The Bass Boat Control Panel – Old School Style

Control Center for boat 1973 Bass Fishing Annual Bass Master Magazine.

Anglers today are beyond spoiled when it comes to the boats we fish out of. Full decks console-to-bow / stern-to-console, enough dry storage to handle a tackle shop’s worth of gear and more gadgets than Ron Popeil has ever dreamed of inventing. No longer do we have to worry about going home, taking every crankbait, spinnerbait, hook and sinker out of our box so they can dry after fishing in the rain all day. We don’t have to think how far away from the rear transducer we are in order to stay on a spot because our front and rear finders are linked together. And if we want to stop and fish a spot in the shallows all we have to do is hit a button and down go two poles to hold our position.

Boy things have changed over the years.

Although there have been major strides in the manufacture of bass boats, the biggest advances (are they really?) in bass fishing have been in the line of the gadgets we use. And speaking of these gadgets, anglers today (especially those who didn’t bass fish in the 60s through 80s) take for granted all the gizmos they have on their boats – thinking that they, “can’t catch fish without them.”

Here’s a short comparison of gear we have today vs. what we had “back then.”

Bass Boat Gear Comparison - 1970s vs. Now
1970s
Now
Sonar Flasher (1-2)Sonar/GPS (2-4 units)
Electric Trolling Motor (<20lb thrust)Electric Trolling Motor (>100lb thrust)
Anchor (1-2)Power Poles (1-2)
Bilge pumpBilge pumps
Livewell/bait wellLivewell fill pumps (2)
Livewell / bait well pumpLivewell pump-out pump
Car battery (1-2)Livewell recirculation pumps (2)
Gauges (water temperature, maybe speedometer)Livewell Aeration pumps (2)
Gas tanks (1-2 6-gallon portable tanks)Batteries (4 group 31 deep cycles)
Gauges (speedo, tach, power trim, jack plate, engine temp, water pressure, etc)
Bow switches for power trim
Inside lighting
Lighted dry storage and livewells
3- to 4-bank charging system
Internal gas tanks

Most of this gear is creature comfort and improvements on gear we used long ago. Does it help us catch more fish? I’d say some of it does – some of it doesn’t. For example, does side-finder technology help us catch more fish? Well, maybe in the respect that it allows an angler to see the bottom better than ever before. No longer do anglers have to rely on topographical maps to learn bottom contours or wait for a lake to be drawn down to see what exactly is on the bottom. So, in that sense, it might help us catch more fish.

Control center wiring diagram 1. 1973 Bass Fishing Annual Bass Master Magazine.

What about power poles? I don’t think they help us catch more fish – they make it more convenient to hold on a spot rather than sticking push-poles in the bottom or using anchors. The same goes for today’s boat. They don’t help us catch more fish – they make our experience on the water more comfortable and safer.

Back in the early days we had none of this stuff, though. But, as is happening all the time, more and more gadgets were being produced and there came a time when an angler, wanting all the cool new stuff, needed to do something about all his new electronics.

Going through the 1973 Bass Master Bass Fishing Annual I came across an article on how to make a “control center” for all your new electronic gadgets – author Howard A. Bach. This was meant for use in “car-topper-type” boats but you also have to remember, bass boats at that time didn’t have much more than a speedo and tach on their consoles. So this article also pertained to people who owned bass boats.

It’s a pretty ingenious method in which to wire all your electronics into one compact portable package for those of you who still rent boats. Of course if you have your own smaller fiberglass or aluminum rig, you’d probably want to hardwire the boat but the concept is still the same.

Control center wiring diagram 2. 1973 Bass Fishing Annual Bass Master Magazine.

What I see these days is people “think and feel” they can’t effectively fish for bass without a $60,000 bass boat. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We did it back then in everything from a 12-foot Jon boat to 18-foot bow riders. All that was required was a desire to catch bass, something that floated and a vehicle to get you there. The same can be said today.

Will I ever give up my 20-foot Bass Cat?  No.  But I am not against fishing out of a 14-foot aluminum boat either.