Taking Better ‘Boat’ Control of the Situation

One of the things that helps keep us at the top of our game as professional anglers is to continually learn and improve on our fishing skills. Much of that has to do with learning to implement new technology, and the latest “tools of the trade” into our on-the-water activities. If there is one area that we feel we were able to make huge strides in this past couple seasons it is in boat control, and a huge part of that improvement has to do with the advancements in electric trolling motor design and the marriage of bow-mount steering and GPS to dramatically increase control over the boat in fishing situations.

Not long ago, a bow-mount trolling motor on a walleye boat was something used in only a couple techniques, and many walleye anglers considered it an after-thought or optional device. That is no longer the case. The bow-mount has become a primary tool on walleye boats, with the advent of GPS technology and remote control convenience. The marriage of these two technologies makes many walleye presentations far easier than in the past.

Using the technology
Many of you have seen the TV episode, or read our article, where we highlight the tactic of “Shivering” for walleyes. That technique is greatly enhanced by using key features of our MotorGuide Xi5 bow-mount trolling motor. In this technique, we graph likely areas until fish are seen on the display, then use the electric motor, which is communicating with the GPS, to hold us in position over those fish. This could obviously be done with a conventional trolling motor, but consider how much easier it is now.

Once we have marked fish on our sonar, we mark them with a waypoint on the GPS, position the boat within casting distance and use the key fob-style remote control to set the trolling motor in “Anchor mode,” which holds the boat in place. No worries about having to constantly adjust the motor manually to stay on the spot! Anchor mode works whether you’re fishing in calm conditions or 4-foot rollers. And making small adjustments to your position is effortless; just use the remote to “jog” slightly in any direction with the touch of a button.

Another situation we highlighted on The Next Bite TV this past season was using the Xi5, again in Anchor mode, to hold in current in order to cast to cover in a small river. Anchor mode alone has so many applications to a walleye angler that it can change the way you fish.

Trolling control
In trolling situations, we use a feature called “Heading Lock” to keep the boat direction on course while the kicker motor provides most of the speed control. This keeps your boat on course, hands free, even in those pesky cross winds that can make trolling structure a real challenge.

We also use Heading Lock for what we call “Dragging” (whether you’re fishing bottom bouncer rigs or a tactic like Jig Trolling). You simply line up the motor in the direction you want the boat to go, press the Heading Lock button, and the motor keeps you on that heading until you change it.

You can also combine the Heading Lock and Anchor features. Say you’re fishing a long contour with live-bait rigs, using Heading Lock to keep you on course, and then you catch a fish. Press Anchor Mode on the remote to fish that area more thoroughly, before heading on to cover the rest of the structure.

Hooking up sonar
Today’s electronics let you connect a trolling motor to your sonar/GPS unit, for an even deeper set of features that will revolutionize the way you fish. Here’s how we do it.

We use something called MotorGuide Gateway to hook the trolling motor to our Lowrance HDS units. The Gateway is a cord that uses the NMEA Network port so you can control the trolling motor right from the Lowrance unit. Now, you can do things like tell the trolling motor to anchor on a specific waypoint.

For instance, before when we talked about rigging along a contour, if you were to catch a fish, you could set a waypoint on that spot and then use the HDS unit to set the motor to anchor on that waypoint and it would take the boat to that spot and then go into Anchor mode. Or, if you have a number of spots on a lake you can make a “milk run” from spot to spot by using a combination of the waypoints on your HDS unit and the trolling motor’s Anchor mode.

If you struggle with boat control, and feel that improving your ability to stay on active fish would help you catch more walleyes, it might be time to look into this technology.


For more information…
If you have questions or comments on this or other articles by Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajecz, visit thenextbite.com.