Precise Propulsion

From Selection to Execution, Make the Most of Your Trolling Motor

FSF Staff December 10, 2010

If all the gear available to freshwater anglers, trolling motors are arguably the most important of all aftermarket additions. Boatloads of tackle will ultimately aid in your overall success, however, precise boat control in tight quarters is one of the easiest ways to help you catch more and bigger bass.

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Providing stealth and enhanced maneuverability, trolling motors are mandatory accessories. Photo: Ranger Boats

When selecting a trolling motor there are several aspects you must take into consideration. Under most scenarios bow mounted trolling motors offer greater performance on bass boats, as it’s more efficient to pull a boat rather than push it. When determining the ideal trolling motor consider your vessel’s overall weight, as this will have a direct correlation to the amount of required thrust. Obviously a lightweight aluminum Jon boat designed for protected ponds needs far less power than a tricked-out bass rig ready for a day on the Big O.

…select a unit that is underpowered for your particular application and you will most certainly be disappointed.

If you fish a Gheenoe with a single 12-volt battery, a 45-pound thrust motor will suffice. If you’re a weekend warrior looking for extra juice, a 24-volt system and an 80-pound thrust motor will suit you well. Tournament competitors who routinely find themselves on the water from dawn to dusk rely on 36-volt systems and powerful 101-pound thrust units. While you really can’t go wrong with today’s feature-packed trolling motors, select a unit that is underpowered for your particular application and you will most certainly be disappointed. Ultimately, the choice really depends on your style of fishing and how much money you’re willing to invest. Given the option, we suggest you go with the highest thrust trolling motor your boat’s battery system can handle.

You must also consider shaft length. While the ideal shaft length will be determined by the style of your boat and conditions you typically fish, a 42 to 48-inch shaft will be the best fit for most Florida bass fishermen. A shaft that’s too short will result in cavitation as the prop leaves the water during windy conditions. Longer 54 to 62-inch shafts are used for open waters and may hinder your shallow water abilities. Determine the ideal shaft length for a bow mounted trolling motor by measuring the distance from the waterline to the top of the bow. Add approximately 20-inches to this number for optimal performance.

Now you have to decide whether or not you want a trolling motor with a foot pedal, hand control, or wireless remote. The obvious benefit of a foot-operated trolling motor is that it offers hands free operation, although they are often associated with high price tags. Hand-operated trolling motors offer the simplest method of control with immediate response. They’re also the most affordable, although they require you stay within arm’s reach to adjust your speed and/or position. Another advantage is that you don’t have a bulky pedal and associated cables to clutter your casting deck. Remote-operated versions are the most expensive of all, but enable you to precisely control your vessel from anywhere inside the boat.

Although bass anglers love tossing enticements around thick vegetation, navigating through these areas can be a real pain. Because of this, most trolling motors come standard with 2-blade props that feature flared blades to chop and hack through thick vegetation. However, none of these props are totally foul proof, so if you find yourself continually raising and lowering your trolling motor to remove weeds from the prop and shaft it’s in your best interest to install a weed guard.

Although the primary function of a trolling motor hasn’t changed, manufacturers now offer significant developments that can greatly enhance your on-the-water experiences. Minn Kota offers iPilot, which holds your bearing while compensating for wind and current. Rhodan Marine is a leader in GPS based trolling motor performance and their HD GPS Anchor+ has the ability to store routes over 1,000-miles long. Waypoints can even be recorded at cruising speed. Play the recorded route back and let the HD GPS take control while you fish worry free. Some manufacturers also sonar transducers that are integrated into the shaft of the trolling motor for a precise picture below the boat.

When it’s time to mount your trolling motor a durable mounting bracket is essential. You might also want to consider purchasing a trolling motor that’s equipped with a quick release bracket. Often utilizing a single-pin locking device, release brackets are essential if you plan on leaving your boat unattended.

No matter what type of trolling motor you select it is absolutely critical you utilize the highest-quality deep cycle batteries rated for the marine environment. Deep cycle batteries store more electricity, provide a constant current, and are designed for repeated deep discharging.

Contrary to what you may have heard trolling motors do not spook bass, but they can certainly hear them. Also consider that heavily pressured bass have learned to associate the sound of a trolling motor with danger. Therefore you want to keep your trolling motor on a constant low speed.

When it comes to bass fishing it should come as no surprise that proper boat positioning is just as important as throwing the right lure. The best advice in nearly any scenario would be to approach the stretch of water you intend on fishing, regardless if it’s a wind swept point, submerged ledge, overhanging tree line or row of exposed stumps, as stealthily as you possibly can. Kill your main engine at least 100-yards away and use your trolling motor on a steady, slow setting to enter the area with the sun in your face. The last thing you want is to cast any unwanted shadows that will alert nearby fish of your presence.

Selecting the proper trolling motor for your particular application is one thing. Utilizing it to its fullest advantage is what separates elite anglers who consistently score from those who are content drowning a few shiners.

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