The 8 Best Underwater Boat Lights
A Ray Of Light In The Night
Trim tab lights are similar in design, though you mount these to the stern.
Those who are used to the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean or the murky, stained rivers of the southern United States may be surprised to learn that, in some corners of the world, the water is stunningly clear, offering dozens of feet of visibility beneath the surface on a sunny day.
There is one caveat, however, even in these exotic locales — this remarkable clarity only applies during the daylight hours.
It doesn’t matter where you’re boating; in the dark of night, you must resort to artificial forms of illumination if you want any underwater visibility at all. Luckily, many of today’s solutions are quite powerful, increasingly efficient, and affordably priced.
When it comes to underwater light sources, you have a few options. Halogen’s main advantage is price — aside from that, it’s inefficient and has a short lifespan, limiting its practicality. Xenon bulbs generate a strong, whitish-blue ray, but they tend to get hot and wear out quickly, which makes them a shaky investment. Metal halide lights, while a nice option for yachts and similar large watercrafts, are expensive power-guzzlers, which isn’t ideal for a typical boater.
Which leads us to LEDs, which have emerged as the most popular form of underwater lighting for a reason. They use minimal energy, operate at low temperatures, and last far longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
You’ll want to select a model with a mounting style that matches your boat. For compact fishing boats and sailboats, a surface mount light should suffice. As they only require a few small holes for power cords and screws, you can easily install them to the transom or the hull’s side. Trim tab lights are similar in design, though you mount these to the stern.
Installation is simple with drain plug lights as well, which are suitable for small to medium-sized powerboats. You don’t even have to drill any holes — you just need a connection to DC power via a fuse and switch.
Since they’re typically bigger and more powerful, the models that you’ll affix to large powerboats will necessitate a bit more work. Thru-hull lights require you to drill a large hole in the hull, which is where you’ll insert the stem of the light. This means you’ll have to haul the boat out of the water for installation.
Interchangeable thru-hull models, however, allow you for installation and replacement while the vessel remains afloat. Built for transom or bottom mounting, these are more permanent fixtures, as you have to attach them to the boat’s bonding system.
Underwater Lights And Fishing
As a general rule, avid fishermen aren’t exactly the most tech-savvy demographic. They also tend to skew a tad overconfident — in their minds, as long as they’re equipped with a decent fish finder and a lifetime of angling experience, what else do they really need?
If it's moving too quickly, fish won’t be able to keep up, and your approach won’t be as effective.
Once they seriously consider the benefits of a couple of well-placed boat lights, though, the answer to that question could certainly change. For example, what initially may appear to be a considerable investment will likely look far more reasonable once it becomes clear that many quality LED boat lights have an average lifespan of more than 40,000 hours. That equates to several years of continuous output.
More importantly for anglers, submerged lights can attract fish. White and green lights — or a combination of the two — tend to be the most effective in this regard. Not only will white lights increase visibility, they’ll repel bugs, whereas other colors may have the opposite effect.
Because it has one of the shortest wavelengths in the color spectrum, green light will penetrate further through into water before it scatters. This makes the water appear cleaner and results in small bait fish and zooplankton chasing the light to the surface. Once your boat is surrounded by bait fish, you know the drill — the predatory game fish you’re ultimately interested in should soon follow.
When you embark on this strategy, make sure the boat is anchored or slowly drifting. If it's moving too quickly, fish won’t be able to keep up, and your approach won’t be as effective. A relatively stationary vessel allows both bait fish and larger species to congregate exactly where you want them.
The power and amount of light you use will have an impact on your success, as well. By utilizing two or more LEDs, you’ll achieve a greater dispersion of light, which should attract more fish. If a blend of green and white lights doesn’t seem to be working, blue lights are worth a shot, as they too have a short wavelength and produce a crisp, brightening effect in dark water.
More Than Just Illumination
Just think about — water covers about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface. You could spend the rest of your life exploring those depths and only see a fraction of what’s out there.
While they’re certainly limited in how deep they can penetrate, submerged lights do provide a small window into this mysterious, extraordinary seascape. What you want to accomplish in illuminating that space will dictate many of the characteristics of the model you select.
Depending on its beam angle, you can focus your light on a specific location or generate a more extensive, uninterrupted halo of light.
Depending on its beam angle, you can focus your light on a specific location or generate a more extensive, uninterrupted halo of light. A 60-degree beam angle will allow you to place a spotlight in a precise location, while an ultra-wide beam at more than 100 degrees will work better for fishing excursions or creating a colorful, inviting atmosphere for after-dark social gatherings.
Underwater lights also serve as a nice safety tool, especially in more remote areas where it can become quite dark on a cloudy night. As long as you’re navigating slowly, you’ll be able to spot potential obstacles like rocks and submerged timber, which will help prevent accidents and damage to your watercraft.
While many lighting solutions feature a simple on-off switch, more high-tech models are also available, several of which have the ability to connect to your mobile devices. Some even offer control panels with integrated speaker systems that allow you to play audio through your phone.