Introduction: Cedar Power/Tackle Box for Kayak Fishing

About: Retired Lockheed Martin Electrical Engineer (BSEE Texas A&M University 1982). Love to design and build things. Craftsman, hunter, angler, pretty darn good cook, prolific consumer of beer and barbeque, aspiring…

I love fishing small creeks, streams, and ponds and for most of my life I've had some sort of a paddle tube to fish these areas. For the past 8 to 10 years or so I've used a Fish Cat 4 that I bought at Cabela's. Sweet rig and fairly comfortable though it has been a while since I fished out of it. My brother has a motor boat and we've been spending a lot of time fishing for catfish using jug lines. But the other day we decided to load up the Fish Cats in the truck and spend the day bass fishing a local pond. Well... my poor Fish Cat has seen better days. One of the carry straps broke when I picked it up and, upon further inspection, a lot of the other seams looked worn. Hmmm.... looks like I'm going to need to buy another one... I thought. But I figured it would make it through the day. We got to the pond and I started to put my waders on. Dang... what happened? I don't remember these things being so tight. I finally got them on... it felt like I had a giant anaconda wrapped around me. Hmmm... looks like I might have packed on a few pounds during the pandemic. At least for the short term I'm going to need a wider set of waders. Nonetheless, we had a great day and caught a bunch of bass. But dang it... after a whole day of paddling around the pond with those kick fins my legs were cramping. Ha... old age is starting to take a bit of a toll. I've heard some folks say that it sucks getting old... I say it beats the alternative. I just need a better strategy. So instead of getting a new float tube and a bigger set of waders... I bought a kayak the other day. A Nucanoe Frontier 10. Neat little boat! I've taken it out once so far and I'm in the process of trying to figure out how I want to rig it up. So far I've got a rod holder and a small anchoring system but I'd like to set it up so I can use an old fish finder that I've had stuffed in a drawer for a while. For this I need a 12 volt power supply but I don't want some huge heavy battery taking up space in my kayak. Hmmm.... project time... I need a fairly light, compact, and usefull 12 volt power box that will mount on the assessory tracks of my kayak. It would also be nice if it could double as a tackle box and help organize some of my fishing equipment. A power/tackle box! I've got an idea...


I checked the power requirements for my fish finder. It is a Humminbird Helix 5. An obsolete older model but heck... I don't need a lot of features for kayak fishing. I checked the specifications... 12 volts at 0.6 amps. Hey, that's not a big current draw. I remembered a battery that I bought for our home security system. It was a 12 volt sealed lead acid battery It has a 6 amp-hour capacity. So to figure the amount of time I could run my fish finder you just take the battery capacity (6 amp-hours) and divide it by the current draw of the fish finder (0.6 amps). This yields a 10 hour run time! Woo hoo! That's more than enough. Plus the battery is very small and only weighs about 4 pounds. Perfect. 20 bucks on Amazon.

Next I wanted a small power panel to mount on the box to make it easy to connect to the Helix 5. Something compatible with boats, RVs, etc. After a search on Amazon I found a number of options and selected one that is made by Linkstyle. Lots of cool features... volt meter, USB charging for a phone, on/off switch, and 12 volt cigarette adapter power socket. Less than $20. I also bought a cigarette adapter power cord. I'll modify it to incorporate the unique power connector for the fish finder.

Miscellaneous hardware included latches, hinges, handles, mounting bolts, and knobs.

For the box itself all you need is a single 3/4 by 8 inch by 8 feet cedar board. Cedar is light, naturally rot resistant, and it's easy to work. Plus the garage smells great when you cut it!

Step 1: Designing the Box

The assessory tracks that I want to use are behind the seat and measures 8 inches long and are spaced roughly 16 inches apart. I'll use these dimensions as the footprint for the box design.

I like using cedar for projects like this. It's easy to get, inexpensive, and comes in a variety of sizes. I also wanted to include this project in the One Board Contest which stated that the "one board" be something in the range of a standard 8 foot 2 by 4. I chose an 8 foot 1 by 8 which basically, without getting into the vagaries concerning true measurements of dimensioned lumber, is the same thing as a 2 by 4 with respect to the volume of wood.

