Spark up your Motors
  |  First Published: July 2010

Electric motors have definitely changed the way many of us target fish in our inland estuaries and rivers.

If you asked the majority of lure anglers what the most important part of their boat was, the answer would most definitely come back as their electric motor. Many anglers would probably not even attempt lure fishing without one after having become so dependent on them.

So if they are so important to our fishing success, why are they often overlooked when we return home after a fishing trip? That’s probably a bit harsh. We do give them a good wash with soap and water and a cursory rinse with the hose, but is that enough?

I recently spent a morning talking to the guys from the servicing department at BLA and asked them what is the best way to look after your electric motor and improve its life span.

Keep water out of it

There are plenty of electric motors which are designed to be used in saltwater conditions, however, they still rely on electric power to work and, as many of us have already found out, electrics and water don’t often mix very well. So what causes water to get inside the unit and how do we stop it?

A selection of rubber seals makes the motorised bottom end watertight. If the seals fail then water can get into the internals and the motor can be damaged. Fishing line is the main cause of these seals failing. The prop on the motor can pick up the fishing line and as the prop shaft turns it compresses the line forcing it into the seal slowly breaking it down. Once the seal fails, water enters the bottom unit and then can progressively make its way up the motor’s shaft and into the head unit. Regularly removing your propeller and checking in behind it can stop this from happening.

To give you an example of this I am pretty meticulous about the maintenance of my boat as I have had several in my life and unfortunately learnt the hard way that if you want them to keep working, you need to look after them.

I had not removed my propeller on my electric for a few trips simply because I had not visibly seen any fishing line in the water while fishing. A series of bad weather days coupled with rain had me in the garage one afternoon working on the boat. I removed the electric propeller and to my surprise found a coil of line in behind the prop. Fortunately it had not been there long and was still loosely wound. The cursory check had literally saved me a lot of headaches and probably my motor down the line.


Keeping your deep cycle batteries fully charged after each fishing trip will prolong their life. The problem is that charging your batteries can damage your electric motor if it is not disconnected. This is actually a part of most electric motor warranties but very few people realise it.

Fitting a plug between your batteries and electric motor, which can be disconnected, can help you to get into the practise of disconnecting the motor each time you put it on charge. This will obviously not be a problem if you have to take your battery out of your boat to charge it, but I have a 24V system in my boat. I didn’t want to take the batteries off each time I wanted to charge them, so I fitted an onboard battery charger. Charging then becomes simply a case of plugging the charger lead into a power point.

I also take my electric off when I head offshore so I had to fit a heavy-duty quick connect power plug. I make a habit of pulling the plug out every time I finish fishing and drive the boat onto the trailer. This ensures that I don’t do any damage to my electric.

Rinse thoroughly

Cable steer motors are a great motor but standing on a big bulky pedal in rough saltwater conditions is often a lot easier said than done. Wireless technology negates the use of cumbersome cables and a flatter foot pedal for more control has really propelled the popularity of these types of models.

These motors have a bit more to look after on them due to the wireless technology than the cable steers and require a bit more care. The foot pedal is the main part of the motor that requires special attention. You really need to give it a good wash in soapy water and then allow it to stand on its side allowing the excess water to drain.

This ensures that the contacts on the inside remain clean and responsive. If you leave the foot pedal lying flat on your boat then small particles of mud, salt or even small stones will settle in the gaps and will start to wear the surface thus slowly destroying the contacts.

It sounds like a bit of an effort but realistically is not too hard to achieve. Similarly, products like CRC sprays that aid lubrication can be corrosive to the plastic insulation in the contacts and break them down over time. They also often form a tacky substance once they have dried causing particles of salt, sand and small stones to stick to them, once again wearing the working parts.

Stowage while travelling

Electric motors generally incorporate a system that they clip into while not being used. If care is not taken to ensure that they clip them all the way in, then they could pop out while travelling. This is not something that happens very often but did happen to a mate of mine on his way to the river at 3am in the morning. Suffice to say that he didn’t use his electric that day and found it on his way back down the highway in several pieces.

To stop this from happening, you need to get into the habit of moving the depth adjustment collar up snug against the steering motor. If the electric does pop out of the clip it won’t drop down all the way, but simply be in the drive position with all the working parts far from the water, or the road, out of harms way.

Some of the electric motors on the market incorporate an autopilot function, which means that they have a built-in compass. These compasses are obviously not bulletproof and are stored in the head of the motor.

Try to mount the motor in a way that the head cannot bash against a railing or the gunnels of the boat. This will stop the compass from being damaged in rough weather or when trailering the vessel down a bumpy road for a lengthy trip.


When setting up your electric motor, the positioning of the batteries is not always up to you. The size of the boat may dictate where the battery or batteries have to be installed. This might mean that you need to extend your battery leads. If this is the case, then always use good quality tinned wire to the specs that are needed or, even better, slightly over spec.

The more you lengthen the wire the more it will affect your voltage and thus affect the performance of the motor and its life.


If you do experience a problem with your electric motor then get it looked at by a qualified person immediately. The problem might be quite small and a fairly quick and easy fix. If you keep using the motor in the hope that the problem will fix itself or go away then you are fooling yourself. It will only do more damage to the other working parts and cost more to fix in the long run.

Hopefully some of these helpful hints will help you to look after your electric motor a bit better and add to its life span.

Good fishing.

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