Venerable trolling motor enters the electronics age
3/15/2021

Trolling motors are more popular than ever, and with competition among brands heating up, innovation and system integration have become the name of the game. In a recent issue of Marine Electronics Journal veteran marine writer Lenny Rudow gave us his take on the new crop and the advancements driving sales. Here’s part one.

By Lenny Rudow

Few marine devices scream "high-tech” and "innovative” less than the humble trolling motor in its original form. Minn Kota has been selling electric trolling motors since the 1930s and MotorGuide came out with their pedal-operated steering system during the Kennedy administration. Since then, they’ve been relegated to the bows of bass boats and the transom of the occasional dinghy. Now with built-in transducers, GPS guidance and wireless controllers, there’s no question that trolling motors have come a long way.

If you’ve had your ear to the ground, you’re probably aware that Garmin and Lowrance have thrown their proverbial hats in the ring with the release of the Force and Ghost trolling motors, respectively. Despite being the new kids on the block, these two models are giving traditional manufacturers a run for their money. The Force and Ghost have specs and price points similar to the other freshwater frontrunners, Minn Kota’s Ultrex and MotorGuide’s Tour Pro. Naturally, competition drives innovation, and to get a leg up on their competitors, manufacturers are packing their motors with new functions and features like better motors, dynamic positioning, built-in transducers, remote controls, and, crucially, integration with electronics systems. These smarter, beefier motors are appealing to anglers well beyond bass fishermen, and manufacturers are beginning to take advantage of mostly heretofore untapped markets.

The Gold Rush

At the 2019 ICAST trade show, Garmin and Lowrance both showcased their first takes on trolling motors. Since then, there has been a rivalry between the Garmin Force, Lowrance Ghost, Minn Kota Ultrex, and MotorGuide Tour Pro, and choosing between them is no small feat. In some ways there are pretty large disparities between them. And it’s important to note that at least at this point, Garmin and Lowrance haven’t yet pushed into the saltwater market while Minn Kota offers Riptide versions of their models and MotorGuide offers saltwater Xi models for marine use. But in other ways they’re quite similar.

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