You know the old joke, “a bad day fishing beats a good day at the office.” Well, a good day fishing beats just about everything! You’re out on the water, enjoying beautiful weather and reeling in huge fish. What could go wrong? Well, what if you got back to dry land, started to unload your catch only to realize that all the fish had died? It has happened to me — the livewell pump stopped working! That’s why you need the best livewell pump on your boat, to ensure that all of your caught fish and bait stay alive!
New to fishing or boating? Livewell refers to the tank on fishing boats where fishermen keep caught fish and live bait. The livewell pump circulates water from outside the boat into the tank, as well as aerates the water, making sure that all the fish inside stay alive. we’ve assembled this review and buyers’ guide. Check out what we have for you.
Selecting the Best Livewell Pump
in April, 2019
1. Attwood Tsunami Aerator --
12 Volt /24 Volt
2. Johnson Pumps 48903
3. Rule Replacement Cartridge
4. Rule Marine Tournament
5.Jabsco Rule Marine Rule Replacement Motor
#1. Attwood Tsunami Aerator Pump
Don’t let this livewell pump’s small size fool you; Atwood’s engineers have made an incredibly rugged and powerful pump in the Tsunami! I’ve never experienced any leakage or problems with the Tsunami, and it installs very easily. I also like that the cartridges are replaceable and you can swap them out between bilge and aerator pumps as needed.
This durable pump won’t break the bank, performs very well, and the replaceable cartridges mean longer life for the pump as a whole. It can withstand a good amount of hull impact and other abuse with no discernible loss of performance or leakage. It’s well built, and that quality shows!
- Does a great job aerating the water in your livewell. It’s one of the best livewell aerators I’ve used!
- The small pump moves a lot more water than you would expect.
- Tight seals and high quality construction prevent leaking.
- Waterproofed wiring prevents any water damage to the pump.
- Strong construction allows for routine usage in rough waters.
- The Attwood Tsunami creates a lot of noise for such a small pump.
- It cannot withstand full submersion in water, so never install it below the water line.
#2. Johnson Pumps 48903 1000 GPH Aerator/Livewell Pump
Install the Johnson Pumps 48903 as your livewell pump and you will live with it for a long time; it lasts and lasts! Strong ABS plastic construction handles whatever you, or mother nature, can throw at it. You can count on the Johnson Pumps 48903 to provide plenty of water and aeration to your livewell — in fact, you can use it to aerate two separate livewells of up to 35 gallons each!
This pump also allows you to connect to a raw water washdown pipe, with more than enough pressure to wash off your boat if you want! Even with this quality, you can almost always purchase this pump for under $50!
- Strong and sturdy construction using ABS plastic.
- High pressure ensures healthy inflow into your livewell and lets you spray down your boat.
- This pump can aerate two 35 gallon livewells, so you don’t have to buy two pumps.
- Integrates with almost all livewell systems.
- Pumps lots of water quickly — up to 1250 gallons per hour!
- The Johnson isn’t very energy efficient. It uses a lot of battery power.
- The pump ships with only one washer, so you’ll probably need to purchase more for installation.
#3. Rule Replacement Cartridge for Original Pro-Series Livewell Pumps
Do you want silence while on the water? Do you want to avoid vibrations in your livewell tank? Installing a Rule Replacement Cartridge will give you the best livewell setup to keep your catch and bait calm and healthy without the disturbance of noise and vibration!
This pump works with almost any standard livewell system, you can easily clean and maintain it and you won’t break a sweat during installation.
- Silent, vibration-free operation won’t annoy you or disturb any fish you catch or your bait.
- Cleaning and maintenance are easy to do, so you can keep it in good working order for a long time.
- Replaceable motor cartridge prevents downtime in case of any problems; just install a new cartridge and get back to fishing!
- Compatible with almost all standard livewell systems and aerators.
- Performs very well without drawing too much power from your battery.
- The shaft and brush don’t last as long as the rest of the pump.
- It doesn’t prime well in all applications.
- You cannot use this with the Rule Tournament series pumps.
