I had planned on waiting until Spring in Michigan to order my new Old Town Predator XL kayak but I went ahead and ordered it because I wanted it to be ready for open water, whenever that might occur. Thanks to the great folks over at ACK.com, I ordered the Predator on a Saturday night and it was at my door on Friday afternoon; all with free shipping! The purpose of this new boat is multifaceted in that one day I want to head out on Saginaw Bay to fish for perch, the next, trolling for walleye, then maybe head to local impoundments for bass or crappie. So the next piece of the puzzle would be to find a sonar/gps unit to find the areas and to find the fish. Since Johnson Outdoors is the parent company of both Old Town and Humminbird, it was suggested that I go with a Humminbird unit.
The original plan was to mount a 699 to the Predator’s utility console as it came with mounts for both the transducer as well as the mount for the sonar unit. However, I realized that the sonar unit is mounted at the far end of the console which is down near my feet. While your mileage may vary, I’m better than six feet tall and my feet are a distance away from my eyes. No doubt the screen of the 699ci is a vast improvement from days past, I wanted something with a bigger screen so I opted for the 899ci combo unit. The 7″ screen is crystal clear and quite bright so that fit my need quite well. However, this was not without its challenges.
I contacted Old Town while the kayak was enroute because nowhere could I find any documentation on installing a sonar unit on this new model of kayak. I knew both the MinnKota console and Utility Console were “sonar ready” but I wasn’t quite sure of what that meant. Old Town was extremely helpful and offered to email me a guide on installation options. To break this down, there are two main components of both consoles that will be important in the installation process. One being the mounting plate on top of either console and the other being two options on mounting the transducer depending on which one you want to use.
The first option is to use a “Through-hull Transducer”. If your sonar unit has a “through-hull” transducer, at the bottom of the
console, there is a recess with a similar mounting plate to the top of the console where the transducer is mounted. The cable is coiled up through the console in a water-tight tube and finally out the top to be hooked up to the head unit.
The second option is to use a transom-mount transducer but it will be located near the front of the kayak. At the very forward part of the recess for the console, there is a mounting plate that can be unscrewed from the boat. The transducer can be mounted on this plate and then the cable can be run either through the console (water-tight but you cannot easily remove the console from the kayak) or up the wall of the recess to the head unit (not water-tight but the console can be removed).
If you wish to use a sonar unit that only employs a standard sonar scan, then either option will work quite well. However, to be able to install and remove the entire console from the boat, I would recommend using a through-hull transducer. My issue came when I realized my sonar unit has both Side Scan and Down Scan technology meaning my transducer had to be about 1/8″ below my hull. The mounting plate for the transom-mount wasn’t deep enough and I had to mount my transducer all the way at the bottom and even then, the transducer is just over 1/16″ below my hull which may prove to be an issue with surface noise.
When it came time to mount the head unit, I chose to go with a RAM Mount that worked with the 899 because it had a small footprint than the standard mount that came with the 899ci. When I ordered both together and first pulled it out of the package, I can sum up my thoughts in one word; HEAVY. This RAM mount isn’t going ANYWHERE. It is quite a solid piece of hardware and I felt confident it could handle any punishment on the water with ease. It did concern me, though, because once the 3lb. head unit was mounted to the RAM mount, it could be quite heavy for the rectangular plastic mount that the console had to offer. I figured the most stable way to mount this would be straight up from the console as the weight would be centered. However, once I got it in the boat, I realized it felt much more solid and stable when the RAM mount paralleled the hull of the boat (see photos). Not to mention, it stood out less and had a lower profile while bringing the screen of the
If you are looking for a solid fishing platform, regardless of the species of fish, then take a look at the Old Town Predator XL. The challenges I faced when mounting the sonar unit was because I wanted above and beyond what is necessary to find fish and with minimal effort, the designers at Old Town did a great job of creating a flexible platform for such a thing. Another great thing about choosing this boat and a Humminbird unit is that support for both can be attained with a single phone call. I can’t wait for the spring thaw and open water but sadly I’ll have to!