Electric Trolling Motors Make Boat Control A Snap

Sam Heaton was complaining about the “cold” weather in south Florida in May when I reached him on his cell phone to pick his brain on a couple of fishing-related topics.

That Sam, an old fishing buddy and the field promotion manager for Minn-Kota, the venerable trolling motor company that specializes in bow and transom-mount units, would complain about the “cold” isn’t out of character.

“You know me, I hate the cold,” he said.

Babe Winkelman

Sam may hate the cold, but he sure doesn’t hate to fish. Saltwater … freshwater … on the fly … with a lure … in a boat … or wading in a stream … Sam can’t get enough of it.

“From bream to bonefish to bass, there’s really no type of fishing I don’t do, and there’s really no type of fishing I don’t like to do,” he said.

As a former tournament largemouth bass and crappie angler, and a member of the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, Sam, 55, knows how to get fish in the boat. We filmed a couple television shows together over the years, and believe me when I say the man is good with a stick.

Offers Sound Motor Advice
When our conversation turned to Minn-Kota trolling motors, Sam offered some advice that I believe you will find instructive.

“I’m often asked why spend the money on a trolling motor, and that’s a good question,” Sam said. “The most important reason to use a trolling motor is for boat control. Period. You need to get where the fish are at, and the easier it is to navigate to these spots — and sometimes they are out-of-the-way spots — the better success you’ll have. Unless your fishing from shore or wading, which, believe me, is just fine, boat control is the key to catching fish.”

When high winds and current create rough water conditions, navigating in and around docks, pilings and other structures can be difficult. Sam maintains that without a trolling motor such obstacles would be impossible to negotiate. He’s right.

“More often than not when you’re navigating your boat around certain structures you’re doing so because you know there’s fish in the neighborhood, or that you’ve established some sort of pattern,” Sam said. “In that situation, using a trolling motor will allow you to get precise bait placement, and catch more fish.”

One example: Minn-Kota’s Vector transom-mount trolling motor, which, Sam says, offers anglers nearly unmatched boat control compared to conventional tiller models. Some Vector models also feature Minn-Kota’s new 3X steering system. With 3X steering, the motor’s lower unit turns three degrees to every one degree of tiller rotation, meaning the direction of the motor can be turned a full 180 degrees by turning the tiller just 60 degrees — a nice, nice feature.

“The 3X steering system is so responsive that you can get pinpoint placement when you are making a bait presentation,” Sam said. “It also eliminates tiller interference with your outboard engine.”

A Nice Steering Feature
Vector models with the 3X steering feature can be easily converted for back trolling, Sam said. Pull the spring-loaded pin, and simply rotate the unit to the back trolling position. All Vector models also include the new Tilt/Extend Tiller.

“The entire head tilts 20 degrees, which, I will say, makes steering, whether you’re sitting or standing, much more comfortable,” he said.

The tiller can also be extended 5 inches (from 7.5 inches to 12.5 inches), making it easy to control the motor over the splash well and around the outboard.

“The extra length really helps,” Sam said.

While many anglers prefer to navigate their trolling motors with standard foot-pedal controls, more and more, Sam believes, are experimenting with Minn-Kota’s Autopilot navigation system.

Autopilot: Like Auto Keyless Entry
The wireless AutoPilot remote is similar to an automobile’s keyless entry.

“What the AutoPilot does is allow you the freedom to control your trolling motor with your fingertips,” Sam said. “You just set the speed and direction and leave it alone. When your trolling motor is running at a constant speed, with a constant vibration, you’re less likely to spook the fish below. You want that constant speed, and the AutoPilot makes it happen.”

The waterproof remote, which also floats, can be attached to you rod, or secured on your wrist or belt. Some anglers, like Sam, secure it to lanyard and put it around their necks. “I do a lot of saltwater fishing, and the water is usually pretty rough, so having the remote around my neck is the safe play,” he said. “I don’t want it going overboard, because if it does, I may go overboard trying to get it.”

For a selection of Minn-Kota trolling motors, click here.

For an assortment of Babe Winkelman fishing DVDs, click here.

For a fine assortment of Freshwater fishing gear, click here.

Editor’s Note: Babe has shared his love of the outdoors with TV viewers for more than 25 years. Babe will share his tips and outdoor adventures weekly on sportsmansguide.com. In 1984, Babe’s “Good Fishing” program debuted and later his “Outdoor Secrets” show became popular with hunting enthusiasts. Babe’s programs appear on the Outdoor Life Network, WGN, Fox Sports Net, Fox College Sports, The Men’s Channel, Sportsman’s Channel, Great American Country, WILD TV, and Comcast. Babe also writes hunting, fishing and conservation columns that are carried by up to 350 newspapers each week. Winkelman sponsors include Chevrolet, Miller High Life, Johnsonville Brats, Crestliner Boats, St. Croix Rods, Browning, Hunter’s Specialties, Nikon, Minn Kota, Optima Batteries, Mathews, Honda, and many more.

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