How-To

Bass boat restoration: Going electric

I recently gained access to a great bass fishery that only allows electric power. Although kayaking is a great way to hit the lake solo, I wanted a fishing platform that would allow me to take family and friends along for the catching. So, I found this 1997 Alumacraft MV Angler (16 feet in length), that had been neglected in a yard for several years. I know this brand is constructed with basically zero wood, so restoring it would take little more than elbow grease and imagination. I bought the boat and trailer for $800, and invested another $500 in materials. What follows is the process and results.<br> <br> Here she is! The hull is in great shape. The interior, not so much. Several science projects seemed to be taking place at the same time, with special mold and plant growth a botanist would be proud of. <br><br> <em>All captions: James Hall</em>
Photo: James Hall - I recently gained access to a great bass fishery that only allows electric power. Although kayaking is a great way to hit the lake solo, I wanted a fishing platform that would allow me to take family and friends along for the catching. So, I found this 1997 Alumacraft MV Angler (16 feet in length), that had been neglected in a yard for several years. I know this brand is constructed with basically zero wood, so restoring it would take little more than elbow grease and imagination. I bought the boat and trailer for $800, and invested another $500 in materials. What follows is the process and results. Here she is! The hull is in great shape. The interior, not so much. Several science projects seemed to be taking place at the same time, with special mold and plant growth a botanist would be proud of. All captions: James Hall
The carpet on this boat originally covered just about every inch of the interior. Fungus and mold seemed to thrive on it.
Photo: James Hall - The carpet on this boat originally covered just about every inch of the interior. Fungus and mold seemed to thrive on it.
My favorite aspect of this boat was the small tree growing in the middle of it. The cupholder must have filled with dirt and the tree took root through the drain hole.
Photo: James Hall - My favorite aspect of this boat was the small tree growing in the middle of it. The cupholder must have filled with dirt and the tree took root through the drain hole.
At some point, the carpet was removed from a portion of the back deck and it was spray painted black. Most of the paint was worn off.
Photo: James Hall - At some point, the carpet was removed from a portion of the back deck and it was spray painted black. Most of the paint was worn off.
Removing the old carpet was the first step. It was a nasty job. A lot of utility knife work here, cutting around the edges and ripping did the job. Because the entire interior was carpeted, this left an immense amount of old glue to deal with.
Photo: James Hall - Removing the old carpet was the first step. It was a nasty job. A lot of utility knife work here, cutting around the edges and ripping did the job. Because the entire interior was carpeted, this left an immense amount of old glue to deal with.
Some of the carpet was held down by rivets. To remove these rivets, I slid a small chisel under the head and used a hammer to pound them off.
Photo: James Hall - Some of the carpet was held down by rivets. To remove these rivets, I slid a small chisel under the head and used a hammer to pound them off.
Here are a few items I grabbed from Home Depot. The wire brush for the drill proved invaluable. I used the JB weld to fill a small crack in the floor. The putty knife was used for scraping off glue and the torch was to burn off edges of carpet that I could not remove any other way. The WD 40 helped me loosen screws to eventually remove the seats.
Photo: James Hall - Here are a few items I grabbed from Home Depot. The wire brush for the drill proved invaluable. I used the JB weld to fill a small crack in the floor. The putty knife was used for scraping off glue and the torch was to burn off edges of carpet that I could not remove any other way. The WD 40 helped me loosen screws to eventually remove the seats.
I first tried removing the glue using Goof Off and a scraper. This was good for the areas with really heavy glue residue. Be sure to wear a respirator… this chemical is powerful.
Photo: James Hall - I first tried removing the glue using Goof Off and a scraper. This was good for the areas with really heavy glue residue. Be sure to wear a respirator… this chemical is powerful.
The process was tedious. I’m thinking the wire brush could have accomplished the same thing … and wish I would have tried it first.
Photo: James Hall - The process was tedious. I’m thinking the wire brush could have accomplished the same thing … and wish I would have tried it first.
I removed the old trolling motor bracket. And the front deck is starting to come along.
Photo: James Hall - I removed the old trolling motor bracket. And the front deck is starting to come along.
