Troll Like You have Four-wheel Drive in your Boat: Efficient Boat Control Easier than Ever


Trolling can be a very effective and efficient technique for finding fish and covering water, especially when faced with a new lake you’ve never been on or when fishing suspended walleyes on the Great Lakes or trolling structure-oriented walleyes on reservoirs.

When trolling, have you ever been faced with ineffective boat control, especially when it’s windy?

Take for example, when trolling crankbaits with leadcore line. Leadcore is speed-sensitive and depth-sensitive. Once you get your speed and the depth you want, your crankbaits should be running just slightly off of the bottom. Too deep, and the crankbaits are ineffective. Too shallow, and your crankbaits are banging the bottom, collecting debris or snagging up. Therefore, it is critical to maintain your depth.

“Four-wheel-drive trolling” can be used when pulling bottom-bouncers and live bait rigs, or, when straight-line trolling with Off Shore trolling boards or anything else you want to use while maintaining a particular depth.

The real problem
Many anglers troll only with their big engines or a small kicker motor. Unfortunately, this is like driving a vehicle with rear- wheel drive—they are at a particular depth, and with a crosswind, the nose of their boat drifts over too shallow or too deep. They then turn the rear end of the boat and the boat starts sliding. They gun the motor to get it back to the correct depth, and many times will overcorrect, thus sliding again.

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The solution
Turn your boat into a four-wheel-drive vehicle by utilizing your front trolling motor. We use a Minn Kota Ulterra trolling motor in conjunction with a Mercury 9.9-hp kicker motor. Pulling from the front with the electric trolling motor and pushing from the rear with the kicker allows you much better boat control—the four-wheel drive control. The Ulterra is steered with a remote control so you can “work” the boat from anywhere in the boat. You can even watch your electronics and tend to the rods while steering.

You should have approximately 50 to 60 percent “pull” with your trolling motor and 40 to 50 percent “push” with your kicker. Turn on the AutoPilot feature on your front trolling motor. When the wind pushes you off course, this will instantaneously correct your course. If the wind pushes you too much, you can manually correct your direction with a simple push of a button from your remote control.

We also use the “Depth Highlight” feature on the Humminbird. Utilizing a LakeMaster mapping chip, we can shade a depth zone in bright green. For example, if you want to be in 15 feet of water, you can highlight the 14- to 16-foot contours on your GPS. This gives you an advanced warning if you will need to turn right or left to stay at your preferred depth. This feature also lets you know if you’re going to be facing a flat area or a sharp, breaking area. The highlight will be “wide” for flats and “narrow” for sharp breaklines, making you better prepared to troll efficiently.

It might take a little bit of practice, but the four-wheel-drive push-pull system will keep you on depth much easier than trolling with only the rear kicker. And as we say in the walleye-fishing world: “Boat control is one of the critical keys to catching more fish.”