Speaking Out on Boat Control

by: Mark Martin

Are you going to let the Mother Nature dictate whether or not you go fishing? I say it’s a shame to let it happen, save for under perilous conditions like electrical storms, when it makes perfect sense to wait the weather out. But when your adversary’s the wind, you can confront it with the right equipment and knowledge of boat control.

You see, I know the score all too well, having fished many tournaments when the wind has gone from flat calm to 25 mph in a moment’s notice. It’s a common occurrence everywhere from the Great Lakes to the gusty Dakotas. So now, after far more than a decade of competitive fishing, I always go prepared with powerful batteries, wind socks and a presentation that will stay on bottom in the walleye zone. This is a straightforward roster that will keep you fishing—and catching—when it would otherwise be tempting to camp out on shore.

Got Juice?

Perhaps the most important ingredient to boat control is contained in your storage compartments—your deep-cycle batteries. Everyone knows there’s nothing more frustrating than running out of juice when you’re pitching and yawing in the waves. After all, it renders your fishing trip futile.

That’s why I have a full complement of workhorses under the hood of my Lund 2025. In fact, I have five deep-cycle batteries to run my trolling motors, electronics and other equipment. Three of them power my 107-pound-thrust Motor Guide trolling motors. On the bow is a foot-pedal model with a 60-inch shaft to keep the prop from popping out of the water in the waves. On the transom is another with a 45-inch shaft. With their long shafts, both dig in to the water to provide powerful thrust under adverse conditions  But even their tremendous utility would be lost without batteries that keep going and going. The battery has a 225-minute reserve capacity, which means the batteries will supply power for that long when drawing 25 amps. As often as I use mine, I check the water levels about once a month.

A Sock in It

To complement the electric motors and their batteries, I turn to wind socks to further control and slow the boat in difficult conditions. The biggest one is effective in winds of up to—gulp—40 mph.) The best part about the drift sockis the way it pops open  the drift sock open without it collapsing and polyester construction that keeps it from deteriorating in the sunlight or when wadded up during storage.  Add to that the fact that the drift sock floats, and you've got the real deal for slowing a boat to a crawl in wind and waves—without losing it if it does come detached from the boat. Such wind socks are key for following structure when you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. I like to tie the bag as close to the boat as possible, on the upwind side, in order to keep the bow and the electric motor in the water. 

When I’m running my bow mount, I position the sock on a cleat as close to the bow as possible. If I’m backtrolling, I attach the chute to the bow cleat or bow eye. When the wind is especially serious, I’ll even put out two of them.

Buoyant Bait
Of course, under these conditions it’s still easy to lose contact with bottom with most presentations. For walleyes in rough water, one of the best bets to stay in the zone is a Northland Rock-Runner bouncer trailed by a spinner. 

The heavy lead, which comes in two- and even three-ounce sizes, will keep a bait down near bottom on a tight line. Behind the bouncer I put a Northland Float ’n Spin, a spinner rig with a float to keep the offering up in the fish’s eyes. 

For added buoyancy, I inject a night crawler with air in the nose, collar and tail. Heck, it almost looks like a hot dog, but the puffed-up bait will allow you to go super slow to trigger fish in frontal conditions. Plus, the inflated rig keeps you from dragging across zebra mussels and whatnot littering the bottom. Even if the blade doesn’t spin in a full rotation, it’s all right. Often a back-and-forth wobble of the blade is just the ticket to trip a walleye’s trigger.

So who said fishing in high winds was impossible? It’s not - if you have the equipment and resolve to keep both boat and bait in the proper position...


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