Merwin: Trolling Motor Runs By GPS

The most impressive--and useful--new fishing product I've seen for the coming year is a GPS-based trolling-motor control system from the folks at Minn Kota. A small navigation unit in the bow-mount motor head combined with a hand-held remote will automatically operate the motor so you can "hover" in place, for example, or precisely follow a pre-recorded track as you fish.

I'll be writing about this at greater length in a forthcoming print edition, but the news is getting out there already, so here's a quick look. A feature called "spot lock" uses GPS to record your position. The motor will then self-adjust its own speed and direction to hold your boat in that position, even as wind or current tend to push you away. That means you'll no longer have to fight to stay in one spot while jigging a deep hump for walleyes, for example.

'Record A Track," meanwhile, uses the internal GPS to record your path as you use the motor to fish along the outside of a weedline, for example. The recorded track can be as long as two miles. If you want to fish the same path again, command the motor to play back the track and it will automatically move and steer the boat along the exact same path, no matter how curving. By selecting the desired motor speed, you can either troll a spinner rig for walleyes or cast to the shoreline for bass as you move along.

There's a lot more to this, but I think you've gotten the idea. A GPS-equipped motor head and remote control can be retro-fitted to a variety of current Minn Kota bow mounts and cost about $400. Based on the sample I've tested (disclosure: provided by Minn Kota), the whole thing is just astounding and incredibly useful.