A few months ago we posted a piece on the history of foot-controlled trolling motors and the inventor, G. H. Harris. Harris, called his invention the Guide-Right Trolling Motor. Shortly after inventing the motor, he made a deal with the Herschede Hall Clock Company to make and distribute the new trolling motor.
Shortly after acquiring the product, Herschede Hall changed the name of the motor to Motor-Guide and started a new division of the company.
Recently I was looking through a Don Fuelsch’s Southern Angler’s and Hunter’s Guide from 1964 and found one of the first Motor-Guide trolling motor ads along with a lengthy article on why trolling motors are so important in bass fishing.
Although bright, flashy objects have a tendency to distract me, old boats and gear are more my speed. When I turned to page 90 of The Southern Angler’s and Hunter’s Guide and saw more old bass boats, I stopped. Then I noticed the article was about troll motors and low-and-behold, one was a foot-controlled job. I read on.
The author, I presume Fuelsch, talks about how important an electric motor is to quietly sneak up on bass and how they allow for better control of the boat compared to an oar.
The standard convention back then was to mount the trolling motor on the stern of the boat, adjacent to the gas motor. The author discusses how the trolling motor won’t interfere with the gas motor and vice versa along with being able to run the boat backwards in high winds.
Breaking from convention, though, the author talked about a new device that was just introduced to the market – the foot control and the advent of mounting the motor to the bow of the boat.
As discussed previously, MotorGuide (or Guide-Rite/Motor-Guide) was the first company to develop the foot-controlled trolling motor and the bow-mount concept. According to the advertisement within the article, they offered not only a forward-mounting system (clamps to fit over the gunwale) but also a bow-suspension mount – known today as the bow mount.
Since this version of Fuelsch’s book was written for the year 1964, I would presume that a lot of its content was written in the 1963 time frame. This would date the bow-mounted foot-controlled trolling motor back to roughly that year.
The most accepted folklore regarding the bow-mounted trolling motor goes back to Ray Scott’s 1967 Beaver Lake All-American. Stan Sloan has always been credited with being the first to mount the motor on the bow, saying, “it’s easier to pull a rope than to push it.” After seeing this article and ad from 1964, I wonder who really invented the concept now. Unless Sloan was part of the Harris Invention, I’d have to say the Sloan lore has been just that, folklore. I’ll leave that up to your own critical thinking.
We hope you enjoy reading a bit of our past. By clicking on the pictures you can read the text of the article.
I really liked this article. In 1973, I got for a Christmas present, a transom mount Electra Pal Marlin trolling motor and a 60 pound truck battery. After reading in BASSMASTER about Stan Sloan and the B.A.S.S. pros, I reversed the head on it and clamped it on the gunwale at the bow, so it would pull the boat along, rather than push the boat from the transom. Eventually I added a Weedmaster weed guard, and it was slick! In the early 2000’s I gave it to the new Cabela’s in Buda, Texas for display.
Hey Andy, that’s a cool story! Thanks for sharing it. Man, in 1973 I was still walking the bank and fishing out of rental boats with my dad. I’d just started fishing seriously the year before. 🙂 You’re from SD….why’d you give the motor to a Cabelas in TX?
Terry, I moved up to trolling motors with more thrust, and my Electra Pal needed some repair and just sat in my garage. Around the early 2000s, my tournament partner, Doug Haas, who worked at the Mitchell, SD Cabela’s got to talking about the old equipment we used. He suggested to put it on display at the new Cabela’s in Buda, TX, as they were requesting old tackle to be displayed as part of their grand opening. (Cabela’s took care of shipping it down to Buda). On Feb. 24, 2019 I was at the Buda Cabela’s, but it had been moved somewhere. However, Wade Middleton, who was doing promotional work was there, along with Clark Wendlandt. Wade, as he pointed to a wall, told me he remembered it displayed right there! That made me feel good! I also had a small brochure/catalog that went with it that I mailed to the Buda Cabela’s. They don’t know where any of my donations are anymore.
Dang Andy, that’s a bummer no one knows where those donations are. :-/
Sure brings back so many past memories. It seems that this archives just started in January of this year (2021). December is one of my favorite months. Though I live here in Littleton, Colorado, having just passed our fourth year (Friday, December 8, 2017) moving from San Antonio, Texas. I really miss my beloved Texas Hill Country, but looking forward to putting in some time chasing smallmouth black bass in the surrounding Denver metro-plex waters. Anyhow, as Bob Hope use to sing, “Thanks for the memories…,” so keep sending these as often as possible.