[dropcap size=small]T[/dropcap]he weather across America has finally warmed up. By now most of you fishermen are raring to go, but wait! Before you head out to your favorite “honey hole” be sure to check your trolling motor, or you just might face a frustrating event.
Warning: The following tips are from lessons learned the hard way.
Step 1. Maintenance
First – Check to see if it runs at all. Just because it ran like a champ last season doesn’t mean it is as raring to go as you are. Many anglers don’t disconnect the plug and over time this can lead to corrosion of the contacts. If you have a new digital model you might have not only ruined the motor but the batteries as well. Manufacturers tell us to disconnect the plug after every use to avoid permanent damage.
Check your fuses. Better yet, install circuit breakers that are much easier to reset when the fish are biting. If you already have circuit breakers, check them for corrosion and clean them. Cleaners are available at any auto parts store. These also are recommended for cleaning most battery terminals.
Next remove the prop and check for any line that might have been wound around the shaft, which could ruin the seal. This should become a regular maintenance habit.
While you are at it, check the shear pin. If it’s bent, replace it. They are very inexpensive and should you have to remove the old prop, for any reason, the prop change will be much easier. Changing props on the water is not very easy anyway. Always have a spare prop, pin, and nut for there is not a prop made that will not break or bend.
While you are in the prop area, get in front and check if it spins correctly. Its possible that the stump you hit last fall didn’t break the prop but it did bend the shaft. Get it repaired or you might ruin the whole thing.
The rope, ah yes, the rope. How many times have I had to doctor on a rope that either broke or was just about to break? Even the newest ropes on the mounts will wear quickly. Always carry a spare and before the rope breaks, learn how it is threaded. It will be much simpler to repair if you know the threading pattern. It is possible to cut off the frayed portion and use the remaining rope but it will be, of course, much shorter
Remove the top half of the motor head and be careful to avoid losing the screws. Lightly grease the gearing after you have removed any hardened residue. Be very careful in this procedure as the cables are adjusted to the proper radius for efficient turning. In some Minn Kota models, the top of the head is the only thing holding the gearing in place. If this head is cracked, it may break, the gearing may slip out of position and you will not be able to control the motor’s direction. Get a new head and stop bumping into those boathouses!
Lastly, check your directional pointer. Those of us who fish regularly rarely pay attention to this small item, except when we get in a tight place and have to back out. Been there! Oh yes, be sure to get in your boat, lower your troller, and check to see if it turns with the pedal. After all, that’s why you spent mega bucks on a foot control, right?
Step II. Accessories
Mounts? If your high thrust motor is not on a breakaway mount, get a new mount that does. Even the spring loaded mounts can fail with enough force. Repair shops remind us that, under the right conditions, any trolling motor shaft will fail. Prior to the new stainless steel braced mounts, warping of the braces was a common occurrence. Be sure to check the bolts that secure the mount to the boat. Cold and vibration can affect their grip and loosen them.
Props? You’d be surprised just how many anglers fail to realize the importance of utilizing the correct trolling motor prop. Many pros will tell you they carry at least three different props along each day they are on the water. Why? Well, obviously a spare is simple insurance against a lost tournament should the original break.
Have you ever noticed how grass will foul a two bladed prop so easily? Minn Kota two blade props are by far the most weedless, as are the old OMC. “Safari” Motorguide blades also offer great weedless performance. The three bladed versions are more weedless and the four bladed is the most weedless of that brand. This last was certainly excellent in weeds but much of the power was lost. A couple of years ago, Motorguide offered their “Hydrilla Hacker” which proved to be the best prop for all around use. Not only was it almost unstoppable in grass, but power loss was negligible. There are still some around at dealers and feel fortunate if you find one.
Step III. Selection
A general rule in choosing a trolling motor suitable for your boat is 10 pounds of thrust for every foot of length over fourteen feet beginning with thirty pounds. Where you frequently fish is also a consideration. If you fish flowing water or areas exposed to high winds, you will want to use much higher thrust. Your trolling motor is, next to your rod and reel, your most important tool. You can fish without your big motor or your LCR, but try paddling a large bass boat for a while!