#4. Rule Marine Tournament Livewell Pump
Want to use your fishing boat for both fresh and saltwater fishing trips? This pump allows you to do just that, with flow rates between 500 and 1100 gallons per hour, depending on the model you choose. You can quickly install this on any livewell under 40 gallons and hit the water!
The Tournament Pump comes with everything you need to install it, and all the threads and fittings come in standardized sizes. That means that this pump integrates well with any additional livewell accessories, like temperature and flow monitors and aeration alarms. You can use this pump in conjunction with those accessories to put together the best livewell system for your boat!
- Great flow rates guarantee healthy fish in your livewell.
- Standardized fittings allows you to easily add other livewell accessories to your system.
- The Rule Marine cartridge system allows you to replace a motor cartridge whenever necessary.
- Reliable performance in all weather and water conditions.
- You can easily clean and perform maintenance.
- Only works with livewells that hold 40 gallons or less
- The 500 GPH option doesn’t provide optimal aeration.
- While this pump integrates well with accessories, it doesn’t provide any additional features of its own.
#5. Jabsco Rule Marine Rule Replacement Motor
The Jabsco Rule Marine Rule Replacement Motor is made to replace cartridges in the aforementioned Tournament Series. These pumps work equally well in both fresh and saltwater, though they don’t stand up to silty water or water with chemicals in it.
You can quickly unlock and swap out these cartridge motors; in fact, you can change this simple pump one-handed! Though not as quiet as other livewell pump motors, you and your fish won’t find it distracting.
- This pump installs so easily you can do it with one hand.
- The base rotates 360 degrees, so you can place the inlet at any angle that you need during installation.
- Can pump up to 1100 gallons per hour, depending on which motor you buy.
- These replacement motors come with a three year manufacturer warranty.
- Doesn’t draw much power from your battery.
- This has a shorter lifespan in saltwater — the impeller shafts will rust after a season of heavy use.
- Avoid areas with any chemicals in the water, as they can destroy the pump.
- Produces more noise than other livewell pumps.
How to Choose the Best Livewell Pump
When you shop for a livewell pump, you have a lot of options available to you! How can you know which pump will work best for your boat? After all, it’s not like you can just try one on in the store! Don’t worry, you can choose the top livewell pump for your fishing setup without going crazy. Just keep the following thoughts in mind as you consider different livewell pump options.
Livewell capacity, number and water flow
When shopping for your livewell pump, you shouldn’t just buy the most powerful pump available. Not every fishing setup is the same, so you want to buy the right livewell pump for your boat. Consider the following questions;
- Do you have one or multiple livewells on your boat?
- How much water does your livewell hold?
- How much water flow do you need?
That last questions is especially important. To keep your fish healthy, you will want all new water in the livewell approximately six times an hour. That’s all the water replaced every ten minutes. Make sure you buy a livewell pump that can move the right amount of gallons per hour.
Freshwater or saltwater
Not every livewell pump will work in both fresh and saltwater. Some will work in both, but don’t have as long a lifespan with regular use in saltwater. Some don’t handle silty water or water with chemicals in it — for some, water with chemical contaminants will destroy the pump! Think about where you plan to fish when you shop for your livewell pump, and make sure that your selected pump will handle the waters.
Accessories and backups
Do you plan to install additional livewell accessories or backups? If so, you have a lot of options available to you. Think about if you want to use accessories like;
- Temperature monitors.
- Flow alarms.
- Aeration alarms.
- Backup systems.
If you want to use any of these accessories, you will need to make sure that your livewell pump is fully compatible and will work well with these other components. Check and see if your livewell pump supports installation alongside these accessories. If you get everything worked out properly, you can put together the best livewell system for your boat!
All in one or separate systems
As you’re shopping for a livewell pump, make sure that it doubles as an aerator or purchase a separate system to aerate the water in the livewell. Most livewell pumps will do both, but you want to make sure. Nothing ruins a day of fishing like discovering pounds of dead bait fish because you believed your livewell pump would also aerate the water!
Though even the best pumps don’t break the bank, budget concerns are always worth considering. If you worry about cost effectiveness and longevity, pumps with replaceable cartridges can be a sound investment. That said, if you have to replace the cartridges a lot, it can add up over time. Spend some time thinking about the longevity of your livewell pump, and find the best selection for your price range.
