DIY Transducer Arm for Kayaks

Since installing my Lowrance X-4 fish finder in my kayak, I’ve questioned it’s accuracy, especially when marking fish.  When moving, I would mark a LOT of fish at the surface, which I knew was wrong, but I was unsure whether that was due to the duct seal used to mount the transducer in the hull, or perhaps turbulence from the hull cutting through the water.

I had already decided I wanted to add some YakAttack GearTrac to my kayak for use with the GoPro, rod holders, etc.  I chose the SL version, made from a lightweight composite, mostly for it’s affordability.  Since I was adding this, I also decided that it was time to try mounting the skimmer transducer onto a folding arm.  The concept for these arms is very simple, so why not try and do it myself!

Parts Needed

Cut two lengths of tubing.  The first is to move the transducer away from the side of the kayak.  The second is to move the transducer down into the water.  Both of these lengths will vary by kayak and how far you wish to have the transducer into the water, but should be very easy to measure for your application.  Once the two lengths are cut, drill a hole from top to bottom near one edge of the piece designed to move the transducer away from the kayak.  This will allow the MightyBolt to pass through and mount the arm to the kayak.  These bolts are 1/4″, so your hole should be 5/16″ or 3/8″.

Test assembly on the workbench.

Test assembly on the workbench.

Now mark and drill a hole from side to side on both pieces of tubing.  Theoretically, this hole should be 3/8″ from the top, bottom, and outside edge of the tubing to ensure that the edges of the two pieces are flush when folded or when the transducer is deployed in the water and the two pieces are perpendicular.  Attach the two pieces with the long 1/4-20 bolt and threaded knob.

Closeup of the notch cut and filed to snugly fit the Lowrance Skimmer Transducer.

Closeup of the notch cut and filed to snugly fit the Lowrance Skimmer Transducer.

Finally, attach the transducer.  The Lowrance skimmer transducers mount very nicely in the inside of the 3/4″ tubing, but your mileage may vary if you’re using a different transducer.  This is just trial and error, but using a small saw and file, you should be able to mount the transducer securely.  Cutting an additional notch may also allow you to fish the cable through the inside of the tubing rather than having to zip tie it to the outside.

I’m very pleased with the results from this move to the outside of the boat.  Readings seem more accurate and I now have a valid water temperature reading, something I was unable to get shooting through-hull.  It’s also very easy to flip up out of the water if I need it out of the way for fighting a fish or beaching the kayak.

First trip with the new transducer arm.  Westwood Lake in New Castle, IN.  It worked like a champ!

First trip with the new transducer arm. Westwood Lake in New Castle, IN. It worked like a champ!

DIY monopod hack – the next level

I’ve posted previously about converting an inexpensive monopod into a GoPro pole with kayak mounting capabilities. I decided I wanted to add additional flexibility to the camera angles available when mounting this system to my kayak.  To do this, I needed to be able to adjust the angle at the base of the monopod where it is mounted to the kayak.  I chose to use two 1.5″ YakAttack Screwballs, one to attach to the base of the monopod and one to retain the track bolt to be used to mount to my Mighty Mount.  To connect the two balls, I’m using a RAM short double socket arm.

Bolt inside cap

Bolt inside cap

Screwball attached to cap attached to monopod

Screwball attached to cap attached to monopod

The Screwball is essentially a RAM ball mount, except there is no base attached, only a socket threaded to 1/4-20.  When YakAttack ships these, they’ve got a Mighty Bolt threaded into that socket so that the Screwball can be used on nearly any track-mounting system.  I left one of these in place on one of the Screwballs since I will using it as the base, threaded into my Mighty Mount.  I removed the Mighty Bolt from the other one, exposing the threaded socket.  I lined this socket up with the hole in the bottom of my PVC cap (which happens to be tapped for 1/4-20, but that’s not necessary for this application) then attached it to the cap using a 1/4-20 bolt.  I reattached the cap to the monopod, essentially completing this project.  Very simple.

This two Screwball, one socket arm setup, combined with the extendibility of the monopod, should provide countless new shooting angles for my GoPro adventures.

Hacking a Harbor Freight Trailer Kit – Kayak Edition

Rigged and ready

I own an SUV. This is great for most purposes, except for when there’s a need to haul things. This included my kayak and fishing gear. While I had been loading my Future Beach Angler 144 SOT fishing kayak to the top rack on my SUV for the past year, the idea of having a trailer for kayaking purposes appealed to me for ease of loading and unloading as well as time spent preparing to leave for a fishing trip. In most cases, I can leave the kayak on the trailer and just hook up and go. Additionally, there are always household projects that require hauling scrap to the dump and furniture, appliances, and materials home from the store. With these requirements in mind, I set out to design and build a trailer that will cover all of these bases for me. Like most of us, budget was an issue, so I set out to research my options, keeping in mind the total cost of the project.

