Trolling motors are considered standard equipment on many of today’s flats and bay boats, but as technology has changed so have the trolling motors. Many boats already have hand controlled trolling motors installed on the bow. While these will get the job done, they are nowhere near as versatile as GPS controlled motors, commonly called GPS anchors.
The new GPS trolling motors offer many features that the old motors did not. In addition to moving the boat from one location to another with a single push of a button, the new motors will maintain the boat in a specific location and hold that location regardless of wind and current within reason. While no trolling motor can keep the boat in place in a 20 knot wind very well, as long as you have battery and it can see the sky it will keep you in one spot. Gone are the days of re-anchoring five times to try and land the boat over a single rock. Now you can deploy the motor, watch the fish finder and when you see the structure you want to fish on the screen you just push a button. It is that easy. Everybody loves the new technology and most boat owners want to upgrade to this new type of trolling motors but the newer trolling motors are a little wider than the old versions, making mounting them on some hulls difficult. The wider foot print has kept a lot of fishermen from enjoying the technological advances. With a little work, most boats can be retrofitted to use the newer trolling motors and look like they came from the factory that way.
Replacing a Trolling Motor
Lands End Marina’s service department recently completed a project where we installed a new trolling motor on a boat that did not initially look to have enough space,width wise, on the front deck to upgrade the trolling motor. The first thing that needed to be done was to remove the old motor, the pop-up cleat, the navigation light base and an anchor pulpit that someone had mounted at an angle across the bow. The pulpit was not necessary and provided a good location to move the cleat to. It was also in line with the rope exit in the anchor locker which helped to keep the anchor rope away from the trolling motor when the anchor was deployed and the motor was stowed. That left us with a big hole where the pop up cleat came out of right in the middle of the front deck. That hole was fiberglassed over in several stages to fill the hole gradually. Filling the hole too quickly can lead to cracking down the road. The hole was filled in approximately ½ inch layers allowing it to completely cure between applications.
Luckly, the whole boat had a non skid free stripe that started on the back deck, carried across the floor, up the front deck and stopped short of the bow. It is hard and time consuming to try and match an existing non skid finish so we decided to extend the stripe all the way to the tip of the bow. This was done by sanding the non skid around the hole from the cleat before the repair and then gel coating both the repair and our new extended stripe. The plug was installed close to the motor to keep it out of the way and avoid the possibility of it getting caught in the anchor rope. The completed worked looked like the boat was designed that way with a pop up cleat that was actually in the right spot and a new GPS trolling motor on the front of the boat that will open up new fishing opportunities.
The anchor pulpit was removed and replace with the pop-up cleat.By putting it in the same spot we hid the damage from the pulpit.
Sanding the non-skid finish and filling the original pop-up cleat hole.
The area was filled, sanded, and re-gel coated. We extending the stripe from the front deck across the bow to conceal repairs.
The Rhodan GPS Trolling Motor is mounted and wired with a new plug close to the mount to keep from having a cord underfoot.
While not every boat is a good candidate for a retrofit, with a little creativity many of them can take advantage of the new technology, remain functional and look good at the same time. Stop by Lands End Marina’s service department or give us a call to see how we can help add or update new features to your boat.
As the weather cools down the fishing in and around Tampa Bay will heat up. September is off to a great start, with lots of different species biting. Snook are moving from the beaches back into the bays, canals, and backwaters and are being caught with both live and artificial baits. The live bait of choice is whitebait. Get plenty of them and live chum the area that you are fishing. Big schools of redfish are showing up in the bay as they start to bunch up for fall. Several of our customers are catching them on cut bait. Ladyfish and mullet both make good cut bait fished on the bottom. You may have to work through some trash fish but if there are reds in the area you have a good shot at hooking up. There are still plenty of trout being caught over grass in the bay. In deeper water mangrove snapper up to 5 pounds can be found hanging over structure. Lately the bait of choice has been frozen sardines. It is a good idea to have both live bait and frozen bait on board. Some days the fish will prefer one over the other. If you are fishing for snapper make sure to have a grouper rod handy, as the water temperature drops more and more grouper will move into shallow water.
During the latter part of summer, we have seen a red tide bloom offshore from the Taylor county coast down to north of Pinellas county. While it has stayed well offshore and has had no impact here in the bay, it can cause problems for offshore trips. Red tide is an algae bloom that depletes the oxygen in the water and causes fish kills. It is more prevalent when the water is warmer, although there is still some out there, we will see less and less of it as the water cools. Just to be sure, check the FWC web page before you run offshore to make sure that you won’t waste your time and money heading to a spot in the bloom.
As the water temperature drops heading into October, look for the migration of the Kingfish down the coast. The magic temperature is about 72 degrees. Anything a little above or a little below will be the right time to target these good fighting fish. You don’t even need a big boat to catch big kingfish. Every year there are some really big kings caught here in the bay trolling the shipping channels between the port and Egmont key. Another benefit to the dropping water temperatures is huge schools of redfish. Here in the bay, these fish are chased around quite a bit so you need to be careful not to spook the school or it will be over before it starts. Try casting to the edges of the school instead of the center because you are less likely to spook the whole school that way.
Across the Tampa Bay region, July means more than high temperatures and afternoon thunderstorms. July is when grouper season opens up, which means anglers can look forward to a fun challenge as they drop down a bait for this bottom feeder fish. The species most often caught in the bay are gag grouper, which are abundant throughout the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, anglers are allowed to keep two groupers per person, one more than on the Atlantic coast. Check local regulations for size limits. One of the more popular ways of catching grouper in Tampa Bay is by using pinfish hooked on a standard knocker rig with enough weight to hold it on the bottom. The amount of weight will be determined by the current. Circle hooks must be used when fishing for grouper and other bottom feeders; the use of these hooks makes the catch more efficient as it prevents hooking the stomach, minimizes traumatic injury and facilitates release. Most species of grouper weigh less than 100 lbs and are formidable fighters once they are hooked. Record catches up to several hundred pounds have been recorded on some of the species. An example would be the Jewfish which is commonly over the 100 lbs mark and more often than not will leave you with a broken line.Jewfish are strictly catch and release and should not be brought into the boat. Grouper is a staple of Florida’s seafood cuisine; it can be enjoyed baked, grilled, fried, or blackened.
Along with grouper, big mangrove snapper are also being caught in the bay. This species is also a bottom feeder that requires similar tackle as grouper, although the circle hook used is smaller. While grouper hooks are in the 6/0 range, circle hooks about 1/0 to 2/0 will work well for big mangroves since they tend to be considerably smaller. Snapper love live shrimp. A good way to start the bite is by hanging a frozen chum block over the side of the boat or using cut baitfish and dropping them over the side. This chum technique also works for grouper and many other bottom feeder fish you are likely to encounter fishing over structure.
In addition to grouper and snapper, anglers in Tampa Bay can also look forward to cobia. Typically a solitary fish, they can be found higher in the water column over structure as well as following behind stingrays in the shallows. Cobia are a good eating fish that fight hard and can be big. Check local regulations for size and bag limits. When it’s rough outside and the bay is bumpy or it’s just too windy to fish open water, there are still plenty of snook in the canals. Live chumming with whitebait will often turn the fish on to feed. Make sure you have plenty of frisky baits for this type of fishing. Snook are out of season for the summer while they spawn but can be fun catch and release fishing. Remember that many of the fish are actively spawning so be very careful with them and release them as gently as possible.