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              Mark Romanack

           In the world of fresh water trolling, boat speed varies a great deal depending on the time of year and target species. In a typical year I’ll troll as slowly as .75 MPH and sometimes as fast as 5.0 MPH. 

            Early and late in the year walleye are best caught trolling at speeds ranging from .75 to about 1.5 MPH. Accomplishing these ultra slow trolling speeds is a job best accomplished with a bow mounted auto-pilot style electric motor. The MotorGuide Xi5 electric motor on my boat is a 36 volt model that produces a little over 100 pounds of thrust. MotorGuide also makes similar motors featuring 24 volt and 12 volt systems for medium to small boats.
For slower trolling speeds used to target species like walleye, the author
 favors an auto-pilot style electric motor like the MotorGuide Xi5 pictured
 here. This electric motor can also be used in combination with gasoline
 motors to dial in trolling speeds precisely and also to
help in navigation chores.

            When the waters warm up a bit, trolling speeds naturally click upwards a notch or two as well. In the late spring and throughout the summer months my average trolling speeds for walleye range from 1.8 to 2.2 MPH. At these speeds an electric motor simply doesn’t have enough electric power to last all day long. To accomplish these somewhat higher trolling speeds while fishing spoons and crankbaits, I opt for using a small gasoline kicker motor, fished in combination with an auto-pilot electric motor. In this situation I’m using the kicker motor to provide most of the forward speed and the auto-pilot electric motor primarily for steering and navigation to waypoints.
Small gasoline kicker motors like this one mounted on
 the author’s boat are very useful for generating
 slow to moderate trolling speeds.

            Early in the year trout and salmon fishing generally focuses on trolling speeds around 2.0 MPH or a little slower. Again the best way to accomplish these mid range trolling speeds is with a small gasoline kicker motor fished in combination with an auto-pilot electric motor.
            This set up lets me dial down my speed to about 1.8 MPH for fishing dodger and Spin n Glo combinations for trout or dial up the speed to 2.2 for spoon and plug trolling.

            Salmon fishing in the middle of the summer time is generally conducted at speeds of 2.0 to about 3.5 MPH. Spoons, meat rigs and body baits are the lures of choice and achieving these trolling speeds gets a little dicy with a gasoline kicker motor.
            A small gasoline kicker motor is certainly capable of pushing just about any fishing boat to 3.5 MPH. The problem is achieving that speed forces the angler to throttle the engine up to the point the kicker sounds like a jet about to take off!
            I find that using my V6 Evinrude G2 E-Tec I can troll at speeds from 2.5 to 3.5 no problem. The E-Tec is actually quieter than the kicker motor which makes the trolling experience that much sweeter. To help with navigation and to fine tune trolling speeds I also use the MotorGuide Xi5.

            The fastest trolling speeds anyone in the Great Lakes is likely to encounter focuses on summer time musky fishing. On average musky guides troll from 3.0 to 5.0 MPH. To achieve these faster trolling speeds I’m a big fan of using the primary outboard to provide the basic speed and again incorporate the use of an auto-pilot electric motor for navigation and fine tuning trolling speeds.

            Most of the trolling situations outlined here are best achieved using what I call the “two motor trolling” strategy. Using an auto-pilot electric motor in combination with either a gasoline kicker motor or the gasoline outboard enables an angler to troll at literally any speed.
Two motor trolling is a serious way of targeting all sorts of fresh water species.
The author often uses this strategy with an electric motor and
small gasoline kicker for slower trolling speeds or combining
the electric motor with the V6 for faster trolling applications.
The key to this system is having a large enough electric motor and high capacity batteries capable of trolling all day long. The largest deep cycle batteries currently available fall into the 31 group category.