Time was, backtrolling was accomplished with a small tiller outboard, putt-putting backward into the waves, using water resistance against the flat transom to slow your progress to a crawl. Subtle left-right adjustments of the tiller, along with goosing or diminishing the throttle, enabled you to gain, lose, or hang in place against the wind. The cumulative effect was to maneuver your boat with a surgeon’s precision, simultaneously presenting a livebait rig or jig beneath the boat, interpreting bottom content, feeling for depth changes and, most importantly, teasing fussy walleyes into biting.
Ah, those were the days! But they still are. The tactic remains as effective as ever. Nowadays, we simply have more tools, fancier methods, and a wider range of tactics at our disposal.
Back in the late 1960s, walleye anglers employed those deadly backtrolling tactics not only because they were new, but effective — and because, well, they simply didn’t have many other tools at their disposal. Boats and outboards for fishermen were not yet gargantuan, and electric motors were scarce to nonexistent.
When transom-mount electric motors came along, they expanded angler repertoire by using infinitely adjustable electrics to enhance precision backtrolling even further. But their weakness was their weakness: 12-volt systems did not allow power presentations in strong winds. It wasn’t until beefier 24- and 36-volt bowmount electrics came along that folks began adopting the radical tactic of trolling the wrong way — bow first, as if using the pointy end of the boat could possibly be as precise as going backwards! This also fostered the growing use of faster presentations like bottom-bouncers and spinners tipped with nightcrawlers.
Well, guess what? It not only worked, but excelled, when quicker coverage techniques were in order, such as covering expansive reservoir flats. Such heretical maneuvers really weren’t possible, however, until the new wave of powerful bowmounts hit the angling scene, providing anglers the oomph! to propel the boat at spinner speeds, yet with foot-control precision to hug contours while handholding a rod, or perhaps placing one or more rods in holders. Evolution, angling style.
For a great while, you either belonged to the backtrolling brigade or were one of the bowmount brigands; few folks thought of doing both interchangeably. It would take years for anglers to recognize that it didn’t matter which end of the boat you preferred. It was the end result — catching walleyes — that was most important.
Fast-forward to recent times — say, the past decade — when the walleye world experienced an even stranger turn of events. History will perhaps never document who it was that first dreamt of using both a transom outboard and bowmount electric simultaneously; but out of such inspiration (likely born of desperation) rose a new wave of trolling tactics — ones now incorporated at the professional level, yet only attempted by a handful of the rest of us. But once their rationale and effectiveness are exposed, who knows how far and fast the concept might lead?
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