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Joys of fishing about more than casting, reeling

Experienced anglers understand that fishing is a lot more than casting, reeling and unhooking fish.

To succeed on the water, anglers need to be prepared. Preparation starts at home, in the garage or workshop, and extends through the drive to the lake and all of the various actions that we execute during our hours on the water.

Sometimes, of course, even the best-prepared anglers suffer hiccups.

Recently, toward the end of a successful day on the lake, I clicked the trolling motor’s “on” switch with my foot. Nothing happened. The electric motor that turns the prop apparently wasn’t getting the 24 volts it needs to operate. Hmmm.

I was puzzled, but satisfied with the day’s production, so I loaded the BassCat and trailered home with the notion that I could quickly troubleshoot and remedy the problem.

As I do every time, I back the boat into the garage after a fishing trip, I plugged in the onboard charging system to fortify the three 12-volt batteries. Then I walked to the front of the boat and tapped the foot control’s button. The motor whirred and the prop spun at full speed.

Problem solved. I guessed it simply was a matter of the batteries being low on power. Turns out, I was wrong.

The next trip produced the same unhappy ending. After four hours of working perfectly, the electric motor cut out again and I was without the maneuverability that the trolling motor provides for bass anglers who work around the cover where big fish lurk.

Back home, I figured I was the victim of a loose wire. Somewhere in the system, a gremlin must have jiggled a connection. Inspection of the plug that transfers power from the boat’s batteries to the trolling motor revealed evidence the hot wire had recently been hot enough to melt the insulation and a portion of the plug.

Problem solved, I guessed. All I needed to do was replace the plug and its receptacle on the bow panel. Turns out, I was wrong.

The ensuing trip was cut short by the annoying failure of the trolling motor to troll after I’d been on the water a few hours. In frustration, I thumped the pedal with the heel of my foot, then tapped the switch with my toe.

Voila. We had power.

But I knew I still couldn’t rely on the system in that state. I mean, who goes to the water satisfied that banging the electronics with a rubber mallet is a good idea?

So I installed a new microswitch in the foot pedal and swapped out one of the batteries after a load test revealed it was not up to snuff. It was in its sixth season of service, so it had worked long enough to deserve retirement.

As my experience with the balky trolling motor unfolded over the past two weeks, I became increasingly frustrated that something so essential as the electric motor could be so confoundedly difficult to diagnose.

I really came to appreciate the luxury of going to the lake with everything in perfect working order.

I figure I have replaced enough components that now the system is ready to perform perfectly. My hope is that my problem is solved because the next step, should it be necessary, is replacing the trolling motor itself.

That would mean reaching pretty deep in my pocket. Like I said, fishing is a lot more than casting, reeling and unhooking fish.

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