Reel Time: New dimensions in trolling motors

Reel Time New dimensions in trolling motors
Trolling motors also can be used while poling. A switch on the platform allows the angler to turn the motor on and off. - Rusty Chinnis | Sun

Most anglers I’ve talked to have a love-hate relationship with their trolling motors. Some have sworn off electrics altogether, using a push pole exclusively. My first electric trolling motor was mounted on the bow of my first flats boat. That motor proved as unreliable as it was unwieldy. When it was working properly, which wasn’t often, it was cumbersome and constantly shedding paint from the lower unit.

Next, I graduated to two trolling motors complete with air switches, the current latest technology, mounted on the stern. The upgrade allowed me to keep my hands free for fishing but resulted in twice the number of problems and a whole lot more complexity.

Freshwater boats, particularly bass boats, have been equipped with trolling motors for years and featured foot pedals that left the angler’s hands free for casting. When motors were adapted for saltwater use it was destined to be a learning experience for manufacturers and anglers alike. The first saltwater motors suffered from the corrosive environment and were unreliable at best. For many fly anglers, they weren’t worth the trouble.

Over the past few years, manufacturers have focused their research and development on creating saltwater trolling motors that are reliable and incorporate technological innovations that make them more user-friendly for anglers. The new generation of motors has been redesigned to handle the rigors of saltwater. The list of innovations that followed allowed saltwater anglers more reliability as well as allowing them to control their boat hands-free.

This was a welcome innovation, as there are times when a push pole just can’t take the place of a trolling motor. Most fly anglers have shied away from electrics because they want their fishing to be uncomplicated. The new generation of saltwater trolling motors is digital, far more reliable, easier to control and don’t require a degree in electronics to keep running.

Minn Kota, one of the major players in the field, was the first to encapsulate its electronics in urethane, a giant step towards reliability in the saltwater environment. Its Riptide (saltwater) line combined carefully proportioned materials and a patented sacrificial zinc anode to protect motor components from galvanic corrosion.

The Minn Kota line evolved with the innovation of an autopilot system, the Copilot, followed by a 3X tiller design. The first AutoPilot systems operated via a foot pedal and compass system, allowing a course to be set based on a landmark or heading. Once set, the motor continuously made adjustments to keep a boat moving in the desired direction. This innovation allowed anglers to concentrate on their casting, freeing them from the foot pedal. The next generation of trolling motors came with more innovations. Minn Kota’s i-Pilot used an internal motor compass to keep your boat on the chosen heading. Now you can also record a track and run it automatically with GPS while you fish. There is Bluetooth technology, mobile apps and a whole lot more. One of the latest advances allows anglers to remotely deploy and retract the motor, eliminating a major hassle. Other manufacturers, including Motor Guide, are also worth a look when you’re deciding on a trolling motor.

Today’s trolling motors have a lot more to offer anglers. Competition and innovative digital technology have produced a quantum leap in reliability. The available brands, with their array of options, should appeal to every angler’s needs. It’s just a matter of matching your trolling motor system to your fishing style.

When choosing a motor remember to consider the placement of batteries as they can affect the trim of today’s super light skiffs. Make sure you have a mounting system that suits your needs as well. Mounts are available that can be easily removed should you want to keep the bow open when fly fishing and push polling. Finally, make sure you have a shaft length that fits your needs. A bow mounted motor intended to be operated in the open ocean or Gulf will need to be long to avoid cavitation. Take your time, analyze the available options and enjoy the fish catching potential of trolling motors.

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