By Jonathan Manteuffel
Special to BassFan
If you’re a serious tournament competitor or a rabid weekend bass angler, there are some after-market accessories for your bass boat that you shouldn’t be without. These are things that most manufacturers don’t include with your “tournament-ready” rig, yet most pros wouldn’t think of dunking the boat in the lake without them.
Some of this gear will significantly improve your efficiency in catching bass once you’ve found them, while other items go far in making your day on the water less stressful or tiring. Still others improve safety or preserve your substantial investment in your rig.
Through observation and discussion with several pros, the following list of add-ons emerged as things that will definitely enhance and de-stress your trips to the lake. Other than the "obvious" of the strongest trolling motor you can get, great GPS/sonar electronics, stout batteries, a performance prop and other such standards on the serious basser's rig, you’ll want to consider outfitting your boat with some of these six devices in the offseason.
You’ve seen them jutting up off the stern of bass rigs coast to coast for several years now. The original Power-Poles, and later competitors like the Minn Kota Talon, have vastly improved an angler’s ability to thoroughly work over an area without having to step on and off the trolling motor repeatedly. With the push of a button they reach out and grab a purchase on the bottom, lock the boat in position, and allow the angler to focus on his casts without having to adjust boat position.
With two of these anchors, the boat is almost unmovable, even in fairly strong wind or current. They’re also a huge benefit for sight-fishing. They’re a tad expensive, but they have become indispensable where a serious competitive edge and serious convenience are required.
Price: $1,295 to $2,000
Foot-controlled throttles like the T-H Marine Hot Foot are not only convenient, but can provide increased safety.
The best known of these is the T-H Marine Hot Foot. Some boats now come factory-equipped with some brand of foot throttle, but many still do not. If your boat doesn’t have one, get your dealer to install one.
Not only do they provide fast, intuitive response, they also give you both hands to hold the steering wheel and make trim and jackplate adjustments. Many pros consider the foot throttle to be a safety feature more than a convenience.
“It makes boat-handling much safer, especially in rough water and in turns,” said Virginia Bassmaster Elite Series pro John Crews.
Price: Hot Foot $127.99, other brands both higher and lower
As often as the pros end up having to beach their boats rather than tie up to insufficient dock space, most of them now have something like a Hamby's Beaching Bumper or Keelshield installed. Several companies make these polymer/urethane plastic strips that attach with adhesive to your keel. Typically, the keel protector is mounted 4 to 6 inches above the waterline on the bow, ending 2 to 3 feet or more beyond the lowest point of the keel.
Repeated encounters with boat ramps, trailers, rocks, sand, stumps and other abrasive hazards will scuff, scratch and chip your fiberglass. The major brands all do the same job, though some pros have their favorites.
“The Keelshield Kevlar shield is the best hull protector for beaching on ramps and rocks,” according to Bassmaster Classic champion Randy Howell. Crews uses a Hamby’s.
Using these devices will preserve your hull and protect your investment in your boat. Be sure to get the right length for your boat.
Price: $159.99 to $219.99
This is an add-on that's catching on fast within the pro ranks. It’s inexpensive, easy to install and adjust, and makes a big difference in trolling-motor control when waves and motor torque start to interfere with your fishing. It’s a small collar that fastens tight to the trolling motor shaft above the swivel bearing, and you adjust how tight it fits on the lower, pivoting shaft. The tighter you make it, the harder it is for the motor head to swivel back and forth.
A keel protector, such as the Keelshield attached to the bow of this boat, can prevent damage from many abrasive hazards.
Stabilizing the motor as waves lift it out of the water, especially when running it high with all that torque, saves a lot of frustration and effort. When waves and wind aren’t an issue, just loosen the adjustment. Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle praised the Troll Perfect after his 2nd place finish on Toledo Bend this year, saying “I'm not sponsored by them or anything ... I couldn't get over how much more balance and steadiness it gave me in that wind."
Trolling Motor Lift Assist
The Equalizer Trolling Motor Assist System, as it's officially called, consists of two air pistons that attach to almost any MotorGuide Gator Mount to provide much easier lifting in and out of the water.
“It looks cool, plus it eliminates over 50 percent of the weight when lifting your motor," said Howell. Crews noted that it also helps slow down the descent of the motor, which makes for a quieter entry into the water.
The Equalizer fits only MotorGuide trolling motors, but some Minn Kota models have their own nitrogen gas-charged spring version if you buy the right model. For the larger, heavier motors, and especially if you’re a run-and-gun fisherman, a lift assist mechanism will save you a lot of aches and pains after a long day of fishing.
Price: $99.99 to $124.99
Replacement Trolling Motor Lift Cable
If you walk along the dock at a tour-level event where a lot of the boats are tied up, you’ll notice not many have the factory lift cord on the trolling motor. There’s a good reason for this. Probably the part of the trolling motor that takes the most abuse and breaks the most frequently is the lift cord. Many of the after-market ones the pros have use a plastic-coated steel cable instead of a rope.
Swindle uses the G-Force trolling motor handle and cable from T-H Marine, as does Crews. Once you attach the cable to the troller, you can adjust the length to where you want it, set it there, and cut off the extra cable. It will last indefinitely. It fits most brands of trolling motor.
There are other lift handles available as well. Howell is partial toward the Viking Marine Ripcord. “It uses the existing MotorGuide handle and it has been fool-proof and durable,” he said.
Price: $19.99 to $32.99
There are many other add-ons that the pros use to make their job easier, but even using just those listed above will significantly enhance your productivity and enjoyment of your time on the water.