How to set up the best livewell setup
Once you’ve purchased a livewell pump that’s right for your boat, you’ve got to install it! No two boats are exactly the same, so your installation may differ a bit. Make sure that you follow any specific instructions that come with your livewell pump. Here is a general outline of how installation typically works.
- With your boat out of the water, use a hole saw to cut a hole in the transom, at least two inches below the water line.
- Using a marine sealant on both the nut and the threaded aerator collar, install the aerator inlet through the transom, then hand tighten the nut. If your livewell pump uses a hose system, it should install similarly here. Take care not to overtighten the nut — after hand-tightening, use a wrench to turn the nut an additional quarter to half inch.
- Attach the outlet connector to the aerator outlet, and tighten that nut exactly as you did the nut in step 2.
- Make sure to install an inlet strainer so that your pump won’t clog.
- Take the aerator outlet hose and use a hose clamp to connect it to the spray head.
- Wire the pump to an appropriate battery, as high above the water level as possible and using marine grade wire connectors. Waterproof all wiring connections.
Your installation may differ somewhat, and if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, don’t hesitate to contact a professional to handle the installation for you.
Livewell Pump Buyer’s Guide
Do I really need a livewell pump?
If you use a livewell, you absolutely must use a livewell pump. Not because your boat needs one, but because using it ensures that your caught fish will remain alive and healthy during the entirety of your fishing trip. It also keeps any bait-fish you use healthy and active, so you’re more likely to catch more fish using bait from a livewell!
What’s the difference between a livewell pump and an aerator?
The livewell pump takes water from outside the boat and pumps it into the livewell, while an aerator mixes air into the water. In some instances, your livewell pump will also act as an aerator, but that isn’t always the case. When you buy your livewell pump, make sure that you know whether it will also work as an aerator or not.
Why not just buy the most powerful livewell pump?
You can do this, and it probably won’t damage your livewell. However, it will draw much more power from your battery than a properly sized livewell pump would. Additionally, running a pump designed for larger capacity can wear down the pump more quickly. So to reduce power consumption and to increase the lifespan of your pump, make sure you install the right size pump for your boat.
Every livewell pump or packaging will have information on how large of a livewell it can work with, how much power it will consume and how many gallons per hour (or gallons per minute) it can pump.
Do I need a livewell flow sensor?
The benefit of the flow sensor or alarm is that it will immediately let you know if water stops flowing to your livewell for any reason. This gives you the opportunity to save your catch and bait by replacing the cartridge or making other repairs if necessary.
If you have a quiet running livewell pump, a flow sensor or alarm could save you from losing a lot of bait or caught fish, but isn’t absolutely necessary. If you keep up on maintenance and cleaning, you reduce the likelihood of livewell pump failure.
Do I need separate pumps if I have multiple livewells?
It depends on a number of factors, including the livewell pump you select and the size of the livewells. Even if you have a pump that can accommodate two or more livewells, it may be a good idea to use two pumps for the job. This will lengthen the lifespan of both pumps, and gives you a backup in case one pump fails for any reason.
Should I do the installation myself or hire a professional?
Do you feel comfortable using tools and cutting a hole in the transom of your boat? Do you feel confident that you can achieve a watertight seal, wire the pump to the battery properly and waterproof those connections? If so, you can probably install your livewell pump confidently.
If you have doubts about your ability to successfully install your livewell pump, I recommend having a professional do it for you. They have lots of experience, will make quick work of the job and generally the service won’t cost you too much.
You can confidently use any of the livewell pumps mentioned in this review and expect great results on your fishing boat. However, I feel positive that if you want the best livewell pump, you should buy the Rule Marine Tournament Livewell Pump! It’s the better livewell pump I’ve used that can work in both freshwater and saltwater, and since all the fittings come in standardized sizes, you can easily install accessories, like a flow sensor or alarm, without worrying if you’ll need adapters.
You can choose the right flow rate for your livewell, it performs reliably in all weather and water conditions and it has an easy to replace cartridge system for on the water repairs if necessary. While I recommend all the pumps in this review, I’m confident that the Rule Marine Tournament is livewell pump for your boat.