Selecting the proper bow mount electric motor

By Lance Valentine

It’s hard to imagine a modern-day walleye boat without a bow mount electric. In the past decade bow mount electrics have gotten more powerful, tougher built and a LOT smarter. Today’s walleye angler will use a bow mount electric for boat control in rivers when vertical jigging, for an Auto-Pilot option when trolling, to “anchor” on a good fishing spot and much more. Ok, let’s talk about buying a Bow mount trolling motor for walleye fishing… a few things to think about before you buy.

1) The new stuff: If you have a boat over 16’ long and/or plan to fish from the stern of the boat forget about the new stuff (Lowrance Ghost, Garmin, Motorguide Tour and Tour Pro). None of them have a shaft long enough for any true “walleye” boat…a mistake if you ask me because a LOT more walleye guys will pay $2-3K for a bow mount than bass guys will, but what do I know.

2) Deployment: In my travels and talks with 1000’s of anglers a year the consensus among most is that the auto deploy/stow motors are not built to stand up to hard fishing, cold weather and other abuses we put on our equipment. If you can get to the bow of your boat easily and safely, skip the auto deploy.

3) Shaft/Voltage: Two things I NEVER hear an angler complain about are having a trolling motor shaft that is too long or a motor that has too much power. If you can get 3 deep cycle batteries in your boat go with a 36 volt, even on a smaller boat. You will have more power, longer run times and the motor will not work as hard. Minimum I would go on a “walleye” boat, especially if used for vertical jigging in current and/or using it for open water trolling is 24 volts. Newer Lithium battery technology makes it easier to find the space for 36 volt power sources.

4) Sonar Linking: most models allow the built-in transducer to be used with different manufactures sonar units with a simple adaptor cable. I have heard rumblings that Minn-Kota will soon be discontinuing the US2 universal sonar that allowed this to happen with a Minn-Kota motor and non Humminbird sonar units. This is important, because running a transducer and cable on an electric steer motor is difficult and unsightly.

5) MFD Integration: Here is where we start having to make decisions…no motor will allow you to use the integration features and control of the motor with any sonar/GPS units other than the one they work with. For example,
Minn Kota = Humminbird
MotorGuide = Lowrance
Garmin = Garmin

6) Remote: Some guys MUST have a display on the remote. I, for one, don’t care. All the info I need from my Motorguide shows up on my Lowrance, which I am watching all the time anyway. I like the smaller, lighter remote. If you want a screen on your remote, Minn-Kota is your motor. Here’s a little tip…don’t put the remote on your neck, it gets in the way and gets caught in compartments, livewells etc. I put mine on a janitor style key retractor and put it on my belt. Now when I let go it ends up right on my hip, out of the way but easy to get to.

7) Foot Pedal: Electric steer motors work a LOT better with a remote than a pedal due to there being no way to tell where you are headed based on the foot pedal angle. I am not a fan of the Xi5 pedal, mine has NEVER left the storage compartment. If foot pedal control was a top factor on my list, I would give the nod to Minn-Kota with the “left/right” buttons as opposed to the “pressure” steering of a MotorGuide

8) Steering speed and accuracy: Contrary to what many think, I have used just about every motor on the market the past 3 years and I can say with 100% certainty for steering speed and accuracy the Motorguide Xi5 wins hands down. Twice as fast as the Minn-Kotas and a transmission that instantly “stops” when you stop steering, especially when adjusting your AutoPilot Direction.

9) Anchor Mode and Jog: Again, in testing on both my PolarKraft and my Angler Qwest I will give MotorGuide a definite advantage in accuracy of anchor mode. The Motorguide seems to “hold” me on a spot whereas the Minn-Kota seems to always be letting me off then bringing me back. In my experience, on my boats, fishing vertically is MUCH easier with an Xi5 than a Minn-Kota. Same applies to the Jog feature.

10) Auto Pilot: I have seen a difference on my boats in the way the AutoPilot seems to work between the MG and the MK. The MG seems to be a more “point to point” navigation, meaning the boat may “crab” to keep me going EXACTLY to my destination. The MK seems to keep the boat “straighter” and on the right compass heading, but I may miss my destination by a little. Honestly, which I could have a choice on which method to use!! I like, and dislike, both in certain situations.

11) Remote Features: Each motor (MG/MK) can do the following from the remote:
a) autopilot
b) Cruise control
c) record a route/run a recorded route
d) store an anchor point/return to an anchor point
e) Anchor at your current position
f) Jog
g) Faster/Slower/Right/Left
h) motor on/off
i) manual mode

12) MFD Integration-MotorGuide: Here is where things get different. I believe that the MotorGuide Xi5 has more useful fishing features for how I fish. Here are a few things the MotorGuide can do that the Minn-Kota can’t (remember, you must be interfaced with a newer Lowrance via NMEA 2000 unit to do this).
a) S Turns: One of my favorites for open water fishing! I can program up to 2 miles of “S” turns. I can set the distance between turns and how much I turn. Set it up, activate the Xi5, sit back and go fishing!!
b) U Turns: I probably use this the most. Simply tell the unit how far you want the radius to be, tell it port or starboard, activate the auto pilot and the boat starts slowly working in an arc to get you back on a good trail. The beauty of this program is that it is NOT a constant turn…that would cause the inside rods to stop fishing and fall. By using 10 turns of 18 degrees each the motor turns, then straightens to keep the inside lines fishing. An awesome trolling tool I use every day.
c) Circle Turns: Never thought I would use this, but man was I Wrong!!! I use it for trolling when I have fish zeroed in and also use it for casting to a piece of structure….simple set the size of the circle, and activate the auto pilot…..change speeds to do what you want to do….pretty cool in the right situations.

13) MFD Integration-Minn Kota: I’m sure there is more than this, so I am counting on my MinnKota friends to help. I will speak about what I do know.
a) following a depth: Works—BUT it does NOT work based on sonar depth. Works with mapping input (either Navionics, LakeMaster maps or Humminbird AutoChart live). The depth contour you want to follow must be available on the GPS before you can follow it.

14) MFD Integration – Both Motors: The following can be done on a Sonar/GPS unit on both MG and MK
a) navigate to a waypoint
b) set/navigate a trail (MUCH easier and useful on a touch screen unit)
c) anchor at current position or waypoint
d) other features that are available on the remote

I know that is a LOT to decipher, but it’s all stuff you need to think about before buying a motor…..there is more than just “I like MotorGuide” or “I recommend MinnKota”. Figure out how YOU are going to use your motor, check the features available and make the best decision for YOU….Hope this helps a little!

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