Low Voltage Nightmare

The latest bass boats, bay boats and flats skiffs are commonly outfitted with an increasing number of electronic devices including a power-sucking trolling motor, livewell and bilge pumps, navigation and courtesy lights, GPS/sonar combo units, engine data gauges, entertainment systems and power-assisted shallow water anchoring devices. With growing electrical consumption, it’s more important than ever to make sure you have a reliable power source, regardless of your boat’s size.


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Photo: Johnson Outdoors

First things first, you’ll want to select the appropriate type of battery for your power needs, budget and particular application. With two main types and multiple subcategories of batteries available for marine applications, this can be a confusing task if you are unfamiliar with the territory. Available for cranking, deep cycle and dual-purpose applications, high quality marine lead-acid batteries are critical to successful angling and safe passage in all watery venues.

Combining the benefits of cranking and deep cycle batteries, dual-purpose batteries offered by leading industry partners like ODYSSEY are rising to the top as the best choice for those who spend a lot of time on the water.

Cranking, or starting batteries, are designed for short bursts of high power for turning over an outboard motor and rely on the engine alternator to keep fully charged for continuous use. Deep cycle batteries feature a different composition and structure of lead plates to provide a more consistent, long-term amperage output for onboard electronic systems and devices that draw power over extended periods of time. Deep cycle batteries can be discharged and charged multiple times.

Combining the benefits of cranking and deep cycle batteries, dual-purpose batteries offered by industry leading partners like ODYSSEY are rising to the top as the best choice for those who spend a lot of time on the water.

From here, a few options exist in regards to marine battery composition and chemical construction for generating and storing usable energy. These options include wet cell batteries, gel batteries and absorbed glass mat (AGM) batteries. Wet cell, or flooded batteries, are the most affordable option and have been relied upon for years, although they aren’t sealed, have a shortened cycle life, and require regular fluid replacement.

Gel batteries are the next step up and provide a sealed solution that requires no maintenance, although careful charging practices are essential to ensure solid performance over the battery’s maximum lifespan.

AGM batteries are similar to gel batteries and are quickly climbing the ranks as the very best option, but they aren’t the best choice if you are a budget conscious boater. However for performance, longevity and ease of use AGM batteries cannot be beat.

Before you make a purchase you need to not only think about your power needs today, but what they might be in the future if you decide to upgrade with additional aftermarket accessories. If you want to push a jon boat or canoe with a 12V trolling motor as your primary means of propulsion, a single ODYSSEY dual-purpose AGM battery will suffice for pushing you around the local lake for a few hours, but if you want to travel greater distances you might want to add an additional battery in parallel.

Bay boats and flats skiffs are often outfitted with a plethora of electronics, but it’s likely your trolling motor is the largest power draw. In general, any trolling motor offering 50 pounds of thrust or greater will require 24 or 36 volts. When an application like this calls for multiple batteries they should be installed in a series. The previously mentioned jon boat with a 12V motor would benefit from parallel rigging that doubles the amp hours but has no influence on the voltage. Conversely, connecting batteries in a series effectively doubles their voltage.

While it used to be the case that anglers would combine a bank of cranking and deep cycle batteries to start and power their vessel, new battery technologies are continuing to change the game. ODYSSEY has broken the barrier with their marine dual-purpose batteries that provide both incredible starting power and exceptional deep cycling capability with longer service and cycle life, and faster recharge.

“What makes ODYSSEY Batteries different is that they are composed of 99.99% pure lead and designed with the latest performance lead-acid based technologies. By producing a battery with lots of thin plates we have developed a dual-purpose battery that provides a high cranking rating while still providing true deep cycle. Mechanically indestructible and maintenance free, ODYSSEY Batteries get their high performance characteristics from the internal design. Unparalleled cranking power comes from the thin plates that provide incredible surface area, while the deep cycle attributes are powered by the dense oxide coating on the plates,” explained Bruce Essig of ODYSSEY Batteries.

While there are numerous options when it comes to the ideal battery system for your vessel, the bottom line is that you should invest now to get the best batteries you can buy because they will provide season after season of trouble-free service. Never mix battery chemistry types, and try not to mix old and new batteries in the same bank. If you’re not sure of the ideal system, contact a local professional. There is nothing enjoyable about finding yourself powerless on the water.