by Capt Juls on 09/25/22
It's been a long wait since the last day of July, when I sold the Ranger, to move into the new Vexus DVX22, and it was time to get back to work.
I had contacted my crew, and explained to them, that I had not been on the water fishing for walleye since the end of July, and that we had just had a big blow, and that from what I was hearing the bite was pretty tough recently. I gave them the option of rescheduling, but Brian said, "This is a learning trip for my boy and me, and we want to learn how to run dipsies, and ask you a ton of questions about fishing Lake Erie". I said, "Okay, let's go then. The weather looks pretty good on Saturday".
I picked them up from the White Caps Motel at 6am, which turned out to be a little too early, since the sunrise wasn't until 7:21, so after hitting the gas station for gas and ice, I thought our best bet was to launch at Huron, where I had marked some fish while breaking in the new Verado last week.
I did get friends out perch fishing last Tuesday, so I was able to make sure the Ulterra was working properly, which it was, but I hadn't done any trolling yet.
We got to Huron while it was still dark out, so after getting the boat ready to launch, I was talking to Greg Kipps, another Capt that was there waiting on his crew. I must have gotten distracted before finishing my get-ready procedure, because when we launched, I had forgotten to undo one of the back straps.....again.
Luckily, the launch was not busy yet, so when the bow came off the roller, but went sideways instead of backwards, I knew I had messed up.
There was another boat at the dock, that had just launched, and the bow of my boat was drifting towards them, I used my net with the help of one of those gentlemen to push the bow of my boat back to the trailer. Using the net, I was able to pull the bow closer to the winch, where I could get close enough to the EZEESteps to step off and lift the bow of the boat back onto the roller. After securing the bow again, Greg pulled the boat out of the launch enough, so that I could go undo the back strap. By this time, my adrenaline is pumping, and I'm mumbling curse words to myself. My customers were understanding, and Brian kept saying, "Welcome to my world! This is how my life goes all the time!" I laughed, and it made me feel better.
We made it, and headed out the channel around 7:15. I headed towards the waypoint I laid down on the Helix the day I was breaking in the motor, which was out at the dump. When we arrived and the boat came off plane, the fish marks were pretty good. The Ulterra was deployed, and the baby merc was lowered, and with fingers crossed, it started on the first try. The iTroll was engaged and dialed in, to a speed of 2.3mph.
Everything was working perfectly, and I was happy.
We ran spoons on the dipsies and noted where the fish were showing on the sonar, so we could set the right depth on the zero and two settings. We started with 25 and 27 on the zero settings and 40 and 50 on the two settings. Then, we set out two Off Shore boards on each side, running Bandits first. Nothing on the Bandits, so we switched up one side to Flicker Minnow 11s....then, Spros on the other side....covering the water column from high to low. Still nothing.
We caught some walleye, but they were all short fish. No keepers. I decided to run over towards "The Castle" area in 30-35 feet of water, and set up again.
The Ulterra stopped during mid-deploy and started chirping the "motor error" beep. "Huh? What the heck?" It wasn't making it over the end of the cradle for some reason. I went to the bow and hit the stow button on the remote. It stowed, and I re-deployed it again, this time giving it a little shove to help it over the cradle, and it deployed this time. We started fishing again. We set up the dipsies and the outside rod started bouncing, but I knew it was a giant Sheephead, by the way it kept bouncing. Sure enough, it was a trophy Sheep, but at least it was a big fish. We had had nothing but 6 to 12 inch walleye up to that point.
After giving them the option to head in, and take a discount on the balance due, because they had a boat with them, and it would allow them to head out and practice what they learned on their own boat, they agreed. So, we brought the lines in and put the rods away.
I hit the stow button on the Ulterra's remote, and it started to come up, but started chirping the alarm again when it was 1/3 of the way up. I deployed it again, and tried to stow it again. Same thing. "Uh oh", I exclaimed. "I think we have a problem"....and, we did. I was going to have to do the emergency manual stow on this trolling motor. I have never had to do one before, so I wasn't sure how to do it. I called Matt Wieland, who is a Minn-Kota service tech in the area, but he and Jen were out doing their own charter yesterday, too, and he couldn't help me.
