What to look for in a trolling motor

An electric trolling motor is a "must have" item for bass, striper and crappie anglers who cast to shorelines or slow-troll live baits in area lakes.

In recent years, trolling motors also have gained popularity with saltwater anglers who previously used push poles to stalk the shallow marshes for reds and trout.

For optimum maneuverability, the electric motor on bass and striper boats is mounted on the bow. Stern mounts are typically used on small aluminum boats. The foot-operated motor is popular with bass fishermen, since it frees both hands for casting, retrieving and fighting the fish. Striper fishermen use a bow-mounted motor but prefer a hand-held digital controller.

Before buying a new trolling motor, consider the following options:

Bow or stern mount - Trolling motors maneuver best when pulling, not pushing. Bow mounts, therefore, are the most popular.

Manual, foot or remote control - Manual motors are less expensive, but foot or digitally controlled operation makes fishing easier. Anglers who spend most of the time casting to docks, rocks and other above-water obstructions prefer foot controls. Those who slow-troll live baits prefer the digital remote controllers.

Shaft length - Motor shafts range in length from 36 to 60 inches. For a proper fit, measure the distance from the deck mount to the water's surface and add 24 inches. This measurement determines the depth the propeller should be below the surface. A 42- or 48-inch shaft is adequate for most applications. When in doubt, longer is better.

Twelve or 24 volts - Higher voltage means more power (thrust). A 12-volt (one battery) motor performs best on boats up to 18 feet long, while 24- and 36-volt (two or three batteries) motors provide the power needed to propel a vessel up to 25 feet long.

Thrust - Electric motors are rated by pounds of thrust. An electric motor rated for 75 pounds of thrust is equivalent to a one-horsepower gasoline-operated outboard engine. Twelve-volt motors can provide thrusts to 55 pounds, while 24- and 36-volt units can produce upwards of 115 pounds of thrust.

Gadgets - Today's state-of-the-art remote-controlled motors can run compass or predetermined GPS courses at a set speed regardless of wind or current conditions. Probably the most popular feature for deep-water anglers is the motor's ability to stay within 5 feet of a predetermined spot. When the anchor feature is deployed, the angler is free to fish or move about the boat without having to tend to the motor. This feature is an advantage when fishing over humps, brush piles or schools of fish or just wanting to hold the boat into the wind or current.

Pricing - Trolling motors range in price from less than $100 to well over $1,000, depending on quality, size and features.

Coming events

Join me from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday for a free seminar, "How to Safely Navigate Lake Norman Using Sonar and GPS." We'll meet at North Point Watersports, 112 Doolie Road, Mooresville, to learn the basics of sonar and GPS. Bring your questions and instruction books to this new boating safety session. Call 704-799-1994 for information.