/2 -3/4 horsepower for most yacht applications and we almost always have to install an overboard bypass to dump some of the excess capacity. The new WhisperFlo designs move an amazing amount of water and are mostly suited for the larger yachts with 200+ gallons of bait water.

Note the yet-to-be-installed bait pump in between the engines in this standup engine room on a 65′ Hatteras.

Yep…that’s the world famous Capt Dave Hansen on the left.

Since I started this article a few days ago there have been more positive signs for this year. The yellows re-bit below the Coronados, there was a good score on the big forktails at Clemente and a couple of private boats walloped the seabass at opposite ends of Catalina Island.

Coupled with the ever-increasing optimism about the likelihood of El Nino for the fall season there are lots of reasons to get your bait system fully functional for the upcoming offshore season.

Capt. Mark Wisch
Well-known California captain, writer, speaker and tackle shop owner, Capt. Mark Wisch has been helping anglers catch fish along the West Coast for de...