Boat Maintenance Guide: Flounder Gigging & Bowfishing Boats
Regular boat maintenance is key to stress free flounder gigging and bowfishing trips. The purpose of this fishing boat maintenance guide is to discuss some key tips that should be considered both during the off-season and during the height of flounder gigging and bowfishing.
Take this fishing boat maintenance guide seriously and follow it closely and it will make life easier; whether you're taking care of a saltwater flounder gigging boat or a freshwater bowfishing boat.
Boat Maintenance Guide
Preventing Corrosion: Sacrificial Anodes
Corrosion is an electrical process that commonly occurs as a result of two metals coming in contact in water. In theory, the two metals become a battery and have an electrical current flowing between them.
The electrons that make up the current are supplied by one of the metals giving up bits of itself, in the form of metal ions, to the water. Sometimes you can physically see this and the metal will look like an Alka Seltzer tablet in the water, dissolving away. Most times, however, this is a slow process that occurs over long periods of time.
The purpose of a sacrificial anode is to serve as an instrument that sacrifices itself through concentrated corrosion, and helps prevent corrosion in other parts of the boat that are far more expensive to replace.
Magnesium vs. Zinc vs. Aluminum Anodes
The 3 core sacrificial anodes are magnesium, zinc, and aluminum. The oldest and most commonly used anode is zinc, but magnesium and aluminum anodes have recently gained in popularity due to availability and reduced manufacturing costs.
In the end, the best anode for your boat is going to vary depending on the elements you are in.
Magnesium makes for a really great anode, it possesses a high current output which does a really great job at diverting corrosion to wherever the magnesium anode is located. This is exactly what you want in an anode.
- Magnesium is ideal in freshwater, due to freshwater's higher resistivity.
- Magnesium anodes work great in saltwater but are less commonly used because of saltwater's high conductivity (low resistivity) which causes the anode to dissolve at a much faster rate.
- Magnesium anodes have a short lifespan in saltwater and are similarly priced, if not cheaper than zinc anodes.
- High current output can result in over-voltage (hydrogen release) when used in saltwater, which can be fixed with smaller but more abundant magnesium anodes.
Recommended use: we recommend magnesium anodes for freshwater use. They will last for a longer period of time in freshwater, and not as long of a time in saltwater. Their performance is superior to zinc in freshwater, although they are priced similarly if not less than zinc.
Zinc anodes have been around the longest and are the most universally used anode, hence the common reference "zincs" when referring to a sacrificial anode.
- Zinc anodes are the most common, universal anode available. This is because anodes are more commonly used and replaced in saltwater as compared to freshwater.
- Zinc anodes do not have a strong enough charge for freshwater use, so other boat components may corrode before the anode corrodes in freshwater.
- In freshwater, zinc anodes can produce a film of zinc hydroxide, rendering them useless unless they are regularly cleaned and maintained.
- The high conductivity of saltwater is ideal for zinc anodes, because they last longer than magnesium anodes and are relatively similar priced if not more expensive on occasion.
- When mounted, it is important the anode is attached to bare metal for the best continuity. Good continuity, or electrical flow, allows for the zinc anode to dissolve before corrosion chooses other parts of the boat to corrode.
Recommended use: we recommend zinc anodes for saltwater use. They are a great fit for both fiberglass and aluminum hull boats, and will last longer in saltwater in comparison to the lesser expensive magnesium counterpart.
Aluminum anodes are preferential for some boats because they are noted for lasting longer. In terms of anodes, having something that lasts a longer amount of time means other components on your boat are more susceptible to corrosion.
- Aluminum anodes can oxidize and form a passive film over them at a faster rate than zinc, rendering them virtually useless if not regularly cleaned and maintained.
- The decrease in cost of aluminum manufacturing in recent years has caused them to gain in popularity.
- The EPA suggests aluminum anodes are more environmentally friendly than zinc anodes, but the actual effect is minimal even in worst case scenario in comparison to zinc.
- If you have an aluminum boat, common sense would suggest that you should not use an aluminum anode on your boat hull. Dissimilar metals are part of what causes the electrolysis process.
- Aluminum anodes can be used on outboard motors, but zinc anodes will perform just as well in saltwater.
Recommended use: we do not recommend using aluminum anodes on flounder gigging or bowfishing boats, unless you are mounting them to your outboard motor (made from steel). They are more ideal for steel hull boats, and steel hull boats are rarely used for flounder gigging and bowfishing, they are more commonly used in commercial freight operations.
Best Sacrificial Anode for Trolling Motor
It is a really good idea to put a sacrificial anode on your trolling motor. Trolling motors aren't cheap, and an anode is a sure-fire way to keep it looking new.
Trolling motors are commonly used in flounder gigging and bowfishing, and it is essential to keep them in top shape if you want to lessen the risk of cutting future trips short.
Let's talk more about saltwater and freshwater trolling motors, and what anodes fit best on these setups.
