Trolling motors starting to do it all

Few people go through the trouble of planting rows of grain for the 70 days of dove season, but that’s OK, because the Department of Wildlife & Fisheries has already done it for you.

The best place for your front fish finder’s transducer is on the bottom of your bow-mounted trolling motor’s lower unit. Until recently, this meant clamping a transducer to the motor and routing its cable up the outside of the motor’s shaft. The transducers and cables collected weeds and were vulnerable to damage from submerged hazards.

Minn Kota countered the problem with its Universal Sonar option, a generic transducer built into the lower unit housing of selected motors. You simply buy the appropriate adapter cable, plug it in between the Universal Sonar pigtail, and your fish finder and you are good to go.

MotorGuide offered built-in transducers specifically for Pinpoint fish finders at first but followed quickly with Sonar Ready Digital motors with adapter cables that fit most popular fish finders.

Feedback indicates that the generic transducers on both brands work well, and installing them inside the lower units and their cables inside the motor shaft eliminates the traditional types of damage.

Something you may not know is that MotorGuide’s new Digital models include improved electronics designed to fight the screen interference common on bow-mounted sonars.

I’ve tested several Lowrance and Garmin fish finders with a 24-volt MotorGuide Tour Edition Digital motor and found them interference-free at any motor speed, even with the sounders set at high sensitivity levels while their interference filters are turned off.

This is great news for fishermen who jig vertically or want to drift and track deep baits from their front seat.

If you are wondering what happened to Pinpoint’s smart motors since MotorGuide absorbed that company, have no fear. The smart motor is now called the Pinpoint Tracking System (PTS) MotorGuide model and it remains ready to follow creeks, shorelines or track a constant depth.

A comprehensive LCD window and an easy-to-use keypad make operation easier than ever.

Minn Kota’s CoPilot accessory makes controlling its PowerDrive and AutoPilot motors about as easy as it gets. First, it takes a Phillips head screwdriver and about five minutes to install the controller on the motor’s frame.

Then, a small remote-control unit turns the motor on and off, steers it and controls its speed. The remote can be strapped to a rod handle, worn like a wrist watch or attached to your belt. Both the pedal and remote can remain connected at the same time, and either will control the motor.

The remote offers more precise speed control than the standard foot pedal, and I found it infinitely more convenient for operating the motor from anywhere in the boat.

Minn Kota’s new Maxxum Pro takes the back-wrenching grunt out of stowing today’s big, long-shaft motors. When you pull on the Pro’s rope, a Lift Assist feature cuts the apparent lifting weight 50 percent as you start the motor swinging in to be stowed.

A heavy gas piston similar to those that lift the rear hatch of an SUV practically shoves the motor toward you.

The same piston lets you lift the motor from the stowed position and just sling it forward to be deployed. The piston slows the motor’s downward travel, cushioning it and converting the slam you expect into a gentle click while you make your first cast.

Many fishermen believe in the KISS principle and won’t have anything but a hand-operated trolling motor. Traditional motors require you to move the handle out past the edge of the boat to turn sharply or reverse direction, and anglers often resort to a variety of accessory handles to make extreme steering motions safer and more convenient.

Minn Kota’s new Vector 3X transom mount and Maxxum 3X bow-mount motors raise hand operation (without accessory help) to a new level. First, the handles tilt upward up to 20 degrees and extend to a maximum length of 21 inches so you can steer while sitting or standing up.

Second, and best of all, move the handle left or right just 60 degrees, and the lower unit turns 180 degrees. The 3X mechanism multiplies your steering effort and turns the motor three times farther than you move the handle.

A push-to-test battery gauge on the top of the motor helps you track your remaining battery power.

Arguably, today’s electric motors provide the largest boost in real world fishing assistance to come along since their ancestors’ propellers replaced paddles.