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Reviving your Livewell
  |  First Published: July 2009



Onboard livewell systems on boats, especially tournament fishing boats, are largely standard fair these days. Reticulated, plumbed and with a capacity often exceeding the ABT required 60L, these onboard aquariums keep fish alive and kicking even in the most demanding climatic conditions.

For tournament anglers, and non-tournament anglers, keen to keep their catch in tip-top condition there are easy options available to take your livewell set-up to the next level. From small additions and alterations to a complete overhaul, the benefits are there whether you’re striving to ensure the wellbeing of your tournament limit or maintaining the condition of your catch for the table.

If it’s Broke, Fix It

While many of the livewell set-ups in boats today are best practice, when it comes to looking after fish many fall well short and are often detrimental to the animal. Small and cramped livewells with harsh corners and fittings that prevent fish from freely moving around are one of the biggest failings of many systems. Regular impact with these hard surfaces reduces the protective coating on fish and regularly result in split fins. The tail fin being the worse affected.

The reticulation system is often overlooked and underpowered; with ineffective spray heads, pumps drainage and overflow configurations compromising the effectiveness of the livewell. An improved spray head/aerator can saturate the water with oxygen, while a high rate pump and fast flowing drainage system can allow the livewell to be completely drained and refilled with break-neck speed. The end result is greater speed and efficiency; two of the most important attributes to strive for when designing a quality system.

So What Can I Expect

Changes to the construction and dimensions of the livewell can be a complex task, but alterations to some or all of the livewell components is much easier and can still deliver dramatic improvements. The replacing of a single item, like a standard spray bar for an improved designed air-infusing model, can make a world of difference. Flowrite Australia representative Lincoln Johnson explains.

“Many of the units that come standard in boats simply spray water into the livewell under pressure; the same way as a nozzle on a hose does. It restricts the power of the pump and does little to add oxygen to the water. An upgrade to something like a PowerStream Aerator allows you to draw air into the incoming stream of water courtesy of the Venturi feature of the unit, and do so without choking the output of the pump”.

In essence a Venturi aerator will flood the water with oxygen faster than a livewell full of fish can consume it, and delivers water and oxygen directly to the fish, ensuring an increased survival rate of the catch.

What Are My Options

So what is the list of components and options available for someone keen to upgrade and improve their livewell? Well, let’s take a look.

Pump

Upgrading the livewell pump to the maximum size available is a must. It’s better to have too much than not enough of a good thing, and water is the lifeline for fish. An 800GPH pump is the minimum recommended.

Sprayhead/aerator

This tool delivers the water from the pump to the fish. Don’t stifle the delivery of the water with a restrictive option, instead use a directionally adjustable inlet that infuses air into the mix.

Drains and hoses

Use large sized overflows and quality hoses that allow the water to be drained quickly. Doing so removes the need for having fish damaging items, such as standpipes in your livewell.

Screens

The addition of a screw-on screen on the transom intake and livewell drain of your livewell set-up is vital for keeping rubbish out of your pump and to keep it working. All it takes is one leaf or some regurgitated shell from a bream to choke the pump and kill your fish.

Pump-outs and controllers

A pump-out aerator and system controller, such as those offered by Flowrite, deliver greater livewell flexibility and options. A pump-out Aerator allows the livewell to be pumped dry and refilled in the time it would take gravity to drain it. And a controller provides anglers with a multifunction system at the flick of a switch.

Popular Choices

For boat owners keen for a Flowrite fitout there are five system options available, all of which offer their own unique options and advantages.

The System 1 control system is the best choice for those chasing a basic fitout. The entry-level fitout delivers a remote drain control that eliminates the need for fish damaging drain plugs and standpipes.

“This is the base option for those keen to give their livewell a bit of any upgrade. Combined with a transom mount fill pump and spray head it offers a simple yet effective system. Go one step further and add a second livewell mounted recirculation pump and Venturi aerator or pump-out and you have a tournament-ready livewell”, explains Lincoln.

While only a basic change, it goes a long way to improving many of the installed systems available as standard fitouts on many local built boats. Add in a PowerStream or pump-out aerator and the livewell steps up to another level again.

The next logical step from a System 1 is to the more optioned System 3. This is an all-in-one system that does many tasks including fill, recirculation, pump-out and aeration. The system essentially allows one pump to do the job of three.

The practical application of the system allows you to fill the livewell with outside water, switch it over and recirculate the water in the well (a good idea if the outside water is tainted), then pump it out when you want to empty it. For tournament anglers this set-up is a must, and as a result is the most popular choice on low-sided BREAM and BASS boats.

The auto option on the controller is advantageous for boats running and stopping, with the sensor in the unit detecting when the boat is on-plane and off-plane. When on-plane, the system blocks off the intake of water via the transom value, then returns to the open position once the boat is at rest and resumes adding water to the livewell from the outside. Any water lost from the well while travelling is automatically pumped in to return the water to its original water level. It’s a simple case of flicking the switch and forgetting.

Many anglers tick their system up even more by adding a second auxillary fill and/or recirculation pump. Doing so provides greater function flexibility and reduces the workload on a single pump.

Tinny Time

For higher sided tinny owners a similar functioning system is available with the System 4 control system. The system allows the livewell to be filled, recirculated, and pumped-out when an optional Flowrite pump-out/aerator combo unit is added to the system.

Bits and Pieces

The efficiency and quality of the Flowrite system is further ensured with the use of the patented Qwik-Lok connection system. A single-handed click-in/click-out connection system that removes the need for hose clamps and fumbling around in confined places with screw drives. A Godsend when working on boats and the all too regular tight places associated with livewells and bilges.

While the three systems types (2, 3 and 4) recommended are fit-and-go options that can be installed as complete systems, the great thing about Flowrite systems is that they can be added to as your needs and budget allow. All components can be purchased individually, allowing you to create a more optioned livewell as time goes.

New Boats

For anglers having a new boat built, requesting the inclusion of Flowite products in your new vessel is a great way to have your livewell in top shape from the start. Most boat manufactures will accommodate your request, with parts and installation information easily available from Flowrite Australia.

For those sourcing aftermarket components to retrofit an existing livewell they can be purchased from retail outlets such as Bias Boating, Logan River Marine and Skeeter Boats Australia. If you’re local store doesn’t carry Flowrite ask them to get it in. If you’re keen to find out more about Flowrite and their products simply visit their website, www.flow-rite.com.au .

Facts

Born in the USA

Flowrite is an American born company that began making battery reticulation systems in 1981, but has now expanded to become the world leader in livewell control systems.

It all began 20 years ago when Ranger Boats first approached them to make a purpose built system for their bass boats. Today Flowrite stands as best practice when it comes to livewells with 85% of American tournament fishing boats fitted with one of their systems.

Basscat, Ranger, Skeeter, Champion, and Tracker all carry the Flowrite name.

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