Linear Motor for Kicker/Trolling Motor Steering

I recently downsized my boating. I sold my Mako 23 with a 225HP Mercury Optimax and bought a 14.6′ Sylvan Sport Troller with a 30HP Mercury, tiller steering outboard……Time to spend some time fresh water fishing!

Trolling for Rainbow Trout was on the menu.

This new boat with the 30HP, 4 stroke Mercury is a wonderful craft! Nearly 45 MPH! But for trolling it just goes a bit too fast. I like to troll streamer flies at 1-1.5mph and even just idling, the Sport Troller is traveling at 2.5-3mph.

I thought about installing a trolling plate, but on another boat I had used one and it really made steering the boat at low speed a problem.

The boat came with a 50# trust MinnKota electric trolling motor. But when I’m up north, away from any way to charge the trolling motor battery, it can’t be used for slow trolling more than a few hours.

A “Kicker” (Gas Trolling Motor) was needed. A quick Craigslist search turned up a like new Suzuki 2.5HP 4 stroke motor for an extremely reasonable price. Sold!

But there was a problem getting the kicker motor low enough on the transom. A bit of research and a YaeMarine Heavy Duty Aluminum Marine Outboard Auxiliary Boat Motor Bracket was ordered from Amazon

With the bracket installed and working great to lower the motor, it was now time to figure out how to steer the kicker/trolling motor.

Usually, one would simply connect the big motor to the small motor, and using the tiller on the big motor would steer the small motor.

But try as I may, I simply couldn’t find a way to accomplish this and stioll allow the big motor to tilt out of the water when trolling and to be able to tilt the kicker motor when not needed and traveling fast with the big motor.

My son-in-law and I tried a half dozen solutions and all had substantial limitations.

I purchase a device that was supposed to make this easy……..

Try as we might, we just couldn’t get it work

I even cut part of the transome out to make more room for the Kicker and the connecting rod . (this would prove necessary for the final solution anbyways)

After a long frustrating afternoon, we closed up the shop and said we’d think about other solutions.

While taking my shower (I do my best thinking in the shower) it came to me. How about using some kind of electric motor to steer the kicker?

ADVANTAGES….No need to connect to main motor. Both motors could tilt independent of the other. Steering of the Kicker could be remote from any position in the boat…..All positives!

A few years ago I purchase a high torque 12V linear drive motor for some other project that escapes me now.

Here are the specs

Right off the bat I realized I needed to shorten the ram by about 5″. This was a real challenge as I wanted to use the ball joints and the quick disconnect that came with the kit I referenced above. The rams end needed to be cut, a fitting turned on the lathe and threaded to accept the coupler

The kicker motor required an aluminum bracket to be fabricated and attached to the motor using two of the engine mounting screws on the bottom of the engine head unit. And an aluminum bracket had to be fabricated to support the actuators other end (you can see these brackets in the upcoming video)

From this point it was trial and error using a C-Clamp to secure the actuator to get the best performance of speed and swing. Moving the actuators base point a 1/2″ or so had a big affect on how the motor reacted.

This is a good view of how I had cut down this corner of the transom.

Here is a quick video showing the actuator in operation….

Here it gets fun……

I needed a way to control the motor and I wanted to be able to do it from any position in the boat.

I knew I could use a wireless remote control that is used on winches for Jeeps and other off road vehicles. I actually have one on a 6500# winch. It is great in that application as it allows you to handle issues while winching quite a distance from the vehicle.

But on the boat I didn’t want to deal with batteries and these wireless remotes shut off after a minute or two and take a few seconds to reactivate once you push the ‘on’ button. Could be an issue when I need faster action.

I wanted something hard wired

For the actual control, I wanted some type of handheld device with two momentary contact buttons. One for left hand turn and one for right hand turn. I was going to mount a simple toggle switch in a pill bottle…but….

Looking through my “electrical junk box” I found a plug that I had cut from a broken electric pressure washer. (I just can bring myself to throw things like this away….Someday I’d need it!) This is the plug with the ground fault interrupter built in. It has two momentary contact buttons. One for “test” and one for “reset”….It will be modified!!!! PERFECTO!!!

I took it all apart and removed all the guts except for the two switches……

The wiring for the control system required two 12 relays and three wires running from the two momentary contact switches. One wire for “Left” one wire for “Right” and a common ground.

The “Relay Box” is just a surface mount outlet box available at Lowes or Home Depot or ACE Hardware. Holes were drilled for wires and sealed with a hot melt glue gun.

I needed a way to get electrical signal from the handheld controller back to the relay box where the relays will live.

I decided to use regular, three prong, extension cords. A short 3 footer when I’m in the back of the boat and a 15′ cord when up in the front.

Now don’t start freaking out and go all Nanny on me that someone is going to plug this contraption into a 120v outlet and kill themselves. Ain’t possible.

I purposly used the female end on the control box. If someone plugs something this outlet, nothing will happen.

If someone should plug the handheld control unit into an outlet and presses one of the buttons……well, this would be a good test of your circuit breakers! But no one is going to get hurt.

On the relay box there are three connectors. The RED Anderson connector is for 12V power in from the boats battery. The BLACK Anderson connector is to the Linear Actuator and the GREEN cord is from the handheld control. Neat!

Anderson connectors

The handheld control has a RAM mount on it to be mounted in any position on the boat that I desire when my hands are busy with catching fish!

So that’s it! Remote steering for a Kicker/Trolling motor on a 14′ fishing boat….

Watch this web site for more Tweaks and Mods on this boat as I dive deeper into it


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