Trails: September 2007

Trails: September 2007
Bow mount trolling motors allow the best control of the boat. One factor to consider is the trolling motor shaft length. This motor is setup to allow steering at waist height.

Little things make a big difference in tournament fishing. One thing most anglers are proficient at is controlling the boat with the big motor. Navigating with the quiet power of an Evinrude ETEC HO seems easy when compared to working a windward bank with the trolling motor. At 200+ horsepower, the outboard easily overcomes wind and current such that maneuvering the boat basically becomes similar to driving a car. Controlling and maneuvering the boat while fishing is a different ballgame where equipment and tactics can make the difference between catching fish and not being able to cast to fish.

So how well is your rig prepared to tackle any situation encountered? First and foremost at the front of a tournament rig there needs to sit a trolling motor. A bow mount provides the best maneuverability and makes it easier for the angler to fish, operate the trolling motor and control the boat. Just as it is easier to pull a trailer rather than push it, a trolling motor will guide a boat better by pulling it from the bow. When picking a trolling motor, remember that a 36-volt model will last longer than a 24-volt model on a charge due to its lower amperage draw. The trade off is a 36V trolling motor adds another battery. Personally, I like the MotorGuide Great White due to the smaller propeller diameter that allows it to be used in shallower water without "whipping" the water and causing noise. While at it, mounting the trolling motor on a removable mount allows it to be moved to the back of the boat on rough days.

Second, and beginning to be standard equipment on most boats, is a Power Pole. The Power Pole has become a key tool in pursuit of skinny water fish. The Power Pole comes in two sizes, one for 6' and one for 8' deep water. Take your pick, but I have used the 8' high-speed unit for the last two years and no one is going to pry that baby out of my hands. The Power Pole has become essential to making a quick, quiet stop while drifting or trolling. It is an efficient way to replace dropping an anchor over the side. The Power Pole can be operated with a switch, but it is preferred to purchase the optional remote control that allows two people to have a remote wherever they are on the boat. Whenever either angler decides to stop the boat, they can Power Pole down and instantly bring the boat to a stop. A standard routine is when anyone gets a bite or hooks a fish the Power Pole goes down and that area is thoroughly fished.

The last and simplest boat control item to have is a Sea Anchor or Drift Sock. The drift sock is used to slow the boat while drifting. Originally designed to put off the bow to keep it headed into the waves during rough weather, the drift sock can be used in a variety of ways. Normally, while drifting, a sock can be put off the side of the boat to slow a drift in windy weather. If it is extremely windy, you can put out two socks or put the sock off the stern of the boat such that the wind does not have as big an area on the boat to push.

So we have discussed most of the tools except for a push pole that normally is used on small technical poling skiffs and its use is an art in itself.

Everyone should be familiar with how their boat drifts. Normally when drifting with the wind, a boat will not drift directly down wind. If the wind is blowing north to south, most boats will drift slightly southwest or southeast depending on which way the bow is pointed. Knowing how your boat drifts will let you line up on a slick or reef and not drift by it, but to it. Most boats can be "steered" somewhat while drifting by turning the steering wheel in the direction you want to go. The trolling motor can also be used to correct any drift that has gone awry.

Let's discuss some different situations encountered on the water.

While fishing a windward bank the wind is strong enough to keep blowing you into the bank. In this situation place the boat away from the bank and drift in towards it. When the boat gets close to the bank, troll back out and drift in a little further down the bank. This technique is ok if the fish are not holding tight to the bank, because you drift through the target area. If the fish are right on the edge of the marsh, you may have to put the bow to the wind and keep the bow into the wind while at the same time keeping the angler in the back of the boat in the optimum position for fishing the bank. In these types of situations, I like to use a long rod and a rattle cork rigged with a Red Killer on a circle hook. This allows me to make long casts (since I am at the bow of the boat), not have to set the hook immediately, keep out of the way of the stern angler and it gives me a little more time to maneuver the boat. When working the trolling motor almost full time, it is difficult to retrieve and work a soft plastic jig.

You are trolling in a crosswind and get a bite at approximately 15 degrees off the bow of the boat near a small shell pad. The first inclination is to Power Pole down and fish the pad for a few minutes. Remember that when you Power Pole down, the bow is going to swing around and you may not be in the optimum position to reach the shell pad. Consider the wind and where the Power Pole is on your boat. If the Power Pole is mounted on the port side of the boat, when you use it the bow will swing to the left of the point the pole is deployed. It will most likely be better to troll the length of the boat then Power Pole down to allow the bow to swing around in line with the shell pad. Understanding how the boat tends while Power Poled down is the key in this situation. When completed with the shell pad, you can use the trolling motor to swing back around the Power Pole and then Power Pole up and resume your original track.

Sometimes while fishing a marsh bank with the wind, the boat will get blown into the bank and move the boat to quickly to effectively fish the area. Deploy the drift sock off the stern of the boat. The sock out makes it more difficult to troll, but it slows the boat such that working a bank can be more effective. Again, like a Power Pole when you decide to move the boat out from the bank, you need to maneuver to where the drift sock is located, because when you stop the trolling motor, the boat will swing around the drift sock.

There are way too many situations to discuss where the angler must adapt his equipment to the conditions.
There is no substitute for time on the water and practice fishing just like you would in a tournament to help an angler make adjustments as necessary to fish in all conditions. The best tournament anglers have mastered controlling their boat and understand how to move the boat quietly and efficiently to fish areas needed no matter what the wind and water are trying to dictate.