A look at whether or not your saltwater boat is a good choice for a trolling motor.
Since we began enlightening Fisherman Magazine readers about the benefits of trolling motors for use in Northeast and Mid-Atlantic saltwater scenarios, the biggest question that seems to come up centers around the subject of whether or not the package can be used on certain boats common in our waters. While the perception is that trolling motors only work on freshwater bass boats and southern flats boats, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Many local anglers have successfully installed trolling motors on their center consoles, dual consoles, bay boats, cruisers, skiffs, cuddy cabins and other styles common in our waters; odds are that you too can join them and begin reaping the many benefits they afford.
So as we begin a new monthly print feature spotlighting common fishing challenges that Minn Kota and Humminbird products solve with their unique features, here is a look at what does and does not make for a good boat candidate to add a trolling motor for the 2019 saltwater fishing season and beyond.
Today’s trolling motors have enough power and thrust to move and hold your average inshore saltwater boat in the 10- to 29-foot range with the sweet spot being in the 15- to 25-foot range. Obviously with the larger and heavier boats you will expect to have a bit more difficulty holding in place when the seas are big and the wind is blowing, but really anything under 25 feet should be no problem for these motors. You can Spot-Lock atop a piece of structure for blackfish and black sea bass, you can speed up or slow down your fluke drift to meet the day’s needs and you can slide through a rip or river current to perfectly present bait or lure to schools of marauding striped bass and bluefish.
A lot of saltwater fishing boats used in our region were not designed with a trolling motor in mind, but this is not a dead end by any means. When selecting the placement of the trolling motor, three things should be taken into consideration:
- Mount it close to the centerline or keel of boat for maximum efficiency.
- Set it far enough forward for the shaft to clear the rub rail.
- Mount it in a place that the motor head is protected when stowed to prevent damage while docking and on-the-road transportation of the boat.
You are going to need a flat area on the rail or bow onto which the trolling motor is mounted. Sometimes minor modifications to the boat’s bow are required to provide the necessary base for the trolling motor. This can easily be accomplished through the use of an aluminum plate, starboard or even custom glass work. Minn Kota even offers a quick-release bracket for use with their sub-60- and 72-inch shaft models. This provides a very stable and secure mount with a minimally invasive add-on.
Bow anchor storage compartments should not be covered, so placement of the trolling motor is sometimes set in front of or just behind the compartment.
Remember, today’s Minn Kota is not your father’s trolling motor! They don’t just offer increased power necessary for large, saltwater boats, they also come in a variety of shaft lengths including 48-, 54-, 60- and 72-inch models to meet your boat’s specific needs and gunnel height. In general, the correct shaft length places the trolling motor’s lower unit between 1 and 2 feet below the water’s surface to account for wave activity. You do not want the mast to get in the way when trimmed up while fishing in shallow water, but on the opposite end of the spectrum that prop will do you no good if it spends more time out of the water than in it!
Next up is a power source and place to store it. You will need to account for storage on a dedicated 12V battery system sufficient to adequately power your boat. The number of batteries is determined by the boat size (power needs) and anticipated run time requirements. Bigger boats need more power to move them, and the voltage directly correlates with this power (12V = 55lb, 24V = 80lb, 36V = 112lb). The necessary wiring from the trolling motor to power supply will be run below deck for a secure, clean finished product, but you want to have easy access in order to charge the batteries after each trip. This can be accomplished through on-board chargers, alternator chargers, or off-boat chargers depending on your needs; all of which are available through Minn Kota. This just about covers the general considerations needed for adding a Minn Kota trolling motor to your saltwater boat; next month we will get a little further into the basic installation procedure.