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Single vs Dual Engines: Is Two Better Than One?

For most trolling, you'll want all engines running. A few specialties call for cutting power.

Single vs Dual Engines: Is Two Better Than One?

Is two always better than one?

I guess I’ve fished just about every power setup there is, from trolling under full sail to quad outboards, and I sometimes feel like I’ve never seen the same wake twice, when I looked back at my baits. The stories of some of the old wooden sportfish pioneers are full of tales of wakes and harmonics that could call a fish in from the next hemisphere. Likewise, there are just as many tales of captains that totally lost their mojo when they bumped the bottom, and it caused a ding in their prop too small to see, but a marlin swimming off the coast of Africa could hear it, and cancel his trip to Florida.

Whereas I am certain the wider the spread of baits you can run, the more fish you show your spread to, I’m not so sure how much difference the type of wake your boat makes, as an attractor or deterrent to the fish you’re trying to impress.

I originally powered my current boat, a 27 Young, with a single 300 Yamaha. It did fine, but when it was time to repower, I was faced with a decision. My boat is not only fished hard, but it serves as the camera boat for the Florida Sportsman Best Boat television show. That means I was racking up close to 1,000 hours a year on it.

I needed more speed, and I really wanted twins. The hours I was racking up meant going to my friendly Yamaha mechanic almost once a month for 100-hour servicing. I was dreading the concept of essentially doubling the lovely invoices my mechanic sends, when a thought occurred to me. What if I ran on twins, and once I set up my trolling spread, alternated turning one off, and trolled on one? While that would cut my maintenance cost dramatically, Capt. Scott Fawcett of Off the Chain charters in Stuart disagrees. “My job is to put people on fish. I’m certain that my wake is cleaner with both engines running,” he said. “That means my baits are swimming in clearer water. That makes it easier for fish to see my baits, and for me to see the strike. My specialty is sailfish, and a clean wake is a huge advantage. I do drop down to one engine when we’re bump trolling live baits. My two F300 Yamaha’s have almost 8,000 hours on them, so I do alternate my engines to try and keep the hours down while pulling live bait.”

trolling with dual engines
Wake is slightly cleaner with twins running.

I learned a few interesting things when I bit the bullet and started trolling on both motors. Scott was right about a cleaner wake. I also thought it was interesting how little difference my fuel consumption is. I’m burning maybe 8 percent more fuel running both motors. Less strain on each seems to make the fuel burn difference insignificant.

single vs dual engines comparison
A side-by-side comparison for running single vs dual outboards. Cleaner wake generally means more bites.

As for the kingfish guys, you’ll just about always find them trolling on a single engine. The best of those guys will bristle at the word trolling. They can’t go slow enough, preferring to crawl along just fast enough to keep their baits apart. Most will go down to a single engine, and drag at least one sea anchor. In this world of dead-slow slow-trolling, electric trolling motors are becoming more popular for live bait kingfishing. Devotees swear they get more strikes closer to the boat while on their trolling motors.

single vs dual engines
Would it make sense to shut one engine off while trolling to conserve hours or fuel? At dead bait trolling speed (3-6 knots), answer is probably not. At idle, or “kingfish” speed, the strategy has merit.

Mark Lacovara, founding partner of Front Runner Boatworks from Saint Augustine specializes in building 36- and 39-foot center consoles with triple and quad engine set ups. “On my quad engine boats,” he explained, “I want the two inside engines running when we’re pulling ballyhoo. We’ll troll on all four when we’re high speeding for wahoo, as the baits are generally below the white water anyway, and seeing the strike is almost impossible. It’s also important to have separate ignitions for each engine. If we’re trolling on two, and we hook a hot blue marlin, we need the ability of going to chase him in a hurry.”

We’ve all heard about being “penny wise, and dollar foolish,” but we’re talking fishing here, so let’s not kid ourselves. If trolling on two engines may someday in the future get us as much as one extra bite, “crank ’em all up.” FS

Published Florida Sportsman Magazine November 2021


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