In April, I decided to celebrate finishing chemo and radiation by buying a new trolling motor. I have wanted the Minn Kota Ulterra for several years. My old one worked fine but was a little hard to turn, and my old back did not like pulling it in by the cord.
The Ulterra self-stows and self deploys. You tap a button on the foot pedal twice and it goes into the water. Tap it once and it comes back in. And it has spot lock, a feature that allows you to tap another button and the motor will keep you within a few feet of the spot where you tapped it.
It also comes with a Bluetooth remote to control the motor. You can sit in the back of the boat and use the trolling motor. A commercial for it shows a man by himself backing his boat in the water and letting it float off. After parking, he goes to the dock, has the remote deploy the motor and drive it to him on the dock. Very convenient.
Striper and hybrid guides especially like this feature. In their center console boat they can stay in the middle of the boat, within easy reach of all the rods out, and control the movement of the boat.
I got the motor, had it installed and took it to
Jackson Lake to test it. The foot pedal was very different, but I thought I would get used to it. I loved the self-stow and spot lock just from playing with them.
The motor worked fine the next weekend in a tournament, but the foot pedal was very frustrating.
For 45 years I have used a cable drive trolling motor. Guiding the boat did not require any thought. It was an automatic act for years, just like driving a car.
The new pedal uses a motor to turn the trolling motor. That is nice in some ways, but the pedal has no “feel” like the old one. I constantly turned the boat in the wrong direction and had to look at it all the time to control it, distracting from my fishing concentration. And the buttons were placed badly, it was way too easy to hit the stow button when trying to turn the motor with my heel.
I started to hate it on that trip and my feelings about it got worse.
The next weekend in a tournament, the spot lock feature and remote would not work. When I got home, I sent an online message to Minn Kota support and they told me to take it to Riverdale Marine, an Authorized Service Center. I did, and the control head was replaced.
Everything worked great for eight trips, and
I was starting to get used to the foot pedal. Then, in the Potato Creek Logan Martin tournament, at my first stop Saturday morning, the motor would not deploy. I sat there not fishing, fooling with the motor, for 30 minutes, missing the best fishing of the day because of the motor.
Then, it finally deployed and I was able to fish for a few hours. But the motor acted crazy, trying to stow when I was not touching the foot pedal or remote and doing other things it was not supposed to do, all on its own. I managed to catch two fish under those frustrating conditions.
Sunday morning in the tournament it worked fine for a couple of hours and I caught three keepers. When I decided to move, the motor would not stow. I was stuck in the down position and I was about four miles from the weigh-in site.
I started idling back to the ramp with my three fish, messing with the foot pedal buttons and remote. It finally stowed, and I ran to the ramp area and fished the last few hours with a crazy motor, doing weird things, but I managed to catch one more keeper.
When I got home I had it taken off my boat, fearing to try to use it again. I sent another message to Minn Kota support on their web form and got no response for three days. I started posting my message to them on social media.
That got attention and I received a call from Minn Kota. I explained all the problems and that I did not trust the motor, even if it was repaired and did not want to use it again, even though I really needed a self-stow motor for my back.
The representative offered to swap the Ulterra for an Ultrex, a non-self-stow motor that cost about $450 less – but with no refund of the difference in cost, not to mention sales tax, shipping and irritation.
The next day I called him back and left a message, asking them to swap the lemon motor I bought for a new one of the same model and cost, since I really needed the self stow. Several people said they had the Ulterra and had no trouble with it, so I thought maybe I had just gotten a lemon, and was willing to try again.
So far, no response.
I am looking at all options. There are a lot of other brands out there.