So the design parameters ended up being...

To build a box that would:

1. Provide 12 volt power to my fish finder.

2. Fit inside an 8 by 16 inch footprint.

3. Easily mount to the assessory tracks of my kayak.

4. Provide a usefull amount of space for tackle storage and management.

5. Be made from a single 8 foot cedar 1 by 8.

I pulled up AutoCAD and played around until I had something I was happy with. I ended up with a box that was 8 inches wide by 13.5 inches long (not including the mounting brackets) and 7.5 inches tall. There is an upper and a lower compartment. The lower compartment will house the battery, power panel, cables, etc. and the upper compartment will be for some fishing tackle. And after doing a cut diagram all the parts just barely fit within the one cedar board. Design done... time to get building!

Step 2: Initial Dimensioning of the Parts

One side of the cedar board is sanded smooth and the other side is rough. I ran the board through my surface planer to smooth down the rough side and to take it down to 1/2 of an inch in thickness (picture 1). Next I cut the parts to length using my miter saw (picture 2). At this point I was focused on the box sides for the upper and lower compartments. These were cut on the table saw (picture 3). We'll deal with final dimensioning of the other parts a bit later.

Step 3: Box Sides for the Upper and Lower Compartments

Picture 1 shows the sides for the bottom compartment. The front/back pieces are 4 by 13-1/2 and the left/right pieces are 4 by 8. I'm a big fan of box joints. It results in a very strong joint and they look cool. I have one of the original Incra Jigs for my router table so making the cuts with a quarter inch spiral router bit is quick and easy (picture 2). Picture 3 shows the sides for the upper compartment. The front/back pieces are 3 by 13-1/2 and the left/right pieces are 3 by 8. Box joints cut for the upper compartment (picture 4). All of the compartment side pieces with box joints cut (picture 5).

Step 4: Assembling the Top Compartment

As much as I love box joints they are somewhat of a pain when it comes time for glue up. Wood glue will make the wood swell a little and it's tough to get the pieces to fit together. You don't have this problem with epoxy but you will need an epoxy with a long pot life to make sure you have enough time to get it all together before it goes off. Plus epoxy is kind of messy. So I'm going with some cyanoacrylate adhesive (picture 1). The thought is that by using the liquid (not the gel) formula I can dry assemble the parts and the adhesive will seep into the joints well enough to get a good bond. This type of adhesive really doesn't have any gap filling properties but that's ok. Heck, it's a tacklebox... not a piece of furniture.

Picture 2 shows the pieces dry fit together and ready to glue. I used the right angle clamps in picture 3 to ensure everything was square. Once the glue set I measured the opening and then cut the bottom piece (picture 4). And then glued the bottom piece flush with the bottom of the box sides (picture 5).

Step 5: Assembling the Bottom Compartment

The bottom compartment will go together in the same manner as the top compartment except I need to do I little preliminary work on the front piece to accept the power panel (first 5 pictures). I scooched the power panel up instead of centering it to allow for enough clearance to glue in the bottom piece. Since the little modules for the switch and the volt meter aren't as deep as the the other two modules I had to cut the clearance holes wider to accomodate the locking nuts (detailed in picture 5).

Completed glue up of the box in picture 6. The last 4 pictures are where I machined the parts and glued on the mounting brackets. This set up will vary based upon your kayak. Completed assembly in last pic.

Step 6: Box Lid

Nothing fancy here. We'll just make a simple panel to function as the lid. The frame pieces are 1 inch wide and these will be mitered and glued together. Once the glue is set I'll measure the internal dimensions of the frame and make the final cuts on the panel accordingly.

Assembling the frame (picture 2). Completed frame ready for the panel insert (picture 3). Finished piece (picture 4).

Couldn't resist stacking everyting up to get an idea of the proportions (picture 5). I like it!

