6 DIY Fishing Boat Upgrades

Sometimes I like to pretend that money is not a factor. I’ll scour the internet checking prices for big ranches in the Dakotas, riverside lodges in Idaho, or maybe a beach house in Maui. And, yes, sometimes I venture to look at the latest offerings from bass boat builders…including prices.

A fully loaded 20-foot boat from a leading manufacturer will set you back about $80,000. Step up to the 21-foot model and you’re in six-figure territory. Yes, thats how it is. We’re talking $100,000 plus for a bass boat.

Used boat prices have not been easy on the eyes lately. That said, we can always hope that this crazy shipping market settles down and, in the meantime, we’ll do what we can to make our current gear what we want. Honestly, I have found personalizing and customizing my boats one of the most enjoyable parts of owning them. Here are some ways you can improve yours.

1) Speakers

Lenrue Bluetooth Speaker

lenrue speaker

I’m not one to hang around the lake with music blasting, but I spend many hours fishing by myself and turning on some music or a good podcast is something I enjoy. I’ve never found the need for a full onboard audio system, but Bluetooth speakers are ideal for boat use.

I have an older Skeeter ZX series that included an in-dash igniter. Of course, my electronics are a bit more sophisticated these days, and I literally have no use for the flasher. But, that circular mount was perfect for a Bluetooth speaker. I measured the available space and hit up Amazon in search of the perfect option. What I found was a round speaker for less than $25 that claimed to be waterproof.

I put velcro on the back of the speaker and attached it to the flash mount. The fit was perfect and I can charge the speaker using the USB charger on my boat (more on that in a bit). The sound quality won’t win any awards, but I can easily hear it at the front of the boat while I’m fishing, and that’s all that matters to me.

2) LED lighting

Shangyuan Naval Ship Lights


You’ve probably seen boats sparkling like the 4th of July on the lake. LED lighting on boat trailers, decks and seating areas is a popular trend today. I have added LEDs to my boat as well but spent under $100 to do it.

Instead of focusing on the bling factor, I opted more for practicality and installed LEDs in the rod lockers and storage compartments, plus a single white LED array by the step where I sit when I’ve set up the game before a tournament or just a day of fishing.

When choosing LEDs, make sure you choose them for marine use. They must be sealed and waterproof. I chose 120 lumen LEDs that have a simple two-wire installation.

To make things even easier and safer, I added a basic fuse panel (for about $10). The fuse panel also makes troubleshooting a little easier if there is a problem.

3) A USB charger

AlfredDireck dual fast charging

usb charger

I took advantage of an outdated accessory on my boat by unplugging the outdated 12 volt “cigarette lighter” type plug and replacing it with a dual USB charger that I picked up for about $10. Installation was stupid easy as the wiring was already in place for the cigarette lighter socket.

4) Storage of tools

Tool holder

tool organizer

I am constantly losing pliers and cutters. They end up buried somewhere at the bottom of a partition and never come in handy when I need them. To keep my tools organized, I went completely DIY and designed a simple three slot tool box that attaches to the side of my boat in the step area. I made it from a piece of PVC trim I had left over from a home project and used epoxy to attach the box to the boat. There are also commercially made cleats available online, including an excellent option offered by PRO-Cise Outdoors, which I had on a previous boat.

5) Trolling motor tamer

Troll Tamer

trolling motor tamer

I fish almost exclusively for smallmouth in the Great Lakes. Even the inland lakes where I go inland are pretty big – like 20,000 acres big. Rough water is a relative term, and for people who chase brown bass here, rough water is something we’ve learned to live with. Trolling motors take tremendous abuse when bouncing around the waves, and I’ve tried just about every system available to keep mine safe.

The best solution I have found is the Troll-Tamer from TH Marine. It’s worth the price and installation doesn’t take long. Once you put it in place and shut off your trolling motor, you’ll know it’s not going anywhere, no matter how messy things get.

6) Cold Storage

If you have a fancy new rig, you likely have built-in coolers that are fully insulated and hold ice for more than an hour or two. This is not the case for older ships, including mine. I’ve had many racks to use as coolers, but none of them are insulated. The solution was quick and cheap.

Read more: The 25 Best Fishing Lures Ever

I got a cooler bag for less than $10 that hides nicely under the passenger seat of my boat. It has a lot of capacity and I can load it with ice, a few drinks and whatever else I want to keep cold during the day. If I need more cooler space, I can add another one to the driver’s seat storage space.

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