Sometimes while I’m fishing with my Minn Kota down, I think about what it would be like to go back to the days when I didn’t have one – it isn’t a pleasant thought. Without doubt it’s the most useful fish-catching tool on my boat – I’d take it over sonar and GPS if I had to make the choice. I use it constantly when lure fishing and I exclusively anchor with it when bait fishing. My traditional anchor is just on the boat as a safety and legal requirement.
I recently upgraded from a 24v/80lb Ulterra to a 36v/112lb Ulterra. My Sportsman Masters 207 and the 80lb was satisfactory but 112lb was clearly far more suitable. I had originally wanted the 36v/112lb but the issue was the batteries required. There was nowhere to fit three AGM batteries in the small area under my centre console – it was already a very tight squeeze with just the two AGMs required for the 80lb.
When I installed the 80lb in 2018, I knew a little about lithium batteries for boats and Minn Kotas, but not enough to seriously make the investment or even put in the time to research them. I wasn’t hearing much anecdotally either, which in my business is a sign that affordable and reliable tech isn’t accessible yet.
Fast forward a few years to mid-2020 and BLA mentioned it would have a range of lithium batteries coming out in 12, 24 and 36v, just in time for my new install (I literally stripped the boat to the deck and hull and changed everything). Before I ordered it, I had to get the dimensions of the 36v to check it would fit with the crank and the house I planned on running in the new fit-out. Based on rough measurements, it just fitted – and thankfully, when it arrived and we lowered it down with bated breath, we all breathed a sigh of relief as it settled snugly in the middle of the house and crank. At 52 x 27cm in a sleek black housing, it uses far less real estate than three AGMs wired together and, at just under 38kg, it’s one-third of the weight.
While lithium batteries solve size and weight issues, which will be a huge advantage or necessity for some, and not so much other vessels, it comes at a cost, with my 36v 100Ah retailing at around $4000 with an additional $600 for the appropriate charger (mine being a dedicated charger from BLA). It’s a big expense but is further justified by its greatest attribute, which is how a lithium battery performs.
It charges faster and holds power for longer and distributes power more efficiently. AGMs discharge quickly when not in use and they don’t like it, which lessens their shelf life. Sure, it’s not a big deal plugging in a charger, but when you’re away on a fishing trip, this isn’t always possible and with Covid, I’ll be doing a lot more camping/swag missions than I will be staying in motels, so a battery that holds more power for longer is a huge advantage.
I’ve been running the BLA Lithium for almost 12 months and wanted to wait this long before the review to be able to fully attest to its performance. It has performed better than I expected. The battery links to an app that allows me to monitor its performance and on the few times I’ve needed to charge it, it’s gone from 30% to fully charged in just under four hours. With the app I can put the battery on charge and sit inside my house and check its progress, which is also a great feature while out fishing.
I’m certainly getting a lot more use out of it: on a recent three-day trip to Bemm River I used the Minn Kota heavily in the fast currents of the mouth, all through the inlet and up the river, yet used only 15% of its capacity. I’ve done whiting sessions at anchor for three hours in very heavy current in the Coles channel off St Leonards and used only 4%. Extended lack of use due to lockdowns here in Victoria has showed discharge to be minimal – something I wouldn’t have been able to test in other circumstances, but great to know for peace of mind and the purposes of this review.
Not only is it convenient in that there is less charging involved, it’s now a part of the boat I feel more confident in and worry about less – and such reassurance justifies the cost.
Importantly, I have paired the Minn Kota with high-quality and suitable crank and AGM batteries. You need to get all your battery maths right when doing this and ensure it’s wired correctly, so I recommend having a qualified marine electrical technician help you with installation and battery choice if you’re not knowledgeable in this field.
Lithium is undoubtedly the future of powering electrical motors and if you’re ready to take the plunge I can’t recommend it – and this particular product – highly enough. What it offers in performance, and size and weight savings justifies the cost. BLA has provided a relatively affordable and accessible quality product with a large Australian-based company behind it to offer support should you need it.
Words & Images: Kosta Linardos