The Trolling Motor Advantage - The Fisherman

The Trolling Motor Advantage

2018 2 Trolling Motor Boat
Modern saltwater-specific trolling motors have the power and shaft length to be mounted on most any inshore fishing boat.

Not just for  freshwater bassmen and southern flats boats, the trolling motor is fast-becoming a valuable tool of Northeast anglers in the know.

Recent advancements in marine electronics offer anglers a tremendous opportunity to fish more effectively and efficiently. However, there is a massive learning curve to use electronics and interpret their full potential. Experienced fishermen that are willing to learn will benefit the greatest from this technology.

When it comes to trolling motors, freshwater bass fishermen have long seen and taken full advantage of their full potential. In fact, no serious freshwater bass fisherman would dare head to their local lake without one. As is so often the case, innovation began with the freshwater bass scene as tournament fishing is very competitive and highly pressured.

While the use of trolling motors in saltwater is widely accepted and used by southern inshore fishermen in areas like Louisiana and Florida. The vast majority of bay boats down south have a bow-mounted trolling motor. Why the use of trolling motors has yet to catch on in the Northeast is beyond me. Perhaps we northerners are too stuck in our ways and are reluctant to change. However, for those who have seen the light the benefits are many. A trolling motor allows a fisherman to have complete control over the boat. It allows the angler to manipulate the movement of the boat to their advantage. The angler can almost eliminate variables such as wind and current and maximize the presentation of their lure or bait.

Plenty o’ Power

Trolling motors today have enough power to hold a heavy saltwater boat in place against a substantial wind and/or current. Manufacturers make trolling motors that are designed for use in the saltwater so they also stand up to the abuses inflicted in this harsh environment.

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The ability to more easily and accurately control a boat’s drift is a huge benefit when targeting striped bass in a strong ocean current or flowing river.

For the past year and half I have been fishing with a Minn Kota Riptide Ulterra 112 mounted on the bow of my 21-foot (3,500-pound) Steiger Craft center console. This model is designed for large, saltwater v-hull, flats, center console and general fishing boats to 25 feet in length. The 112-pound thrust motor is capable of handling boats up to 5,500 pounds, so it has enough power to hold my boat in most areas at peak current and can hold in 30-plus-knot winds. Once I began fishing with a trolling motor, it was very clear to me that I would never go back to fishing without one. A lot of the fishing I do requires precision in the sense that I need my boat to be on a precise piece of structure or on a precise drift pattern. The trolling motor allows me to maintain this precision despite what the wind and current are doing. For example, picture a school of stripers holding on a channel edge. Let’s say there is a 10-knot wind pushing the boat perpendicular to the channel. Without a trolling motor the boat would drift past the channel edge and out of the strike zone in a matter minutes or seconds, thus creating the need to constantly reposition the boat resulting in less time spent fishing in the strike zone. With the use of a trolling motor in this scenario I am able to hold directly over the channel edge on the school of stripers and stay in the strike zone.

Staying Put

The Ulterra has a feature called Spot Lock, which is a game-changer in itself. This feature allows me to press a button on my remote and lock the boat in position. The trolling motor has an internal GPS that will save the coordinates and hold the boat precisely at that position. The motor automatically compensates for wind and current allowing the angler to focus on fishing while the boat remains stationary.

When I began using Spot Lock, the first question I had was – how accurate is it? My answer is extremely accurate and in many situations it holds the boat better than an anchor because it eliminates the sway that is experienced from the anchor line scope. This can be largely beneficial when fishing for blackfish as they tend to hold very tight to specific areas of structure.

Using Spot Lock has been one of the most beneficial aspects to my fishing as I have the ability to stop and hold my boat effortlessly with the push of a button. I am also able to do so without any noise or commotion. I cringe when I see and hear other fishermen drag their anchor and chain across the deck and then heave a 15-pound anchor followed by the anchor chain clunking over the gunwale. Sound travels through water much faster than it does through air, and I don’t think unnecessary noise will help you catch more fish. The obvious advantage of Spot Lock is being able to hold over a school of fish or structure and stay in the strike zone for an indefinite amount of time.

When a situation requires my full attention I have the ability to Spot Lock the boat in position safely while I handle the situation. Let’s say there is a tangle in a reel or a leader needs to be retied. I can press Spot Lock and hold the boat in a safe position while I re-tie. This also adds extra safety if you are ever in a situation where your main engine becomes temporarily disabled and the boat is drifting towards an obstruction as the boat can be held in place at the push of a button.

More Advantages

The autopilot True North feature allows you to hold the boat on a specific heading. This feature is very effective when striper fishing in a river, for example, and I want to drift parallel to a bank, channel or flat without being blown perpendicular to it. Another huge advantage to True North is that I am able to control the drift of the boat to my desired speed. During periods of peak current or high winds, the drift can become too fast to fish effectively. However, by using True North I can face the bow up-current or up-wind and use the motor to offset the wind or current speed and keep the boat drifting at my desired speed.

2018 2 Trolling Motor Catch
Are you tired of your noisy outboard spooking weary speedsters like false albacore? A nearly-silent trolling motor is sure to improve your ability to sneak up on an unsuspecting school.

I-Pilot link takes this technology one step further by allowing the trolling motor to communicate with my Humminbird GPS and sonar. How is this useful? When using side imaging I can mark a school of fish off to the side of my boat, drop a waypoint, press Spot Lock and the trolling motor will drive the boat to the school of fish and Spot Lock.

Another benefit is the ability to shut off the main motor and use the trolling motor to quietly maneuver the boat without spooking fish. I have seen large fishing boats with twin diesels troll over a school of bass in less than 15 feet of water, and the bass continue to feed and aren’t fazed. However, on other days/nights I have seen the water turn into a mine field of spooked bass scattering because someone stepped too hard on the boat deck. My point is that there are times when starting an engine can scare stripers and having the ability to use the trolling motor to maneuver without scaring the fish is advantageous.

Beyond Bass

The use of a trolling motor goes beyond striper fishing. The Spot Lock feature is a good tool when bottom fishing for blackfish, scup and sea bass. It is especially useful when frequently moving to different spots to find fish as there is no need to haul and reset the anchor. The use of the Jog feature allows the angler to move 5-foot increments forward, backward, right or left. This allows the angler to make small adjustments for tight structure holding blackfish, for example. Fluke fishermen can use the trolling motor to increase their drift speed during a slow drift or decrease their drift speed during a fast drift. I have effectively used the trolling motor while albie fishing by locking in an area where the albies have bait pushed against the beach. Rather than chasing them around, which is frequently counter-productive as it pushes the fish further away and makes them more finicky, I stay put without spooking the fish and can fish them longer.

With the use of a trolling motor one can improve their presentation. Increasing and decreasing the drift speed and holding the boat stationary will have a drastic impact on the behavior of your bait or lure and how fish react or don’t react to it. Fishing a jig while stationary or at a decreased speed will allow you to use a lighter jig and get deeper in the water column. If you are three-waying a live bait, the trolling motor can be used to decrease drift speed and keep your line vertical without having to add more lead.

While trolling motors are not the end all, be all of fishing, they absolutely have a place in saltwater fishing across the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and beyond. Freshwater anglers have been using them to their advantage for many years, now it’s time that we play catch up!


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