The Electric Future of Bass Tournaments?
For members of High Voltage Bass Anglers, northern Georgia means small lakes, lots of largemouth bass and an exciting tournament schedule—and no gasoline outboard motors. Only electric motors are permitted on boats in the tournaments.
The club's most recent event was sponsored by Elco, a maker of electric-drive systems for boats. It was held in Rutledge, Georgia, at Hard Labor Creek, an electric-propulsion-only reservoir. Nineteen two-person teams vied for the top honors, with anglers Scott Edwards and Josh Kaufman winning in a 17' (5.2 M) RockProof Boats aluminum center console powered by an Elco EP-50 electric outboard motor.
One of the many lakes that were created when Georgia expanded its drinking water reserves in the 1990s, Hard Labor Creek Reservoir is nearly five miles long and off limits to gasoline-powered boats. The water-cooled, clean-running Elco EP-50 provided a competitive advantage to Edwards and Kaufman by delivering propulsion comparable to a traditional 50 hp outboard, per the company.
Paired with lithium-ion batteries, the powerful motor drove the fully-rigged center console at over 25 mph, getting the team to their hotspot and wetting their lines before the competition arrived.
"We blasted off at 7 a.m. and were fishing less than 10 minutes later, four miles away—as far as you can go from the boat ramp," said Edwards. "We caught a really nice fish on our second cast and had our five-fish limit by 8:30, long before we even saw another boat."
The Hard Labor Creek tournament saw stiff competition. Edwards and Kaufman brought in five bass with a total weight of 17.83 lbs., a mere 11 oz. more the second-place finishers. They had one fish weigh-in at 5 lbs. while another team landed a trophy largemouth bass over 8 lbs.
Edwards, also one of the organizers of the Hard Labor Creek tournament, recognizes the importance of Elco's support of tournament fishing and their involvement in High Voltage Bass Anglers. "Sponsoring this event meant a lot to local anglers," he said. “Elco provided food for the event and an array of prizes.”
Because no gas motors are permitted, pressure is low on electric-only lakes.
"The fishing is really good in these electric-only lakes," said Edwards. He points to restrictions and monitoring required of drinking water reservoirs that maintain exceptional water quality. "Fish thrive in that kind of water," he added, while fewer boats and anglers also make larger fish less hook-shy.
High Voltage Bass Anglers is dedicated to the promotion of tournament bass fishing in northern Georgia. Because of many lakes' proximity to fertile farmland, runoff nutrients accelerate the growth of largemouth bass. Fish in the ‘teens have been reported. The club's tournaments have a 100% payout, so up to five teams have a shot at event jackpots. The club website is www.highvoltagebassanglers.net.
It’s likely to be a number of years before electric outboard and battery technology advance to the point these motors make sense for professional tournament fishing, but there’s clearly already a niche that could be exploited in small-water tournaments where small boats are used to fish at moderate distances from the weigh-ins
The quiet, dependable and pollution-free electrics have also found a home on tour boats and picnic boats around the country in recent years.
Founded in 1893, USA-builder Elco manufactures outboard and inboard electric marine propulsion solutions, and also luxury motor launches that are electric powered. Its EP Series outboards offer a range in power equivalency from 5 to 50 hp, while its inboard models range up to 200 hp according to the company.
The company is located in Lake George, NY; www.elcomotoryachts.com.