There is a small storage section under the front deck. It needed work.
Photo: James Hall - There is a small storage section under the front deck. It needed work.
Removing the seats proved difficult. Several of the bolts were rusted and could not be broken free. So, I had to use a grinder to remove the head of the bolts so I could pull the old seats off. And yes, the storage area underneath was nasty.
Photo: James Hall - Removing the seats proved difficult. Several of the bolts were rusted and could not be broken free. So, I had to use a grinder to remove the head of the bolts so I could pull the old seats off. And yes, the storage area underneath was nasty.
This is the livewell. It, like the other hatch lids, was attached via a piano hinge and rivets.
Photo: James Hall - This is the livewell. It, like the other hatch lids, was attached via a piano hinge and rivets.
The rear hatch.
Photo: James Hall - The rear hatch.
An old gas tank and various natural artifacts were living here. Most of these wires will eventually be removed when the engine comes off.
Photo: James Hall - An old gas tank and various natural artifacts were living here. Most of these wires will eventually be removed when the engine comes off.
I employed my son Austin to work on removing the glue while I was at work.
Photo: James Hall - I employed my son Austin to work on removing the glue while I was at work.
He found that the wire brush worked best, especially in tight spaces.
Photo: James Hall - He found that the wire brush worked best, especially in tight spaces.
Another visit to Home Depot for different styles of wire brushes. This one was was a life saver on edges.
Photo: James Hall - Another visit to Home Depot for different styles of wire brushes. This one was was a life saver on edges.
We would power wash after every session of glue removal. This helped keep the surface clean and showed us the glue that still had to be removed.
Photo: James Hall - We would power wash after every session of glue removal. This helped keep the surface clean and showed us the glue that still had to be removed.
The glue is finally gone! At least, the glue that we could reach. For the floor, we used an orbital sander, which was really awesome.
Photo: James Hall - The glue is finally gone! At least, the glue that we could reach. For the floor, we used an orbital sander, which was really awesome.
Because we are making this boat all electric, there would be no need for the console or controls. Eventually, these will be removed, and we can reach the glue on the walls beneath it.
Photo: Because we are making this boat all electric, there would be no need for the console or controls. Eventually, these will be removed, and we can reach the glue on the walls beneath it. - Because we are making this boat all electric, there would be no need for the console or controls. Eventually, these will be removed, and we can reach the glue on the walls beneath it.
Next, we removed the hatch lids. You can either hammer off the rivets, like we diid in this photo. Or, you can get a 1/8-inch drill bit and drill them out. I did both. The drill process was best in tight quarters.
Photo: James Hall - Next, we removed the hatch lids. You can either hammer off the rivets, like we diid in this photo. Or, you can get a 1/8-inch drill bit and drill them out. I did both. The drill process was best in tight quarters.
With all the hatches off, they were ready to be painted.
Photo: James Hall - With all the hatches off, they were ready to be painted.
All surfaces were wiped with acetone prior to painting.
Photo: James Hall - All surfaces were wiped with acetone prior to painting.
We went with Rust-oleum primer, as well as Rust-oleum Gloss protective enamel for the top coat. Because I’m not a professional painter, I wanted to keep it simple and get a color and brand that I could easily get again to touch up areas that might eventually get scratched. We put two coats of primer and two coats of enamel throughout the boat.
Photo: James Hall - We went with Rust-oleum primer, as well as Rust-oleum Gloss protective enamel for the top coat. Because I’m not a professional painter, I wanted to keep it simple and get a color and brand that I could easily get again to touch up areas that might eventually get scratched. We put two coats of primer and two coats of enamel throughout the boat.
Make sure to paint in a well ventilated area.
Photo: James Hall - Make sure to paint in a well ventilated area.
I bought a cheap rivet gun at Home Depot to reattach the hatch hinges. Pretty sure the gun and rivets were less than $30 all-in.
Photo: James Hall - I bought a cheap rivet gun at Home Depot to reattach the hatch hinges. Pretty sure the gun and rivets were less than $30 all-in.
