1974 Weedmaster weedguard ad.

Here’s another candidate for the Bass Fishing Darwin Awards – the Weedmaster Weedguard.  In the 1970s and early 80s these add-ons were present on nearly every trolling motor on the water.  The concept was understandable.  Keep the weeds away from the prop and you wouldn’t have to clean them off the motor.

But what works on the drawing board sometimes doesn’t work in real life.

The difficulty of running a trolling motor in weeds is due to a combination of things.  One, weeds wrapped around the blades and prop housing cut off water flow to the prop and can bog down the motor.  Two, weeds accumulate on the shaft and create drag as well as add to the entanglement of the prop.  For a total solution of making a trolling motor weedless you need to take both of these situations into consideration.

Unfortunately, Weedmaster’s solution of adding a big, screened cone to the head of the trolling motor only dealt with the first problem, keeping weeds away from the prop and prop housing.  It didn’t account for weeds accumulating on the guard and motor shaft.

Due to the extra surface area, the weight of the weeds that would get entangled on the cone made it difficult to steer the motor let alone lift the trolling motor to clear the debris.  Second, in circumstances where the weeds were really thick, their accumulation on the cone would shut off the flow of water to the prop.

Don’t get me wrong, the Weedmaster worked well in situations where the grass was sparse but failed outright when the density of grass got any thicker than that.  What helped the industry immensely, and essentially took this dandy product off the market, was Doug Hannon’s weedless prop.  

Hannon’s weedless prop design, like many things, came by accident in 1980.  As I understand it, Hannon, who knew nothing about prop design, felt it was the small prop hub that would entangle the weeds.  So he set out to design a prop with a hub that was the same diameter as the motor.

In doing this, he created a prop blade where the pitch didn’t change from the tip of the blade to the hub.  What this did, unbeknownst to him, was create a prop where the thrust was generated at the tip of the blade with a flow pattern moving from the hub to the blade tip.  This, in turn, would fling the wedds away from the hub and off the blade tips.

Hannon sold his idea to Motor-Guide and from there it was knocked off by every other trolling motor company and prop manufacturer.

The next step in trying to make a trolling motor weedless came from a gentleman I called a friend, Troy Jens.  Jens was from Alabama and guided on the famed TVA lakes, which at times are filled with vegetation.  Back in the late 90s Jens, as most country boys in the south do, came up with what was the most ingenious design for ridding trolling motors of weeds.  His product, called the Jens-Su, was piece of stainless steel (dimensions about 5 inches long, 3/4-inch in width and 1/8-inch in thickness) sharpened on one side on both ends.  The blade was attached to the head of the trolling motor so the leading edge of the prop just barely missed the sharpened edge of the blade.

2009 Mister Twister Shear Magic trolling motor weed blade system.
2009 Mister Twister Shear Magic trolling motor weed blade system.

As weeds accumulated on the prop, they’d be cut by the rotating motion of the prop against the Jens-Su blade.  I bought a Jens-Su blade and installed it on my boat before a trip to the California Delta in 2001, where I knew I would be getting into a bunch of hydrilla.  I was blown away by its effectiveness.  Troy sold the idea to another business-type guy on the Bass Fishing Home Page and never got a dime for the idea, although he sold a few on his own.  Other companies started offering gadgets like Troy’s in the years following like WeedShark and Cutting Edge, if I remember right.

Then around the 2009 time frame, Mister Twister started making a reasonable copy of Troy’s product called “Shear Magic.”  What Mister Twister did was make the device so it had two blades – made of plastic – instead of one.  I never saw one of these devices in hand and believe that Mister Twister soon discontinued making the product, as ads for them are hard to find.

Unfortunately, the two angler/inventors who gave us the best options for fishing the grass both passed almost a year apart.  Doug Hannon, the Bass Professor, died from complications from neck surgery in April 2013 at the age of 66.  No one need to mention the contributions he made to the sport.  As for Troy, he passed away in June of 2014.  He was one of the most sought-after guides on Guntersville, a master tinkerer, hell with a jig, and an even better friend.