By: Henry Nguyen
Spring is in the air and I bet you can’t wait to unwrap your boat for another season of memories with family and friends. Some of you have been hibernating all year researching/shopping for the newest and latest in tackle and boat upgrades. Others have taken advantage of the ice fishing season and have done well.
Myself, I’ve been hibernating. I’ve been working boat shows and taking advantage of the tackle sales to be had during winter fishing and boat shows provided by our Canadian vendors. This is a great time to break up the winter blues and see what’s new and exciting in the fishing and boating world. Whatever you were up to, spring is finally here!
Electric trolling motors, GPS/Sonar unit, and lithium marine batteries seem to be the hot topic in the marine industry these days. Who would have thought an electric trolling motor could keep you within 3 feet of your fishing spot with the push of a button, record your route, and follow lake contour lines provided by your GPS/Sonar. Most have a transducer built in the lower unit to read sonar and provide live feed of fish swimming on your screen like Garmin LiveScope or Lowrance LiveSight. Humminbird has the ability to scan 360 degrees around your boat. Some high end units will automatically deploy and stow with the push of a button like the Minn Kota Ulterra. Battery indicators and battery longevity is important to the end user for an enjoyable day on the water.
Lowrance’s new Ghost unit has the ability to interchange transducers to provide a crystal clear image of the bottom or scan out the side of your boat. Companies like Lowrance and Garmin have introduced new scissor style bow mount trolling motors to compete against Minn Kota Ultrex i-Pilot and MotorGuide Tour Pro with Pinpoint who have been dominating the trolling motor scene for decades.
Usability is another area companies where have focused when adding more technology to electric trolling motors. One of the hardest things in any tech industry is taking all the features of a new design and implementing them in a way the end user can understand. Nowadays, a handheld device, foot pedal, or mobile app helps keep you fishing instead of fiddling with confusing buttons and functions. Lots of companies have integrated user friendly buttons on the hand held fob as well. Besides the standard left, right, speed up/down buttons, you now have buttons to keep you on your spot, track a course, or follow a heading. Some fobs have a monochrome screen while others provide colour or even a touch screen that offers speed readouts to help find that perfect trolling speed. Having an app base also adds the convenience of doing updates via bluetooth to control your trolling motor. This is a great addition if your style of fishing is trolling or jigging.
The foot pedal is a great way to free up your hands if your type of fishing involves lots of casting and fishing in close quarters to trees and docks. Besides the standard features like the fob, companies have added interchangeable and programmable buttons. Features like saving a waypoint with the push of a button on your foot pedal instead of bending over to mark a waypoint on your graph may sound ridiculous but they’re efficient and keep other anglers from seeing you mark that laydown or rock pile, raising curiosity. Changeable buttons from the left to the right of the foot pedal or vice versa also allows you to customize the layout to your liking.
Brushless motors have been around for a while and I'm glad to see this technology becoming reliable and cost effective enough to be introduced into the marine industry. Brushless motors seem to be very efficient and quiet. Only time will tell on longevity.
Besides your main engine, your trolling motor is an extension of your arm to a fisherman. It allows you to creep up to a fishing area, keep you in a spot, correct your path, stay friendly to the environment and could be a lifesaver if your main engine has a failure.
GPS/Sonar units have become affordable and provide the end user with a safe way to navigate waterways, help read buoys, and mark honey holes. On the higher end side of the spectrum, companies like Garmin, Humminbird and Lowrance have introduced touch screen units and the user interface is getting faster and more user friendly as we all get more accustomed to our phones and UI. Most boat manufactures will include a standard GPS/Sonar unit and offer the basics of functionality. From here the sky and your budget is the limit.
A lot of companies have integrated Bluetooth technology to provide fast updates and communication between multiple units linked together. I would not be surprised to see Wifi in the near future as we move away from corded connections in favour of faster rigging/installation times. Integration between your trolling motor and graphs is seamless and offers you more precise boat control to set up that perfect drift or cast.
All these fancy items listed above need a power source to feed these graphs and motors. Battery technology has evolved a lot in the last 5 years.
The introduction of Lithium batteries to the marine world is a game changer (well, besides the cost). A typical 12v marine battery usually weighs in around 45-50lb. A lithium 12v marine battery can weigh as little as 15lb. However, keep in mind most boat manufacturers work with standard lead acid or AGM batteries and design their hulls and compartments for batteries and fuel tank locations with weight distribution in mind to provide a smooth, ridged, controlled ride.
Although losing 30lb. per battery might sound awesome for your hole shot and top end speed, you might sacrifice ride quality and balance of the boat over waves in doing so. Bluetooth technology is also making its way into batteries. They provide app based information on runtime, charging time, and are smart enough to heal themselves. However, computer boards are present and if damaged in any way could leave you with a dead battery. I believe in the next 5 years you will see more affordable, reliable lithium batteries being introduced and the pricing becoming justified.
I hope this shines some light on some current technology and how the marine industry is always evolving. These are just some of the tools that help us focus more time on what’s important: watching our family and friends catch that fish of a lifetime and spending less time fighting your boat instead of working with it. Stay safe out there and we’ll see you on the water.