Saltwater Trolling Motors
- It is best to use zinc anodes for saltwater trolling motors
- All saltwater trolling motors should have anodes
- High amperage associated with trolling motors will cause corrosion over time and will cause premature failure if not properly maintained.
- Saltwater is highly conductive, which will cause corrosion to happen at an even faster rate.
Freshwater Trolling Motors
- Magnesium anodes are ideal for freshwater trolling motors
- Freshwater trolling motors are less likely to corrode over time as compared to saltwater trolling motors, but are still at an increased risk if used regularly.
Trolling Motor Anode Locations
- Trolling motor anodes are typically attached to the shaft and/or the prop of the trolling motor.
Trolling Motor Shaft Anode
Trolling Motor Prop Anode
Investing in a trolling motor shaft anode and/or a trolling motor prop anode can be one of the best insurance policies you buy. Trolling motors operate on adjustable power, and can draw 50+ amps at full speed. This adjustable high amperage makes them extremely susceptible to corrosion and premature failure.
Best Sacrificial Anode for Boat Hull
Boat hulls should always come standard with a sacrificial anode, even if it's a fiberglass boat. On a fiberglass boat, it typically comes with a strand of wire to connect to a metal ground point. On an aluminum boat, it is typically bolted onto the boat as shown in the photo below.
Saltwater Boat Hulls
Most boat hulls used for flounder gigging and bowfishing in saltwater are made from one of two materials: fiberglass or aluminum. Fiberglass boat hulls don't have to worry about corrosion.
Aluminum boat hulls are highly susceptible to electrolytic or galvanic corrosion, and they happen to be the go-to boat hull for flounder gigging and bowfishing due to their ability to hold up well when they come across shallow water obstacles.
- Zinc boat hull anodes are a must-have for aluminum flounder gigging and bowfishing boats.
- Ensure there is a good contact at the point the anode is installed, and be sure the anode is not painted or covered or else it is less likely to corrode in place of other parts of the boat corroding.
- Check the anode once a month to be sure the contact point is not corroded. If corroded, clean with wire brush to ensure good continuity.
Freshwater Boat Hulls
Similar to saltwater boat hulls, most boat hulls used for fish gigging and bowfishing in freshwater are made from one of two materials: fiberglass or aluminum.
Aluminum boat hulls are the go-to most commonly used hull due to their ability to hold up to the shallow water obstacles most come across while fish gigging and bowfishing. Fiberglass boats are less resistant to these shallow water obstacles, but will obviously not corrode since they aren't metal.
- Magnesium boat hull anodes are ideal for aluminum flounder gigging and bowfishing boats.
- When installing anode, be sure there is a good contact point so the anode has great continuity and will corrode before other boat components corrode.
- It's good practice to check the anode once a month to be sure the contact point is not corroded. If it is corroded, remove the anode and use a wire brush to clean it, then re-install.
Best Sacrificial Anode for Outboard Motor
Outboard motors are made from steel, and all 3 anode types are considered electrically weaker anodes than steel. Thus, any of the 3 anodes will work well. That being said, some anodes may be more beneficial than others depending on the environment your outboard motor is in.
Location of Sacrificial Anodes on Outboard Motors
There are typically 5 sacrificial anodes on outboard motors, and they are commonly found in the following locations:
- trim tab
- lower unit exhaust cavity
- anti-ventilation plate
- motor mounting bracket
- inside water cooling jacket
Saltwater Outboard Motors
- Magnesium should not be considered in saltwater use, because it has too high of a charge and will disintegrate far too quickly.
- Zinc is the ideal anode for saltwater outboard motors.
- Aluminum can work well in saltwater outboard motors, but zinc is more widely used and available as it is considered a weaker alloy than aluminum.
Freshwater Outboard Motors
- Magnesium can be used in freshwater outboard motors due to the high resistivity associated with freshwater.
- Zinc can be used with success on freshwater outboard motors, but is at risk to form a passive zinc hydroxide film over the anode, which means it may need to be cleaned and maintained from time to time to ensure good electrical continuity.
- Aluminum is similar to zinc, as it can also oxidize and form a passive film that renders the anode useless. I would recommend zinc or magnesium over aluminum for freshwater outboard motors.
Tips for Better Electrical Connections
Electrical connections are the source of most problems in boats. Boats are constantly being jarred by waves, and with flat bottom boats being the most commonly used boat style in flounder gigging and bowfishing, they are also the least efficient at handling waves.
Here are some tips for better electrical connections:
Tip 1 - Use dielectric grease everywhere there is a wire connection, including in waterproof plugs.
Tip 2 - When making wire extensions or connections, ALWAYS use waterproof solder seal wire connectors. Normal crimp style wire connectors are more likely to corrode, even if they have heatshrink to cover them. Solder seal connectors weld the two wires together and have an adhesive-lined heatshrink to cover and protect the weld.
Tip 3 - Oil-based battery terminal protectors are a must-have for a longer-lasting battery.
Tip 4 - When repairing or replacing existing wiring, use tinned cable. If needing two strands of wire, use duplex cable. If needed three strands of wire, triplex cable, etc. Purchasing cable that is manufacturer sealed will hold up much better than stranding a bunch of single cable strands together.