To replace the carpet, I decided to go with SeaDek. This product not only looks amazing, but is very comfortable to stand on, keeps the boat surface cool when it’s hot outside, dampens any noise within the boat and is super easy to work with. I originally ordered two rolls (they come in sheets of 40 inches by 80 inches), one in snow camo and one in cool grey. I underestimated the amount I needed and had to order one more roll of each before the project was finished.
Photo: James Hall - To replace the carpet, I decided to go with SeaDek. This product not only looks amazing, but is very comfortable to stand on, keeps the boat surface cool when it’s hot outside, dampens any noise within the boat and is super easy to work with. I originally ordered two rolls (they come in sheets of 40 inches by 80 inches), one in snow camo and one in cool grey. I underestimated the amount I needed and had to order one more roll of each before the project was finished.
Measuring the SeaDek for the hatch lids was simple since they were removed. I measured width, then laid the lid on top of the material to mark.
Photo: James Hall - Measuring the SeaDek for the hatch lids was simple since they were removed. I measured width, then laid the lid on top of the material to mark.
Once marked, a utility knife easily sliced through the material.
Photo: James Hall - Once marked, a utility knife easily sliced through the material.
To add the SeaDek, simply peel off the wax paper backing, line up the edge and stick it down.
Photo: James Hall - To add the SeaDek, simply peel off the wax paper backing, line up the edge and stick it down.
As I mentioned, I’m not a professional painter. Because we are only worried about the functionality of the boat and do not plan on putting it on a showroom floor, priming and painting the interior was about coverage, not perfection. Plus, the majority of the decks and floors would be covered in SeaDek.
Photo: James Hall - As I mentioned, I’m not a professional painter. Because we are only worried about the functionality of the boat and do not plan on putting it on a showroom floor, priming and painting the interior was about coverage, not perfection. Plus, the majority of the decks and floors would be covered in SeaDek.
We were a bit more careful when it came to the outside edges. We used painter’s tape to make sure the lines were straight. I wasted time and paint on the console… caught in the moment of painting, I guess, before I remembered it would be removed.
Photo: James Hall - We were a bit more careful when it came to the outside edges. We used painter’s tape to make sure the lines were straight. I wasted time and paint on the console… caught in the moment of painting, I guess, before I remembered it would be removed.
Although Ram Board is a bit expensive ($32 a roll at the Home Depot), it proved invaluable when making templates for the SeaDek where a lot of angles were present. I bent to shape, then taped in place.
Photo: James Hall - Although Ram Board is a bit expensive ($32 a roll at the Home Depot), it proved invaluable when making templates for the SeaDek where a lot of angles were present. I bent to shape, then taped in place.
VERY IMPORTANT TIP: When you make a template, mark which side is the TOP. Then, flip the template over when cutting the material. The nose of this Alumacraft was not perfectly square. So, the angles on one side were slightly different than the other. Also, use a fresh razor blade for perfect lines.
Photo: James Hall - VERY IMPORTANT TIP: When you make a template, mark which side is the TOP. Then, flip the template over when cutting the material. The nose of this Alumacraft was not perfectly square. So, the angles on one side were slightly different than the other. Also, use a fresh razor blade for perfect lines.
Fit like a glove!
Photo: James Hall - Fit like a glove!
We left a little edge around the SeaDek on the back deck, mainly because I thought it looked cool.
Photo: James Hall - We left a little edge around the SeaDek on the back deck, mainly because I thought it looked cool.
Finishing the front deck with multiple strips of SeaDek was simply a matter of measuring squares. I will say, the snow camo was really good at hiding seams. The cool grey proved to be more difficult in this area.
Photo: James Hall - Finishing the front deck with multiple strips of SeaDek was simply a matter of measuring squares. I will say, the snow camo was really good at hiding seams. The cool grey proved to be more difficult in this area.
The rear deck and lids were complete.
Photo: James Hall - The rear deck and lids were complete.
We reattached the hatch covering the front deck storage area and added a splash of snow camo SeaDek for effect.
Photo: James Hall - We reattached the hatch covering the front deck storage area and added a splash of snow camo SeaDek for effect.
Time to remove the engine. This was a little beyond my skill set, so I asked my friend Paul Moody to do the honors. Because the outboard had great compression, we wanted to keep the steering and controls intact to use it on a future project.
