Working all the Angle’s
by Marvin Koizumi
Most people designate electric trolling motors as bow mount or transom mount. Why not combine the advantages of both? This little revelation came to me while fishing at Travers Reservoir last year with my partner Wally Becker. For those who have discussed boat control with Wally, it soon becomes evident that his first love is backtrolling with his electric. I didn’t think I would backtroll as much as I do now, or consider owning a tiller boat until I fished with Wally. I felt I had a good handle on boat control and consistently forward trolled with a bow mount electric.
Electric trolling motors and batteries have come a long way in a very short time. The fishing public and marketing surveys have forced the electric trolling motor industry to change the way fishing used to be, to the high tech fishing of today. One only has to compare the pounds of thrust, shaft lengths and models available today, to know that we will never look back. We must change too, or we will not maximize the usefulness of today’s electric trolling motors.
Today, we seldom hear complaints about running out of battery power, or shaft lengths too short, or not having enough pulling power. These developments go hand in hand with the technological advances made in boat design, sonars, navigational tools, fishing rods and reels and so on.
My topic is to have you look a bit outside the box, when you use your trolling motors. I have a 24volt system for both my transom mount Vantage and my Genesis bow mount wired into a pair of 31 plate deep cycle batteries. The 24volt system has become what the 12volt system was ten years ago. There are still many models readily available in 12volt and 36volt configurations, but the 24volt system offers the average fisherman more power levels and greater battery life for the average size boat.
We have to look at all the options we have available when we put these units on a boat. I run MinnKota units front and back. The MinnKota bow mount offers me autopilot features that I find extremely helpful. There is a reason for this combination, and it revolves around boat handling, whether we are in current or just following a breakline in our lakes and reservoirs.
Have you noticed how many people forward troll or backtroll contours? Everyone does it at some time. I will offer you an option when you troll your next breakline. It will not matter if you are rigging, jigging or pulling blades.
Breaklines and contours are the walleye fisherman’s favorite place to look for walleye. The fish may be on the upper lip, in-between on a subtle change, along the base, or suspended off the breakline. Fishing these areas effectively is often the most difficult to master. We understand that the walleye will move up or down the breakline or away to a deep transition zone as the fishing day progresses or their activity levels increase or decrease. It will be our ability to track these fish that will make us better than the average fisherman. Knowing how to put your electric trolling motors to work will put you into the better than average group.
We have the ability to see fish. Fish cannot hide from the prying sonars but the trick is for the fisherman to make the walleye bite and stay with the hot fish. Many times you will pass over fish and catch the occasional biter. You might be working the fringe areas of the school and not really understanding the actual location of the bigger fish or the location of the active biters. Working these fish properly is directly related to the success ratio of the boat catch.
Consider this, the next time you go out to a breakline, or have the opportunity to fish multiple rods. After you have located fish on your sonar and you decide to put in a line, move your boat to an approximate right angle to the breakline. Set your bowmount in the approximate direction of travel you want to go. The steering direction of the bowmount will pull the boat forward as much as sideways so it will be set at about a 45 degree angle to the boat. Go to the transom and set up your transom electric. Point the transom in the direction of travel of the bow mount but pulling away from the bowmount. You can make some easy adjustments for speed and boat direction with your bow mount foot control. This will keep the boat approximately at right angles to the breakline and enable you to adjust the speed to match your fishing conditions. The MinnKota autopilot feature allows you to work the transom electric with a minimum of attention as the corrections at the bow come automatically.
You can get settled in and watch your sonar (s). Study the location of the fish when you start working this area. Relax your speed control on the transom trolling motor if you find yourself going too deep and allow the bowmount to pull you up the breakline. Over power the front bowmount if you want, to pull the boat away from the breakline. Slow both units down or increase both units depending on conditions or speed desired. The boat control is immediate and you have control in both directions. This seesaw action is great for working the ins and outs of a breakline and will put your bait in the higher percentage spots more often than forward trolling or backtrolling and allowing you to see the fish over a greater area. The length of your boat becomes an advantage also. You will pick up the subtle features and fingers extending from the breakline far easier than forward or back trolling which is somewhat running the boat parallel to the breakline.
Forward trolling and backtrolling offers you the width of the boat coverage plus rod length coverage. My technique offers you the length of the boat plus rod length coverage. Many times you will run over the tips of points or miss the turns because you are running parallel to a contour. Backtrolling is similar in the fact that you will follow a prescribed depth more than see the activity level of the fish.
Backtrolling is often a slower than necessary presentation when fishing contours. This is brought about because a backtroller is attempting to follow the contours, but usually works with a single transom sonar and his depth varies depending on the attitude of the fisherman and not the location of the fish. When you take the seesaw approach to the contour, you not only get to follow the contour but you start to see the fish stage at different levels on the breakline. You end up working the contour like slicing tomatoes. You will be able to dissect the contour better and retrieve more valuable information as you move along. This is very important when fishing with a partner. The baits will also run in a seesaw fashion. Under normal backtrolling conditions, a partner fishing the bow of the boat with have his bait further away and off to the side of where the boat operator has his bait as the bow swings around. Should either person in the boat catch a fish, the likelihood of repeating the presentation or location is often difficult to pin down.
I have experienced losing track of a small school of fish backtrolling or forward trolling on a breakline. The seesaw method gives me an added edge and will allow me to work an area below the boat more thoroughly while tracking the fish on the sonars.
Today’s powerful electric trolling motors will pull a boat broadside very well against a wind or substantial current. The size and length of today’s boats will often allow the fisherman an opportunity to run rigs shallow and deep on the contour at the same time or allow the partner to fish the intermediate depths with consistency.
If you have both bow sonar and transom sonar, in view, from your seat, you have the added bonus of tracking a much larger area under the boat as you move along the contour. You will be able to see how the bottom changes, how fast the contour changes in slope and direction and above all, where the fish are staging. The information you see is highly refined and in real time. If you see something of interest, a quick reversal of the trolling motor direction will put you back on those fish immediately.
The key is to operate both electric trolling motors simultaneously. I used to think of limited battery capacity as a reason to consider forward trolling and backtrolling as two separate functions. Today I have changed my thought process and am now enjoying boat control even more. Operating both trolling motors from a pair of batteries has proven very useful to me and I’m sure it will improve your catch too.
The confidence in boat control that I have and knowing where the fish are all the time makes fishing an experience and not a chore. I hope this Food For Thought and working with your electric trolling motors will help make you more successful.