By Billy “Hawkeye” Decoteau

In the world of professional bass angling, the last thing any angler wants is mechanical problems! Yet, it never seems to fail, there is always someone in every tournament that experiences this dreaded disaster! Be it lower units, broken trolling motors or dead batteries, they all raise mental notions of defeat. How an angler avoids or handles these situations depends upon the individual angler!

Filing out of back bays, in numeric order throttling up massive high performance gasoline 200-225-250 and now 300 HP outboard engines, anglers jumping on plane cruise to their chosen ‘Honey Holes’ at speeds exceeding 75 mph.

Gliding off plane, angler’s rush to their bows, dropping 36-volt battery operated high thrust trolling motors into the water. Dialing up, high thrust trolling motors are capable of producing over 100 lbs of thrust. While dialing down these electric motors are able to maneuver twenty-one foot high-performance sleek bass boats at a snails pace.

The cliché, “Bigger is Better” has become a contagious epidemic among professional bass anglers all striving to be first! First out of the hole, first on plane, first and fastest on the water, first at the community hole and obviously the most important of all; 1st overall in every tournament. Legendary Angler Rick Clunn was the first to speak openly on the ‘Bigger is Better’ cliché.

According to Kentucky’s B.A.S.S. professional bass angler Mark Menendez, “One other first that occurs regularly is first to refill your gas tanks at gas stations! And I’m talking big tanks on both bass boats and tow vehicles, which together can total nearly 100 gallons.”

Menendez elaborated further, “As I was evaluating my financial commitments for the 2009 Bassmaster Elite Series, one factor that raised an unpredictable concern was the continuing rising cost of fuel, both gasoline and diesel.” Menendez tows his I-Class Skeeter/Yamaha rig with a Ford F-250 Diesel. “I originally purchased a diesel not only for it’s towing power, but most importantly at the time diesel fuel was extremely economical…. (Pausing) Not anymore!!!”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out an approximate fuel cost, especially when the tournament trail your competing on covers somewhere between 35,000-40,000 miles of highway! With the thought of lightening his towing weight in an effort to extend his vehicles mile per gallon ratio, Menendez dissected his Skeeter I-Class by evaluating where most of the weight was concentrated.

“My Yamaha HPDI outboard and 4 batteries (1-Cranking, 3-Trolling), were the only tangible items to possibly consider,” recalls Menendez. Comparing the option of running a 225 HP verses a 250 HP Yamaha HPDI outboard (A significant monetary saving), would lighten his weight factor, however it would also minutely decrease his overall top-end speed. “Then I researched the weight difference between batteries, Optima far surpassed the other brands, thus additionally reducing my overall weight factor.” Which in turn increased Menendez’s 225 HP Yamaha’s overall top-end speed by 2mph! The Bassmaster Elite angler chose Optima Bluetop Marine Batteries, which weigh only 43lbs apiece. (

Mathematically speaking, Mark Menendez’s formatted equation of “225HPDI + 4Optima Bluetops = -190lbs”! “Although it doesn’t sound like much, this weight lost difference alone increased my over the road mpg ratio as well!” Menendez’s claims to have saved over $200.00 just on fuel for his tow vehicle to and from the 2009 Elite Series events.

Turning to his Power Tackle/Strike King wrapped Skeeter powered by a Yamaha 225 HPDI, Menendez pointed saying, “Now that’s where the big savings comes in! In situations where I normally go through 30 gallons of fuel on the water, I now only use 18-20 gallons per day.” According to Menendez his average savings per tournament including all his practice days (14 days overall), plus his additional saving by utilizing less engine oil averages around $450.00 per tournament.

“There was only one other item I thought of deleting and that was my heavy on board

charging system. However, it was also one of the most important items on my entire Skeeter. No matter how much lighter my Optima batteries were they still needed to be charged fully so that I had plenty of stored power while on the water.” Adding with a chuckle, “Then I met Jim Payne, of Retrotec Inc, the inventor of the “Stay-N-Charge” system.” (

According to Payne, “Mark’s enthusiastic approach to conserving energy by lightening his towing weight was a perfect match for our “Stay-N-Charge” system. Our products are capable of utilizing the power generated by Mark’s tow vehicle, as well as his Yamaha outboard, to keep his four Optima batteries fully charged.”

Menendez claims, “The Stay-N-Charge system has become my angling edge! I no longer have to worry about my trolling motor batteries being at peak performance. For example, if I am constantly on my trolling motor for one hour, then I run my Yamaha outboard for ten minutes, it will charge my Optima batteries to peak capacity. And, if I’m towing over the road, the alternator on my truck will bring my Optima batteries to full capacity usually in 30 minutes!”

How does the Stay-N-Charge system work to keep 4 batteries at peak performance without overheating? “Simply stated Jim Payne explained, “Each battery requires 13 volts to fully charge. The Smart Box sorts the number of trolling motor batteries, then test the system for either series or parallel wiring, selects a 24 or 36 volt system, while registering if a charge is needed. This is done within a millisecond. Always starting with the cranking battery bringing it to fully charged, the Smart Box then switches every two minutes rotating through your trolling motor batteries bringing all batteries to a fully charged mode.”

So just how easy is using or installing a Stay-N-Charge system? Mark Menendez informs me that once the system is completely installed (Log unto for installation video and instructions), it is merely a matter of disconnecting his trolling motor wire from the bow mount, re-connect a lead wire that then runs to a 7-Prong Stay-N-Charge pre-wired factory connection which simply plugs into his trucks electrical connection.

“This setup allows me to charge my batteries completely while towing to or from the water.” The confidence in knowing my trolling batteries alone are fully charged, has given me a soothing mental advantage concentrating totally on locating bass and following their transitional movements.”

As for charging while on the water, Menendez laughed, “I have to be honest. At times I actually believe I’m cheating! It is just so cool…….turn the key run my outboard for ten minutes my trolling batteries are fully charged, and then start having fun catching bass!”

There’s no doubt the Stay-N-Charge system assisted Mark Menendez’s angling ability throughout his entire 2009 Elite Series. Landing his third B.A.S.S. victory, Mark Menendez qualified for his fifth Bassmaster Classic. Come February 2010 on Lay Lake in Alabama, Kentucky’s Mark Menendez will be ‘Fully Charged and Stay-N-Charged’, as he competes in the 40th B.A.S.S. Bassmaster Classic, for the coveted Classic Championship Crown!