Photo: James Hall - Time to remove the engine. This was a little beyond my skill set, so I asked my friend Paul Moody to do the honors. Because the outboard had great compression, we wanted to keep the steering and controls intact to use it on a future project.
Once the controls were pulled and the steering was dismantled, we pulled the bolts holding the engine to the transom. Moody made the process look easy.
Photo: James Hall - Once the controls were pulled and the steering was dismantled, we pulled the bolts holding the engine to the transom. Moody made the process look easy.
The old Johnson now waits for a new home.
Photo: James Hall - The old Johnson now waits for a new home.
With the steering gone, removing the console was simple. The rivets holding it down were sizeable, so I had to use a grinder to remove the heads. Then, it lifted straight off.
Photo: James Hall - With the steering gone, removing the console was simple. The rivets holding it down were sizeable, so I had to use a grinder to remove the heads. Then, it lifted straight off.
The drill and wire brush removed the remainder of the glue with ease.
Photo: James Hall - The drill and wire brush removed the remainder of the glue with ease.
For the main electric power source, I went with the MinnKota Vantage. First, I already had this motor in my garage from a previous project, so I didn’t have to purchase another main power source. Secondly, this 36-volt powerhouse has some killer features, including electric trim, a tilt/extended tiller handle and a digital maximizer, which provides up to five times longer run time on a single battery charge. Perhaps the feature I most like about this motor is the 4:1 articulated steering. That means you can rotate the lower unit 180 degrees by only moving the tiller handle 45 degrees. Incredible control.
Photo: James Hall - For the main electric power source, I went with the MinnKota Vantage. First, I already had this motor in my garage from a previous project, so I didn’t have to purchase another main power source. Secondly, this 36-volt powerhouse has some killer features, including electric trim, a tilt/extended tiller handle and a digital maximizer, which provides up to five times longer run time on a single battery charge. Perhaps the feature I most like about this motor is the 4:1 articulated steering. That means you can rotate the lower unit 180 degrees by only moving the tiller handle 45 degrees. Incredible control.
Back to finishing the SeaDek. I used the Ram Board to make a template for the bench.
Photo: James Hall - Back to finishing the SeaDek. I used the Ram Board to make a template for the bench.
I was able to cut holes for the storage hatches.
Photo: James Hall - I was able to cut holes for the storage hatches.
And then I used painter’s tape to tighten up the edges of the template.
Photo: James Hall - And then I used painter’s tape to tighten up the edges of the template.
The fit was perfect.
Photo: James Hall - The fit was perfect.
The back section of the boat was complete and turned out awesome, I think.
Photo: James Hall - The back section of the boat was complete and turned out awesome, I think.
The floor was easy. It basically took one entire roll and fit corner to corner.
Photo: James Hall - The floor was easy. It basically took one entire roll and fit corner to corner.
Everything was SeaDeked, save the nose of the boat.
Photo: James Hall - Everything was SeaDeked, save the nose of the boat.
Trolling motor to be installed first. Because I have 36-volt power in the back and this boat is going to be super light, I went with a 12-volt MinnKota Edge 45-pound thrust. This motor has a very small footprint and is super easy to mount. One of the existing holes perfectly positioned the motor, and I drilled out the other five to attach the bracket. The wiring was already there, so it was simple to hook up.
Photo: James Hall - Trolling motor to be installed first. Because I have 36-volt power in the back and this boat is going to be super light, I went with a 12-volt MinnKota Edge 45-pound thrust. This motor has a very small footprint and is super easy to mount. One of the existing holes perfectly positioned the motor, and I drilled out the other five to attach the bracket. The wiring was already there, so it was simple to hook up.
Now to create a template for the nose and around the trolling motor bracket. Again, The Ram Board made this process simple.
Photo: James Hall - Now to create a template for the nose and around the trolling motor bracket. Again, The Ram Board made this process simple.
SeaDek installed and looking sexy!
Photo: James Hall - SeaDek installed and looking sexy!