Harbor Freight Parts

  • Haul-Master #42709 – 950 LB Capacity 8 ft. Utility Trailer Foldable with 8″ Wheels
  • Haul-Master #47423 – Steel Side Panel Kit (discontinued, but may still be available in some stores)

Other Parts and Materials

  • 4′ x 8′ treated plywood
  • 1″ x 6″ board
  • Eye Anchors
  • Styleworks Tough Tote
  • Trailer Jack
  • Berkley Twist Lok Horizontal Rod Rack (x2)
  • 2″ Square Steel Tubing (heavy wall)
  • 1 1/2″ Square Steel Tubing (1/8″ thick wall)
  • Plate steel
  • Misc pins and bolts as needed

Modifications

The list of modifications to this trailer really fall under two categories: Those for the trailer kit in general, and those specifically for the kayak rack and fishing gear duties.

The biggest source of necessary modifications come from utilizing the Haul-Master steel side panel kit that was supposedly designed for this trailer kit. The rear of the kit has a removable tailgate. However, if you follow the instructions provided and place the floor on top of the lips of the sides, then this tailgate is NOT removable unless you choose not to have the floor extend to the back of the trailer and have the rear support provided by the rear cross-member. Additionally, the composition of the side panel kit would require some odd notches and cuts to fit in this position. Therefore, I chose to mount the panels on top of the floor.

Corner welded

Corner welded

Each cross-member of the trailer frame is attached to the side rails via three bolts: 1 on the side, 1 on the top, and 1 on the bottom. However, the side panel kit, for whatever reason, does not have holes in the corners to allow the top bolts to pass through. This left two options: Drill holes in the side panels, or remove the bolts altogether and weld the corners. I chose the latter since we already had the welder available.

Hinge welded together

Hinge welded together

This trailer was designed to be foldable, though that was not an option that I would ever be using. There is a bolt that is supposed to be holding the two halves of the center hinge together. However, that bolt was impossible to keep in place with the side panel kit in place, so we chose to remove the bolt and weld the hinge together as well as the seam created by butting the two sections together. Additionally, we bolted the two center cross-members together for added stability. Contrary to the directions, we kept the sheet of plywood in one piece and added carriage bolts down the center of the floor. This required no drilling as the holes were already there from the factory.

The ground for the trailer lighting was intended to be screwed into the frame utilizing a provided self-tapping screw and a pilot hole already present in the tongue of the trailer. Unfortunately, my trailer did not have this pilot hole, so I chose to simply use one of the bolts on the tongue for my ground location.

Tailgate with relocated plate

Tailgate with relocated plate

With only 8” wheels, this trailer sits rather low to the ground. On it’s first trip home, backing it up a hill beside the driveway, I bent my license plate in half. This prompted me to relocate the license plate on the tailgate of the side kit rather than mounting it from the bracket provided. The only issue with this is having to move it back to the bracket when hauling something that requires me to remove the tailgate. I don’t foresee this happening often, nor is it much work to actually do so.

Floor and sides complete

Floor and sides complete

One convenience modification I made was to use an eye anchor in lieu of bolts in the corners to provide additional tie-down locations for carrying loads in the trailer. Another was the addition of a utility box (Styleworks Tough Tote from WalMart) mounted onto the tongue by mounting 2 1” x 6” boards across the tongue then bolting the box to those boards. In this box I store all of my tie-downs, an adjustable wrench, my kayak seat, and various other things I may need when using the trailer. I also added a swing-back style trailer jack for ease of movement when not attached to my tow vehicle.

 Kayak Rack and Fishing Gear

Initial design. Some modifications were made in production.

Initial design. Some modifications were made in production.

For the kayak portion of the trailer, I sketched together a quick drawing with my idea for the rack. This rack needed to be removable in order to use the trailer for hauling purposes. It needed to be low for easy loading and unloading of the kayak and far enough back to be able to hold a 12’ kayak without impeding with the back of the tow vehicle.

To facilitate the location of the rear pockets, I had to drill a single additional hole in order to move the taillights and brackets back 3 inches. Other than that single, simple modification, nothing else was necessary in order to make the kayak rack work.

