Lowrance and Garmin are debuting trolling motors at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades this week in Orlando, Fla. These are the first freshwater trolling motors for both companies, which are hoping to upset a market that has been marginally competitive.
On Monday, Lowrance unveiled the Ghost, and Garmin introduced the Force , which is the first in a line of trolling motors. The show floor opens Wednesday.
“It sounds like it’s going to be the year for the trolling motor at ICAST,” says Garmin sales and marketing director Dave Dunn.
Minn Kota and Mercury have been the market-share leaders for trolling motors. “They’re definitely going to see a lot of new entrants to their domain,” says Navico’s Lucas Steward. (Navico is the parent company of Lowrance.)
“We were aware that this market was going to get crowded as we got into it because it was so lopsided,” Steward says. “Going up against [Minn Kota parent company] Johnson Outdoors is nothing new for us. We’ve been fighting that battle with Humminbird. It’s good healthy competition.”
Garmin and Lowrance said customers wanted new entrants into the trolling motor market — quieter, more powerful and more durable motors.
“We have quite an extensive pro staff now that we didn’t have five years ago,” Dunn says. “We had a great sounding board. The number-one thing we heard back was durability. That’s really where we started.”
Integration was another key point, Steward says. “The main reason we got into trolling motors was, our pro anglers and customers asked us to for a long long time,” he says. “What they’ve got on their Lowrance displays with great sonars and charts, having those things paired together with their trolling motors gives the best opportunity for them to position themselves on the fish.”
The Ghost and the Force use brushless motors designed for quiet operation, and are more powerful than other trolling motors. Garmin says the Force is 30 percent more powerful than competitors, and Lowrance says the Ghost generates 25 percent more thrust.
Ghost is designed to work in 24- or 36-volt systems with up to 97- and 120-pounds of thrust, respectively, and allows for battery and charger upgrades, according to Lowrance.
The Force also operates at either 24 or 36 volts, and Dunn says it delivers comparable thrust when running 24 volts to competitors running at 36 volts.
The Ghost has fly-by-wire steering control. “It’s controlled through a foot pedal while anglers are casting,” Steward says. “The quick response is designed to feel like a cable-steered trolling motor. It feels the same as if it had a mechanical cable running it. When people first try it, they’re wowed by the muscle-memory feel, but now it actually goes faster, it’s quieter, and it’s kind of delighting them in some ways they didn’t expect.”
Garmin’s Force also has a wireless foot pedal that feels like cable steering, and a remote that the angler can wear around his neck, Dunn says. “You can use gestures to control the motor,” he says. “You can point to a spot, and your motor will drive to it. It has a wireless remote you can hang around your neck, and say you see a fish flip on your starboard side — you can point to the spot, and the motor will start driving there.”
The technology could have future uses with hybrid boats and bay boats, Dunn said, hinting that a saltwater trolling motor may be ahead. “We’re thinking way into the future, even though this is the first jump-off for this remote,” he says.
Lowrance, which has a contract with Mercury’s MotorGuide, will continue to work with other trolling motor suppliers and vendors, so customers “will have their pick,” Steward says.
For Garmin customers who still want to use a Minn Kota, the company offers adaptor cables, but plotters won’t connect directly to the motor, Dunn says. “All the software will be done through Wi-Fi, so people will use their phones to update software,” he says. “It’s going to be very software driven, and you can do all that from a smartphone or tablet.”
Developing the motors required a lot of resources and engineering, Steward says. “We’ve been working on this for almost four years, and you can see why no small company would just jump into this market,” he says.
“The trolling motor is one of the most critical pieces of equipment on a freshwater fishing boat, and it can singlehandedly be the difference between a good or bad day on the water,” says Dan Bartel, Garmin worldwide vice president of consumer sales, in a statement.
“Between the Lowrance version and the Garmin version, we’re really going to upset the market and shake things up a little bit,” Dunn says.
Garmin’s Force starts shipping in August, and Lowrance’s Ghost begins shipping in September 2019.