Electric Muscle

Trolling motors take the work out of fishing.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Real estate is about location, location, location, and fishing is about position, position, position. Quietly put your boat in the right spot to make a perfect presentation and most of the time you're going to catch more fish. A properly rigged trolling motor-or electric positioning motor, as they're called these days-makes it easy.

Hand-control, bow-mount motors are the standard for hard-fishing bass anglers-they require less maintenance than remote-control models and cost significantly less. Unless they're rigged right, however, operating them is literally a pain in the back. The basic add-on is an extension handle, such as "The Extender" from T-H Marine (www.thmarine.com). An extension handle clamps to the motor shaft and allows the operator to steer without having to bend over. Extension lengths are adjustable to 30 inches. Other models from Minn Kota and Bass Pro Shops allow longer extensions and attach directly to the tiller, providing twist-control of speed as well as steering. Prices are $33 to $38. Foot-control motors leave both hands free and seem almost to operate themselves once you get used to them. I prefer the "flat pad" electric control models, which are like power steering. Your foot feels more comfortable when you stand to fish, too. Some pros prefer cable controls, however, because of fewer breakdowns and a more positive "feel" in the steering. A solution to the angled pad is to inset the foot control into the deck-several bass-boat companies now build in a slot just for this purpose.

Weeds and fish go together, but weeds and propellers don't. Conventional props are made for power and efficiency. If you spend most of your time pushing through cover that's thick enough to plow, a weedless prop ($25 to $35) will make you happier. These are big in the hub and small in the blade, designed to cut weeds rather than allow them to wrap around the center. In extreme duty, you might even swap for a metal prop (around $45), which will withstand the occasional brush with a stump or gravel bottom better than the composite props do.

When it comes to moving a serious load at speed, nothing quite matches the oomph of 36 volts. Minn Kota's largest troller produces a rated 101 pounds of thrust, available in Maxxum models (about $750-$1,000). The 36-volt models consume only 37 amps at maximum power, about 8 amps less than 74-pound-thrust, 24-volt versions. Go to www.minnkotamotors. com for details.

MotorGuide rates its 36-volt models at 109 pounds of thrust. Best bets are the Excel electric steering with flat-pad control ($950) and the Tour with cable steering ($800). The motors' "soft-start" feature prevents jerky takeoffs. Visit www.motorguide.com.