Motor-Guide trolling motor ad featuring their new foot pedal. circa 1970.

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 Motor-Guide 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 Motor-Guide’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 (tongue in cheek), 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.

Update 19 Feb 2021:  After nearly 10 years since this piece was written, boy have things changed.  Not only are there a couple more companies producing trolling motors, Lowrance and Garmin, trolling motor technology has taken a vast leap forward.  Now the lazy anglers are the ones who have spot lock (I just purchased my first one – there you go RichZ, I’m the lazy one now), the motor heads come with integral transducers, there’s hydraulic assist to help lift and lower the motor and, some models will even deploy by a button.  I wonder what the advancements in the next ten years will be?


Past Reader Comments:

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 almost 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 desperation 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 at 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. But 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 about competition, I found (thought) I was more attentive and effective standing than sitting. In recent years my stability became such that I sit down to be safe. Perhaps without 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.

RichZ:  “…back in the day, when anglers were lazy and sat all day long..”

Hey, don’t go 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.

Terry to RichZ:  🙂 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.