A raw pocket

A raw pocket

Fabrication of the rack (as well as assistance in assembly and the welding duties) was completed by my cousin, and for that I’m VERY grateful, as there is no way I could have done this by myself. After presenting him with my idea, he built pockets out of 2” square steel tube. These 8” tall pockets have a plate welded along the bottom so that the pocket can be welded along the sides and the bottom of the trailer frame side rails as well as ensuring that their height remains consistent for all four pockets. These plates also have a hole drilled in them for drainage should rain water make its way inside of them. Additionally, there is a hole drilled and tapped for using a bolt to push the 1 1/2” tubing of the rack so that it fits snugly within the pocket. The pockets and rack were then drilled for pinning them into place.

The two possible rail configurations

The two possible rail configurations (Please click the image to see the animated gif)

The original design had the pockets 4’ apart on center from front to rear. My cousin pointed out, though, that if we made this distance only an inch or so longer, then the rack bars could be “rotated”, thus placing them out of the way when hauling things other than kayaks and not requiring them to be stored somewhere other than on the trailer. Also, having these sturdy rails along the side of the trailer provides additional tie down locations for strapping loads when hauling. The pockets were welded into place per design and an additional bead of weld mounted the tops of the pockets to the steel sides, giving the sides additional stability.

Padded rails

Padded rails

My original sketched design called for 5’ long cross bars on the rack itself. Without sacrificing strength or drivability, I chose to make them 6’ long, thus making it possible to haul two kayaks side-by-side without the need for additional uprights for vertical loading. The uprights of the rack are 22” high, giving the rack just a few inches clearance over the tops of the side panels. The rack itself was constructed from 1 1/2” square tubing with an 1/8” thick wall. This steel is strong enough for kayak hauling yet not overly heavy for the trailer and handling. I then padded these rails with rubber pipe insulation from my local big box hardware store.

Rod rack installed

Rod rack installed

One last modification I made for kayak fishing duties was to add two Berkley Twist Loc horizontal rod holders, one to each side. I positioned these so the butts of my rods would be towards the front of the trailer, hopefully eliminating any tendency for the wind to want to catch the rods and whip them out. With two of these, I should be able to easily haul 8 rods out of the way of anything else in the trailer.

So Far, So Good!

This trailer is still very new. I’ve now used it for two trips to the dump during which it performed perfectly with the rack positioned alongside the trailer. I’ve done a single, short shakedown run with the kayak strapped on the rack. It also did a great job for this. So far, it seems like this trailer is doing exactly what I intended it for despite the initial frustrations caused by wanting to use the side panel kit. In total, I was able to purchase the trailer, the side kit, and all parts and accessories used for just shy of $350. If you’re considering this trailer, keep your eye out for the frequent 20% off coupons. They’ll apply to this trailer, even when the trailer is on sale. If you’re considering the side panel kit, prepare to be amazed that it ever made it to market.

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Crate refresh: re-purpose to add external storage

The mighty milk crates have more than just storage abilities INSIDE.  The outside of the crates can be very useful for storing items, too.  I, like most people, mounted my rod holders on the outside of my crate.  I also thought it would be nice to have some pouch- or bag-style storage on the outside for items I may not want to dig for.

While wandering through my local Menard’s, I discovered the GoGear Vent Pack Organizer in the automotive section.  These are designed to lock into your car’s vent and hold junk in your car.  The mount system for them consists of a stiff moldable strip covered in a webbing material.  This lets you weave and clamp the pack anywhere on your milk crate.  In my case, I mounted both of them to what will normally be the front side of the kayak to hold my scent bottle and my scales.

Crate refresh: gear separation on the cheap

Using a milk crate in your kayak is definitely useful for keeping all of your gear in one place while on the water.  However, sometimes even that crate can get disorganized.

Do you have an old license plate laying around?  Grab a drill and some zipties, because you have an easy-to-install separator.  The pictures below explain this mod pretty well.  Just drill some holes around the edge of the plate and ziptie it to your crate.  As you can see, I put mine in place to hold 4 Plano boxes to one side and my random loose gear on the other.

Crate refresh: tie-down anchor

When strapping down the fishing crate into the stern well of the kayak, I used to just run the bungees over the top, then had to deal with them being in the way when accessing items stored in the crate.  I decided that there was certainly someway for me to manage the tie-downs so that they’d hold the crate steady yet be out of the way.

On a recent trip to the hardware store, I located some J bolts that I thought would fit the bill.  I drilled holes in all top corners and on all sides.  With all of these holes, along with the wing nuts I used, I can then reconfigure the anchor locations without tools should I choose to change the orientation of the crate in the well.

DIY monopod hacked for kayak mounting

One of the first DIY projects I completed once obtaining my GoPro Hero2 was this monopod hack.  It takes a standard, inexpensive monopod and morphs it into an extendable GoPro boom pole.  It works great!