Then I had to set it in the kayak (last two pics). Seems to fit well. So far so good.

Step 7: Power Panel and Handles

Before I install the hardware we'll give the box a good sanding with the random orbital sander first and then a couple coats of waterproof finish. I'll leave the inside of the box unfinished for now. I'm thinking that after I use it a few times then I'll have a better idea of how to partition the compartments.

I didn't go crazy with the sanding... just used 220 grit to smooth everything out and clean up some of the glue joints (I got a little sloppy with the super glue). Afterwards I hit it with a clear finish made by Rustoleum to provide a little moisture and UV protection. The cedar wood grain is really accentuated when you apply the finish. At one point I had considered painting the whole thing gloss black (sort of like some of the commercially available kayak boxes) but I like this better.

The power panel is reinstalled in picture 4 and then in the next three shots (5, 6, and 7) are the handles. I predrilled the holes to ensure the screws wouldn't split the cedar. The screws were a little long so I ended up filing them down smooth.

Step 8: Hinges and Latches

I figured that I'd better drill the holes for the kayak bolts before I went any further. Otherwise it wouldn't fit on the benchtop drill press.

The top compartment will be hinged to the lower compartment and the lid will be hinged to the top compartment. Latches will keep everything buttoned up when closed. We'll stack all the parts together and get them aligned first then trigger clamps will hold them in place while we install the hardware. Screw holes will be predrilled to keep the cedar from cracking.

All the steps are easy... just step your way through the pictures to see what I did. The last 4 pictures are a fit check on the kayak. Looks great!

Step 9: Battery Installation and Wiring Harness

OK... time to get electrical. So 12 volts is low voltage and not dangerous. That being said... there is a LOT of energy stored up in this little battery. You DO NOT want to short the terminals together when you're wiring this thing up. Honestly, it's not that hard but if you don't know what you're doing then get some help from an expert. Luckily I know a really good electrical engineer (me). There are 3 terminals on the switch. On this particular unit the bottom tab is negative (it's also a different color than the other two tabs) and the top two tabs are the positive tabs. When the switch is off there is no connection between the top two tabs. When it is on then there will be continuity between the two tabs. For the wiring harness you connect the negative terminal of the battery to the negative terminal of the switch. Then you daisy chain all of the negative terminals together of the various modules in the power panel. The positive terminal of the battery goes to one of the top two terminals on the switch... it doesn't matter which one at this point. The remaining terminal on the switch gets daisy chained to all of the positive terminals on the various modules in the power panel. That's it. Now the light on the switch should go on and off when the switch is activated (once the battery is connected). If it always stays on then swap the connections to the two top tabs.

Picture 1 shows the battery that I'm using. Lots of choices when it comes to batteries but this one is typical. Picture 2 gives you an idea with the various tools and materials. All of the electical connections are crimped with the red handled pliers. Picture 3 shows the completed wiring harness and in picture 4 I have connected the battery. So far so good... no smoke yet. In picture 5 we switched on the power and all seems to be in working order. I tested the phone charging function in picture 6.

Now to the kayak and the fish finder. In picture 7 everything is hooked up and ready for a power check. Picture 8... power on. And WOOOOOO HOOOOOOOO.... she works!!!!!! (picture 9).

You'll also want to get some sort of a 12 volt battery charger. I bought a Black and Decker model from Home Depot but there are tons of options with various features and prices.

At this point I'm not going to hard mount the battery inside the box. I'd like to use it a couple of times to figure out how I want to partition the bottom (as well as the top) compartment. I'll just be careful not to tilt the box too radically until then to keep the battery from moving too much. I'll update the Instructable when I decide to partition everything.

Step 10: Load Up the Tackle Box and Let's Go Fishing!

First off... in picture 1 you can see how much of that 8 foot board I had left over. Not much! So we had a very efficient use of our material.

In the last pic we're getting geared up for our next fishing trip. Lizards, worms, creature baits, hooks, weights... let's go get 'em!

