Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How to Build a Lighted Rod Storage Rack in a 20XD Bullet

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I haven't posted anything about it, but I recently picked up a new-to-me boat, which replaced the 2000 ZX202C Skeeter. I purchased a 2003 20XD Bullet from a local guy. If you aren't familiar with Bullets, there is a storage compartment in the center of the front deck. Lift the steps up and viola! A giant compartment. However, they didn't come with a rod storage system. This is what it looks like. 
If you can't tell, it's big enough to nearly crawl in. It is certainly big enough to hold a lot of rods, if you just want to throw them in there. But, between all the hooks and guides, as well as the wiring and plumbing for the trolling motor and front depth finder, you are asking for a disaster every trip. So, I decided to make my own.

Equipment List:

  • Sheet of plywood. The final cut is roughly 27x 14 inches. (Lowe's)
  • Length of 1"x 2"wood or something in the vicinity. It isn't really important what size, as long as it can hold a screw without splitting. 
  • Roll of outdoor carpet (O'Reilly's)
  • Can of carpet adhesive(O'Reilly's)
  • LED lights, if you so desire plus heat shrink, 18 gauge wire, spade connectors, etc. I chose these lights at the loca Academy, as they are sealed units. (Lights from Academy, electrical components from O'Reilly's)
  • Rocker switch. I got a lighted round one with a flange. (O'Reilly's)
  • 10 2" diameter by 2' sections of PVC. Lowes has these precut.  I would advise against buying just a tube and cutting it yourself, unless you have REALLY steady hands OR a good cutter. Sure, it's more money, but it's a lot less hassle. Don't worry, I did both.(Lowe's)
  • 2" diameter pipe straps. These are metal straps that are preformed to fit over the PVC and have flanges with a single screw hole on each side 
  • 4 pack of small L-brackets (Lowe's)
Tools You Will Need
  • Skill saw
  • Powered screwdriver
  • Solder gun
  • lighter
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • 2" hole saw
  • Small drill bit, around 3/8ths works. 
  • Razer blade
  • Handheld sander with coarse grit paper. 
First thing I did was to remove the factor incandescent light fixture on the passengers side of the compartment. Not only is it not very bright, but it has to be removed to install the rod rack anyway.

Ok. So measure the wall to wall dimension inside your compartment. I would suggest measuring as far back as the small distended bulkhead. Remember, your rod handles are long and you need to be able to fit the whole rod in without hitting the handles. In most cases, it will be virtually impossible to fit a long handled baitcaster above the level of the step. In my case, I cut a 27 width by 13 height. You will notice that will leave a slight gap at the top. Not only will that make installing/removing the rack easier, but it allows the back compartment to breath in the event that there is any moisture. You can't see the gap once it is installed. 

Decide on how many rods you want the rack to support. I decided on 10, though I could have done more. I left a center section open for a number of reasons. First and most important, I was afraid that rod tips would hit the recessed trolling motor or any of the associated wiring. Secondly, I thought about eventually adding a "Bullet" decal to that spot. Neat, huh? Using a 2" hole saw, I created my holes based upon a 4.5" center to center spacing. 

Now, cut the plywood to shape.  I would recommend running a sander over the entire surface including the new 2" holes. Not only will that knock any burs and splinters, but it will also held prime the surface for the carpet adhesive. 

Next, I flipped the board over and placed a series of backing boards. These will be used to mount the pipe straps, which will hold the PVC in place. You want the backing board to be even with the very bottom of the 2" holes so that that PVS can rest on them when they are installed. Now, I would recommend screwing them in from the back first. After the holes have been established, remove the screws and re-install from the front. This will keep any of the tips of the screws from protruding the front. Do this one at a time so that you can keep the right position. Make sure that the backing boards aren't higher than the 2" holes or the PVS won't fit. 

Ok, the next step is optional, if you want lights. 

I decided to mount an LED light strip on each side of the rack with a lighted button centered at the top center. For that, I measured the diameter of the button and selected a drill bit appropriately. Then, I drilled the hold. I used the same drill to create a wiring passage for the two lights so that the wiring would be hidden. 

Ok, get your carpet out and unroll a section. Set the board down and cut a 1" overlap around the board. Now, spray the board with adhesive. I would recommend waiting a minute or two before placing the carpet on the board, as the adhesive will begin to set and will help you. Now, place the carpet. Using an item with a straight edge, perhaps a piece of wood, smooth the carpet in all directions. This will both smooth out and wrinkles but also promote full adhesion. Lastly, apply some adhesive to the back of the board, cut slices on the corners (as you would wrapping a present), and fold them over the back. Ensure good adhesion. Let sit for 30 minutes, preferably in the sun.  

Using a razor, carefully cut out all the holes, including the optional lighting holes. 

If you are installing lighting, now is the time to secure them in the board. I ran the wiring in the created holes and then placed the light bars centered over those holes. I soldered the two leads together to a spade connector, which was then slipped on to the "load" terminal of the switch. I repeated the process, but added a 3rd wire to the ground leads, which will hook to the boat's electrical system. A 3rd wire with spade connector is hooked to the "constant" terminal on the switch. Then, I placed the wiring in black wire loom and secured them to the backing boards . 

Now, using one of the 2" PVS lengths, install the pipe in the hold, slide the metal pipe straps over the PVS, down the backer board, where you will screw each in. 

Remove the PVS and go to the next hole. Repeat until you have all the straps installed.

                   (This picture shows hand-cut PVC, which I scrapped for much better pre-cut pieces)
Now, move the whole assembly into the boat. 

Using the existing wiring from the factory light, splice the new "constant" and "ground" wires from the rack assembly . Make sure to use solder and heat shrink for safety. Ensure the lights work.

Now, Install the assembly into the locker. Remember, this is NOT possible with the PVC pipes already installed. I had to use a rubber mallet to move my assembly into place. You want the assemble NO LESS than 22 inches from the front of the rod locker, otherwise no rods will fit. Once you have measured both sides and verified they are even, install the "L-brackets" to hold it in place. Do not screw into the top and bottom of the locker. Use the sides.

Now, slide each tube into place. 

              (This picture shows hand-cut PVC, which I scrapped for much better pre-cut pieces)

I then added a custom carpet decal. It cost me $27

Make sure to read about all my other projects! 

How to Install a Recessed Trolling Motor Tray on a ZX202C Skeeter for Motorguide/Minn Kota