Whether you do your fishing from a bass boat or a bay boat, if you enjoy light tackle casting there’s a good chance you’ve been on a boat that had a bow-mounted electric trolling motor. These motors offer a stealthy way to sneak up on the fish, excellent close-quarters maneuverability, and the newest versions offer perks like “virtual” anchoring, GPS-controlled trolling, and remote control. Here’s the rub: you can get a regular trolling motor that’s controlled via a tiller or a foot-pedal for a little more than half the cost of one that’s jazzed up with all those features. A 112-lb. thrust Minn Kota Riptide that’s tiller-steered, for example, MSRP’s at around $1,300. But the same power motor with all the bells and whistles costs about $2,350. So, it is worth the extra expense? Before you make any judgments, watch this short video we shot of one of those decked-out Minn Kotas in action on a Ranger 2510 Bay Ranger.
Yes, that Bay Ranger is a pretty big boat for an electric trolling motor, and yes, that motor had plenty of oomph to handle it. But more impressive was how easily it was controlled. The captain had a key-fob style remote hanging from a belt loop, and could maneuver as he pleased from anywhere aboard. He could have the motor hover the boat in place. And he could raise and lower the motor at the press of a button. In fact, he said “I don’t have to pull it up and down, and I certainly don’t have to pole the boat anymore, so that motor has probably extended my guiding career by a good 10 years.”
Another high-tech trolling motor rig we spent some time on lately was a Motorguide Xi5 with Lowrance SmartSteer, rigged on a Yellowfin bay boat. In this case the trolling motor was interfaced with and controlled by the Lowrance HDS MFD mounted at the helm. It allowed for pre-programming a set of waypoints steered by the motor (so you could work a shoreline or contour), zig-zag patterns, and shifting the boat’s position in five-foot increments. Most impressive, however, was the ability to press a button and watch as the motor held the boat in place—with a strong current and a breeze constantly buffeting it. This allowed us to hold position as we cast to a bridge piling, then swipe the MFD screen a few times to move to the next piling and freeze position there. The fishing-time saved as compared to anchoring, then pulling the anchor, moving, and re-anchoring, was huge.
So, is all the extra expense for a motor like this worth it to you? That probably depends on your budget. We can say for sure, however, that these systems will make your life a lot easier—and they’ll help you catch more fish. If you do spend a few extra bucks to get the most advanced trolling motor possible, you won’t be disappointed.
Visit Minn Kota or MotorGuide for more information on specific models and options.