Tip 5 - Zip tie your cables together, or put cables inside wire loom and zip tie the wire loom. Keeping electrical wiring neat and orderly will decrease the likelihood a cable gets snagged and pulled loose while out on the water.
How to Make Boat Trailer Lights Hold Up in Saltwater
The number one cause of trailer lights failing prematurely is due to corrosion at the connection points. This can be solved by using dielectric grease at the connection points including the vehicle plug and utilizing waterproof solder seal wire connectors for extensions.
Additional tips for helping boat trailer lights hold up in saltwater include tips 1 through 5 above in relation to Tips for Better Electrical Connections.
Boat Motor Maintenance
We can’t have a fishing boat maintenance guide without a good look at your motor. The source of most boat motor problems come from two places: the fuel or the battery. Here are some tips to consider in learning how to avoid fuel and battery problems:
How to Avoid Fuel Problems
- It’s best to avoid fuel that contains ethanol if possible.
- If ethanol is a must, do not use any more than 10% mixture (E10) and it’s best practice to buy gas from a dock or station that has a lot of traffic. This helps ensure it’s fresh and new.
- If the majority of the fuel will not be used within 1-2 weeks, it’s best to invest in a fuel stabilizer additive.
- Most modern gasoline will start to oxidize and form troublesome deposits in the fuel system within a few weeks. This is especially true in older carbureted motors rather than fuel injected motors.
- 10 micron water-separating fuel filters between the fuel tank and the motor can help prevent water and fine particles from entering the engine.
- Most modern boats come standard with this, but this a must-have feature for older boats that do not have it.
How to Avoid Battery Problems
- Boats should utilize deep cycle marine grade batteries. They have a more robust design than a typical auto battery to withstand the constant vibration and pounding experienced on the water.
- It’s ideal to secure and protect marine batteries with a battery trey or housing, this will also help minimize terminal corrosion due to saltwater.
- Utilize terminal corrosion inhibitors and regularly check and clean terminals of corrosion.
- Utilize an on-board maintenance-type battery charger to keep your marine batteries fully charged and conditioned between uses.
Winter Boat Maintenance
- Outlined in owner’s manual for your particular motor.
- Ideal for climates that experience below-freezing temperatures. The general scope of work is to flush the cooling system with antifreeze.
- Flushing the cooling system with antifreeze removes the water which could eventually cause damage when frozen.
- Many shops will do this in conjunction with annual maintenance
Outboard Motor Maintenance
It’s important to follow the user manual for your outboard motor for best maintenance practices, but here are some standard boat motor maintenance procedures you will see across most outboard motors:
Every Time You Use Your Boat
- Check the oil and top it off (if needed)
- Check the propeller for damage
- Check steering movement
- Check hull for damage and make repairs as needed
- Wash hull and deck
- Check bilge pump, ensure works properly and power connections are not corroded
- Check battery for a proper charge: 13+ volts is ideal for full charge battery.
- Ensure all electric systems work properly, fix issues as they arise.
- Check fire extinguishing systems.
- Start motor and run while hooked up to running freshwater hose before and after each use, especially if boat has been sitting.
Every 20 Hours
- Check the lower unit for water and refill oil as needed
- Treat fuel with decarbonizer
- Check engine for proper RPM
- Clean and protect interior
Every 50 Hours (or 3 months)
- Check fuel lines for degradation
- Check steering system fluid level and look for leaks
- Wax and polish hull and deck
- Clean bilge pump, clean power connections to ensure no corrosion.
Every 100 Hours (or 1 year)
- Lubricate grease points
- Check power trim and tilt fluid and refill as needed
- Tighten all bolts and fasteners
- Check engine mounts
- Replace water pump impeller
- Change oil and fuel filters
- Check bow and stern eyes for secure mounting
- Check rub rail for damage
Airboat Motor Maintenance
The owner’s manual is the number one source for proper boat maintenance for airboats, but here are some good maintenance recommendations for what you should be doing based on run times.
Every 10 Hours
- Wrench-check all fasteners
- Check engine oil - first oil change @ 10 hours run time
- Check coolant level
- Oil steering cable ends with light oil
- Lube rod-end fittings (top and bottom of rudders)
Every 50 Hours (or 3 months)
- Change engine oil and filter (every 50 hours run time)
- Change gear box oil (if equipped)
- Check rod-ends for wear
- Check Steering Bushings for wear
- Check engine accessory drive-belts and adjust as necessary
- Clean engine intake spark arrestor
- Replace fuel filter
Every 100 Hours (or 1 year)
- Replace spark plugs
- Replace spark plug wires
- Annual inspection of fuel system
Every 200 Hours
- Replace motor mount bushings
- Replace exhaust band clamps
- Replace exhaust flex-pipe
Every 500 Hours (or 5 years)
- Replace steering cable
- Replace throttle cable
- Replace drive belt on reduction unit
- Replace coolant hoses and fuel hoses