Georgia’s Electric Motor Guru
How Scott Edwards is leading the (re)emergence of electric-only fishing
Electric-only-boat tournaments are coming back-to-the-future
Do you want to fish these bass-rich reservoirs? Catch the electric wave or catch the bus!
And while Elco Electric Boat Motors, which were introduced way back in 1893, may not be as well-known to bass anglers as those other names, just wait.
In these days of going green, of catch and release and of the nationally emerging trend of beautiful new, electric-only reservoirs, the electric motor revolution—or, more correctly, evolution, is coming on strong.
Some of you might remember the Georgia Outdoor News coverage back in the late nineties about those early Jon boat tournaments, when Lake Varner was probably one of the state’s most popular electric-only reservoirs (although many believe Varner has turned into more of a hybrid bass lake and has been in a down cycle for largemouths–more on that another time).
But it’s back-to-the-future to electric-only fishing now—with literally dozens of electric-only lakes across the state, including many water-supply reservoirs like Oconee and Walton County’s 1,100 acre Hard Labor Creek Reservoir and Bear Creek, the deep, clear water supply lake for Athens/Clarke County, Barrow, Jackson and Oconee Counties, where a public boat ramped opened in 2009.
If you haven’t fished these bass-rich lakes, you need to put that experience on your fishing bucket list. But one word of caution: don’t try getting on these lakes—and many others like them—with a gas-powered boat (no gas motors are allowed on the lake, even if you don’t use them on the water—they are electric only).
Fueled by the back-to-the-basics appeal of competitive Jon boat tournament fishing, Elco is leading the charge that could bring thousands of both experienced and novice fishermen into the electric mainstream. While some anglers are still using two or three trolling motors on their Jon boats, the market has evolved and many are finding better alternatives.
There is one man, a 49-year-old Athens-area native, who has made it his latest goal in life to bring the fun, the beauty and the efficiency of electric- only boating to Georgia. His name is Scott Edwards.
If you already own an electric-powered boat here in Georgia or a member of a Jon boat fishing club in Georgia, chances are that you’ve met Scott. But, for those of you who haven’t met this Gainesville College graduate and Georgia Bulldog fanatic, be aware of one thing: once you get Scott Edwards talking about electric- only fishing, you had better plan on carving out some time. His encyclopedic knowledge about electric-only fishing will flat out amaze you. And he was going electric before going electric was cool.
“We grew up fishing ponds and small lakes out of Jon boats with a little trolling motor,” said Scott. “I kind of discovered these electric-only [bass fishing] clubs back in the late nineties.” There were not many back then—only a handful. Then High Voltage Bass Anglers, out of Jefferson, started in the early 2000s, and that’s sort of my home club.”
And if you’re wondering, Scott has fished both big tournaments and the Jon boat tournaments. He’s had the big boats and big gas motors but has now returned to his roots–dedicating his professional life to building the market for electric motors through Elco, one of three major electric motor companies in this fast-developing marketplace (the other two are Ray Electric and Torqueedo).
But you won’t hear Scott Edwards bashing the competition. The 48-year-old father of two grown daughters is a good-will ambassador for electric-only.
“While I’m very proud of the products we [Elco] have out there, I like to promote our product by talking about our product in a good way rather someone else’s product in a bad way,” said Scott.
Scott says there are now dozens of Jon boat fishing clubs and tournaments across Georgia, and he’s fishing with many of them. In fact, Scott and his partner won a Jon boat tournament (held by the Anchor Bass Club of Athens) just last week at Ft. Yargo State Park, weighing in 24.1 pounds (you would be amazed at how many 20+ pound sacks). Still, we have to wonder how that is that possible at Ft. Yargo–a lake that is a mystery for so many of us?
“It was crazy!” laughed Scott. “They were biting shallow, and most of the fish came on spinnerbaits or shallow crank baits.” [photo below]
Scott uses what he sells. You will find him fishing out of either an Alumacraft 17′ boat that he tore down and rebuilt himself that carries an Elco 20. Or, you might find him in a newer (test) model or a Weldcraft 1870 electric hull with a Elco 50 HP on the back.
Now, if you are a Jon boat club fisherman, trying to keep up with Scott when he’s on that Weldcraft 1870 with the Elco 50, just forget about it. Just hope he’s not going to the same spot you’re going to, because he’s going to get there first.
Scott said Elco, whose motors are all Made in America, is being sold at several dealers across north Georgia. They include Advantage Boat Center in Cumming, Dalton Marine in Dalton and Marine Installers in Monroe and Personal Marine Services in Watkinsville.
