Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Getting a Charge Out of Fishing

By Steve Chaconas

Bass boaters are opening their hatches and their wallets to lithium batteries, despite their high cost and potential for fires. To be clear, lithium battery technology and safety have been improved and they don’t combust like they used to, however, if they are involved in a fire, they are nearly impossible to extinguish. Proper charging and preventing lithium batteries from being bounced around are required to prevent lithium issues. Anglers are putting those risks aside because of the space and weight reduction they offer. One lithium can replace 3 standard batteries, reducing the weight by 2/3. Accessories like livewells and electronics can be powered with a long lasting lithium. Due to the nature of lithium, giving no notice that they are empty, many have opted for a redundant battery set ups. Two 36 volt lithiums for trolling motors and maybe two more for accessories. But a standard lead acid battery is required to start a bass boat outboard.

There are not many studies about boat handling or performance affected by the drop in weight from lithium. Anglers report differences in hole shot, turning, and top speeds. Hit and miss modifications to jack plates and propellers are needed to restore performance.  Bass boat engineers plan for the weight of conventional batteries in their boat design and there’s no boating industry news about adaptations for lithium.

A big downside to lithium batteries is they can’t handle being bounced around, which is what boat batteries typically go through. Even regular lead acid batteries are subject to premature failure being bumped around. But lithium really loses year round anglers as they don’t charge or perform well in cold weather.

Adding to lithium concerns is lithium confusion, with many manufacturers making specification claims that most don’t quite understand. Special charging systems need to be purchased. Modifications are necessary to protect fishing and boating electronics. Power surges and lightning strikes could be extremely hazardous and impossible to prevent.

Many bass boaters have been relying on Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) batteries for decades. In addition to providing deep-cycle power, AGM batteries are quick to charge and hold up to being bounced around in rough water.

Standard lead acid batteries don’t last as long due to leaking, but AGM technology can prevent leaks from developing, which can increase the lifespan. Absorbent glass mats wick battery acid to the plates, which means that there is no reservoir of acid that can be spilt if the casing gets cracked. AGM batteries are totally sealed.

Pennsylvania battery maker East Penn manufactures Marine Master AGM batteries. Reliable and maintenance free, East Penn’s DEKA brand is sealed to enhance performance and longevity. In fact, you could say DEKA AGM batteries last forever, well, they are virtually 100% recyclable. East Penn’s sophisticated recycling facility processes approximately 30,000 batteries per day. Everything is recycled at the East Penn plant. Lead, over 200 million pounds, is recycled into new batteries, battery clamps and cables. Eleven million pounds of plastic goes directly to the molding division. East Penn’s acid reclamation plant was the first of its kind in the battery industry. Millions of gallons of battery acid are converted into a fertilizer that serves the local farming community. That’s as clean as it can get.

But lithium presents several issues, from collection to recycling. Lithium falls short of the number of recycling facilities that accept lead batteries. To further impact the environment, the level of virgin raw material mining needed for lithium manufacture presents significant environmental and social issues which is compounded by the types of materials used during manufacture.

Lithium batteries are not as easily recycled as more conventional lead-acid batteries. Most lithium batteries weren’t designed for safe and efficient disassembly and taking these batteries apart can generate toxic dust that can contribute to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and can pollute the soil. Damaged batteries or those that experienced thermal runaway release extremely poisonous or flammable gasses such as hydrogen, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen flouride.

But saving the lithium is not effective as it is lost as slag. Other metals in lithium batteries, such as aluminum, copper and iron must be removed. Co-precipitation of transition metal ions due to their similar properties, makes the metal extraction process complex and expensive.

Unlike lead battery recycling, there’s no single process for recycling lithium-ion batteries that combines low environmental impact and energy cost with high metal yields. It’s a series of processes with tradeoffs to reduce the environmental impact of lithium battery disposal, never reaching net-zero.

The recent surge in the use of some type of lithium bass boat batteries is generally based on weight and longevity and sounds good until all elements are weighed.  But costing more than 4 times AGM batteries, emerging and uncertain recycling, along with the potential for uncontrolled fires, gives many bass boaters reasons to stay with proven AGM technology.

Potomac River Bassing in JULY

Time to hit the mats with heavy weights and frogs. Both require 60 pound test Gamma Torque braid. Look for thick grass beds close to deeper water.

For the frog, tie a double Palomar knot and work over thick grass. This bait is also effective over cover without grass. When the bass explodes on it, set the hook upward and horse them out of the thick cover. White frogs make it easier to see the strike.

Punching mats involves 1-1.5 ounce tungsten weights pegged with a stopper. A stout hook is needed to prevent bending. Put a small soft plastic on it. Pitch to thick mats and shake until it drops through. Fish will bite the bait and swim off, load the rod, and just pull.

In areas around grass, swim and bladed jigs in craw patterns can come through grass to produce bites. For this, spool with 14-16 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line. Snap free from grass.

Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is a Potomac bass fishing guide & freelance writer. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. YouTube channel NationalBassGuide.

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