There was a big hole in the side where the wiring led to the console. I used the existing wiring to hook up my electronics. I found an old piece of black Starboard in my garage from an old kayak project, covered it with SeaDek, and used it to cover the big hole and hold the ram mount ball for the Lowrance unit, which I also use on my kayak, so no purchase necessary. Worked beautifully.
Photo: James Hall - There was a big hole in the side where the wiring led to the console. I used the existing wiring to hook up my electronics. I found an old piece of black Starboard in my garage from an old kayak project, covered it with SeaDek, and used it to cover the big hole and hold the ram mount ball for the Lowrance unit, which I also use on my kayak, so no purchase necessary. Worked beautifully.
The front deck with trolling motor and electronics installed. The head unit of the display can be tilted toward the transom when I’m running the Vantage, or shifted to the bow when I’m using the Edge.
Photo: James Hall - The front deck with trolling motor and electronics installed. The head unit of the display can be tilted toward the transom when I’m running the Vantage, or shifted to the bow when I’m using the Edge.
The removal of the console makes the 16-footer feel incredible roomy.
Photo: James Hall - The removal of the console makes the 16-footer feel incredible roomy.
Next, I added the batteries. To save on weight, I opted for a Lithium Power 36-volt battery to power the Vantage. For the trolling motor, I used an X2Power lead-acid marine battery. I am using these same batteries in my fiberglass bass boat, so no purchase was necessary. There’s plenty of room in the rear hatch to add on-board chargers, if I decide to go that route eventually.
Photo: James Hall - Next, I added the batteries. To save on weight, I opted for a Lithium Power 36-volt battery to power the Vantage. For the trolling motor, I used an X2Power lead-acid marine battery. I am using these same batteries in my fiberglass bass boat, so no purchase was necessary. There’s plenty of room in the rear hatch to add on-board chargers, if I decide to go that route eventually.
As for the cherry on top, I added the SeaDek bass decal.
Photo: James Hall - As for the cherry on top, I added the SeaDek bass decal.
And she’s done! I added butt seats (that don’t exactly match) to make a long day of fishing more comfortable. At BassPro, it cost a total of $200 for the adjustable poles, butt seats and mounting brackets.
Photo: James Hall - And she’s done! I added butt seats (that don’t exactly match) to make a long day of fishing more comfortable. At BassPro, it cost a total of $200 for the adjustable poles, butt seats and mounting brackets.
Another angle.
Photo: James Hall - Another angle.
And straight on.
Photo: James Hall - And straight on.
Of course, we had to test it out. So, we launched the boat to test the motors and electronics, and to see how fishable it was with two full-grown guys. I asked my old boss, Dave Precht, to assist in the effort.
Photo: James Hall - Of course, we had to test it out. So, we launched the boat to test the motors and electronics, and to see how fishable it was with two full-grown guys. I asked my old boss, Dave Precht, to assist in the effort.
It didn’t take him long to prove we could catch bass in the boat! Both motors performed flawlessly.
Photo: James Hall - It didn’t take him long to prove we could catch bass in the boat! Both motors performed flawlessly.
I even proved you could catch a bass behind Precht, although he didn’t make it easy.
Photo: James Hall - I even proved you could catch a bass behind Precht, although he didn’t make it easy.
All in all, this was a fun project that an amateur DIYer pulled off. Although not showroom quality, the upgrades we made look great and give us a great bass fishing platform for the electric-only lake. The final tally, including the purchase of the boat and trailer, the bow-mount trolling motor, four rolls of SeaDek, tools/equipment and the butt seats landed around $2,100.
Photo: All in all, this was a fun project that an amateur DIYer pulled off. Although not showroom quality, the upgrades we made look great and give us a great bass fishing platform for the electric-only lake. The final tally, including the purchase of the boat and trailer, the bow-mount trolling motor, four rolls of SeaDek, tools/equipment and the butt seats landed around $2,100. - All in all, this was a fun project that an amateur DIYer pulled off. Although not showroom quality, the upgrades we made look great and give us a great bass fishing platform for the electric-only lake. The final tally, including the purchase of the boat and trailer, the bow-mount trolling motor, four rolls of SeaDek, tools/equipment and the butt seats landed around $2,100.