By Bonita Staples
Trolling motors and electronics are key tools we use in our on-the-water fishing and boating experiences. We have become so accustomed to, and dependent on them, we panic if they break or go "on the blink." Like everyone else, I can't seem to fish without them anymore, although I started fishing without either one. We still use the Mercury Outboard to steer or direct the back of the boat, but with the use of a trolling motor, it is a lot easier to control the boat.
To find bass, we depended on what contour maps we could find and of course fished the standard visible structure, grass, cattails, laydowns and rocks. My first electronic device was a Lowrance flasher and my first trolling motor was the highest thrust motor at that time, 30 pounds. Wow! Does this sound like some of those sad stories your parents told you about? How they had to walk to school in deep snow and heavy rain. Well it's not. This is all leading up to the week I spent at Southwestern Parts & Services and in particular working for Bob Ridgeway's Repair Service while he went to Alaska in June on a fishing trip with his sons.
I didn't do any "repairing" while Bob was gone, but did answer questions of those who called or came in. I also looked up parts and wrote up repair tickets for trolling motors and electronics brought in for repairs by customers. I did have a chance to meet and talk to a lot of anglers and boaters who use electronics for depth and navigation.
I thought I knew everything about trolling motors and electronics, but I learned a lot about what problems people have with different units and manufacturers. Some of the problems were from a lack of maintenance or from not handling the electronics units properly. Others were wiring or electrical problems in the way they were wired, the size of wire, the connections or connectors themselves. I learned a lot about electronics, transducer cables, and all kinds of things I've never given much thought to before.
If you're unsure about how to install the units or transducers, Bob offers this service at a reasonable fee. Proper installation will make a big difference in the performance. He also sells new trolling motors and electronics as well as used and reconditioned units at very reasonable prices. Because of the week I spent working for Bob and what I learned, I decided to make a change in the trolling motor and electronics that I use. I'm now working with Minn Kota trolling motors and I have one of the new Genesis with the built-in transducers in the motor housing. It's a very quiet and dependable trolling motor.
I've also gone back to using Lowrance Electronics and have a couple of X-15s with GPS. I rode with Alton Jones as a media observer at the Bassmasters Classic in New Orleans back in August. All of the boats had Lowrance X-15s on the dash and bow. Alton used the GPS and X-15 to keep track of the run from New Orleans down to Venice. It was a two-hour ride, including part of it through the Gulf in 15 to 25 mile-an-hour winds. It was a rough ride, but Alton did a good job of boat handling and took some of the roughness off of the ride. With the map of the area we were in, we went right to his spots and on the way back we even went a different direction.
On the other side of the building from Bob's area is the tackle store, Southwestern Parts & Service, owned by Paul Moore. They sell tackle and do rod and reel repair. When I wasn't working on Bob's side, I would spend time with the "Reel Guys." One customer came in from a long distance away and had a new reel in the box. He said he had just bought it recently and when he got home with it, it would not reel up the line. The handle turned, but the spool would not move. He thought maybe the gears were damaged. Paul Moore, one of the reel experts, listened intently, took the reel out of the box, spun the handle, and noticed that the spool was barely moving. He adjusted the star drag in a couple of turns and spun the handle again. The spool whirled around. He put the reel back in the box, handed it to the customer and said, "No charge."
Shane Moore told me of some of the problems they run into with braided line. Not all reels can be used with braided line. Either the gears and other parts can't take the shock or the line guide may not be able to handle the abrasion. A lack of maintenance is another contributing factor to reel failure or damage. You need to follow the instructions that came with the reel. Oil and clean your reels at least once a year. If you don't feel comfortable taking your reels apart, then take them in to Southwestern Parts & Service or a similar local service. They will clean, oil and check the condition of your reels and help you have problem free fishing. You will enjoy your time in the outdoors more.