Recently I’ve been working on my rigging to get the boat ready for some warmer weather and the 2013 season.  On this list of things to do was another way to mount my GoPro to the kayak that doesn’t require the sometimes unstable mount of using the milk crate.  I’m really intrigued by the YakAttack GearTrac and MightyMounts, so I thought I’d give them a try.  I picked up a MightyMount and a few MightyBolts, hoping I could use them to build some DIY things for these fantastic mounts.

Rubber chair tip removed, PVC cap screwed into place, MightyBolt threaded in.

Rubber chair tip removed, PVC cap screwed into place, MightyBolt threaded in.

On a whim yesterday, I removed the rubber chair tip cap from the monopod and tried to slide on a 3/4″ PVC cap that I had laying on my desk.  It was a perfect fit!  Very snug, maybe even more snug than when slid onto 3/4″ PVC pipe.  So, I drilled and tapped the cap for 1/4-20 threads and screwed one of the MightyBolts into it.  The result is an extendable boom pole that mounts into GearTrac, MightyMounts, and most other track mount systems on kayaks.  To ensure that the cap doesn’t slip, I chose to screw the cap into the monopod rather than glue it to make it easier to remove later should I decide to.

I hope to test this soon. I haven’t even mounted my MightyMount yet!  But when I do, this will be the first thing I try!

ADDED 3-5-2013:

Yesterday I finally installed my YakAttack MightMount with FullBack.  After figuring out where I wanted the mount to be located and verifying that I could reach the area on the inside of the kayak to get the FullBack in place, I began by drilling a small pilot hole in one corner of the mount.  After drilling it out to the size I needed, I placed a bolt in that hole, then began drilling the other three holes one at a time, placing a bolt in each completed hole.  Everything went together well, though I did have clearance issues for the FullBack based upon the tight location I chose.  I was able to make it work, though.

The pictures below show the MightyMount in place with the hacked monopod camera mount in place.  I think it’s going to rock!

DIY Solo Line Winder

One of the more frustrating things in fishing to accomplish alone is winding new line onto a reel.  It is very difficult to maintain steady tension on the spool of line while trying to reel that new line onto the reel’s spool, especially when doing so by yourself.

I looked into some of the commercially-available solutions for this problem, then researched some DIY solutions.  Of course, I love to do it myself, and I found this particular entry on Instructables to be one of the more creative that had been published.  I especially liked the idea of being able to adjust the tension on the spool with a simple movement of a collar.

I made some modifications to the instructions found there, though.  Rather than wood for the holder and base, I chose to use PVC (of course!).  Additionally, I left the head on the long hex screw and actually remove the screw from the drilled and tapped hole in the upright to replace the spool of line being used. This allows me to only have to use a single shaft collar, saving a few bucks.  I also added an additional 6″ bolt that lets me store my spools of line when not in use.  I just have one, but you could theoretically add many of these depending on your needs.

I have not had the opportunity to actually use this setup yet, so I may update later with additional changes that I’ve needed to complete, but the theory of this is sound and should help with this daunting task.

New modification to fishing crate GoPro rig

Today I made a quick modification to the fishing crate GoPro rig to allow for greater flexibility on mounting options.

2 mounting options for the GoPro. Left – Quick Release mount, Right – Tripod mount

Previously, I had a threaded male adapter on the end of the extension arm that attached to the frame mounted to the crate.  Today, I decided to add an additional threaded male adapter to the opposite end and create two new camera mounts using threaded (female) caps.  One uses a curved adhesive mount from GoPro to create a quick-release base for the camera, as I was previously using.  The second cap has been drilled and tapped for 1/4″-20 and a 1/2″ long 1/4″-20 bolt inserted to use with the GoPro tripod mount or, most likely, the Pedco UltraMount Ball & Socket Head.  This head should give me the flexibility I need to quickly adjust the GoPro for the angle needed.

November Smallmouth Fishing + GoPro Mounts

This weekend I was able to go do some fishing with my dad on a small northern Indiana lake that’s been hot for smallmouth lately.  Unfortunately, the bite has slowed, possibly due to the lake turning over from the cold snap of late.  We were still able to catch some, though not the quantity and quality that he’s been catching there in the past weeks.

Along with the fishing, I was able to test out some mounts that I’ve been building.  All of them are highlighted in this video:

Best viewed in 720p.

The beginning of the video was a boat-loading time lapse I attempted using the GoPro Suction Cup Mount.  I learned about 52 seconds into the 1 shot per second time lapse that you really should clean off the surface before mounting.  It fell.

Breakdown of the mounts used:

Suction cup mount on inside of boat

DIY backpack mount (Instructions here)

DIY chest mount