I hope you enjoyed the Instructable. As always... comments and questions are most welcome. If you build your own power/tackle box then please post pictures in the comment section.

Until the next Instructable...

Good luck and keep a tight line!


Oh... by the way... I do have a couple ideas for modifications and upgrades that I'll incorporate later on. I'll include any changes I make in this Instructable to keep it current. NOTE: To be clear... this is the end of the one board challenge section of the Instructable. Any updates that go above and beyond this point are to show what is possible with the box... SW.

Step 11: Update 1: Flexible Tackle Management

OK... we have an empty box that we have built with our cedar board. It has a fair amount of storage space but you don't just want to dump stuff in there. The hooks will all get fouled and tangled, you won't be able to easily find what you're look for... and, in short, it will just be a mess. We need a tackle management strategy.

Flexible was the key word when I worked on this design. I wanted to come up with a tackle management system that was modular so that I could swap things around according to the types of lures and methods I was using for the day. At this point I didn't want anything permanently installed in the box as I figured I'd be coming up with new ideas after I used it for a while. I also needed to work out a battery holding idea as well during the design process.

I picked up this nice little packet of 4 project boards from Home Depot (picture 1). While it says that it's a quarter inch thick it's actually 3/16 inch... which I figured was perfect for what I wanted it for. My idea was to build a number of little interchangeable boxes that I could divide up into little compartments to hold lures, hooks, weights, etc. I came up with two sizes. Both are 4-1/8 inches wide by 6-7/8 inches long but one is 1-3/16 inch deep and the other is 2-3/16 inch deep. The reason for the dimensions will be apparent in the upcoming steps.

Parts were cut on the table saw and bonded with super glue. I used my right angle clamps to keep the sides square (picture 2). Once the sides were bonded (picture 3) I measured the opening and cut a bottom piece that would fit nice and snug. This is key when using super glue.

Finished boxes in the last picture. I made two of the deeper boxes and 7 of the others.

Step 12: Holding the Battery in Place

Again, I wanted to be able to take everything apart and rearrange stuff if I ever wanted to. The first little piece you see in picture 1 keeps the battery from sliding forward and I used my individual storage boxes to keep that battery from sliding side to side. Pictures 2 through 7 show how I stack everything in place. The two larger boxes go in the bottom of the tackle box and two of the smaller boxes are stacked on top of them. The dimensions are such that the stacked boxes come up flush with the top edge of the bottom compartment.

Close up of the battery in the last picture. It can move a little bit but that will be OK... it's not going anywhere!

Step 13: Dividing the Storage Boxes

I played around with different configurations of how to divide up the area inside the storage boxes (pictures 1 and 2). One of the boxes I left as is but added a lid with magnetic catches (picture 3)... which will be an integral part of the design as you will see. Note: The dividers are bonded in place with super glue.

Step 14: Loading Up the Power/Tackle Box

In the first picture we have everything ready to go. It may not look like it will all fit but I promise that it will.

Starting with the bottom compartment the battery, battery holder, and two large boxes are set in place first (pictures 2 and 3). Then two little boxes are set in place (pictures 4 and 5).

The bottom compartment is closed and we move on to the top compartment where we set three of the small boxes in place. The box with the lid is in the middle. Two more little boxes are stacked on the far right and far left sides (pictures 6 and 7).

The lidded box in the middle is used for whatever you want to toss in there... kind of a catch all for miscellaneous stuff. The magnets hold the lid in place but it's easy to remove (picture 8). The lid also keeps the other two top boxes from sliding back and forth (picture 9). You don't want them moving around as they function as lids for the boxes beneath them.

To access the two lower right and left boxes you simpy pick up and slide over the top boxes (pictures 10 and 11). The box won't close until you slide these boxes back into place. And just like the bottom compartment the boxes stack up to just flush with the top edge of the top compartment. That way when the lid is closed it keeps everything in place when you want to access the bottom compartment.

That's all for now. I think I have my Power/Tackle Box set up the way I want it. If I change anything I'll be sure to post an update.

See y'all later... I'm going fishing!


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