“These dealers have realized that there is a market for electrics,” said Scott.
And it’s not just electric only bass clubs that Scott is recruiting, he’s had great success on the commercial side. He told us about a major project up at Big Canoe, a beautiful mountain community in north Georgia. [photos below]
“We’ve got all of their rental (pontoon) boats equipped with Elco 9.9’s,” said Scott. “And they are rented virtually all year long,” he continued.
“If someone lives on these new electric-only reservoirs, the only way they can be on the lake is to have an electric powered boat,” he said. He cited Lake Windward in Alpharetta and Lake Redwine in Newnan as places where electric power is the only option.
So, what does a person need to know about Elco motors?
“There are all sorts of options available and the dealers do a great job of outfitting the boats,” said Scott. “The first thing I ask people is what is your need and how will you use the boat? You have to think about what it is that you need and how long you will be on the water. Everybody’s different. If you go look at Lake Lanier, you’ll see some bass boats that are fishing and other bass boats that just want to ride around all day.”
“It’s the same for electric only fishing,” he continued. “You’ve got some people who want to go to sit in one area and fish all day and another guy who wants to cover every inch of that lake. Once I see how they want to use their boat, I’ll make a battery recommendation after that.”
While I don’t have a degree in electrical engineering, Scott says it all comes down to “…amp hour draw versus the amp hour rating from the battery.”
“To give you an example, some of these batteries that people are using for our 9.9 HP Elcos, a Type AGM (absorbent glass mat battery) is a little better than a lead acid battery but not as good as lithium,” Scott told us. “That’s about a 100 amp hour rated battery and our 9.9 is rated for 100 amps, so you could run that motor for one hour at full throttle. It’s simply mathematics.” The cost of a regular, deep-cycle lead acid battery can average from $125 to $150, while the cost of AGM batteries are in the $300-$400 range while the lighter, lithium batteries can cost as much as $1000-$3000 each (the lithium batteries last longer and, even more importantly for Jon boat owners, are much lighter, some just one third the weight of lead acid batteries).
Actually, it’s not simple for me, but Scott said the formula comes pretty easily. Take it from me—if you’re in doubt, get in touch with Scott . He can get you the information you need and put you in touch with the dealer closest to you.
“You could spend anywhere from $300 on a bank of batteries to $20,000 if you go with lithium,” said Scott. “You can buy all the time you want on the water.”
What do the electric motors cost? Assuming you already have (or can easily get) an inexpensive Jon boat, the outboard Elco electric motors range in price from about $2900 for a 9 HP. Compared that to a similarly sized Ray Electric motor, a competitor of Elco’s, which runs about $5,865 for a 10 HP motor.
This compares with a new gas-powered 9.9 HP Yamaha, which sells for about $2,400, and a 9.9 HP Mercury (Four Stroke) which sells for about $3,000. If you go up to a 50 HP Yamaha, the cost will be around $11,500. Of course, there’s virtually no maintenance on the Elco or the other electrics, and you have the usual gas & oil and service expenses with the gas engines.
Scott says it’s been fascinating “…to see where we’ve come from and where we’re going.” He said that there are other advances coming soon.
He continued, “We’re partnering with a company out of Arkansas called Weldcraft, and they are building custom electric hulls to run with the Elco 50.” Scott was personally involved with Weldcraft owner Ray Daugherty to design an 18-foot aluminum hull (70 inches wide) and weighs only 900 pounds. “That’s without the motor but that’s very light and strong.”
“We’ve been doing some testing on this 1870 Weldcraft with an Elco 50 and we’re now able to get a boat moving and up on pad running at about 20 miles an hour.” If you’re used to big motors and gas engines, that may not sound fast, but in the world of electrics, it’s supersonic!
Scott is helping to test that one now. He’s also got a 17’ Alumacraft with an Elco 20 on it and calls it his “everyday fishing boat.”
Regardless of what kind of fisherman you are, you should give this electric-only business a shot. You will be able to fish in more lakes nearer your home, enter more tournaments and enjoy the both the efficiency and lower-cost maintenance of an electric motor (no more storing gas and oil in the garage).
You will also be doing something good not just for the environment, but for protecting our fishing lakes for your kids and grandkids. These electric-only reservoirs are great places to take your kids or grandkids as you introduce them to fishing in an environment that is as quiet, clean and fish-rich as our lakes and ponds were when we were kids.
You might just find that the entire experience is a welcome change from the noise (and cost) of fishing with traditional gas-powered engines.
Want more info, check out these great sites:
Fish North Georgia (Podcast)