Fishing with Gus: Factors to consider when buying a trolling motor

A bow mounted electric trolling motor.

An electric trolling motor is a “must have” item for bass, striper and crappie anglers who cast to shorelines or slow troll live bait in area lakes.

In recent years, trolling motors have also gained popularity with saltwater anglers who previously stalked the shallow marshes for reds and trout with push poles.

For optimum maneuverability, the electric motor on bass and striper boats is mounted on the bow. Stern mounts are typically used on small aluminum boats.

The foot-operated motor is popular with bass fishermen since it frees both hands for casting, retrieving and fighting the fish. Striper fishermen use a bow-mounted motor but prefer a handheld digital controller.

Before buying a new trolling motor, consider the following options:

• Bow or stern mount – Trolling motors maneuver best when pulling, not pushing. Therefore, bow mounts are the most popular.

• Manual, foot or remote control – Manual motors are less expensive, but foot- or digital-controlled operation makes fishing easier. Anglers who spend most of the time casting to docks, rocks and other above-water obstructions prefer foot controls. Those who slow troll live baits prefer the digital remote controllers.

• Shaft length – Motor shafts range in length from 36 to 60 inches. For a proper fit, measure the distance from the deck mount to the water’s surface and add 24 inches. This measurement determines the depth the propeller should be below the surface. A 42- or 48-inch shaft is adequate for most applications. When in doubt, longer is better.

• 12 or 24 volt – Higher voltage means more power (thrust). A 12-volt (one battery) motor performs best on boats up to 18 feet in length, while 24 and 36 volt (two or three batteries) provide the power needed to propel a vessel up to 25 feet in length.

• Thrust – Electric motors are rated by pounds of thrust. An electric motor rated for 75 pounds of thrust is the equivalent to a one-horsepower gas operated outboard engine. Twelve-volt motors can provide thrusts to 55 pounds, while the more powerful 24 and 36 volt units can produce upwards of 115 pounds of thrust.

• Gadgets – Today’s state-of-the-art remote-controlled motors have the ability to run compass or pre-determined GPS courses at a set speed regardless of wind or current conditions. Probably the most popular feature for deep-water anglers is the motor’s ability to stay within 5 feet of a predetermined spot. When the anchor feature is deployed, the angler is free to fish or move about the boat without having to tend to the motor. This feature is an advantage when fishing over humps, brush piles, schools of fish or when you just want to hold the boat into the wind or current.

• Pricing – Trolling motors range in price from less than $100 to well over $1000, depending on quality, size and features.

Upcoming events
• Jake Bussolini and I will present “How to Catch Fish Using Sonar and GPS” at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at Gander Mountain, 236 Norman Station Blvd., Mooresville. Bring your questions and instruction books to the free 90-minute seminar. Details: 704-658-0822.

Hot spots of the week
Watch for stripers under diving birds up river and in Stumpy and Reed creeks. Limits of spotted bass are being caught off deep brush, near boat docks and along the edges of major creek channels. Bank fishermen are catching surface feeding bass and stripers in the hot holes.

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures is an outdoor columnist and a full-time professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. His website is Contact him at 704-617-6812 or

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