Given we like to do quite a bit of lure fishing, the addition of the electric motor on our own boat was a no-brainer, although, admittedly, we had limited experience using one.
In my mind, electric trolling motors were a very Australian and American thing, to be used when hunting in the shallows with light gear, looking for small fish. It wasn’t until I spent a day with Lucas Allen, Humminbird/Minn Kota infield trainer (and saltwater fly fishing extraordinaire) that I was opened up to the huge variety of ways that these nifty toys can be utilised in my usual fishing practices.
The trip in question was to fish the annual Bounty Hunter competition out of Coromandel, with the Lucas and the team from FC Boats. While the fishing wasn’t too hot for our team, I did learn of great ways to use an electric trolling motor, plus some much needed “driving lessons” that I’ll be sure to use in my future adventures.
On our first day, we reached our Spot X at Great Barrier Island before the sun was up. While we couldn’t see much around us, the sounder was showing a rocky bottom with plenty of weed and fish holding in close around it. The FC boat we were fishing on was fitted with an anchor better suited to a sandy bottom than the rocky, weedy foul that was holding fish. Rather than dropping the anchor and running the risk of having to leave without it, the Minn Kota was deployed, allowing us to sneak in under the cover of darkness and “spot lock” exactly where we wanted to fish. This “spot lock” setting instructs the motor to make constant, small adjustments to hold the boat in place against wind and tide. This allowed us to drop our berley and a few strayline rigs back to our quarry, snagging a few worthy contenders for our dinner later that weekend.
After reading Tony Orton’s article on wash fishing (see the June edition of New Zealand Fishing News and seeing the kind of moochers that liked to lurk in these wild areas, I was excited to give this style of fishing a shot. With that in mind, turbulent water, rocks and boats don’t tend to go hand in hand, and if there’s a big swell rolling, usually one person would have to forfeit their fishing rights and man the wheel, while the others tossed lures into the wash. This is one situation where the trolling motor really came into its own – the “auto-pilot” and “cruise control” functions allowed us to set a heading and speed, allowing all three anglers on our boat to continue to fish, with one person making the occasional adjustment to our course via the motor’s remote control or the sounder to keep us out of any danger.
The ability to hold your boat on an exact heading and speed was also ideal to keep pace with the barges in the Coromandel’s mussel farms as they move along the ropes. We would position ourselves up-current of the barges, in prime position to toss our baits into the wash of mussel-y goodness coming off their decks - as they slowly moved up, so did we. As with the wash fishing scenario, this method allowed all three anglers the chance to continue fishing, with one angler making the odd adjustment to how the boat was placed.
At the latter end of our second day, the wind picked up and started to push us around faster than we liked – definitely quicker than we were wanting while fishing with soft-baits. Having not packed a sea anchor, we had no other choice but to rely on the Minn Kota to take its place. Admittedly, I was unsure of how much ‘oomph’ this small motor could provide given the wind and current that we were facing. I was pleasantly surprised that for the next hour, the motor kept us comfortably drifting at a pace ideal for soft-baiting. When we were finished, we still had plenty of battery power left to try something else at our next spot.
A bit battered and bruised from our trip back from Great Barrier Island on day one, we chose to take the easier route and fish the numerous mussel farms that dot the coastline around the Firth of Thames. The wind had well and truly died out (letting the fog roll in!), leaving us with only a little bit of current to contend with. Of course, it was in this state of calm that we found ourselves over a school of lure-loving snapper, but with absolutely no drift to speak of! To remedy the situation, we deployed our trolling motor and defied mother nature to create our own drift!
On a low setting (roughly a fifth of the motor’s total power) we slowly “drifted” over the area of fish that we could see on the sounder. If we found a particular patch that we wanted to drop slow jigs straight down on, we could “spot-lock” and stay there until we were ready to carry on again. If we wanted to repeat our “drift”, we could navigate along the exact same track as recorded by the Minn Kota and Humminbird combined – this took the guesswork out of trying to restart our drifts, allowing us to make contact with the same patch of fish multiple times.
While the FC635cc and its Mercury leg served us well for our weekend of fishing, it was nice to know that should anything go wrong, we had the back of up an extra motor sitting on the bow. The electric motor that we used on the trip (a Minn Kota 80lb 72” Riptide Ulterra iPilot Link) had more than enough battery for a full day of “spot-locking”, “jogging” and general exploring.
I appreciated the safety benefits that an electric motor offered, allowing us, should we have needed to, to promptly get away from any immediate danger (e.g. rocks) or potentially to slowly motor home (or at least closer to help) if the conditions were clear enough.
This article is reproduced with permission of