Of all of the innovations introduced over the years, it is possible that two in particular stand out as the most useful pieces of shallow water fishing and boating equipment ever invented. The first is the electric trolling motor, and it has unquestionably revolutionized the way inshore anglers fish.
Electric trolling motors enable small boaters the ability to maneuver skiffs effortlessly and silently through the shallows, where stealth is the key to success. Minn-Kota is credited with introducing the first trolling motor more than 75-years ago, but since that first rudimentary gear-driven design the technology has come a long way.
We know that an electric trolling motor is a great tool to help get from Point A to Point B (as long as the distance between the two points isn’t too great), but the equipment’s benefits really shine when it comes to fishing rather than maneuvering between distant shorelines. One thing to avoid is excessive use of your electric trolling motor. Putting the pedal to the metal with over 100-pounds of thrust in a slight chop can create cavitation and unwarranted hull slap—effectively scattering your quarry.
Bow mount or stern mount?
Small boats do not typically track in a straight line. Because of this, it is much easier to pull a skiff than it is to push one. It is also easier to move the bow of a boat sideways compared to moving the transom. Therefore, to set the record straight, a bow-mounted electric motor typically allows for greater boat control. In order to fully take advantage of a bow-mounted unit, you must have sufficient room up front for a mounting bracket or plate to affix the housing. You must also have a forward casting deck in order to make this setup feasible.
Many boaters shy away from drilling holes in their prized possession, or they simply don’t have the correct configuration for a bow-mounted unit. This is where a stern bracket-mounted electric trolling motor comes into play. If you plan on doing a great deal of slow speed trolling like they do up in the Great Lakes, then stern propulsion may, in fact, be your best option.
How Much Thrust is Enough Thrust?
Skiffs 16′ in length may only require a 12-volt system with 55-pounds of thrust, while longer skiffs or fully equipped bay boats with deeper drafts may require a trolling motor that can deliver 109-pounds of thrust and thus, require a 24-volt or 36-volt power system. Your boat’s length and weight determine proper thrust. How much you’re willing to invest also plays an integral role. Your ultimate decision should be to purchase a system rated for as many pounds of thrust as you can afford. You’ll likely be disappointed with anything less.
It’s all about length!
Proper shaft length, known as column length, is critical for optimum maneuverability. If the shaft on the electric motor is too short, the propeller may not be sufficiently submerged during adverse conditions. Too long, and extremely shallow water operation may pose a problem. Ranging from 32″ to 62″, determining the appropriate length for the size craft you own will ensure safe and carefree boating. Proper shaft length is dictated by the height of the bow or stern off the water —depending on where you mount your unit. Deep-V boats require a longer shaft, whereas the shortest shafts adequately serve kayaks. Factors such as boat weight, typical loads and general operating conditions will help you make the correct choice. The basic rule of thumb is that the center of the prop should be submerged 10-inches below the surface.
The Juice On Juice.
Utilize only high quality, deep-cycle marine batteries in order to make sure you have the power you need, when you need it. Deep-cycle marine batteries are designed to drain slowly and recharge often. With electric trolling motors available in 12, 24, or 36-volts, you’ll need one, two, or three batteries, respectively. Twelve-volt electric trolling motors are, on average, relatively less expensive to purchase and maintain than trolling motors that require 24-volt or 36-volt systems. However, the added battery banks provide extended power and range for long days of trouble-free use.
Regardless if your electric trolling motor is controlled manually, by foot pedal or by remote control, essentially it’s all the same—the operator controls thrust and direction. Well times have changed, as the latest electric trolling motors are again revolutionizing the industry. Minn-Kota, a trusted name we are all familiar with, and newcomer Rhodan Marine Systems who is also making waves have recently introduced electric trolling motors with advanced features only previously imagined.