I called Minn-Kota, but they were closed. So, we watched a You-Tube video, and learned how to do it. Problem was, I didn't have my big screwdriver in the boat, because I had used it during a home project during my time off, and put it in a tool drawer instead of the box of stuff that went back in my boat's glove box. It was needed.
What to do? Ugh.... We took some dock line out of the storage compartment and secured the head of the motor, so it wouldn't bounce as much, as we limped back to the dock from 2 miles out. It was slow-going, but as we neared the river channel, the waves were smaller, so I could speed up a little bit.
With that long 72" shaft, I didn't want to let it bounce very much, because I didn't want it to get bent.
I called my friend Bobby Greene..."Hello?", he asked. "Are you fishing today?" I asked. "I was, but I'm off the water now", he replied. "Are you busy right now?" I asked. "I'm on my way to get a pizza. What's up?", he asked. I explained what was going on, and he said he would meet me at the dock with a big screwdriver.
If you don't know the procedure involved with manually stowing an Ulterra, check it out. I don't think I would want to have to try to do it if it was rough out. lol
We made it to the dock, and another fella in a Ranger 619 had gotten there just before us. Bobby wasn't there yet, so I asked Ranger Guy if he had a big Phillips screwdriver we could borrow for a minute. He did. We managed to get one of the screws on the side panel off, but the other one needed a different length screwdriver, because of the bow molding that holds a electronics unit interferes with getting a regular sized screwdriver in into the opening, to get to the screw.
Uffda....Bobby showed up, and with his help, we managed to do the rest of the manual stow without getting the other screw out, which would have allowed us to get the entire side panel off. Whew! Thanks for the help, Capt! Much appreciated!
With the bowmount now stowed, I was able to put the boat on the trailer, and load out. What an embarrassing morning. Nothing like a brand spanking new Ulterra failing on me.
And, before you say..."You should have a quick release bracket on there". I thought I did, and never noticed until I needed it. I had ordered one, but one was never put on. So, I don't know if my dealer missed it on the order, or if it was ordered and missed at the factory. I've always had one on my boats, for this very reason. I never wanted to have to attempt the manual stow out on the water, and with a quick release bracket, I could have simply removed the entire motor from the bow and laid it in the boat until I could have it fixed.
Up until this point, I have never had any issues with an Ulterra over the years. I know other people have had issues, but I never did.
I don't know if it's the length of that 72" shaft that is an issue, but I don't trust it now. I have a brand new 60" Ulterra, that I've had in storage for a couple of years, that I wanted to have as a back-up in case I ever needed it (which I haven't), so I'm going to put that on the bow instead, and have the 72" fixed under warranty. I'm sure it's something minor, and easy to fix, so Matt will tackle that later this week.
Other than that little fiasco, I couldn't be more pleased with the new Vexus! I'm in love! She runs the waves like a dream, (granted they were only 2 footers this time), but it was a very smooth ride! I do need to tighten up the throttle a little bit though...it's too sensitive. I'm also having a trim lever installed on the steering wheel, because the new trim buttons on the Merc throttle are tiny, and under a rubber housing, so it's hard to trim on the fly, like you can with the toggle trim buttons of old.
I also don't have room to add a MoDog Running Rod Rack, so I have to find something to go around the top of the rod holders, so I can keep the rods in them, when I make a move. I don't want to have to put them all back in their storage places every time we pick up to move.
I have the Cisco cradles, and I didn't buy the ones with the thingy that closes around the end, so the rods would bounce out, and not stay in place if it were rough out. I think I saw some velcro straps at Fisherman's Central that would do the job nicely, so I'll have to check that out, and see if they fit around the end of the rod holders. If they do...problem solved! :)
So, that was our day yesterday....a lousy fishing report, a failed bowmount, good friends helping friends, and the best, most understanding customers a gal could ask for!
Due to weather for the week, I have rescheduled my trips for Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I'll be back out on Friday to try again. May the fish Gods have pity on me. Fingers crossed! lol