Trolling Motors of the Past – Part Three

Although there are still anglers who prefer the hand-steered trolling motor on the front of their bass boat (why I don’t know) foot-controlled motors have become the norm on nearly all bass boats. The reason for this is obvious. The foot pedal frees your hands to do what they were intended to do – fish.

In the early 60s, G. H. Harris of Mississippi decided he wanted to fish more than steer his troller. Well versed in the field of electronics, he fashioned the first foot-controlled trolling motor and called it the Guide-Rite. Harris then struck a deal with Herschede Hall Clock Company to make and distribute the new trolling motor.

Then in the late 60s, the name of the motor was changed to MotorGuide and has become one of only two main brands of trolling motors available today.

Here’s an ad from the 1970 Fall Issue of Bass Master Magazine showing MotorGuide’s foot-controlled trolling motor. Notice the bracket (or what appears to be a lack thereof). The ad states, “Imagine a steering mechanism in your automobile’s accelerator pedal. That’s how Motor-Guide works. To go faster, just press down. To turn right or left, just lean your foot that way.”

Cumbersome? In contrast to today’s mode of fishing, standing up, it would be pretty difficult to press forward and lean right or left, especially when fishing offshore structure in a heavy wind and swell. But back in the day, when anglers were lazy and sat all day long, I’m sure it wasn’t too awkward to handle. What was probably the most awkward was the price – $219.00 retail – which was almost more than double the cost of a trolling motor back then.

  • “…back in the day, when anglers were lazy and sat all day long..”
    Hey, don’t got insulting sit-down fishermen. I started that way before casting decks, and due to circulation problems, I’m back to sitting down to fish about 98% of the time. But unless I’m flipping, my catch rate is much higher sitting down. And I pretty much always sat down fishing deep in the winter anyway. I don’t think it’s possible to fish as slowly standing up as it is sitting down, and there are times that’s important. Standing up, you’re looking for the next target before this cast hits the bottom. I sit and work every cast — fishing by Braille.

    • 🙂 I seem to have touched a nerve there Rich. In all actuality, that was a tongue-in-cheek comment. Those old boats were dangerous to stand in – narrow beamed and non-flush decks. I also agree with you on fishing slow. You can do it a lot better sitting. But I have to add, you can do it a lot better with an anchor (or two) too.

  • Ralph manns

    You touched a nerve here too. As I noted in part 1, I had a foot control unit. I fought with that steering system from the get-go. I spent a;most more time looking at the top of the motor trying to learn where I was aiming than I did fishing. After a year or so of futility I broke the cable just before a club event. In despiration I taped a broomstick handle to the thing. It was so much easier to use, I never have gone back, although over the years I had many chances to mess around and try to steer the foot-control units on others pro-style bass boats. In later years, on my bigger bass boat, I loved my Pro-Control manual system.

    With a steering handle I always know exactly where the motor is going without ever looking accept a the moment of steering. And even that I can do without looking unless it I wanted a full reversal or some very tricky maneuver. I get much more actual fishing time with my two hands using manual control.

    As I’ve written many times. If and angler’s feet know more than his brain and hands I recommend foot control. Bu t if you are club-footed and don’t learn new dances easily, a hand control may be far better. The system should match the angler. Anglers never should assume that because something works for the pros it must be best for them too.

    About sitting down. AS a much younger angler keen aobut competition, I found (thouight) I was more attentive and effective standing than sittin. IiN recent years my stabliolity became such that I* sit down to be safe. Perhaps withoout weigh-ins to evaluate my catches I’m confused, but my records show I’m still catching as many bass as ever.

    I have a young friend who competes avidly and very effectively in local events. He doesn’t even use a butt-seat or pole to lean on, preferring to stand with one foot on the steering control. He apparently likes that, although I would find it crippling to do so after just a few minutes. To each his own.