Minn-Kota’s i-Pilot™ automatically controls and steers your skiff using GPS technology. Lock onto a fishing spot—and stay there. Record a successful path and retrace it later. Set cruise control for perfect bait presentation. All wireless, all with GPS accuracy, all with the sole purpose of making you a more effective angler.
An electronic anchoring feature also enhances our fish-catching abilities. Select a spot, push a button, and the electric trolling motor corrects for wind and current and maintains your vessel’s position within a five-foot radius. GPS anchors also allow you to return to a productive grass bed or hot stretch of coastline with a single push of a button, from up to a quarter mile away.
Cruise control now provides anglers unparalleled bait presentation by maintaining actual on-the-water GPS speed. How about autopilot? Simply point your trolling motor in the direction you want to head in, and an internal computer will keep you on your heading with precise GPS accuracy.
With all of these advanced features packed into the latest user-friendly products, which can all be controlled from a multi-function remote control, shallow water fishermen now have new and exciting tools at their disposal. The only thing left for us to do is spend more time on the water learning to utilize these features in our ongoing quest to become more successful anglers. I for one can’t wait.
Stop Right Here!
As a backcountry skiff owner, I know you remember the days of lugging around a bulky aluminum anchor with cumbersome chain and bundle of tangled rope? It wasn’t long ago when this sort of basic ground tackle was the only means of maintaining our position in the shallows. Nine out of ten times extracting the noisy gear out of an anchor locker sent any predator within a country mile running for cover. Hauling the muddy anchor, which damaged the fragile ecosystem, came with its own set of inconveniences. Fortunately, options now exist.
Second only to electric trolling motors in revolutionary backcountry innovations, shallow water anchoring systems, not to be confused with the aforementioned GPS anchors, allow shallow water boaters the ability to maintain position by simply driving a virtually unbreakable, aluminum, fiberglass or composite stake into the bottom in up to eight feet of water. The footprint left behind is nothing more than a small hole barely larger than a quarter. Equally as beneficial is the amount of noise and disturbance made when deploying and retrieving—virtually none!
Depending on the system, shallow water anchors hold your boat in place in winds approaching gale force. Manually or automatically, shallow water anchors deploy in seconds and prevent your boat from drifting while you’re casting, fighting fish, re-rigging, or simply taking a lunch break. Today’s advanced shallow water anchors are lightweight, easily storable, and are ideal for sight fishing because they allow you to instantly stop your skiff or bay boat exactly where you want—not where you believe you will end up after deploying a standard anchor, chain and rope. Shallow water anchors do not muddy the water and they hold firm in nearly any sort of substrate without damaging the critical habitat.
Hydraulic or Hand-Power?
We’re all familiar with Power-Pole, the popular choice of tournament professionals that mounts to your transom; however, manual options do exist and most are available with convenient mounting brackets that make them extremely user-friendly. The benefits over an automated system are ease of mounting, less weight, lack of mechanical parts, and, of course, affordability. A typically manual shallow water anchor will range from $50 to $200, whereas an automated system may set you back more than $1,000. The downside is convenience. Power-Pole requires the push of a button, manual systems require manpower to deploy and retract. With a style and design for virtually every type of inshore boat that’s fitting for any budget, a shallow water anchor is clearly an essential tool that every backcountry boater shouldn’t be without. The eco-friendly benefits alone make it well worth the investment.
Combined, the dynamic duo of revolutionary electric trolling motor and eco-friendly shallow water anchor means having the ability to control your vessel with total precision. If you haven’t already done so, equip your backcountry boat with the latest and greatest and watch your catch ratio soar.
Electric Trolling Motor Manufacturers
- Bass Pro Prowler – www.basspro.com
- Coleman Sevylor – www.sevylor.com
- Minn-Kota – www.minnkotamotors.com
- Motor Guide – www.motorguide.com
- Rhodan Marine Systems – www.gpsanchor.com
- Torqeedo – www.torqeedo.com
- WaterSnake Trolling Motors – www.watersnakeusa.com