Splash guards are not anything new. I made my first set of
splash guards out of a couple of semi-truck mud flaps back in the
1970s. I suppose I had read about them somewhere, or maybe seen
another boat sporting mud flaps on the transom. I don’t remember
where I got the idea.
I do remember that even though those customized mud flaps left a
lot to be desired, they cut down substantially on the drenching I
usually took when backtrolling into waves with my old 14-foot
aluminum and never-did-troll-worth-a-darn 18-horse Evinrude.
Splash guards caught on with the walleye crowd. Small companies
started making commercial splash guards that could be custom fit to
your boat and motor. Improvements have been many. Today, I can put
my 90-horse tiller into reverse and backtroll into whitecaps with
no fear of taking on water or getting drenched.
Of course not as many walleye fishermen backtroll today. There
are two reasons for that. One is that an increasing number of
walleye fishermen have opted for console steering on their boats.
It’s not that you can’t backtroll with console steering, it’s just
not as effective. If the fish are scattered on a big flat or bar,
it works fine, but trying to follow a meandering break or outside
weedline while twisting a steering wheel is nearly impossible.
The other reason why fewer anglers backtroll today is the common
use of the bow-mount electric motor. With an electric motor mounted
on the forward deck, you can slowly pull your boat along those
drop-offs, weed edges, and structure breaks.
I have a bow mount on my boat and I use it a lot. But there are
times when backtrolling does a better job. While backtrolling with
either my tiller or my Vantage stern-mount electric I can actually
hover the boat right over the top of fish that show up on my
locator. I can’t do that when using my bow mount.
When walleyes are fussy, which is most of the time, this ability
to hover allows me to keep that bait right in front of their
finicky little noses. The longer a walleye has to submit to
temptation, the better your odds of putting fish in the boat.
Although the reason why I have splash guards on my boat is to
keep the spray down when backtrolling into the wind, on opening
weekend this year my splash guards also saved my boat from being
swamped. Our group of six had started out the weekend on Lake of
the Woods, but by Saturday afternoon, it was apparent that the bite
was going to be dismal on Lake of the Woods until the water warmed,
so we loaded up the boats and spent Sunday and Monday fishing Pike
We camped on the south shore of the lake, and Sunday night Larry
and I pulled our boats up on the sandy shore, tied them off and
went to bed. During the night a storm came up. The wind switched to
the north and blew hard. By the time we got up at 3 a.m., Larry’s
boat was swamped. My boat was not.
Both Larry’s boat, a 20-foot Alumacraft and my boat, an 18-foot
Lake Assault, have 25-inch transoms. The only difference is that
mine had splash guards and his did not. It was a very vivid,
side-by-side testimony to just how well splash guards work.
Several companies make splash guards. Mine are made by Walleye
Masters in Miltona, Minn., and I could not be happier with them. If
you backtroll, do yourself a favor and make this the year you
invest in a good set of splash guards. They will help you to catch
more fish through better boat control, and who knows, you might
just prevent a swamping.