Being able to position a boat for accurate trolling or casting often makes the difference between catching fish and getting skunked. That’s a huge problem on a breezy day or in a moderate current when your boat is being pushed every which way.
No more. I’ve experienced what amounts to an electronic magic carpet ride for small-boat anglers. Minn Kota’s new i-Pilot (winner of a Field & Stream Best of the Best Award) marries a GPS-based control system to specific existing bow-mount Minn Kota trolling motors. The device automatically positions the boat so you can concentrate on fishing instead of fighting the wind.
When I took the i-Pilot for a test drive, I was blown away by the results.
On my local bass lake, I used the standard foot controls of my bow-mount electric Minn Kota to ease my boat into casting range of a bass hotspot. Then, instead of working the motor’s foot control to hold the boat against the breeze, I pushed the Spot-Lock button on the i‑Pilot’s handheld remote.
This put me in hover mode. As the wind began to push me away, the i‑Pilot, which had recorded my location, turned on the motor and steered me back. I was so amazed that I momentarily forgot to fish. But fish I did, and in the clear, pressured water, the fish were fussy. By downsizing to a lightly weighted 4-inch soft-plastic worm, I finally got a 5-pound largemouth to chomp my bait after half an hour of continuous casts into the same area. All the while, the i‑Pilot was turning the motor on and off and keeping me within about 5 feet of my original stopping point.
Whether you want to hold on a shoreline spot to cast for bass, or over a submerged reef while jigging for walleyes or lake trout, the i‑Pilot’s Spot-Lock mode will act as an electronic anchor–but with no actual anchor line required.
On the Right Track
Next I wanted to fish along the outside edge of a weedline in order to test an i-Pilot mode called Record a Track. I hit the record button on the remote, then used the motor’s standard foot-control pedal to cruise along a half mile of shore as I cast to likely spots. Then I stopped the motor and pressed the playback button. The i-Pilot turned the motor on and steered itself–and me–to the end point of the stored boat track. It moved the boat along the same half-mile-long track, following the same exact line in reverse.
The Cruise Control allowed me to set the boat’s speed (as measured by GPS) in 0.1-mph increments, which allowed for easy casting along the shoreline. This same feature set would work well for walleye trolling. You can store three spots and three recorded tracks, each track up to 2 miles long, in the unit’s memory.
At $400, the system is fairly inexpensive; it consists of a handheld remote (which floats) and an upper motor head containing the GPS unit. It retrofits to some Minn Kota motors (see minnkotamotors.com for details). It won’t work with other motor brands.
Perhaps the most telling reaction to the i-Pilot came when I gave an on-the-water demo to my wife, whose job is sometimes to position the boat when we’re fishing. “My God!” she said as the i-Pilot steadied our boat against the wind. “I’m being replaced!”