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Electric Motor Growing Pains

By: Mark Romanack

Electric motors like the Lowrance Ghost that is in use here have become highly sophisticated pieces of gear. This particular electric motor can be networked to Lowrance sonar, giving the owner the option of controlling the unit with a foot control, a key fob or by using touch screen sonar.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it hundreds of times. Modern sport fishing centers squarely on the abilities of the electric motor. The electric motor is the first thing our team puts in the water at the start of our day and the last thing that comes out of the water when it’s time to call it a day. Furthermore, if the electric motor ain’t working, nothing is working and that’s a fact.

So much rides on the electric motor these days, it’s common for tournament anglers to carry a spare electric in their truck as insurance should something go wrong with the one mounted to their boat. To put that in perspective, electric motors have become invaluable but they are also one of the most vulnerable pieces of equipment a fisherman owns. If your electric motor stops working for any reason, chances are it’s going to take weeks and or months for a service center to repair the problem.


Technology can be a good thing in fishing and it can also be the thing that keeps you awake at night. The new technologies being implemented into modern electric motors allow these products to do things we could only dream of a few years ago.

Imagine having to anchor a boat using a conventional anchor and line or holding a trolling course heading using nothing more than a deck mounted compass! When it’s time to deploy and stow the electric motor, what if you couldn’t do that with the touch of a button? How about controlling an electric motor using your sonar and technology that allows the sonar to communicate with the electric motor?

Chances are if you’re using an electric motor these days, you are also using “anchor mode”, “heading lock”, “auto deploy/stow”, “gateway” and a host of other electric motor technologies constantly. If any one of these features and/or technologies fails, it’s a bad day.

The problem with these technologies is they can and do fail and chances are most anglers aren’t going to have the skills to fix the problem on the water. To make matters worse, an electric motor is mounted to the bow of a fishing boat, where it takes a literal pounding day in and day out. This is especially true among walleye and other big water anglers.

It’s a foregone conclusion that it’s not a question “if” an electric motor will fail, but more like “when” it’s going to happen.

Pulling jigs for crappie is just one of the many presentations the author feels that modern electric motors provide critically important features such as “heading lock” that make it easy to stay on fish.


Some of the newer electric motors on the market feature brushless motor technology. Electric motors that feature brushless technology are able to operate for longer periods of time per battery charge and also provide more thrust and overall power. Brushless motors are also very durable and have proven themselves to be trustworthy day in and day out.

Eventually all electric motors will feature brushless technology, but currently only a handful of models offer this critically important electric motor feature.


Most electric motors on the market were designed with bass fishing in mind. The bass fishing market dwarfs all other fishing markets combined, driving manufacturers to create electric motors with features tailored towards bass fishing. This is precisely why many of the electric motors on the market have a maximum shaft length of 60 inches.

Currently there are only three electric motors on the market that feature the longer shaft lengths needed for deep V walleye and saltwater boats. Minn Kota makes the Terrova in shaft lengths up to 72 inches, MotorGuide produces the Xi5 in up to 72 inch shaft options and Rhodan produces the HD GPS Anchor in shaft lengths including 72, 84 and even 96 inch lengths.

Electric motors are on the dawn of a new era that will see these critical pieces of fishing gear becoming more sophisticated and expensive. On a brighter note, these motors are able to do things we could only dream of a few years ago.


To further complicate matters, the various brands of electric motors do a poor job of interfacing with the many brands of sonar on the market. Anglers who view networking sonar and electric motor technology as an important option, are currently forced to pick a brand and stay within that brand’s networking system.

This presents a serious selection problem for consumers because most marine dealers don’t carry all of the various brands. Also, it’s important to note that installing modern sonar and electric motors is beyond the ability of the average angler. This means that the cost of owning and using these products is going up as marine service rates skyrocket.

This summer at the annual ICAST convention in Orlando, Florida a number of manufacturers will be introducing new electric motors. As technology continues to evolve, the electric motor has become arguably the most important piece of equipment on a fishing boat.


Clearly the electric motor industry has been experiencing some growing pains. Thankfully, the future promises to deliver new electric motors that are more durable and more user friendly in regards to networking with the popular brands of sonar on the market.

This July at the annual ICAST convention in Orlando, Florida a number of brands will be introducing new electric motors. Some of these brands are already in the electric motor market and others will be throwing their hat in the ring for the first time.

The good thing about competition is it drives others to perform to even greater heights. In the case of electric motors, it’s time that anglers are treated with motors that function as advertised and do it day in and day out.


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